Film Analysis

There is a scene in Citizen Kane (Welles, Mercury Theatre, 1941) where Kane and his first wife Emily are shown talking with each other at the breakfast table on various days and each day they grow further apart physically and emotionally.  This scene was just one to way to show how Kane throughout the whole film distances himself from others gradually which is why at the end he was alone in his death bed thinking about his old sled.  Also, during this time when the film was being made, the World War II draft was going on which had many husbands leaving their families so to show this scene was another way of showing a husband “leaving” his family without even having to go to war.  The way this scene is shot helps show this more clearly.

In the first shot of the scene, we are introduced to Kane and Emily by a forward tracking shot to the happily chatting couple. The non-diegetic music sounds pleasant which indicates a sense of security in the couple’s happiness.  What is seen in the shot is important too. Their closeness is shown by the way they interact with each other and how physically close they are to each other. He stops for a second to kiss her on the forehead while he is walking to his chair which is close to hers on her right side.  Once he is seated at the small intimate barely cluttered table, they continue having a light conversation talking non-stop until they gaze into each other’s eyes.  They also look relaxed. Emily is wearing a low scoop neck white dress and is slouched forward in her seat and though Kane is wearing a tux he is also slouched forward. I would call this whole first shot the “before” of “before & after”.

After Kane finishes the conversation with a smile, there is a very quick fade-out to fade-in while the camera very quickly pans to right to show Emily indicating that we are watching something slightly in the future in the same place. This time things are not as pleasant between the couple.  The music has changed its tone somewhat to something not as light as before.  Emily and Kane are sitting at each end of the now mostly covered with flowers table instead of closely together.  Emily’s clothes cover her up much more and are slightly darker. She sits more rigidly also.  Kane on the other hand, is the opposite from her. His clothing is much looser and he hasn’t shaved his mustache nor bothered fixing his hair and now smokes. He is shown leaning back in his chair distancing himself from Emily even more than they already are.  Their conversation has turned a little more serious because she is getting more concerned about Kane working all the time and asks more questions whereas before it wasn’t that serious.

Again after Kane finishes that conversation in a light-hearted tone, the camera quickly pans to Emily at a later date.  The music is faster or spiraling which means that their relationship is heading down the wrong path.  Emily’s clothing has gotten more conservative and darker and her posture is completely straight now. Kane has let himself go a little more with wearing a simple robe.  His posture is that his whole right side is facing away from the table which makes him seem a bit more distant.  Their conversation has gone in a political direction with Emily complaining about the articles Kane writes about her uncle.  But still, Kane ends things on a light-hearted note.

This next future shows more dramatically how things changed.  Though the flowers are gone from the table, they are not any closer to each other.  Emily has stayed the same with her dark colors and posture but Kane seems to follows the trend.  He is not in comfortable clothes anymore but in a dark suit sitting as straight as his wife.  This change in him shows a more serious Kane.  His seriousness is obvious by his darker tone of voice and at the end of the conversation when things are not ended in a happy-tone.

In the next future, Kane and Emily are shown arguing and Kane has become more unlike his earlier self.  Maybe this is because of him getting older or because his work is becoming more stressful each day.  His annoyance is shown at the end of the conversation by that look on his face and his slightly slamming down of the teacup.

The loving relationship is over by the last shot of that scene.  The music has slowed down significantly and has gone somber.  Emily is shown reading the newspaper trying to ignore Kane.  Then Kane is shown reading his newspaper trying to ignore Emily.  No words are exchange between the two just small “glares”. After the camera cuts to Kane it back tracks slowly as if creeping away from a murder scene then stops to show both Emily and Kane in the same frame which hasn’t been done since they were first shown in the beginning of the scene. I call this the “after” of “before & after”.

To get from the “before” to the “after”, I saw many patterns.  The first one being how every conversation started with Emily and ended with Kane.  Maybe there is no real significance to that but I saw it as a power struggle; that Kane always had to have the last word and the last word always went against Emily’s point.  Next were the behavioral patterns that Emily and Kane grew with the course of time. Compared to the first and last shot of the scene Kane and Emily went from relaxed and light-hearted to stressed and serious and their clothing and postures went along with their changing personalities. The way they spoke to each other changed too because they used to be so chatty but as the conversations changed to darker subjects they spoke less to each other. The change of pace of each shot caught my attention also.  The first shot of the couple when they were happy lasted almost one minute. The second to last shot when they could barely stand each other lasted only 10 seconds.  But the most obvious change was their physical distance to each other.  At first they sat close together at a small table, by the end they sat at each end of what is seems a longer table.

Kane and the drafted husbands of World War II were similar.  When the husbands came home from war, their personalities have changed significantly.  Those soldiers probably had fine relationships with their wives until they have seen the horrors that could change anyone.  And so Kane probably has been through a lot in his life that changed the way he acted at home.  Emily probably feels like she was losing her husband just like many other women felt when the war was over.

Early Summer (1951)

I’m starting to really like this genre of film; meaning film that focuses much more on feelings and every day “simple” life than most of the mainstream stuff that Hollywood gives us.  This film in particular is interesting to me for the way it showcases traditional versus modernity and for its cinematography.

When it comes to representing the traditional and the modern the film shows this in many ways; one way being the meaning of etiquette.  During the conversation at a small restaurant in the beginning between Koichi and 2 other women (I forgot who), Koichi says something like men shouldn’t just treat women but that men should be treated too.  Traditionally men had always paid for dinners but this time Koichi said the women should pay.

Next would be the change in clothing.  In the film all of the older women and two of Noriko’s friends wear traditional kimonos all the time and Aya wears it sometimes.  I never saw Noriko wear one and her nephews never wear the traditional clothing even though her father and uncle do.  Her brother tends to switch like Aya.  The fashion for weddings seems to be changing too or else Noriko wouldn’t have asked her friend if the bride was going to wear a kimono or gown.

Next to note would be the children’s behavior towards their elder.  They are very bratty disrespectful children.  I know kids will be kids but I thought in Japanese homes specifically, respecting your elder was big thing but I guess I was wrong or things really did change.

The biggest change obviously is the “rule” on marriage.  Traditional thinking people in the film believe that Noriko should be married by now because she’s 28.  They are pushing her to find not just any husband but a husband from a “good family”.  But Noriko as well as Aya believe that getting married shouldn’t be that important.  They feel like marriage is more like a trap because they wouldn’t be as free as they are now.  I believe Aya said something while she’s at Noriko’s house like “So and so couldn’t come because her husband is going on a business trip”.  She also comments on how not being married lets her go anywhere she wants.

I am not going to say I loved the cinematography because one big thing kept bothering me and no it was the breaking of the continuity system, it was that throughout the whole film except for maybe two times the director seemed to only take tatami shots or “knee length” shots.  I expected tatami shots at the dinner table, but once people started walking around or when people stood up, I expected eye-level shots.  It seems like no matter what, I always had to look to the top of the screen to see an adults face instead of straight ahead.  But from what I learned in class, I guess I should have expected that. I did like the frame within frame shots which were shot and mostly noticeable in the interior.  I liked them simply because they looked cool and added “layers” to the shot. I could only imagine how great they would look in color.

Umberto D (1952)

We were warned about the slowed paced film, Umberto D but after watching the warning wasn’t necessary.  In my opinion, the story was so good that I didn’t even pay much attention to the different speed.  What interested me were Umberto and his relationship with others and the “inner Umberto”.

In the first scene, we are introduced to a mob of old men protesting and Umberto is in that mob.  But I couldn’t tell who Umberto was, not even when the crowd had split up.  He just doesn’t stand out in the crowd.  Maybe this shows that even though Umberto is alone he’s not alone when it comes to his situation.  He’s a poor old retired guy like the rest of the protestors.

At first, I thought Umberto had many close friends because he’s friendly and seem to talk to a lot of people in the neighborhood but we soon find out that even though Umberto can make acquaintances easy he cannot make “actual friends” (aside from Maria).  In fact, people try to ignore him.  I saw this many times like when he subtly tries to ask the people he knew for money but once they figured out what he was asking for, they always made up some excuse like needing to go home or catch the bus when they could have just said they didn’t have the money to give.  Later, people ignored him after he and the landlady fought outside.  I was shocked to find out that he and the landlady used to be friends.  People even seem disgusted by him sometimes like when he was going to his room one night during the engagement party and this woman who is leaving the party gives him this mean look.  Or towards the end when he is sitting on the park bench and looks at the woman near him then the woman gives him a mean look.  Seems like the only friend he met and kept was his dog.

As I wrote earlier, I was interested in the “inner Umberto”.  I had this impression that no matter what kind of trouble Umberto was in he was always happy, optimistic, and able to take on the world.  It wasn’t until toward the ending of the middle that I learned that this seemingly happy man was extremely sad on the inside to the point of wanting to commit suicide.  It makes me wonder about the different situations the protestors in the beginning who all blended in with Umberto could be in and how many of them feel the same way.

Even though I loved this film the emotional stress was high.  I just felt so bad for him, he never won.  Even in the end I feel bad because he looks happy but he’s homeless so where is he going to go now? I wish there was a sequel.

Out of the Past (1947)

This film was “blah” to me mostly because I couldn’t follow the details of the plot very well.  But I understood that there’s a woman who tricks a detective guy and yadda yadda.  What I was paying attention to was the female characters and how they are shown in this film noir genre.

In film noir there are mainly two female figures, the “spider lady” who is the negative character and the maternal “good girl”.  In this film the “spider lady” character is Kathie and the maternal “good girl” character is Ann.  Kathie and Ann share the same appearances and personalities that most film noir women have.

What stands out most is their hair color.  Kathie has dark brown/black hair and Ann is blond.  For some reason in our culture dark represents evil and light is the opposite so when we see their hair color we associate the darkness or the lightness of the hair to some specific meaning.  Next to show that both women are different from one another is their clothing.  We see Kathie wear low neckline fitted dresses and even though it is cold in “current” time where Ann is, I can’t imagine her wearing what Kathie wears.

As I mentioned earlier, their personalities are polar opposites from each other.  Kathie reminds me of Jean from Lady Eve.  She is deceitful and dramatic.  There is a popular line that I notice in film noirs that the “spider lady” characters say which is “Don’t you believe me!?”  That is the funniest line ever because whenever a woman in a film says that, you know that you shouldn’t believe her. So if you didn’t know she was the “spider lady” before, it’s obvious now.  Ann is an innocent woman who believes in the best in others.  When told that Jeff killed someone, she doesn’t believe a word of it not even if Jeff confessed to it.

You can also tell the difference between the women by how men treat them.  In most film noirs the main male character treats the bad woman like she’s a joke.  He’s unapologetic towards her.  He can be violent towards her like shaking or shoving.  He doesn’t give into her demands.  If he does, it’s only because he’s stringing her along and once he has no more use for her, he’ll leave her behind.  The same male character is a whole different man when around the good girl.  He thinks she’s special.  He is gentle towards her.  He tries to not make her worry but she always does; and in the end wants to stay with her.

The last thing that distinguishes the “spider lady” from the “good girl” in this film and in some other film noir films is the female characters’ ending.  As we saw in this film, Kathie died in the end which is like punishment for what she’s done.  In other film noir films the bad girl can end like this or go to jail.  Either way, she does not get a happy ending.  But the good girl doesn’t get a complete happy ending.  Sure she is not dead or in jail but she could have lost someone close to her at some point in the film.