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Major Filmmakers in Hollywood - II

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Good morning. So, continue our discussion of New Hollywood; second wave directors.So, we have been talking about the first wave, Francis Coppola, Hal Ashby, Arthur Pennand in several others of that period.And second wave directors, key people are Paul Schrader, Scorsese; Schrader was of coursealso a screen writer who has collaborated with Martin Scorsese on a couple of major projects.We have De Palma who was hugely influenced by Hitchcock’s style.John Milius, basically a screenwriter and we will discuss his work also. Terence Malick, a very significantfilmmaker who has a very restricted body of work and we look at some of his major films.And then in between we have someone called Michael Cimino who made the great, one andonly great movie of his career that was ‘The Deer Hunter’.We will also discuss at length some major films of Roman Polanski, and then we willsee how the new Hollywood movement, it was all neatly tide up with the advent of Spielberg and George Lucas.So, these are the key people.And just to recap whatever we have been doing so far; what was new Hollywood all about,First wave as well as, Second wave directors, they aspired to become auteurs, we have to remember that.And what was auteur theory? It was basically driven by directors,director heavy films; director is the key figure in these movies rather than the producer or star.So, they were not a star vehicles, they were not high budget films which was produced bya big studio, but the director name, director’s name carried the film forward; that was theidea of auteur theory, especially in America. These films were characterized by complexcharacterization; this is, you know, more and more characters on screen, they became inwardly conscious,more and more like Dostoyevskian characters. Dostoyevsky was a huge influenceon most of these second wave directors. For example, Paul Schrader, the way he conceptualizedTravis Bickle’s character in ‘Taxi Driver’. So, it is all based on works by Dostoyevsky,especially ‘Notes from underground’, sorry New wave, new Hollywood movies were also characterand theme driven rather than plot driven. So, plot was not that important, but it theywere more steady in characters and more centered on particular idea rather than building avery cohesive plot, very well structured plot around it. New Hollywood films were all aboutbuilding up a character and doing an in-depth study of that character.For example, the other day we were looking at ‘Mean Streets’ and someone rightly pointed out thatHarvey Keitel’s character is torn between his fascination or the street life, the gangster’s life,as well as his commitment towards his catholic upbringing. So, Mean Streets on the otherhand, like most movies of New Hollywood period, was extremely character driven that is whatwe have to remember; they were not plot heavy, the way studio movies, classic Hollywood movies used to be.New Hollywood movies were extremely personal in nature;director’s own personality came to the fore. Now, consider people like Coppola,consider people like Roman Polanski, and we will soon look at his major features.Consider people like Schrader and Scorsese; they made personal films, auteurs all and they madepersonal films, films which were a reflection of their own character, personality, extension of their personality.This you cannot say about the films of the older Auteurs,for example Howard Hawks or even John Ford, those things were not found in. So, you cannot say,oh John Ford is like this because you are, you look at John Wayne characters in 'Searchers'that is not the case. But here, when you see Harvey Keitel is like this, you know thatMartin Scorsese himself is like that. So, therefore, we are talking about new Hollywoodmovies which were intensely personal in nature. We have already talked about music, most of it,most of which was sourced and they did not believe in creating an original sound track for that,that came much later; of course there were movies which became major blockbusters even in the late 70's,but that is not the major feature, that is not the key element in the new Hollywood period.So, Terrence Malick,major film a first major film was ‘Badlands’,based on; it is again is a Bonnie and Clyde kind of story, based on the real life,1958 Midwest killing spree of Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate.So, these were real life people on whose escapades the movie was made.So, think Bonnie and Clyde, think Natural Born Killers and Terrence Malick’s.So, this was also a period when filmmakers were looking around for original stories,which they can, you know explore around rather than developing a screenplay,which was based on someone else’s material.Remember, the apprehensions Coppola had before making the Godfather.What were the issues they had with The Godfather?Because it was already made, it is based on a novel and nobody, so called auteurs;so people who had ambitions of becoming auteurs, they did not want to make films basedon someone else’s material, they wanted to develop their own materials.So, Terrence Malick was highly original in that way. Do you remember any other movie?I think Ranjith have watched one of his movies in earlier courses;‘Days of Heaven’.So, another major movie, a Terrence Malick is Days of Heaven.Where should I write it?Do not confuse it with ‘Days of Thunder’, that is Tom Cruise that is a High Concept Film;we were talking about Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.Now, while all these things were happening in Hollywood,we had another major talent emerging, George Lucas.George Lucas; who we all know as the director of ‘Star Wars’.His first film was sci-fi movie (1971)THX,which is set in 25th century,goes a step beyond Matrix.And Lucas, remember we have often mentioned Lucas and Spielberg in the same breath.Student: Collaboration for Indiana JonesThey collaborated on Indiana Jones of course. What else?Student: Other work of movie or art! Yeah, science fiction movies, they were alsointerested in making the so called, Science Fiction Genre of film, and these films do not come cheap,they are always big budget. And what was the New Hollywood concept all about; a low budget movies, yes.So, you have to remember why they stand out among the plethora of other New wave Hollywood filmmakers.Another point that another feature, which both Lucas and Spielberg had in common was,they both came from small towns; they were not like New Yorkers or people who are born in LA.Coppola and Scorsese are New Yorkers, remember,other film makers are all majorly form LA. Both, Lucas and Spielberg come from small townsand this reflects in their movies, why; these peoples grown up on those Classic Hollywood kinds of films.So, the movies, that their small town theatres would show,would be those classic movies which talked about American individualism, heroism and strong thoughts.So, this is a major contention that Lucas had against New Hollywood Cinema.He said, ‘Every movie in the last 10 years has pointed out how terrible we are;that Americans are terrible people, in the last 10 years that is all we have been doing.How wrong we were in Vietnam, how we have ruined the world’.And Lucas said, ‘It is time to go back to a more Utopian kind of cinema’. So, further, he said,‘I wanted to preserve what a certain generation of Americans thought being a teenager was really aboutfrom between 1945 and 1962’.Now, John Kennedy was assassinated after this period.1945 is the period of America’s peak; America was at its peak in terms of its economy and its political power,it became a major super power post 2nd world war, right, and this is the best period in American history.There were no political assassination, there was no Vietnam,and he wanted to hark back to those times; the result was ‘American Graffiti’.How many of you have watched the movie?No?Watch it, this is the must watch for anyone who is interested seriously in films ‘American Graffiti’ (1973).It set in 1950’s America,small town again;for that matter even Spielberg’s E.T is set in a small town.It is a nostalgic take on America’s glorious past.It is about teenage rights of passage.And it kick started the careers of Ronny Howard and Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford.The basic plot is very simple; two school boys, they have just finished, they have just out of high schooland they have been admitted to City College and they are ready to fly out of their small town nest.The anxieties they go through it before joining college.It is a movie which is very tightly structured within a span of 24 hours, and what they think; they discusstheir anxieties, their concerns, there discomfort with loosing something which is so comfortable;you know, warm, cozy environment and seeking out careers in an unknown world,old unknown city, no one knows it. So, all those and it is lot of talk and lot of music, and lot of boys bonding,so that is the movie all about. And one reason for its enormous success and popularity was that sound;it was out-and-out soundtrack driven, every major incident has a score for it, all sourced music.And during the 50’s there was a popular teenage ‘Rock band’, Bill Haley and his Comets,rock around the clock and that is the theme, music theme scope of American Graffiti.Again, we were talking about Scorsese,his very first feature included was; ‘Who’s that Knocking at my Door’ and using thatpicture of Harvey Keitel coming out of a theatre, and what is that movie; ‘Rio Bravo’ byHoward Hawks, Howard Hawks, starring John Wayne and Dean Martin.It is again Scorsese making a very personal, very first feature, very personal movie, homage to Howard Hawks.That is what we are looking at; this is what they have been doing, this is the kind ofcinema they made which were an extension of their own personality.After ‘Mean Streets’ which we have already discussed at some length yesterday; so after Mean Streets, Scorsesebecame real big, many people wanted to work with him. And the studio gave him the script,‘Alice does not live here anymore’, which is only movie, which is so called, you knowwoman-centric in Scorsese’s woe. So, it deals with that trials and anxieties of awoman played by Ellen Burstyn, she won academy award for this.The movie has become so popular because of its strong feminist overtones,that there is a feminist critic called,Teresa Lauretis, who has written a book called ‘Alice Does not’,Alice Does not by Teresa Lauretis.It is a book about feminist representation in Hollywood cinema of the 70's.Another feature of this period was of course,influence and impact of method acting and we have already done method acting to some extent.Themes and characters, as we were talking about; so characters were socially defined,non-conformist, the proverbial outsiders; were more inwardly looking, more inwardly consciousthan socially conscious heroes.Directors believed in strong expression of their individuality.So, the heroes now did not have any case to investigate,unlike the Humphrey Bogart; our noir heroes. There were no woman to love and to die for,there were no goals, defining goals.And that is so called, Affirmative-consequential model that was totally astute.And this model was replaced by open-endedness. A good example of this open-endedness is thecinema of Nicolas Roeg.I write his name here,Nicolas Roeg,‘Do not Look Now’;I am not asking you, when or do not look now, that title of the movie;starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.And another movie of his that I often refer to is ‘Performance’.So, ‘Don’t Look Now’, and‘Performance’ is just one or two of the movies; starring the great Mick Jagger,the Rolling Stone, the Rock star.Yesterday, we were talking about the interest in demonic possession,poltergeism,and Satanism.So, two major blockbusters of that period, ‘The Exorcist’William Friedkin’s moviewhich was preceded by his blockbuster ‘The French Connection’,we have already seen what a major blockbuster The Exorcist was, and ‘Carrie’ by Brian De Palma.So, both these movies in horror, belonging to the horror genre, and extremely interested in the supernaturaland demonic positions. Movies of these times were also critical of the politics and media, this is important.Andy Warhol gave us an immortal expression, what is that; critique of media,‘Fifteen minutes of fame’.He said in future anyone can be famous forfifteen or any person can have their share of fifteen minutes of fameand what do you have to do for that?Say or do something absolutely inane or outrageous and you will be, you will be well-known;you do not have to really do anything significant, you do not have to bea great actor or great political leader or a great economist to be splashed all over the place.So, that is what a network is all about. Network is about how media playsthe celebrity game, how media hypes certain people just to up their TRPs and we are talking aboutthis movie, which was made induring the 70's.So very important movie; both ‘Nashville’ and Network,and Network has a very impressive cast, Faye Dunaway,Robert Duvall, Peter Finch,William Holden, an excellent movie.And Nashville, we have been talking about and set in small town called, Nashville;directed by Robert Altman.Now, Roman Polanski, another major director of that period.How many of you have seen his short film, ‘Two Men and a Wardrobe’?Please, do make a note of it, Two Men and a Wardrobe by Roman Polanski,and it tells you a lot about how Polanski is interested in exploring the twin issues of time and space;it is a very abstract film, not easy to understand.I remember when we were shown this movie, when I was at FTII- Pune, and we spent anentire day discussing what it is all about, it is not very easy to understand but that is the entire idea about.‘Repulsion’, starring the French actress Catherine Deneuve,set in London and it is all about isolation and paranoia, two recurring features of Roman Polanski.Do you know his background? We are still talkingabout new wave directors making intensely personal films.Do you know anything about Polanski’s background?His wife Sharon was murdered by the Manson family, but that wasfollowing phenomenal success of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. So, that is his life after he became big,but what was, what happened to him earlier?He was a Polish Jew and someof you are already familiar with ‘Sophie’s Choice’, William Styron’s and during the peak ofanti-Jewish anti-sematic feelings in Europe, Polanski along with his family,I am talking about his parents; he was captured and they were being deported to Auschwitz.And his mother threw the little boy, he was just 8 years old; somehow she manage to opensthe door of the moving train and threw him out. After that, he never saw his mother again;she died while she was in Auschwitz.His father survived, but those harrowing memories always remain with him.Therefore, this constant feeling of paranoia, suspicion and betray is always there in his films.And then of course, following the tragic event of hiswife’s murder by a serial killer and that was another very, you know, harrowing period for Roman Polanski.Do you know any other movie by him? ‘Chinatown’ of course, wewill talk about but anything else he has done? What else happened to him?Student: He flew the USA because claims of prosecuting a child; so because of that whenwas the movie ‘The Pianist’ was nominate and the Oscar, he could not go to America.Good, yeah, he is still living in exile, self-imposed exile because in the US he is a wanted man.He has been charged with a statutory rape. The woman, the people say that she was notan exactly child but a minor. So, the recurring themes; suspicion, human crueltywhere least expected, dark intrigues, pagan rituals. Have you watched ‘Rosemary’s Baby’?Please, do watch it. You will understand a lot about pagan rituals in New York.So, Rosemary’s Baby, based on Ira Levin’s novel by the same name,an entire movie is set in a New York apartment.The leading man is played by a great director, John Cassavetes, we have been discussing his films.In the movie, he is a New York method actorand he is not doing too well, so the implication is that, he has made a pact with a devil;so the ironic subtext is that actors can go to any length to make it big.Rosemary believes, Rosemary played byMia Farrowwho later became Woody Allen’s muse wife and then the masseuse, so she was many things.After, Rosemary’s Baby she made another, Rosemary’s Baby was a big success,critical as well as, commercial; this wasfollowed by ‘The Great Gatsby’ where she plays Daisy to, to, Daisy to Robert Redford, Jay Gatsby.The film was written, screenplay was written by Coppolaand after that her career was in hibernation,till she was re-rediscovered by Woody Allen. Rosemary believes that herhusband is in league with Satan and that when she is pregnant, she believes her baby willbe taken away from her by her demonic neighbours and believes that her husband is also in leaguewith her neighbours who are all followers of Satan; so they do this, they follow this pagan ritualsand has some gems and pieces of jewellery, which have strange fragrance,fragrance emanating from them.All these things are vey dark, very intriguing film and it is open-ended.At the end she believes she has given birth to Satan; so it is called, the year of The Great Satan (1966),it is believed the year of Satan.And she believes, she is the mother of Satan.At the end, she looks at the baby’s face, we are never shown the baby’s face and that is where the movie ends.We do not know what the baby actually looks like,whether she was dreaming it all along or she is just going paranoid because of claustrophobic surroundingsor whether indeed, she has given birth to Satan, we are never given a satisfactory response to that.His most successful movie, Chinatown in 1974,it has a number of great lines. The movie ends with the detective Escobar telling Jake Gittes,played by Nicholson, ‘Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown’.So, Jack Nicholson plays a hardboiled detective, almost in the Nobel league of Humphrey Bogart and otherdetective heroes from film noir, Chinatown is a Neo-noir.Neo-noir; how do we differentiate the classic noir from Neo-noir?Are there any differences?If I tell you, ‘Usual Suspects’ is a Neo-noir, Memento is a Neo-noir,and ‘Chinatown’ is the first of Neo-noir,and what are the features of this genre, sub-genre?Student: The classic noir was all about the late thirties and forties and early fifties I guess.After that time, I think it’s amusical which came into prominence; it’s only from the seventies we have film noir popped about.Renewed interest in noir, but are there any defining features in Neo-noir?I am not just talking about the period, but are there any defining,is Neo-noir is anyway different from the original noir?Not exactly, not exactly except that in Neo-noir you have more,many more contemporary, than contemporary themes to reflect on.So, if there is Memento, then what are the themes; the construct of memory,that is the very important feature of Neo-noir,how memory plays its role in defining characters and pushing a prompt?The basic theme is that of land grabbing in California.You should do some research on this, land grabbing in California. I think you would know Ranjith,you are into this kind of cities studies and all.So, do look up land grabbing and developing of the entire California valley.And how did that city become so prosperous all of a sudden?What games did Real Estate people play in making, that particular valley so prosperousand rich that prices just sky rocketed? So, there is a history there, there is a lot ofa financial intrigue happening there, please look it up.‘Chinatown’ starred John Nicholson,John Huston; Johan Huston who was also director,what did he direct?‘The Maltese Falcon’, remembered; with Humphrey Bogart.‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’.Faye Dunaway. The movie was produced by Robert Evans,Robert Towne officially, wrote the screenplay for this. This is one of those movies where he was notjust the script doctor but also the official writer.For the major part of the movie this is the way Jack Nicholson look like, why?The thugs who are involved in land grabbing and he is the detective, he is investigatinga murder and the thugs catch hold of him, and they say your very nosy man.And you know what we do to people who are so nosy? We cut off their noses. So, they tried. And the handthat chops off Jack Nicholson’s nose belongs to Roman Polanski himself, the director makingan appearance as a thug, a very self-referential, and self-conscious.Chinatown has several great moments, but the sub-text is incest, that is the very importantpart of the narrative; this is the, this is where the suspense lies.Faye Dunaway’s character who is a John Huston’s daughter in the movie and later on we are told that,she has been molested by her own father when she was fourteen or fifteen and has givenbirth to her father’s child, a daughter. But at the end when Jack Nicholson confrontsher and he asks her, who is this girl; tell me the truth, I want the truth, and she says,she is my sister and he slaps her and then she says, she is my daughter; and then heslaps her again and then she blurts out, she is my sister and my daughter.And then she asks him, if he is able to understand but, there is no like elaborated explanation for that;just that one moment tells us the entire thing, and the depths to which this man,so called very respectable Real Estate person, played by John Huston, he can stoop to.Polanski’s later works, of course, he had those issues, the legal issues and he had to leave America.But then he made ‘Frantic’ with Harrison Ford. It is again homage to Hitchcock;it is a very suspenseful movie.‘The Ninth Gate’, how many of you have watched the movie?It is like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or that movie with Sean Connery; ‘The Name of the Rose’,remember ‘The Name of the Rose’ based on Umberto Eco’s novel.He is a medieval priest, Sean Connery, and he is in search of a very enigmatic lost text by Aristotle.Okay, that is fictional, there is no enigmatic lost text by Aristotle, butthe entire movie and the entire suspense is built on that premise. So, The Ninth Gate; Johnny Deppis a rare dealer and he is trekking down copies of a Satanic text, so again look atPolanski’s interest in paganistic rituals and Satanism.He won the Oscar for ‘The Pianist’.I think, Adrien Brody won it too for best actor, and through this movie herevisits the memories of Nazi occupied Poland. He made a musical, Oliver Twist’ based onCharles Dickens novel and ‘The Ghost Writer’; I am sure the most of us here are familiarwith Pierce Brosnan’s, almost along the lines of Toni Blair, right, The Ghost Writerwhich is the tale of political intrigue. Another great director of that period, Alan J. Pakula,and he has made a number of political thrillers;‘Klute’,The Parallax View;it is about political assassination. ‘All the President’s Men’ his most popular movie,starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and is based on which event;The Water Gate Scandal, deep throat.‘Presumed Innocent’ is a murder mystery based on aScott Turow’s novel, of the same name; Harrison Ford.‘The Pelican Brief’; Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.We were talking about how the new wave Hollywooddirectors were more interested in sourcing music and not in developing or creating anoriginal soundtrack for their pictures, but then one movie came along with change equation.It was such a huge movie, such a great blockbuster, that it went on to influence a generation of music,generation which was hugely influenced by musicals all over the world.There was a when everybody wanted to look like John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever’,directed by John Badham.Again, it is one of those coming of age, rights of passage movie.It tries to rework the musicals of classic Hollywood period. Who are the musical sensations orthe musical stars of that period? Student: Astaire?Yeah, Student: GingerGood, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly; ‘Singing in the Rain’.Those were the musicals, the dancing heroes of the 50's, the 40's, and Travolta brought back the dancing heroes,the category of dancing hero.Toni Manero is working class Italian-American,lower middle class family from Brooklyn.He has no ambition, remember.So, he leads a very mundane kind of life, works in paint, in a hardware store, paint store, but he comesalive on Saturday nights where he dresses up and goes to a very gaudy discotheque called,‘2001 Odyssey’, homage to Kubrick of course.During the same period in Hollywood, there was something called,Studio54;look this up,this is your home work. You have to watch lots of movies and then you have to look up Studio 54.Studio 54 was kind of a very elitist discotheque where only very rich, an influential can find an entry;but then in Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever because they come froma certain background you cannot go to a place like Studio 54, therefore they have to inventthe place 2001 Odyssey, where people like Toni Manero could walk in.Of course, it broughtback the musicals in fashion and in many ways it also reinvented men-hood dress;for a very longtime you would find every young man dressed up the way John Travolta’s character wouldbe dressed up in the movie. You have to look it up to understand his fashion.Music by the Gibb brothers.And then the legacy of the movie is that it gave birth to the modern dance films.Some of the most well known are; ‘Grease’ again starring John Travolta,Olivia Newton-John,Grease is also a stage play.‘Footloose’;withstarringKevin Bacon,very young Kevin Bacon.‘Dirty Dancing’; Patrick Swayze.And then there were several imitations including; you can think of movie like ‘Fast Forward’, you can say,that you know string of movies that followed, that imitated the success of ‘Saturday Night Fever’.It is a very dark movie in patches; it is not like ‘American Graffiti’ or even ‘Diner’.Are you aware of Diner? Barry Levinson, just note it down,I would not be able do so much New Hollywood but you should know the Diner, which is againlike American Graffiti, set in a small town in Baltimore,Barry Levinson directed.To you guys, Barry Levinson would be best known for ‘Rain Man’,Rain Man; so he is the director.And Diner is very another beautiful coming of age movie, starring again Kevin Baconand Mickey Rourke, very young Mickey Rourke.So, this is the last movie today that I would be discussing, Michael Cimino’s ‘The Deer Hunter’.Michael Cimino could never repeat the success of The Deer Hunter. I think we have alreadydone excerpt from the movie Russian roulette.It is a classic Vietnam picture, came alongthe heels of ‘Coming Home’ Hal Ashby’s, The Boys in Company’ and ‘Go tell the Spartans’;all Vietnamese pictures made in 1978when Francis was still shooting Apocalypse Now;his magnum opus in Philippines in rain water and thunderstorms and that was released in 1979.The Deer Hunter; if you have not already watched it; please do watch it,one of the most influential films of that period. It tells you the story of a group of workingclass Russian Americans from Pennsylvania, such small steel town where most people work in steel industries.And they, these, this group of young men they enlist for the Vietnamwar but before enlisting, there are two rituals that have to be followed; one is, one of their friendSteve, played by John Savage, he gets married to his sweetheart.Second is, the men take a trip,a deer hunting trip.The leader of the boys is Robert De Niro.The movie begins with the extended wedding sequence, again you know paying homage toCoppola’s Godfather where all the characters are introduced and the plot is set,and then suddenly taken to the wars. It is in the middle of the wars, it is not, we do not see peoplefiring away at each other; we just find that this is the same group of a young men we justwatched getting married and participating in rituals, they are taken prisoners by groupof Vietnamese and they are forced to play the game of Russian roulette.There were protests from many anti-war Americans that, this actually did not happen.The Vietnamese did not force any one to play Russian roulette, but then for Cimino that was metaphor forthe brutality of war, just wanted to show you how evil war could be.Movie was hugely received, phenomenal reception;won four academy awards,best picture, best director Cimino,and supporting actor for who; Christopher Walken and editing.Cimino became the toast of town and new auteur in the making.So, thank you very much, and we will continue tomorrow.
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