I hoped he like…

I hoped he liked me as well as I liked him. But I also knew that to retain my first impression of him I must not see hime again; and needless to say I never did see him again. One was always making contacts of that kind in Spain.

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia


So, not having expectations, it takes you far and wide.
Down to the ground with broken bits of teeth lying next to you, up to the roof of the opera house where there lies a helipad and a fantastic view…

This semester has been anything and everything that could be fantastic and each thing that has happened has been truly extraordinary. My eyes have been opened, to the world, to the opportunity of travel, to people  – to the lively spirit that everyone has, that has become so pronounced on this part of my voyage.

Montpellier has been a good place to be, a small town, perfect for some anglophones to wreak havoc and learn what it is to live in France. To learn to live, in a place where wifi is not a guarantee, re-useable, BPA-free, water bottles are not easy to come by, and banks, well all administrative organisations minus the post office, seem overly complex.
Wine, bread and cheese, everywhere. It is true what they say… France smells. But France is also pretty nifty. Montpellier, you are like French men, small, but also quite charming.

But more then anything else, the people. The people of Montpellier, of Europe, the Australians who I got to share my adventure with and the amazing Americans who decided to plonk themselves here too – you’re all pretty great! In fact, you’re all bloody fantastic, and I’m honoured to have crossed paths.

And so the sun sets on Montpellier for moi, after discovering an infatuation with Barcelona, eating moose and walking (and falling) on ice in Sweden, some incredible opportunities in Melbourne have opened up for me; and I realise that I need to focus, and finish what I started – my degree. With eyes open I can now discover the world, but I’m better off doing that with some sort of income at the same time.

I’ll be back, and I’m not just saying that, not at all.


Barcelona Bits

Marker, Chris


As exams near, the blog takes a new turn, one with a much stronger focus around documentary cinema. Herein lies my revision in multiple forms – both french and not… so maybe it reads a little awkwardly, but it is my revision, and that’s what I want, so that’s what I’ll do

A well-rounded, profound cinema with routes in documentary filmmaking, the nouvelle vague movement and embodies modern cinema. He lived through and was a part of the biggest stages of the cinematic revolution that took place from the mid 1900’s.

Some may say he is for documentary cinema what Godard is for fiction. And the two are closely linked, having left traditional cinema after May 1968 – la rupture de la nouvelle vague. The events of May 1968 in Paris and the beginning of the semi-revolution would forever shape the way the Marker brought to the picture a new equilibrium between objectivity and subjectivity.

As time progressed, Marker’s films took a new route; more experimental perhaps. My favourite film of his is La Jetée (1963). The photo-documentary-like science-fiction film is still engaging despite being made up of still photos. It is eerie but at the same time moving. The black and white film is set in the future, the grainy images still feel futuristic. The soundtrack of ambient sounds add another layer, whilst fictitious, it gives the images life. The film is intriguing because of it’s odd construction – the unconventional composition just makes it an even better science-fiction film.

Marker was heavily influenced by the events of Mai 1968 and soon after established the Medvekin group. This group of cineastes centred around a want to give cinema to the people, the factory workers. They would go into industrial areas, factories and such, and not just introduce themselves (Marker, whilst coming from a bourgeois background, never saw himself above the working class, les ouvriers). He was not only there to film them, but to teach the workers how to make films. Il ne fait pas des films sûr, mais avec! The equipment was there – by the late sixties filming and recording sound could be done by one person – the technology continued to improve and things continued to become easier and easier. Documentaries changed too; the term cinema direct came into use to describe this new type of documentary- no longer simply le cinema du réelle – this was more observational, less about searching for truth, but expecting and understanding that the appearance of the camera does modify the way we act.

I return to my favourite quote:

“new technologies do not in themselves produce social change, though they can, and do facilitate it” Fiske, 1993

The appearance of equipment and a new way of thinking encouraged more people to make films – so less significance began to be placed on the shot construction, more significance on the problematique, or the viewpoint that the filmmaker is trying to give to us. Whilst more people begun making films, and one of the motto’s of Godard and Marker’s post-68 realisation was about creating cinema pour tous,

Maker and the Medvekin group worked more with the the working class – having split from the more extreme communist ideals supported by the students of the Sorbonne and the Russian’s. It was the cinéma des peuples

Marker continually moved, filming political engagement and revolutions around the world – ou le monde bouge. Chile (En vous parle du Chile (1973)), Algeria, Vietnam. He followed the

An interesting work, L’ambassade (1975),  is comprised almost completely of close-up shots. With a voice-over  that constructs the story and an interesting reveal at the end, we are left to wonder how much is actually true and how much is fiction in this documentary-esque film. But with it, Marker proves that cinema is possible, sans producteurs, sans acteurs, sans son directe,  simply with a camera and with an idea; with a story to tell.

He later embraced the digital bandwagon, with Level 5 (1997) he investigated the digital world where the narrator becomes a character in hi own story, and featuring his cat.

Chris Maker was important to the history of cinema, and the history of documentary for multiple reasons. He jumped on board the portable camera, synchronised sound and the digital revolution, grabbing the technology and investigating all that it had to offer. His films were not constructed with only one category of spectators, his his films are for all different audiences; his goal being to create cinema for all.

The camera … to shake or not to shake

Editing a documentary is proving to be rather a challenge.

It has been everything the opposite of a short film.
Here you go out, you film, you let the wind carry you. Sometimes you go nowhere, sometimes you go somewhere… And then you come back and you have all this stuff….

The curse of the digital age has to be an almost endless amount of storage, allowing for a great-deal less forethought.

But now, with all the footage one has to compile it, sort it, and label it just so it can be decided whether or not it is useful!
Some of it is great, some of it okay, some of it not… So what is useable, what is still okay?
Whatever helps you to communicate the contention of you story yes?

I’m not sure….
Having more then one person film means that essentially this story is being told through more then one set of eyes (here’s where the reality of why it’s best to make documentaries alone set’s in). Because each individual has their own manner of looking at things, if seeing, noticing, and therefore their own ideas about how others should see and notice what they see.

My question that I’m trying to arrive at here is: does it matter that the camera shakes? And that it does in some instances more then others?

Recently, the rise of DSLR’s, and mobile filming have made it easier for audiences to stomach a shakey-home-video-style camera. But maybe for a documentary it shows a lack of technical discipline. I’m not saying that every shot should always be set up on a tripod, but maybe we should arrive at a set of conventions as to how much shake is acceptable…

Documentary Studies 101

I am finding Documentary Studies to be far more interesting then I ever thought it would be. But also rather overwhelming.

If everything is clear, and laid out in fiction filmmaking – in how to achieve the look; a well-made, polished, even fashionable film (pull focus… ) – documentary filmmaking is on the other side of the world.

And to make a documentary here, in Montpellier truly seems fitting.

The raw, sometimes harsh, nature of the camera and the sound add a texture to the final project. (All the same there is still much that can be, should be, well-polished and neat) But the documentary does not demand perfection in the way that the short film does. In fact, maybe the short film demands it more-so then a longer length film (or a television episode). Lighting continuity, editing faux-pas can both often fly under the radar with a longer piece (or a well known TV series *cough* Offspring – I still love you to bits), but in the short film everything matters. Characters need to be developed quickly, but they cannot be too stereotypical! The story needs to not be overly complex, but it needs to be engaging, and not let the audience work out the end too quickly.

Let’s say there exists a scale, a line, joining fiction and non fiction. For what IS fiction and what IS not? How can we classify it? To what degree? Essentially, even a fiction film could be a documentary; it is the act of recording a group of people (actors), doing their job… right?

 Let’s give the scale seven degrees (or really it should be eight… these french, can’t even count):

0. Camera Caché  – Hidden Camera
The camera is hidden so that no-one knows that action is being filmed/recorded.

  1. Camera à l’exterieur
    A camera is set up, for example, outside a window of a classroom looking in. Easily forgotten or unnoticed, the subjects are not necessicarily told that they are being filmed.
  2. Suivre en accord
    The subjects are aware that they are being filmed and
  3. *I missed what this level is called* something like mise-en-scene du réelle dans la réelle – it is the act of filming with the intention of narrating – those filmed are aware they are being filmed so maybe they recount stories… but the scene is left largely untouched by the director (however much untouched a scene can be given the obvious presence of a camera)
  4. Provoquer une situation du réelle dans la réelle
    The act of asking people to do things, to come into the room, and cause a scene. Everyone is themselves, but it begins to blur the lines because a definite intention has entered into a real-life scenario.
  5. Fait le tournage en décor réelle, mais travailler avec des comédiens, suivent la réelle.
    Here, the perspective of the audience begins to change, it is clear that the situation has been fabricated.
  6. Je tourne en studio – construire des salons, pas limiter par les horaires, par du bruit – les modéles/comédiens/personnages peuvent jouer leur propre rôles mais créer des situations/scenarios – shot in studio, but with actors/people/comedians who play ‘themselves’
    Here we begin to question how to judge the film because many more elements are under the control of the director – mise-en-scene, even to a point the writing or construction.
    Is it a pychological drama, or a docco?
  7. Total fiction
    This is filmed in studio, the production revolves around mise-en-scene, creating drama and being technically correct. The audience is aware that all (or most) has been constructed.

So, somewhere in the middle there exists a pseudo documentary/fiction group of works that are especially rule-breaking… The stuff of Bresson, and of pieces of Godard where some elements of control have been given up generating a new effect.