A Cinematic Journey: From Classic Hollywood to Post-Modern Masterpieces

Night and Fog (1956)

Key Players

  • Director: Alain Resnais
  • Narrator: Michael Bouquet
  • Scriptwriter: Jean Cayrol (imprisoned at Oranienburg)

The Graduate (1967)

Key Players

  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Benjamin: Dustin Hoffman
  • Mrs. Robinson: Anne Bancroft
  • Elaine Robinson: Katharine Ross
  • Novel: Charles Webb
  • Screenplay: Calder Willingham & Buck Henry

Themes and Techniques

  • Leitmotif: Use of music to cue a character’s entrance or mood.
  • Continuity Editing: A-B-C storytelling.
  • Elliptical Editing: A-B-H storytelling, skipping over expected events.
  • Musical Montage: Conveying the passage of time and repetition through match cuts and music (e.g., “April Comes She Will”).
  • Oedipal Dynamic: Explored between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, mirroring his relationship with his mother.
  • Thematic Similarity: Circular construction and irony between the opening and ending shots.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Key Players

  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Writer: Arthur C. Clarke
  • Dr. Dave Bowman: Keir Dullea
  • Dr. Frank Poole: Gary Lockwood
  • Dr. Heywood R. Floyd: William Sylvester

Technical Innovations

  • Stop Motion: Frame-by-frame animation for realistic effects.
  • Slit-Scan Photography: Used to create the wormhole sequence.
  • Matte Painting and Rear Projection: Combined on the same negative for spacecraft interiors.
  • Sound Editing: Focus on single, impactful sounds rather than layered audio.

Themes and Motifs

  • Dawn of Man: Linking apes and humans, exploring the struggle for dominance.
  • Jump Cutting: Creating a sense of disorientation and time jumps.
  • Monolith: Representing an extraterrestrial force influencing human evolution.
  • Sun and Moon Crescent: Symbolizing the eternal struggle between light and darkness.

Network (1976)

Key Players

  • Director: Sidney Lumet (“lightning quick” director)
  • Diana Christensen: Faye Dunaway
  • Max Schumacher: William Holden
  • Howard Beale: Peter Finch
  • Frank Hackett: Robert Duvall

Themes and Commentary

  • The “Golden Era” of TV: By 1955, half of U.S. households owned televisions.
  • Satire: Employing irony to critique the media and society.
  • Howard Beale: A throwback to the golden era, a “mandarin” of television.
  • Max Schumacher: Representing ethical programming and the search for truth.
  • Diana Christensen: Embodying a generation raised on television and its logic.
  • Frank Hackett: The quintessential corporate man.
  • Punditry vs. News: Howard Beale dictates feelings rather than reporting facts.
  • Repressive Desublimation: Redirecting pent-up energy onto distractions like television.
  • (Ersatz) Vox Populi: The audience’s desire for simplified narratives and easy answers.

Goodfellas (1990)

Key Players

  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Henry Hill: Ray Liotta
  • Karen Hill: Lorraine Bracco
  • Jimmy Conway: Robert De Niro
  • Tommy DeVito: Joe Pesci
  • Paul Cicero: Paul Sorvino

Genre and Style

  • Left Cycle Gangster Film: Maintaining audience identification with the gangster despite his actions.
  • Right Cycle Gangster Film: Correcting audience identification by the film’s end.
  • Gangster Films of the 1930s: Presenting a negative image of the American Dream.
  • Film Noir: Exploring themes of morality, consequences, and first-person narration.
  • Biopic: A biographical story using narrative conventions of the genre.
  • Intact Nostalgia: Romanticizing a past the protagonist never had, a desire to escape class and abuse.

Techniques and Themes

  • Freeze Framing: Pausing the visual while the narrator highlights an emotional shift.
  • Retroactive Justification and Situation Ethics: Justifying actions based on circumstance rather than absolute morality.
  • Steadicam Shots: Creating smooth, flowing visuals, often used for tracking shots.
  • “Married to the Mob” World: Juxtaposing a facade of family values and Catholicism with criminal activity.
  • Categorical Maxim: “Never snitch, never rat on your friends.” Homage to The Great Train Robbery.

Amistad (1997)

Key Players

  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Producer: Debbie Allen
  • Writer: William Owen (based on his book)
  • Composer: John Williams
  • Theodore Joadson: Morgan Freeman
  • Roger Sherman Baldwin: Matthew McConaughey
  • Martin Van Buren: Nigel Hawthorne
  • John Quincy Adams: Anthony Hopkins
  • Cinque: Djimon Hounsou

Themes and Style

  • Intercultural Exchange: Leading to character growth and a more just society.
  • Docudrama: Blending cinematic fiction with historical events.
  • Allegorical Experience: Evoking emotional resonance through personalized storytelling.
  • J.M.W. Turner’s “The Slave Ship”: Visual and thematic inspiration.
  • Binary Counterpoint: Contrasting the nobility of the Africans with the contemptible behavior of some whites.

Fight Club (1999)

Key Players

  • Director: David Fincher
  • Author: Chuck Palahniuk
  • Narrator: Edward Norton
  • Tyler Durden: Brad Pitt
  • Marla Singer: Helena Bonham Carter

Themes and Commentary

  • Male Worth: Shifting from traditional measures of adversity and purpose to consumerism.
  • Restricted First Person Narration: Limiting information to the narrator’s perspective.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Creating a bond with the audience that is later shattered by conflicting perspectives.
  • Post-Modernity: Exploring themes of fractured identity, waning affect, and the search for meaning.
  • Bob: A metaphor for the crisis of masculinity.
  • Tyler Durden’s Intrusions: Representing the narrator’s breaking points and descent into chaos.
  • Nietzschean Philosophy: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Applied to the narrator’s journey.
  • Turning Point: Bob’s death, leading to the reawakening of the narrator’s super-ego.
  • Existentialism: Embracing the risk of death as a path to freedom.
  • PR Ratio: Highlighting the increasing dominance of public relations over genuine human connection.