Singing to Singin’ in the Rain

There is no doubt that the film Singin’ in the Rain is a Hollywood Classic. The narrative, editing, and even mise-en-scéne create the overall classic Hollywood film narrative.  While watching the film, the viewer is able to get caught up in this love story. As well, with all Hollywood love stories, there is an antagonist as well as a protagonist. Throughout the film the viewer is able to easily connect the storyline and identify the  villain. This plot tragectory is typical of a Hollywood film and it is also present in the film Singin’ in the Rain.

All classic Hollywood films follow a basic plot. The narrative begins with a conflict, which then leads to a causality, this causality creates a climax leading to the falling actions, and finally the end of the film. In the film Singin’ in the Rain the conflict deals with silent films adding sound, instead of just music. This change in cinema creates a problem or conflict for the actors on camera. The character, Lina Lamont does now have a voice that is very soothing on camera. This is where the film follows the classic Hollywood plot trajectory. The conflict arises and the other characters in the film must find a way to make a “talkie” film work with Lina’s unappealing voice.

The plot line then deepens with the addition of Kathy’s character. A struggling performer who is able to actually sing, dance, and act. The Hollywood storyline allows for the main character, Don Lockwood, to fall in love with Kathy. This love affair creates another complication because Lina is in love with Don.

To create the causality of the original conflict the plot allows for Kathy to be Lina’s voice in the upcoming film. However, Lina finds out that Kathy is her VoiceOver and is furious. This plot rising action allows for the viewer to recognize the antagonist as well as the protagonist. These actions deepen th plot while maintaining the classic Hollywood film story.

Classic Hollywood cinema follows simple guidelines for a narrative. One guideline includes the vilian to ultimately be punished. During the film, Singin’ in the Rain, the vilian is Lina Lamont. The climax in the story comes once Lina figures Kathy to be her voiceover. Lina manipulates the media into thinking that she voices the entire film herself not Kathy. This cause for power leads to Lina’s demise, like most Hollywood vilians. The falling action in the film comes when Lina is forced to sing, which leads to Kathy singing behind Lina disguised by a curtain. Kathy is revealed as the true singer and Lina is now humiliated.

Classic Hollywood films are almost easy to predict, because they all follow the same plot tragectory. The guy gets the girl, the vilian is exposed and punished, and the viewer is able to handle the story. Singin’ in the Rain depicts a classic Hollywood film narrative because of these three factors as explained above. In classic Hollywood films the viewers were to be entertained, and this film allows for entertainment.

Voice and Sound in Singin’ in the Rain

Within the classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain, there are many historical references associated with the birth of the talkies. The voices in both the movie and the film being made during the movie were very important because they gave insight on the character’s personality and role in the grand scheme of things. Also, the addition of semi-historically accurate video and sound equipment, and the reaction of the film industry to these new techniques help viewers understand the struggles faced in early Hollywood cinema.

The voices in Singin’ in the Rain really personified the characters to which they belonged. For example, Cosmo, the piano player who specializes in slapstick comedy, talks really fast and that accompanied with what he says adds to his personality as the typical funny sidekick. However, Don talks languidly and casually, because he’s a big movie star without a care in the world (besides escaping his adoring fans of course). Lina’s screechy voice not only presents a problem that only Kathy can fix, but also antagonizes the audience further, aiding her villain role. On the contrary, Kathy’s voice is portrayed to be melodious and pleasant to emphasize that she is one of the protagonists, and so she can save the day by singing and speaking for Lina. The fact that there were diction coaches who had to teach actors and actresses how to speak sounds silly in modern times, but for silent film stars, the coaches probably saved them their jobs. Additionally, the way the coaches were making Don and Lina talk was part of the deceptive nature of silent film actors and actresses. They were supposed to speak very proper and exaggerated to match their screen personas, and their voices were supposed to match their faces as well.

It also shows the old camera booths as the quirky and frustrated director, Roscoe Dexter struggles to get Lina to learn how to speak into the microphone. This further stressed Lina’s problematic character. As Cosmo said during the film, “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance. A triple threat.” I thought the idea to make the “Duelling Cavaliers” a musical was significant, because it was going above and beyond the type of films they previously produced. Not only is it reacting to the Jazz Singer by being a talkie, it’s also a musical, where the beloved actors from silent films can now sing and dance. Also I found Don’s tap dancing significant because it’s the noisiest form of dancing, and that added to his triple threat status of singing, dancing and acting; all of the things Lina can’t do.  It was funny learning about the struggles of the early microphones and sound equipment. In Jane Feuer’s “Winking at the Audience”, she comments about the technology, “The elaborate moving-camera effects and full MGM audio stand in complete contrast to the inept and technologically crude sequences that are being shot contemporaneously for Don and Lina’s first talkie.” In retrospect, it truly shows how far we’ve come with IMAX and surround sound.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching a classic Hollywood-style film, and seeing the background of the talkie films. The voice and sound aspect of this film made the characters more enjoyable to watch and helped viewers understand the characters’ roles and personalities more clearly. The introduction of the talkie films was highlighted by the use of classic equipment and scenes that showed the struggles silent film actors and actresses faced as the industry transitioned into a new phase of cinema.

Works Cited

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Marie Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

Feuer, Jane. “Winking at the Audience.” N.p., 2005. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

Un Chien Andalou Beneath a Cognitivist Lens

Tyler Peters

Timothy Robinson

ENG2300

4 September 2013

The release of Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1929) delivered on its intent to shock, mystify, and even charm some early film audiences. Film scholars and critics throughout the twentieth century have searched relentlessly for hidden meaning among the film’s string of bizarre and violent images. In a memoir Bunuel maintained when creating the film he had no other motive than to propagate his surrealist vision. He never sided with rational interpretations of his radical ideas. The film was born from his rebellious youth, a direct insult to the “avant-garde cine” in Paris that catered more toward viewer reason (Bunuel, 101). The question remains; how does one explain countless stubborn attempts to find meaning in Bunuel’s ‘Frankenstein film’? Viewing the film through the lens of cognitive film theory helps one understand why in the case of Un Chien Andalou, various interpretations of the incoherent shots persist over time but bear no validity.

Cognitivist David Bordwell asserts a broad question; how does the human mind go beyond the information given within a shot to find meaning? By drawing from past experience, images conjure up previous “schemas” to categorize shots into the context of a scene. Schemas are subjective and invite infinite interpretations. As images appear and disappear, the mind responds by integrating the images with preconceived notions of time, setting, and narrative norms. Bordwell calls this “cognizing” (Bordwell, 136). During the opening, Bunuel uses a match on action to synthesize two loosely related shots into one disturbing image. The audience thinks they see a woman’s eye being sliced when the sliced eye belongs to a calf. This particular bias is an example of a mental phenomenon that misled viewers for decades.

Other techniques set the stage for “cognizing.” Early in the film the audience is propelled further into a disjointed narrative where a man in a nun outfit bikes down an unknown street. Then we see a man and woman gazing out a window. This transition invites the audience to think three characters are operating in the same time and place among shots. This is a classic example of how shots invite the mind to find narrative significance that does not exist. Additionally, props like the striped box exert cognitive effects when seen across settings. The striped box appears during the street scene and appears again upstairs as a woman lays clothing atop a bed. Item repetition and clever editing assist in “cognizing” by creating an association between previously unrelated shots.

Despite our ability to establish cohesion, Bunuel ruins all previous associations during the final scene. A young couple is shown dead on the beach in the springtime. The stark ending is a last insult to mainstream proponents of art during his youth. The film was a violent deviation from the “avant-garde” of the time that was intended to cultivate artistic sensibility among viewers (Bunuel, 2006). Ironically, the work was well received by the French intellectual bourgeoisie (Koller, Un Chien Andalou).

Thus, the film’s controversial nature makes it an invaluable piece of film history. Today, it still continues to rouse emotions and confuse audiences. While associations in characters and settings arise, shots never reveal a consistent narrative. Through clever editing Bunuel allows just enough consistency for the audience to piece together a semblance of narrative. Cognizing the film invites creative interpretation but a dead end leaves the audience confused. Regardless, the films graphic images mixed with clever transitions will always inspire cognitive interpretation and continue to dupe creative thinkers for eternity.

Buñuel, Luis (2006). “Notes on the Making of Un Chien Andalou”, in Art in Cinema :

 

documents toward a history of the film society. Philadelphia: Temple University

Press.

Bordwell, David. “Poetics of Cinema. Taylor & Francis Group. New York, NY

2008.

Koller, Michael. “Un Chien Andalou“. Senses of Cinema. Film Victoria.

Retrieved 23 July 2012. < http://sensesofcinema.com/2001/cteq/chien/&gt;.

Dramatic Irony in Singin’ in the Rain

A happy and extremely catchy classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain has audiences humming its tunes long after leaving the theater. Although what appears as a simple-minded, upbeat musical is actually a complex satire filled with dramatic irony.

Viewers first notice the juxtaposition of words and images when the movie’s leading man, Don Lockwood tells his many fans the tale of his rise to stardom. Don describes his beginnings as respectful, coining his catchphrase, “Dignity. Always dignity.” Despite the star’s allegiance to his motto, viewers see in the flashbacks that the star’s career started in tacky vaudeville clubs, performing acts that seemed desperate for laughs and far from dignified. The fans admire Don’s artistic past, emphasizing that fans will always believe whatever façade movie stars put on.

The contrast between the characters’ perceptions and reality continues soon after the premiere of Don’s silent film when his beloved, beautiful costar, Lina Lamont argues with Don about how he never lets her speak. As soon as she opens her mouth, we can understand why none of the men let her get a word out: she has a horribly unpleasant voice, a characteristic masked by her performances in silent films. Aside from an uninformed audience, Lina seems the only one that has failed to make this observation. This scene is the first of a few that uses dramatic irony to clue audiences in to Don and the other men’s motives.

The story’s dramatic irony also contributes to the humor displayed throughout the film. Don’s right hand man, Cosmo Brown, makes many sarcastic comments to characters that usually only the audience can understand, but he takes his comedy past mere mumblings when he mocks Don’s speech therapist. A close up displays both men’s faces, Cosmo’s behind the therapist’s, and as the man reads his tongue-twisters, he is obviously unaware of Cosmo making ridiculous expressions just over his shoulder. This humor is enhanced by the man repeatedly looking over his shoulder only to find Cosmo sporting an expression similar to that of a mischievous schoolboy’s. This sort of comedy appears even in small moments, such as when a police officer suspiciously walks up behind a love struck and seemingly deranged Don just after he finished “Singin’ in the Rain.” The officer’s confusion as to why he finds Don prancing around in the rain brings the musical number back to reality where not everyone breaks off into song and dance.

Perhaps the scene with the greatest presence of dramatic irony is when Lina stands in front of Kathy, exposing her lip-syncing to “Singin’ in the Rain” in front of all her adoring fans. At first, neither Kathy nor Lina realized that the men planned on bringing to light the diva’s lack of talent, but their intentions were soon revealed along with the show’s true singer. But before Lina turns to see Kathy singing behind her, viewers and the audience in the movie can see what the curtain behind Lina reveals and we know what Lina doesn’t, making her shock to the situation all the more satisfying.

In Singin’ in the Rain, the dramatic irony adds not only comical aspects to the film, but also suspenseful moments before all the characters come to know what we know. Even in the shortest moments, the presence of this irony connects audiences to the story and enhances the overall enjoyment of the film.

The Real meaning behind the creation of Singin’ in the Rain

Robert Van Deering

Timothy Robinson

ENG 2300

September 26, 2013

There are several reasons why the film, “Singin’ in the Rain” was created when it was. It address the conflict between television and film industry. Also, another threat to the film industry was the greater high-culture pretensions posed to films that were just for entertaining the audience.

The film was created by MGM which stands for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1952, the reason they created the film was to address a problem that the film industry had with television, because in the 1950s television was the main medium of attracting people’s attention to form their opinions. The reason that posed a threat to films and cinema was that TV became more affordable and offered more programming to the American people so they bought TVs and in-turn made it the dominant mass media then.

“Singin’ in the Rain” explicitly deals with the Hollywood filmmaking process throughout the film as the actors at the time in film had to transitions from the entertainment they were performing in Hollywood which was often silent films with music, to talkies because of the release of the “Jazz Singer, in 1927 there was a remake of the Jazz Singer released in 1952. It was the first film to have synchronized dialogue and its’ release propelled more films to adopted talking sequences in them which led to the decline in silent film because R.F. in the film decided he had no choice, but to change The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie because in the film rival studios release the Jazz Singer and had been very successful and the audience shouted wanted something like the Jazz Singer.

Singin’ in the Rain was released in a time where it was difficult to draw crowds to the theater because of the increasingly difficult task needed to draw people away from their TV sets. The studio and the actors had to adjust to a period of change because most of them really didn’t think that talkies would be a big hit because in the scene where they are in the house watching it for the first time the crowd thinks that Don Lockwood is talking or someone behind the screen is, but the come to realize that is actually the person on the film, who is talking because he recorded himself as he was filming this interaction or scene to demonstrated that it possible with this new technology the recorder.

This film was a monumentally creation because it came at a period where the kind of entertainment that Hollywood produced needed a new direction and change to adapted and thrive because film was in a battle with TV to gain an audience. Singin’ in the Rain is also very irony because it was released in 1952 and musical films were really on a decline because they couldn’t really make much money because it just wasn’t a bankable genre that many people liked. In hindsight, the film Singin’ in the Rain definitely gives off a good memory of Hollywood throughout the movie you notice that the studio is in trouble of going bankrupt unless they switch from silent film to a talkie.

The film also gives off a light hearted depiction of what is Hollywood, while it follows three stars as the actors of the film while they learn to adjust from silent film to talkies. This film hits on many threats, adversities, and changes that the film industry had to battle with TV to be able to succeed.

How do “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “You Were Meant For Me” contribute to the narrative in Singin’ in the Rain?

                Singin’ in the Rain is widely considered the greatest musical of Hollywood cinema and was even named fifth out of the 100 greatest movies of all time by the American Film Institute. The film falls in the musical genre, with over half the film consisting of singing and dancing, and yet the narrative of the plot is still very strong. In fact, the musical numbers in the film serve not only as entertainment but also as techniques to advance the plot narration as well as character development.

The audience’s first introduction to Don Lockwood’s character is through his recollections during an interview. While his audible recollections contrast with the images displayed, these flashbacks allow the audience to see Don’s experience and talent in singing and dancing. The first musical number that advances the narrative plot is “Make ‘Em Laugh” sung by Cosmo Brown. This song is performed after a discussion about Don’s new film The Dueling Cavalier where Don questions the quality of his acting. Cosmo sings the song “Make ‘Em Laugh” in response. While an entertaining number, this performance is used as a communication device to not only Don but also to the audience. In the exposition given through Don’s background story the audience is aware that these two are men of music-and that’s how they communicate with each other. The transition from dialogue to dance does not seem forced or unusual to the audience and because of this the viewer is able to focus on what is being sung rather than questioning the reason behind it. Cosmo’s primary goal for the performance is to cheer up Don and encourage him to continue his acting career. After all, if Cosmo can continue to get up and perform after falling to the ground and crashing into a wall then Don can still act. This routine enlightens the audience’s understanding of the close friendship between Don and Cosmo as well as establishes a theme of communicating through areas other than dialogue.

The next performance that advances the plot, and sets the tone for most of the film, is Don’s and Kathy’s “You Were Meant For Me.” This musical number follows directly after Cosmo’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” thus emphasizing the contrast between the two. Whereas “Make ‘Em Laugh” is very boisterous and advanced in style, technique, and talent, “You Were Meant For Me” is simple, yet just as important to the narrative. This routine works as a communication technique as well- to express the relationship development between Don and Kathy. Initially their dance together is slow, almost like they are simply walking, however as the song continues it becomes apparent that they are interested in each other. What begins as a shy dance turns into a routine where Don appears to be sweeping Kathy off her feet and the audience is able to see a nonverbal communication between the two- an interpersonal reciprocation of feelings for each other. This performance not only contributes to the romantic narrative but also to the narrative plot as a whole, for Kathy and Don become partners, and together they help create the remodeled film The Dancing Cavalier. Without this song and dance no relationship between the two would have been created, which would have vastly altered the plot and story.

While it is important to mention the film’s title song “Singin’ in the Rain” it is in this viewer’s opinion that the two songs already discussed are the most integral to not only advancing the narrative but also establishing it. “Singin’ in the Rain” is a performance full of emotion and character development for Don Lockwood that also acts as a turning point in the movie. However, without the musical numbers “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “You Were Meant For Me” there would not be a reason for Don to feel such elation that he forgets about the downpour he is in, and instead chooses to sing in the rain.

Un Chien Andalou: Nightmares and Surrealism

Alex Baucom

Un Chien Andalou, a French short film directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, is a very unconventional film for its time and still today. The film, which has no central plot, established setting, or development of character is made up of a sequence of random occurring events that have no apparent connection to each other. This disjointed quality of the film is what makes Dali’s influence very evident. The surrealistic element of Un Chien Andalou makes it reminiscent of a nightmare, one that could have been an exact representation of one had by its creators. This also combines with the satirical aspect of the film, which makes the audience further question its meaning when it wasn’t meant to be dissected.

One of the more nightmarish scenes of this short film was in the beginning, when it showed a man sharpening a straight blade and then cutting a woman’s eye in half. The scene then cuts to a shot of the moon being cut in half by a cloud, which seemed like a mockery of the grotesque eye-cutting scene. These match-in-action scenes that are put together almost give the feel that they’re supposed to be connected, even though the creators stated themselves upon release that there simply was no rhyme or reason to it. This is exemplary of the satirical undertones of the film that has no conventional, logic way to dissect its meaning.

Furthermore, the scene in which ants are infesting an eerily calm human hand is really the only one that is repeated in the film. This is also a nightmarish scene from the short movie that brings in elements from the surreal world and what is actually reality, stemming from what could possibly be a phobia or an unconscious fear. By combining two completely different yet still ordinary things such as a hand and ants, the uncomfortable surrealistic purpose of the movie is established. The hand’s reaction, or lack thereof, was eerily dull compared to a real reaction by someone with ants crawling through their hand. This lends to the theory that this film could have stemmed from dreams or nightmares, because it is common in a nightmare for one to lose reactive abilities to what’s going on around them.

Two thematic elements in the short film that stuck out to me in terms of the dreamlike state of Un Chien Andalou were that of lust, seen in the attempted “rape” scene, and anger, exemplified when a character lashes out and shoots another. These two aspects of the movie heighten the feeling that one is witnessing the randomness of the unconscious dreams because these are common emotions that are manifested in a dream itself. This also gives meaning to the combination of surrealistic and realistic elements that were played out in this movie, and that because of this, it can’t fit perfectly into a puzzle of logic.

In conclusion, Buñuel and Dali’s strange and eye opening short film Un Chien Andalou is one that is difficult to categorize and dissect by what we know as typical film. Although this is true, it’s definitely evident that its purpose was to combine surrealism and realism, illustrated by the possibilities of our unconscious mind. It is an important film to look at in terms of its daring quality and its ability to question audiences everywhere.

Surrealism in Meshes of the Afternoon

Surrealism is a type of art that displays dreamlike images and situations. Surrealist films started appearing in the 1920’s, but Meshes of the Afternoon was produced later in 1943. Meshes of the Afternoon has several elements, such as the repeating scenes, the moving objects, and a few cinematographic tricks which help construct a dreamlike mood for the audience.

Unlike many surrealist films Meshes of the Afternoon actually has a narrative which in a way explains why there’s a dream and what’s going on outside the dream. The film starts out with the woman entering the home, exploring it a bit, and then dozing off in a chair in the living room. The film ends with the man walking in and discovering the woman, dead in her chair. The dream sequence starts with a copy of the woman chasing a hooded figure with a flower, the woman running up and down the stairs and then looking out the window at the hooded figure being chased by another copy of the woman. This sequence repeats itself until there are three copies of the woman in the house, each aware of each other’s presence. The fact that all the women go through the same motions as the original, with slight variations, mimics how people can have the same dream repeatedly, which helps create a surreal effect within the film.

There are also several objects inside the house which move around as the dream sequence progresses. In the first scene, the woman walks in to find the knife in the bread, the phone of the hook, and the record player on repeat. The disarray of the items in her home creates an eerie feeling and foreshadow events to come. The next time the woman runs through the knife is on the stairs, the phone has been moved to the bedroom, and the record player has been moved into the living room. The movement of these objects paired with the unnerving sound effect of the hooded figure definitely makes the audience feel like they are in some sort of nightmare.

The camera work in Meshes of the Afternoon helps create a sense of struggle within the film and can change the rules of reality. The cinematography in the first scene isn’t too crazy, just a few POV shots which allow the audience to get into the mind of the woman character. Once the dream sequence starts the camera work becomes much more bizarre. The stairs in the house are where most of the fancy camera work comes into play. During the first copy’s run up the stairs the footage plays in slow motion as she begins her run and cuts from an extreme low angle of her feet to an extreme high angle looking down on the character. This transition is meant to disorient the audience and the slow motion adds a dreamlike effect. After the woman hangs up the phone in the bedroom the camera begins to cant and continues like this as she heads down the stairs. The canting of the camera makes the audience feel uncomfortable and in this shot the canting makes it seem like gravity has been altered and the women has to climb down the stairs. All of these tricks with the camera help construct the dream sequence.

Suppressed Emotion in Un Chien Andalou

The film Un Chien Andalou, directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, has no plot or continuous narrative. According to Roger Ebert’s review of the film, it is specifically tailored to make no sense, and indeed the filmmakers laughed away attempts at explanation. However, the theme of suppressed emotion is prevalent throughout the film and can be used as a way to glean some meaning from it.

The opening scene is the film’s most famous—and possibly its most confounding, though there are many contenders for this title. The cheery music that had played throughout the credits gives way to a shot of a man on a balcony, and soon after a razor blade slicing what we are supposed to believe is a human eye. This image is startling and violent, even with the knowledge that the eye belonged to a dead calf and not a woman. The opening sequence seems to want to tell the viewer that this watching this film will be nothing like the experience of other films, that this film is not afraid to take something gruesome and make it the focus of the very beginning. Usually, especially in the 1920s, films would not begin with something so repulsive, but this opening encourages the audience to let go of preconceived notions of what a film is like, as well as general ideas of propriety and convention. In including this image as the opening shot, the filmmakers suggest that violence is something natural that society encourages us to repress, and that this film—and by extension, the viewers—will not heed society. The various taboos and norms broken throughout the course of the film are all startling to varying degrees, but beginning with the eye slicing promotes the idea of the natural impulse to cause pain.

Another sequence in the film that evokes the suppressed human instinct is the one in which a man sexually assaults a woman. This attack seemingly comes out of nowhere, and though one could argue that this is due to the logic (or, rather, lack thereof) of the film, it could actually be suggesting that all men are inches from acting on their desires constantly, and need little incentive to do so. This extended sequence is very forward in its depiction of the man’s advances, and is, like the opening sequence, shocking and unpleasant to watch. It is debatable whether the intent was to portray the man’s actions in a negative light—for a film made by those who cherished the idea of breaking social norms, perhaps unwanted sexual advances are another way of breaking the tight grip of social demands—but there is no doubt that this extended sequence highlights the single-mindedness of sexual desire.  As the woman fights back, you wonder if this is a symbol for continuing repressed ideals in the face of newfangled surrealist thinking. Should the woman give into the man, and her own inner desires? Or is the film saying that perhaps not all heeding of instinct is a good thing? Another possibility is that none of this makes any sense, and the filmmakers simply presented a series of provocative images to make the audience feel ill at ease—another breaking of established convention.

In conclusion, though the short film Un Chien Andalou has no central narrative to speak of, it is clearly not a film completely lacking in meaning. Even if each scene was only intended to provoke a reaction, the infusion of base human emotion gives the film a thematic resonance that echoes the filmmakers’ surrealist leanings.