Friday, August 15, 2008

I Don't Know Where I'm Going!

I wouldn't say I'm depressed, just directionless. I don't know where I'm going or even where I want to be going. That's pretty much where I was last year about this time, when I decided to give myself a sabbatical.
Well, as Bink says of pilgrimage, the trick is just to keep on walking. Even if you go in circles.

The main thing I have accomplished since I got back from Las Vegas 5 days ago is printing out the application form for the Cinema Division at the community college.

Turns out--not surprisingly--entrance to the filmmaking division is competitive. (And they only accept new students once a year, in the fall. So I'm too late for this year anyway.)

You do not, in contrast, have to submit a 5-page application to study Homeland Security (HS).

Just to make sure I wasn't misleading you on this, I checked the HS requirements, and I want to share with you some of the 3-credit courses you need to take to earn a "Homeland Security Basic Certificate":

Emergency Management Systems
Hazardous Materials Awareness
Terrorism and Emergency Management
Weapons of Mass Destruction

I find this enormously touching somehow, in its reduction of chaos to bureaucratic lingo. Such faith, to offer "terrorism management."
But why do I not feel safer that some kid just out of high school has sat through a community college course in Weapons of Mass Destruction?

The school warns prospective students that certain jobs in security do require extensive criminal record checks, which rules out the Def Con kids, I suppose, who would be really cracker-jack at it.

The Archers

But that's all beside the point.
The Cinema Division application gives me reason to get out of bed.
Here's the question that really lit a fire:
"Name two films and filmmakers/screenwriters you admire. Explain why. 200 words maximum" (Boldface theirs, but I would have bf'd it anyway.)
Two films and filmmakers? In two hundred words?
That is a challenge.

Oddly enough, the first filmmakers who popped into my mind are Powell and Pressburger (links to a guide to their top 7 films), known collectively as The Archers (logo above).
Maybe because they're a two-fer and I could name another filmmaker too?
More likely because they are unusual in the filmmaking world for being a collaborative team, and, as I've written before, that really appeals to me. The Kirk and Spock of the filmmaking world.

I don't think the Archers are very well known in the US. I first watched their A Canterbury Tale (1944) because I'm interested in pilgrimage. It follows a very odd pscyho-sexual mystery during WWII (some guy puts glue in a young woman's hair), but really it's all caught up with showing how places hold layers of time. (Not a very American concern, usually.)

It's really interesting, but I'm not sure I'd casually recommend that film. I would unreservedly recommend I Know Where I'm Going!, (1945, currently available on DVD from the Criterion Collection--links to a page of the Archers' films available from CC).

IKWIG is also replete with P&P's spititual sense of place, and has the most wonderful big, wet, shaggy dogs! that get on the furniture. Their owner is an attractive and intriguing character played by Pamela Brown.

The story follows a young English woman (Wendy Hiller, the future dame) who is sure she knows where she's going: to be rich, even if it means marrying a rich old man she doesn't love.
The weather traps her on the wild coast of Scotland, and she stays with the independent Pamela Brown character, where she meets and falls in love with Roger Livesey, who is, of course, poor. (But handsome. And a Scottish laird. And very nice.)

The Bechdel Test

Come to think of it, this film passes the Bechdel Test, which Jen just told me about. Alison Bechdel writes a cartoon strip (and blog) called "Dykes to Watch Out For", in which, Jen tells me:
"a character says she can't remember the last time she saw a movie:

1. With two female characters
2. Who speak to each other
3. About something other than a man.

She closes the strip by saying the last one she saw that passed was Alien, because two women talk about the female monster."

Well, I don't know that I even want to study filmmaking, but I will enjoy the work of filling in the application. There's nothing like some good questions to clear the fog and help you see where you are going, or, sometimes even more usefully, where you don't want to go.

Finally there's this question:
"How did you become interested in cinema? Describe the circumstances that led to the discovery of this interest."
To be answered in 100 words maximum.

Answering that will be like John Le Carre's reflection on writing a screenplay from a novel: it is, he said, like reducing an ox to a bouillon cube.

Oh, there's also a note on the application form requesting that the applicant "Please spell-check your responses."
I wonder if you have to spell-check to get into Homeland Security.

Now I am going to go watch Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. Research, you know. I love films about filmmaking. Ah, that's another post.


bink said...

That "Bechdel test" is disturbing. I was trying to think of movies I've seen where the women are 1.) major characters 2.) having major conversations 3.) not about/with men.

Now obviously there are lots of movies where the women have serious roles... but even when they aren't romantic, they are usually engaged mostly with men.

It's hard to think of movies that pass. Only two popped into my mind right away...and they are odd ones. "Because of Winn Dixie"... with the little girl and the old lady came to mind first. "Desk Set" with Katherine Hepburn came to mind next--even though there is a Tracy/Hepburn romance going on in this film, the core story involves a bunch of female co-workers who worry they are going to lose their job to a computer.

But going back over the films I've seen recently, this summer...nothing springs to mind as passing the test... surely, I've overlooked something...?

Jennifer said...

2 films and filmmakers in 200 words? Good grief. Talk about minimalism!

And wow, "Terrorism Management." There's an optimistic skill. I have images of bright young things with Excel spreadsheets, carefully managing terrorism...

It's really discouraging how few films pass the Bechdel Test. I...might just be watching the wrong films, perhaps?

Actually, I'm pretty sure "After Life" (the Japanese title is actually "Wonderful Life," but they changed it for the Western release, I assume because it was too close to the Capra film) would fit. It's a story about the bureaucrats who staff the afterlife--their job is to help each newly-deceased person pick one memory, then film that memory like a tiny documentary. The deceased person then spends all eternity in that memory. I'm pretty sure one of the female bureaucrats interviews a woman in it. I hope. It's a thoughtful, dreamy film that raises a lot of questions and then just kind of looks at them for a while and hands them to you.

"Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki also passes. Most of his movies do, actually. Interesting.

Manfred Allseasons said...

I Know Where I'm Going is my favourite film ever...and Powell one of the best Directors in cinema...I could wax lyrical for hours, and have many times!

You should do 200 words on them, definitely!

...and put it on the blog!!!

Bookworm said...

Powell and Pressburger are my favourite filmmakers - check out the excellent "Arrows of Desire" book by Ian Christie and Pressburger's biography, as well as Powell's own books.

Have you seen "A Matter of Life and Death" and "Black Narcissus"? These are my favourites, along with "I Know Where I'm Going". I can't tell you how much I wanted to be Pamela Brown and keep wolfhounds and live in a remote part of Scotland when I was younger!

Actually, I'd still like to be like Pamela Brown, but now I'd like a couple of Fox Terriers...

fresca said...

Bink: "Mama Mia" passes the Bechdel test, unless you add a 4th criterium: I liked it.
(OK, it was likeable enough... but pretty bad, really. And all about romance as the Answer to All. No filmmakers in sight.)

Jen: That "After Life" sounds really good, really intriguing! I loved "Spirited Away." I am going to re-join Netflix, now we are back in movie-watching weather (it was too hot to sit on the couch and watch movies in July), so I will put it on.

And "Spaced" too--which I have watched 2 episodes of, on YouTube.
It was delightful.
(Note: The first DVD of "soaced" is "a very long wait" on Netflix, but if you're willing to start in the middle, with disc 2, you can get it "now.")

Let's make a list of films that pass the test!

Manfred & Hannah:
I wish you both would write 200 words or more (more, preferably! M.--have you waxed lyrically on TTJ? point me to the post, if you have) on why you like P& P. Really, I think hardly any Americans know them. I find their films a bit hard to read, sometimes. I mean, I'm aware I'm missing undercurrents.

I can't write 200 words on the Archers because I don't know enough or have a deep enough understanding of them, if you know what I mean.
I could make a simple 2.26 second vid about Star Trek because I know it so very well.
This Yank would just flounder about, gobbling up words, with P&P because she doesn't truly understand them and their films.

Hannah--thanks for the reading tips--I will for sure look them up!

Aha! And thank you for saying those were wolfhounds and confirming that I am not alone in adoring the Pamela Brown character--she was amazing!
I'm sure you could pull off the same style with fox terriers, though. : )

ddip said...

Congratulations! the application form reminds me of Norman Maclean's Presbyterian minister father, who taught him (Norman) to write by insisting he cut each and every essay in half--twice.

Rudyinparis said...

Regarding the Bechdel test (notoriously difficult to pass) it occurs to me that I watched a movie just this past weekend that pulled it off... and it was, surprisingly, "Superbad". I say surprisingly because this was a pretty typical (although quite moving and nuanced in some ways) take on the whole teenage-boys-wanting-to-get-laid genre. But it does, at the very end, show the two female love interests (of the two male protagonists) walking together in the mall talking about how the one has to buy a replacement comforter for the other, as she puked on hers during a party. Touching, really. I did say to Sascha after watching it that although all the female characters are peripheral, it's clear they are (for the most part) intelligent and they make mistakes and are leading complicated lives of their own, that happen to take place off-screen. I.e, they weren't all just walking boobs. At all. I liked this movie quite a lot.