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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old February 25th, 2003, 06:06 PM   #1
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Mise-en_scene (lets start over)

Sorry, it seems lots of people have slightly different definitions of mise-en-scene (MES) than I do. For my class,

films are divided into content (the story) and style/structure(the way the story is told).
MES is sort of like a filmaker's style toolbox. Filmakers have to use tools; e.g. lighting, camera angle, lens-focal-length, color, music, aspects of editing, etc, etc, etc...;in order to make you think or feel a certain way about what's happening in the scene, and MES is a word that represents all the stylistic/structural tools directors have at their disposal.

My project is to find a particular scene from a particular film to present in class and discuss how it demonstrates effective or exceptional use of one aspect of MES.

So back to the original question: Can anyone think of a scene that demonstrates an utterlingly amazing example of one of the tools of filmaking/element of mise-en-scene?
-Glenn III
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Old February 25th, 2003, 07:57 PM   #2
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Here are a few scenes that come to mind:

One short but memorable shot is in "Harold and Maude" and is when Maude is sitting in a VW bug that she's stolen for a joy ride. Harold is standing in the street talking to her with the window rolled down and is aghast that this old woman has stolen the car. She's full of joy. When she decides it's time to drive away, she rolls up the window and a reflection appears of a bare, old tree in winter.

Another is in a Canadian film called "Some Girls" and is the scene where the key character finds some "summer shoes" stuck up in a tree, ones that the wonderful old grandmother with Alzheimer's has spoken about. As he runs in to show her the shoes, the camera pulls back to reveal the old tree in winter and the music swells...and it's just a nice, symbolic scene that tells us the grandmother is in her final moments and that the relationship he has with her is strong.

In "Joe Versus the Volcano", I like the shot where Joe has just learned he's dying of a "brain cloud" and when he exits the doctor's office, we see him made to appear small and insignificant against this huge red building fašade. The music certainly sets the mood in this shot about how lost he's feeling. A tiny woman walks up with a Great Dane. I'm not sure if this is what the filmmaker's intended, but I always thought that was done on purpose to make the humans in the shot appear small and insignificant, while everything else is larger than life, representing how awesome and overpowering life can be. The fact that the building is red, symboizing a sudden swelling of long-dormant passion, and windowless..."no way out"...is all nice. Of course, I also always wonder whether none of this was intended at all...the filmmaker just said "Hey, that's a cool red building...and look at that cool big dog!" Guess we'll never know.

Is that what you're looking for? If so, I'll see if I can come up with a few more. If not, I'll just go open a beer and sit and contemplate the whiteness of my wall.
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Old February 25th, 2003, 08:38 PM   #3
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that's more like it!

Yes, that's what I'm talking about.
I think the "Joe Verses the Volcano" example may be a good one.

BTW, speaking of the "whiteness of my wall", are you a diehard fan of the tabula-rasa, or is your name actually John Loche?
-Glenn III
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Old February 25th, 2003, 10:23 PM   #4
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That's the name...tabula rasa is the game. How ironic is that?

I'm glad I hit the target, Glenn. I'll try to think of more while others chime in.

There's an article you should search for that I think is by Syd Field about the use of red in "American Beauty." It's very interesting to read his analysis of the placement, timing, and coverage of the color red throughout that movie.

Interesting things to note are how Annette Bening is seen "clipping" the roses...symbolizing how she controls her passion. Then there's the red potholder seen hanging on the wall in the kitchen of the lifeless marine's wife. She hung up her passion years before. And then the changing "volumes" of red related to the slutty cheerleader...especially in Kevin Spacey's fantasies and toward the end when she confesses she's a virgin. Also, there's Kevin's shiny new red camaro...symbolizing his reawakened passion. Interesting stuff.

If you watch the movie again with the intention of keeping an eye on red references, you'll see that it's not "coincidental depth"...the filmmakers put a lot of thought into where red should be in each scene.

Well...back to my wall...lotta slate cleaning to do
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Old February 26th, 2003, 10:16 AM   #5
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I think that piece came from the American Beauty DVD. It could
be they also talked about it on that ofcourse. Great movie! Thinking
of red: what about the red's in The Sixth Sense and the little breath
clouds whenever Cole is about to see dead-people?

Rob Lohman, visuar@iname.com
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Old February 26th, 2003, 10:31 AM   #6
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Since your assignment seems to be for you to focus on ONE of the aspects of mise-en-scene... it shouldn't be hard to come up with what you want. Just pick an aspect. Color for example, and the aforementioned scenes from American Beauty. (A great film for mise-en-scene all around. I wrote a term paper on it myself)

Sound is good too, as are costumes, sets, etc.. but how about "Depth of Field" or "Deep Focus"? Go back to Citizne Kane on that one. I like the scene where The Bank Officer is sitting in the parlour talking to Kane's Parents -convincing them to turn the boy over, meanwhile, way out the window in the background, we see Kane playing in the snow... and barely hear his words to the counterpoint of what's being said in the parlor... masterful mise en scene. WHile you are reviewing the film,,, try to find the moment when the snow-filled glass ball enters his life... It's cleverly hidden in a scene.

The point is to narrow your search down, then you can select specific scenes from films.

When you've decided on which tool you want to use as an example, we can all chime in with our suggestions.

Good Luck,

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Old February 26th, 2003, 08:55 PM   #7
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I would still go for a Jean-luc Godard film. Maybe breathless or Weekend as a good example. Being a french critic, he had the notion of MES on his mind. He had his rules of three (not thirds) where he would represent a shot that meant 1 thing, then the very next shot would mean something else, then put together they would be mean something else again. And that was how he chose to decifer meaning into his films. (and this is a fantastic discussion point for MES, might even impress your teacher)

Glen you're cinema lecturer is forgetting a lot of elements that refer to a movie. Where does the nasty little word "Narrative" enter into this. And what is Narrative really in reference to a movie?

Well to make it simple, Narrative = story(plot), production + audience expectation. Usually this is reference to journey as well. Wow now we are getting really arty. I am just happy i finished my degree.

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Old February 27th, 2003, 03:53 PM   #8
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Well, I'm sure we'll talk about the content too, it's just that we're looking for MES.

BTW, my understanding of narrative was that it had mostly to do with POV and theme (what the director wants you to see and think); that "story" was one type of narrative, i.e. linear-narrative, but that general narrative was about what portion of the content is presented to the audience and what stylistic eccentricities/poetic-licence/MES is presented on top of the content.

Also, for Bill A., who suggested I select one element of MES, I'd like to keep my options open, but if I had to choose, I'd pick composition.
-Glenn III
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