A Month With: An Introduction

This year I’ve decided that I’d like to write about films more, so I’m going to use this site to try and do that. Each month, I plan on spending a month with different directors that interest me, where I watch/read about/dissect their films and then talk about them here.

I’ve made sure I’ve begun my year on a good start by choosing Orson Welles as the first director of the month, where I’ll watch Citizen KaneMacbethOthello and Touch of Evil (and maybe The Third Man, even though he didn’t direct it).

If anyone actually reads this/what I write, please contribute to the discussion as what I write is just a starting point from my mind. Any suggestions for directors/films would be appreciated too.

Oh, and, happy new year.

Cocteau X Siouxsie Sioux

A while ago I edited together clips from Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête (1946) with the song Siouxsie Sioux and Brian Reitzell created for Hannibal, and I realised I haven’t shared it here so here it is:

‘It is a privilege to be timeless’: On Time in Orphée (Jean Cocteau, 1950)

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film Orphée is the retelling of the classic Greek myth on the legend Orpheus, in which Orpheus has to travel to Hades in order to save his love, Eurydice. However, Orphée presents things differently, as Orpheus (played by Cocteau’s lover and the wonderfully handsome, Jean Marais) finds himself falling in love with a princess, who is Death, that came to visit him in a local café. Unlike La Belle et La Bête (1947), in which the protagonists are (arguably) awarded a happy ending, Orphée finishes in a much more somber tone, reminding audiences what has been communicated throughout the film thanks to the constant shots of mirrors and reflections; that love, no matter what time or place you are in, can never be defined or translated. However, the films are similar in that they both present an idiosyncratic and poetic interpretation of time travel – Belle travels to and from the Beast using a lavish glove as a transportation device, while Orpheus and co. glide through mirrors into Hades; whilst one travels within the confines of the same world and the other from life and death, the scope and breadth of the distance they travel to and from remains just as impactful due to the reasons for doing so.

orph1 Belle

Just like Belle transporting back to her home is futile due to her love for the Beast, Orpheus knows that traveling to Hades in order to save Eurydice is in vain since he evidently is not going for “both” of them, as he explains to Death’s driver, Heurtebise, but for Death herself. Yet, the Death he is striving after is his own death; this is unrequited love at its greatest peak, as for Orpheus to be with Death would be fruitless, since the only way this could happen is if he were to die. It is here we can draw parallels to the filmmaker’s life as Cocteau and Marais’s relationship was affected by the fascist air left in the remnants of the war – perhaps, at one point, to the infamous lovers, they felt their love was only possible if it were to transcend the very essence of time itself, and the only way that is possible, according to this film, is through death.

The voiceover at the opening of the film declares, “it is a privilege of legends to be timeless.” This, along with the dramatic, non-diegetic composition by Georges Auric (whom also worked on La Belle), and the well-known tale of Orpheus all draw the spectator in to the dramatic, grandiose setting; the inevitable decline from this state begins as soon as Death appears. Ginette Vincendeau describes the legendary Greek’s humanisation yet transcendence perfectly in her essay for the BFI, stating the film “navigates between myth and realism, boulevard theatre and surrealist poetry, the fantastique and post-war politics.” The point here, in terms of the film’s time travel theory, is that there is none: instead it’s an abstract, poetic concept that would play on the radio channel Marais’s character becomes obsessed with.

orpheus2

The dolly shots presented in the Hades sequences (which have inspired other directors, for example Spike Lee) by director of photography Nicolas Hayer emphasise the point of time travel in the film: it is supposed to be poetic and outlandish because the form of time travel the film manifests is something we see everyday; the decaying of our faces and exacerbation of our personality. Heurtebise was not wrong when he declared that it “takes long to die,” yet, this film reminds viewers that through art, in all its forms, audiences can time travel to different worlds.

Love Crime: A Review of HANNIBAL Season Three, Episode Thirteen – THE WRATH OF THE LAMB

Well, here we are. I am one month late to the Hannibal reviewing/mourning/crying dinner party, but that was because I was mostly in denial. But, like a stack of bodies mounted on top of one another in the middle of the beach, this can’t be ignored any longer.

The final episode of Hannibal opens with Francis Dolarhyde (played by Richard Armitage) manipulating Reba (Rutina Wesley) through carefully planned actions, with the atmosphere of claustrophobia and panic heightened by the intense close-up shots, which are all mostly in the perspective of Reba — what Dolarhyde (or *deep voice* THE DRAGON) describes to her is the next thing audiences can see. As the scene continues, we witness the destruction of everything: the stag’s head, the building in which Dolarhyde’s fantasy was made true, and so much more. The meaning of this scene is heightened further due to the music, by Brian Reitzell, reverting back to the synth-like church music introduced to audiences at the beginning of the season. Every tragedy in this show plays like a Greek tragedy by Sophocles or Euripides; each tragic scene arouses pity and fear in the viewers’ hearts, while reminding us, through imagery like the stag’s head, that this is not over – there are still other Acts to come. This is emphasised by the finale scene, in which Hannibal and Will take down the Red Dragon for good — Dolarhyde is dead, but, according to the dragon-winged shaped CGI blood left under his body, his fantasy of being a dragon lives on; the only way he could have accomplished this is through death, where dreams are limitless.

Hannibal 3x13 - The Wrath of the Lamb - Richard Armitage (Francis Dolarhyde, Great Read Dragon), muerte, death

However, this is not about Dolarhyde, or Alana Bloom, Jack Crawford and Abigail Hobbs. It’s not even about the dogs. This season finale made it pretty clear that this is building up to, the most important aspect of the show, and the most important concerns in Will’s and Hannibal’s lives: each other.

At Hannibal’s glass see-through house, which is introduced to us through a series of montages and establishing shots showcasing the scale and isolation of Hannibal’s world (notably showcasing the contrast of the open house with the isolated, lonesome exterior), we see the extent to which Will’s and Hannibal’s relationship has come. Compared with the long distance shots through the high, black gate of Hannibal’s gothic mansion that could be seen in a Hammer film, the openness of this sequence tells us what we already know: Hannibal and Will are on their journey to the final act, indicated by the high establishing shot of them in the stolen police car driving toward their final destination, merging with their surroundings. This is a vital juxtaposition to the world Hannibal had been inhabiting for the past six episodes, with his fine Art and dignity, and therefore freedom, being taken away. In this world, in just one cut, Hannibal immediately regains his taste, poise and status.

This episode constantly recalls on previous episodes from the past two seasons; we see references to the mind palace from episode one, the micro shots of the blood dripping that was introduced to us through Bedelia’s character, but, most importantly, Bryan Fuller reminds spectator’s of the tea cup shattering metaphor from season two.

tumblr_n5cbfuwicw1snyw1qo2_400

While not directly referenced, the high angle medium shot from Hannibal’s perspective of the shattering of his bottle of wine (after being shot by Dolarhyde) is reminiscent, at least to me, of this vital metaphor that has been used throughout the show. It is here, perhaps, that either one of the show’s central characters realise they are fine china to one another; delicate, needing to be put back together. It could even be said both characters were shattered tea cups from season one, and to be put back together they needed to join forces and commit an act of beauty that will bond them forever.

And so, we have Francis Dolarhyde’s death. Before this sequence, which Matt Zoller Seitz describes as a choreographed dance, Bryan Fuller doesn’t forget to remind viewers of the fact that watching Hannibal is an experience – a moment in time in which nothing will be the same again – through Mads Mikkelsen’s character, who declares that the Red Dragon is “seized by a fantasy world, with the brilliance and freshness and immediacy of childhood,” while Dolarhyde, when setting up his camera to film, states “watching the film will be wonderful, but not as wonderful as the act itself.” Both statements are one and the same, as it is pointing to something one can never have once the act is over; as much as one would want to, we can never go back to the magic and mystery of childhood. Nor can, when Dolarhyde commits the act, the Red Dragon recreate each murder; he has it on film, but even he says it is not enough.

Zadie Smith, when writing about joy, described how joy “is such a human madness” due to the fact once we have experienced it, we can never experience it again, and know this. We know that after a joy we will feel a kind-of depression due to not being in that moment ever again, yet we continuously crave this and yearn for this. This is the teacup metaphor in human emotion, as Hannibal to Will is joy, and vice versa.

Perhaps, then, when they fall into the eroded sea, they are doing it because they know that the extravagant, dream-like, romantic and horrific moment they created together can never be achieved again; this is the greatest moment for them, and the only way to end this is to combine themselves together in the next fairytale, death.

Siouxsie Sioux and Brian Reitzell’s Love Crime plays as we watch Will and Hannibal fall into the stag-shaped nothingness, which is also everything. As the scene ends, Will Graham’s words echo in the moment of darkness: “it’s beautiful”.

tumblr_ntwpbzRKYB1sp54a2o1_r1_1280

After the credits, Bryan Fuller, Martha Laurentiis, and everyone at Hannibal leaves fans with a scene just for them: Bedelia waiting at the dinner table, minus a leg on her body (it’s the meal for tonight), a seat for Will, a seat for Hannibal, and a seat – the one that would be closest to the camera – missing, because we are in the seat, and always will be.

Hannibal is over now, but thanks to the fact that the show is art, it will take the path of the paintings Hannibal obsessed over, and live on forever.

HANNIBAL Recap: Season Three, Episode One – ANTIPASTO

"Yes, Bedelia, you keep eating those snails. Mmmhhhhmmmm you are going to taste so good." - Hannibal, ANTIPASTO.

“Yes, Bedelia, you keep eating those snails. Mmmhhhhmmmm you are going to taste so good.” – Hannibal, ANTIPASTO.

The much anticipated third season of Hannibal begins with the show’s familiar omniscient voice of Mads Mikkelsen informing audiences of what had just happened in the last season/episode through the simple but loaded ‘previously, on Hannibal’. However, viewers of the show clearly didn’t need to be reminded of the bloodbath that was Mizumono, not only because the episode marked Hannibal as, in my clearly non-bias opinion, the best TV show to have graced our television screens from 2013 (and even ever), but also because the opening episode does not even address this episode that left thousands and thousands of people crying, screaming, standing up in their seats with their eyes falling out of their skull (*cough*). Instead, you’d be forgiven for completely forgetting about the Season 2 finale and thinking that Hannibal had randomly turned into an extremely classy, alternate-universe E! reality show that follows the lives of a workaholic husband and his distanced wife.

The tone of the episodes in Paris/Florence is set from the beginning – we see Hannibal Lecter looking scruffy and imperfect for the first time; visual metaphors and conceits are immediately introduced through the motorbike/moon imagery; and, as Matt Zoller Seitz pointed out, the frames and mise-en-scene are a lot less claustrophobic compared to season 1 and 2. Moreover, in the process of mourning the death of Will’s pendulum swings, whilst re-watching this episode it’s noticeable that the opening of season three has Hannibal’s own take of this — when he is entering the building in Paris, we see a quick succession of multiple fade-to-blacks accompanied by the juxtaposition of the scene’s slow-motion with Hannibal walking in. As this is happening, each fade-to-black and fade back to the Hannibal universe reveals something new: first we see the back of Hannibal’s head, next the front of his face, next a glass of champagne, next a person who is inevitably on Hannibal’s dinner menu for tonight, and so on — it’s as if, much like the opening of season one with Will Graham and his pendulum swings, we are being introduced into Dr. Lecter’s world; Hannibal got into Will Graham’s brain, it’s time, Bryan Fuller – the show’s writer/showrunner – seems to say, we got into his. These similarities in introductory shots to the characters can also be read as an introduction to their psychotic makeup: Will recreates murder scenes, whereas Hannibal creates them, this exemplified by the fact that this is essentially an introduction to Mikkelsen’s character. For the first season, audiences – whether they’d watched the films or read the book – knew who Hannibal Lecter was, he needed no introduction. Will Graham, however, is less well-known, and thus season one almost completely revolved around Will and getting a look into his brain. Season two began to introduce audiences to the inner workings of other characters, however as Hannibal entered more and more into his brain and into controlling Will, the show started to become more an examination of Hannibal through Will- but only lightly. In season three, we finally go inside his brain, whether that’s through stories told by other characters, widescreen flashbacks, or the fade-to-black sequences said above.

Comparing this episode with the past two seasons also proves to contrast the verbal nature of season one and two with the visual nature of season three. Whilst the previous two seasons were obviously shot beautifully, season three takes it to the next level, creating an array of oxymoronic visual metaphors and conceits, one in particular being the use of the single drop of blood. We see this first quite early on in the episode during Bedelia’s flashback; the blood, dripping from Hannibal’s body, is prolific. As the camera continues to focus on the blood dripping down, it can’t seem to focus on one particular drop of blood, instead just watching blood poor to the ground in a beautiful slow-motion micro shot. This quickly changes, however, when Bedelia enters the shop in Florence and the camera focus pulls to a rabbit. The camera focuses on the rabbit’s drop of blood, and watches as it falls to the ground, splattering once it hits the surface. This, to me, seems to be much more effective than the previous mass of blood Hannibal was washing off, and perhaps Bedelia can see this too: a drop of blood is much more meaningful, dangerous, and effective than a volume.

People who’ve watched this show for the past two seasons keep telling me they ‘don’t get’ season three. The reason they ‘don’t get’ season three, I think, is because the past two seasons have always been quite conventional in terms of the crime slash horror genre narrative-wise: there is a murder, FBI investigates, find murderer, ends at that episode (Hannibal is obviously a lot more complicated than this, but I’m oversimplifying to make a point). Instead of this, season three has a completely broken and multi-stranded narrative, along with the visual conceits and more dramatic/complex scenarios: this show seems like it’s asking a lot from its audience, but when one returns to Hannibal’s conversation with Gideon in one of the over-saturated widescreen flashbacks, it’s clear this season, or at least the first six episodes in Florence, are meant to be watched as a fairy tale — we are meant to take Hannibal’s ‘once upon a time’ introduction seriously, as we are experiencing his past and present, we are experiencing this show. This is made clear by the closing of Antipasto as Hannibal leaves us with his creation – the visualisation of his broken heart; the visualisation of Hannibal externalising his experiences.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Morality doesn’t exist, only morale” – HANNIBAL LECTER

BEST ADVICE: If you are travelling alone and someone asks if you’re travelling alone, don’t tell them you are travelling alone.

 

a note: what to expect

Hello, my worldwide mass audience that accumulates to a grand total of zero – I am here to tell you that after finding out Hannibal Season 3 has been cancelled, I’m not only in the mood to carve a giant version of my metaphorically broken heart using human flesh, but also to write recaps for each episode. I’ve wanted to do this for season 2, but I just didn’t darn get round to it, and now I’m scared there won’t be another season to review, so I’m going to begin doing it now. TODAY. UNTIL IT’S OVER!!!!!

I know I’m five episodes behind (six for y’all Americans) but I’m planning on posting a recap each day from today (Monday) until Friday, with the last day having two due to the sixth episode having aired the Thursday before. Complicated? I know.

So, today I’ll be posting Season Three Episode 1, called Antipasto. Bonsoir.

Also, #SaveHannibal.