The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
In a city ever changing, 3rd and 4th generations families can start to feel displaced as the world around them begins to change to unfamiliar faces and overall construction—leaving only themselves or the homes they’ve lived in as remnants of the world before the gentrifiers.
Last Black Man in San Francisco tells the love story between a man and a house. Loosely following the real-life story of Jimmie Fails IV who admiringly loves a house that his grandfather has built, illustrating the relationship between him and San Francisco. Without giving away all the twists of the film, the film beautifully depicts the duality and complexities of black men that we do not normally see in films and media. We see this in Jimmie’s character, who is the sensitive and nurturing man who cares about skate boarding and his family’s estate. The way he meticulously restores the house’s original features although the other occupants did not appreciate that. In the film we see that Jimmie lives in between two worlds just as many Black authors like W.E.B Du Bois talks about as he puts on one image of himself with his father and another with his best friend, Monty. To get a deeper understanding of this complexity shown in the film, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, of Between the World and Me, perfectly describes the complexity of how many young black men act “hard” as a defense mechanism and armor against the world. This is perfectly seen in the group who “talks shit” about Monty in the course of the film. All this to say that the acting in the film shows “we aren’t just one thing”—this is better understood when watching the film.
The film is not only a love story between a man and a house, in many ways it is a love story to San Francisco. The director of the film, Joe Talbot and real-life actor Jimmie Fails, who are native to San Francisco and longtime friends showcase the changing city through out Fillmore and Mission. This is shown through the slow motion but energetic shots of people in the city and the shots of the Muni and BART.
Last Black Man in San Francisco is so breathtakingly beautiful in its cinematography. The compositions that make these characters so large in an even larger city allows you to get into their minds. The use of the Bay Area iconic fog to create a dystopic world within a reality we may not want to see. The framing within frames through out the house provide us with an intimate view of the family estate. The warmth colors of red and browns in the film provide us with a comforting sense but played against the blues intensify some moment in the film.
In a time like 2020, where we are looking for the beauty of the ever changing world I highly suggest this film. I could honestly rave about this film so much but I will leave you with this, “You can’t hate something if you never loved it”.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
We all are familiar with the male gaze in most films, but how does the gaze get used in a completely female cast?
Portrait of a Lady on fire, takes places in the 18th century, where we follow a female painter, Marianne, as she is invited into a Madame Héloïse’s home to paint her portrait before she is to be wed. As we follow these two day by day, they become closer allowing each other to embrace a sense of freedom.
This film relies on the silent moments, there is only three moments in the film we are able to rely other sounds besides the diegetic and dialog sounds. The silent moments in the film allow the tension between the two characters to naturally build and not be distracted by the non-diegetic sounds we normally hear in films that tells us how to feel. Two scenes that allow us to see how the use of silence impacts the film would be: (one) the scene where Marianne is walking up to her room after eating dinner and she turns to face a haunting image of Héloïse in a white gown which vanishes to black. This haunting image is used to personify the fear Marianne has of Héloïse getting married and losing her in the process. As the last days of them together approaches this image appears one more time, and then in reality. (Two) The other scene to follow this that uses silence, would be how the two of them sit in the room discussing how they look at each other and the mannerisms are when each on reacts. During the scene, the tension slowly builds as they get closer together although broken in the middle of the scene by Marianne holding herself back we still feel the longing each one has. Notice that the two moments i bring up talk about a gaze.
So how does the gaze get portrayed in the film? Well in the beginning of the film we see that Marianne tries to memorize Héloïse’s face in the small glances they make on their walks. These glances turn into drawing her in fragments to piece together her first portrait. As we see through out the film there are long gazes and moments where Marianne is fixated on the beauty that Héloïse possesses. This glance is only intensified as they begin to become more intimate with one another. However the gaze is once reversed as Marianne is asked to do a self portrait of herself for Héloïse. Unlike the male gaze, the female gaze is softer less forceful in the sense we feel like we are invading a females bubble. The gentle actions and cautious movements one has allows use to see women not only for their body or an object.
Other than the small intimate moments that push the film along and keep our attention, the colors and costuming of the characters are breathe taking. The rich blues, and soft lighting in the film that allows for picturesque feel to the whole film. The rich colors used in the costumes bring warmth to some of the scenes in the film where the light is very cool and blue. Even looking at the features of the actresses used they resemble women who would have been painted back in that time period. Truly, any of scene in the film would make a beautiful painting.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire contains all some of the elements I love in certain films, i.e. silent moments we tend to overlook because of the added audio in films, the color schemes that create a more vivid world. Although the ending isn’t what I would have hoped it does present us with the reality of leaving a lover during that time where it is not acceptable of a women of there standard.
Bong Joon Ho, the director of Snowpiercer strikes audiences worldwide with this suspenseful mystery that take turns you that keeps you second guessing the motives of everyone, while dissecting classicism. Who’s to say parasite?
This dark and gritty film starts off looking at a struggling family of four in a semi basement trying to gain money to survive. Only to be given a seemingly harmless gift that changes their whole life. This starts with the son Ki-Woo (Kevin) who was given a gift from his friend, Min’s grandfather–a landscape structure. Second, Min hands over his tutoring position for this rich family in order for them to get more money, but also help Min ask the young girl of the household out once she had come of age (VERY QUESTIONABLE).
As the film goes on, the family devilishly manipulated the rich family into hiring all of them under different personas. From slandering the driver, to making a full-blown scheme where you poison a gentle housekeeper and get her fired–it was entire family operation. As this ambush is happening in the film a looming spirit is present in the film, what is it you may be asking… it’s the landscape sculpture that linking them with the rich and privileged world. From the final moments of the housekeeper’s employment, it seems as though the two families are happy with everything. That is until, an unexpected guest comes back. This guest throws the whole plan out the window, the film becomes survival of the fittest, or actually the neediest. Who is willing to push the boundaries and survive?
The film is not only stimulating in the story line and the progression of the characters schemes but in the visuals. The film doesn’t use any fancy techniques like in Waves where it was very experimental. Parasite’s composition allows us to view the space entirely. From the slow pans that reveal the characters outside our visual frame to the static spacial shots of the home as people walk upstairs or the son looking out the window as the maid is fired. Additionally, the scene where we use a Jib to pan down from the hazy wires of the semi basements to the chaos. Or the elaborate scene of making Ram-don, that led to the intense fast pace scene coming to the end with a jaw-dropping break (literally). Parasite does not disappoint in the films visuals that amplifies the dramatic script and acting.
Throughout the film, there were little breadcrumbs that gave you hints of what was to come, only if you paid close enough attention you would be able to see it. Parasite, takes the theme of classicism in whole new direction that American filmmakers have yet to do. This engaging story only give us a glimpse of the willingness people will go to be respected but also survive in a world of capitalism.
Queen and Slim (2019)
How I explain it to people who haven’t seen it, “It’s a modern day Black Bonnie and Clyde with Police brutality”
Queen and Slim, a film that is easily on of my top favorite films so much so I saw it twice within two days in one week. The story was well throughout. It developed a constant tension that only builds by the end to make you speechless. The coloring of the film could be seen in a photobook, so vibrant yet resembles retro film. Almost a neosoul vibe. The character development allowed us just enough information from each character to see how they compliment and how they grow together. The beginning of the film they were very short in their responses to each other this would change as the film goes on. One of my favorite things about the film is there are some very intimate quiet moments to be had with the two characters, for example the moment where Slim takes down her hair from her braids. Having those intimate moments in the film allowed the two characters to let their guard down even if they shouldn’t. There is a moment in the film where it left everyone I went with speechless, which is very reflective of how children interpret fame in the media. In some ways that scene could have been prevented as it leaves the audience with an unsettling feeling and questioning the actions of this minor character. The final moments of the film build up to a single moment where you feel like you have hope but ultimately get the most realistic ending you could have imagined.
Waves (2019) 2/13/2020
Waves has been a film I have been looking forward to seeing since the trailers were release early last year. A24 is a production studio I admire and honestly this is something that lives up and more to my expectations. From the coloring, pacing of two characters emotional journeys, the ratio changes that increases and relieves our tension in the film, the parallels between the different scenes in each of the halves to even the use of sound and silence, move the film into a reflective and emotional journey of a family who is looking for love, comfort, and clarity in an unforeseen crisis.
Coloring- In the first half of the scenes within in the movie, Tyler’s theme is blues and reds. The red in the theme gives off the impression there’s aggressive energy going on in his world. The blue represents the calm but the sadness that he goes through on his journey. For Emily his sister, her colors are blue and yellow/ orange, which being in warmer tones to her characters energy vs how cold and closed off her brother was.
Pacing- In the first half of the film, the pacing begins with a 360 camera that moves fast around Tyler and his girlfriend, Alexis. Following this scene, the film moves into fast pace montages of the character working out or getting ready for competition. The pacing begins to ramp up even more during his tournament where we all know his arm is in pain. The only time this tension in somewhat broken in the first half of the film is when Tyler is comforted by Emily in the bathroom after a long night where he is left saying “I’m sorry…I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to wake you. As the pacing begins to intensify throughout this half the ratios in the film begin to get tighter up to 4:3 where you can barely breathe as the character is at his breaking point. From there the pacing begins to change to a slower rhythm as we switch our focus to Emily as she navigates through the aftermath her brother left behind him. The pacing helps to be slower as we become calmer as well as reflective of each character’s actions.
Parallels- The film opens with Emily riding on her bike this is important as we come to this at the end of the film which gives a free and almost reflective feeling to the journey they had. There are three parallels I would like to be up. One, the moments of Emily comforting Tyler as he says he is sorry for waking her, and Luke (Emily’s boyfriend) and his dying father console each other before he passes away. In this moment, we see people who have hurt them try to ask for forgiveness. Second, some of the framing both Tyler and Emily have within their own journeys, which include the transition between Tyler backseat of the police car and between Emily backseat in the car with their parents. In addition, two of the character with their partners in the car with the 360 cameras as they curse the open road, and the scenes as they embrace in the water. Finally, the way each cope with emotions in the tube which becomes a place of “drowning” as they go through pain.
Overall, I enjoyed the film and the complex layers it has within it. I wished the character for Catherine was more flushed out she ended up being a ghost at some points in the film. This does not make the film any less emotionally packed and artistically stunning.
Get Out (2017)
This is the kind of film you need to watch more than one time to fully see the symbolism in it. For me so far I have seen it four times, each time I understand more of the film. One of the creepy things about the Jordan Peele films is that it has bunnies in it. In the beginning of this film we start off with a man walking and then hit over the head by a masked man, in the background there was a song play “run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run” which insinuates that the black men in the film are the prey. The most intriguing thing about this film is that the other black people in the film are “picked” to take on traits that the white characters desire. Making it appear that black bodies are just vessels they can control and use for their own advancements. The entire film is thrilling there’s no way out for our main character. Seeing the real ending honestly tells us a lot about society at this moment but the comic relief that the main character TSA friend saved him provides a release everyone viewing needs.