Notes on film: Imitation of Life

12 October 2008

“It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are.”

Director Douglas Sirk is now recognised as one of the great masters of Hollywood cinema. His reputation as an innovative storyteller and commander of great visuals is significantly due to his final Hollywood film, Imitation of Life, which was a massive success upon its original release and is still now recognised as one of the defining examples of melodrama. As well as being visually rich in colour detail, it is a genuinely moving film and an important example of covert subversive filmmaking since it contains a very strong anti-racist message at a time when racial segregation was still very much alive in the USA. What has become Sirk’s trademark use of colour, heightened emotions and sly social critique has influenced generations of later filmmakers.

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Notes on film: Tokyo Story

11 October 2008

“We can’t expect too much from our children”.

Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari) is generally regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It regularly appears at the top of most credible film polls and there are an endless number of film critics and filmmakers who speak of it in complete awe and admiration. While director Yasujiro Ozu was not known outside of Japan until much later than other important Japanese directors such as The Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) director Akira Kurosawa, he is now regarded as one of the world’s foremost filmmakers.

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Notes on film: Orpheus

10 October 2008

“Look at yourself in a mirror all your life and you’ll see death at work like bees in a hive of glass.”

Orpheus (Orphée) is one of the most celebrated and influential examples of avant-garde cinema, a film that defies the conventions of classical Hollywood films and became considered a work of art that transcends the traditional confines of the cinema. It is the most accomplished film by the French artist Jean Cocteau who was also prolific and admired for his work as a poet, novelist and illustrator. It was one of three films where Cocteau used the classical myth of Orpheus’s journey to the Underworld in order to express his own preoccupations with life, death, the importance of art, and the power of poetry. Orpheus is also admired for its low-key technical achievements where effects that were even considered to be simple by the standards of the time, were skilfully utilised to create a magical and dream like world that is both familiar and unfamiliar to the audience. Cocteau did not consider himself part of the Surrealist movement, as he did not share their political motivations, but his films do loosely fit within the Surrealist tradition of championing dream-logic over reality.

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Notes on film: Double Indemnity

9 October 2008

“I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman.”

Not only is Double Indemnity one of the archetypal films known as film noir but it is regarded by many as the first true film noir. It is also one of the best. The characters, scenario and stylistic elements of Double Indemnity all perfectly represent this group of Hollywood films from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. The dark tone of Double Indemnity, both visually and thematically, the anti-hero who is led astray by greed and lust, and the seductive yet deadly femme fatale are all essential film noir ingredients.

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Notes on film: The Blue Angel

8 October 2008

“A little flirting is alright but always remember she’s a predator.”

The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel) is one of Germany’s most significant films. It is reportedly the first German sound film and when it was made the filmmakers simultaneously made a (superior) German language version and an English language version. It was made towards the end of the Weimar Republic period (1919-1933) and contains many of the characteristics of German Expressionism, a style that dominated the era, in particular the fantasy, horror and science fiction films. But most significantly, The Blue Angel was the first film that director Josef von Sternberg worked on with Marlene Dietrich. Their pairing is still regarded as one of the all time great director/actor collaborations in film history. Together they created Dietrich’s unique star persona, a mixture of masculinity and femininity, sensuality and stylised camp.

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25 February 2002

An annotation for the Melbourne Cinémathèque

In 1975 David Cronenberg assaulted audiences with Shivers, his third feature, introducing many of the interests and themes that would preoccupy his subsequent films. These themes include an exploration of the relationship between humans and technology, a fascination with the fragility and mutability of the human body, and the radical possibilities of transcending evolution by using science to drastically alter our bodies and minds.

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Shadow Of A Twisted Hand Across My House

1 October 2000

Representations of abusive men and domestic violence in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks

A thesis presented by THOMAS CALDWELL to The School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of BACHELOR OF ARTS WITH HONOURS in the subject of CINEMA STUDIES, University of Melbourne, SUPERVISOR: Dr. Mark Nicholls, OCTOBER 2000.

By combining feminist film theory and sociological research on domestic violence, this thesis will analysis David Lynch’s films Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and television series Twin Peaks as narratives about domestic violence and abusive men. The sociological research will provide evidence of how some of Lynch’s male characters can be read as abusive men, while some of his female characters can be read as displaying symptoms of having been abused. This thesis will explore how Lynch uses the surreal, narratives that involve supernatural elements, framing, non-traditional Hollywood narratives, and symbolism to adopt a feminist stance that regards domestic violence as a direct result of the patriarchal construction of masculinity.


Chapter One: “The evil that men do”

Chapter Two: “Now it’s dark”

Chapter Three: Who killed Laura Palmer? – “We all did”



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