Film short paper Think about economy, culture and technology III. Nicholas Ray "The Middle-Class American Home of the Fifties: The Use of Architecture in Nicholas Ray's Bigger than Life and Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows by Roger D. McNiven. Cinema Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Summer, 1983), pp. 38-57 ((Citation: Roger D. McNiven Cinema JournalVol. 22, No. 4 (Summer, 1983), pp. 38-57 (article consists of 20 pages) Published by: University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1224953)) Notes: the homes in Bigger than Life and All that Heaven Allows provide an interesting locus of thematic and stylistic approaches to the American middle-class family as the subject matter of a genre. In All that Heaven Allows, architectural features are expressive of ideas which don?t depend on architectural functions. Rays use of architecture= conceptual where Sirk?s= expressionistic. In most of Ray?s films, architecture is juxtaposed with harsh natural surroundings which threaten human survival and hence highlight the basic protective function of man-made structures. In The Savage Innocents, the Eskimo saves his white captor by building an igloo. Ironically, later the white man saves Inuk by keeping him from entering the White Man?s timber building. This shows how forms of architecture provided both security and danger for two different characters. In Rebel Without a Cause the three central characters take refuge in a deserted mansion (alternative to their suburban homes). Majority of Sirk?s films are set in a totally urban environment. In his films, physical comfort is rarely threatened. Sirk used architecture in three phases of his family-oriented films which gears it towards conveying the disruption of family integrity. He frames characters in window frames, doorways, mirror frames, screens, railings, etc. Background is thus presented as (so to speak) ontologically distinct from the more ?real? foreground space. The same basic kinds of architecturally features permitted Sirk to vary his depiction of family (1st framing of the background connotes fragility of family harmony as an ideal. 2nd the ideal became a trap for the protagonist who seems to be trying to escape into the foreground space. 3rd the framed background is more an illusion which is mediated by different characters hovering around the foreground.) Ray invoked intrinsic architectural properties. In Johnny Guitar, Vienna?s tough addresses to the gathering which opposes her are frequently shot with the beams of her saloon forming a prominent part of the composition around her figure. The beams? strength holds firm the building which Vienna?s whole saloon structure has for her and for her adversaries. Ray?s use of architecture=conceptual. Bigger Than Life doesn?t juxtapose its manmade environment with any natural surroundings. The Avery home in this film is taken for granted by the family. On the other hand, the family in All that Heaven Allows discusses whether their house still fills their family needs. House outside of suburbia (Ron?s house)= architectural manifestation of his independence, according to Carrie. In Bigger than Life, there is a contrast between the space enclosed by architecture and natural space. In this film, architecture restricts and regulates human movements. Ed Avery, under influence of cortisone, proves to be aware of what the home stands for in terms of basic and cultural needs. Ed realizes that his profession of teaching can be done at work and at home for the benefit of his son. In All that Heaven Allows it is seen that what appears to be a significant opposition between urban society and the environment of nature is illusory. Devices used to imply the entrapment of Carrie are progressively extended to encompass the apparently alternate lifestyle of Ron and his friends living outside of the town environment. Carrie and her children do not take their family home for granted; the architectural alternatives conceived by the characters are also circumscribed by a single social consciousness embracing all the film?s characters. Sirk?s critique of family-oriented society= judgmental. Bigger Than Life announces it basic architectural ?theme?- that architectural space differs from natural space by virtue of its constraints upon human movement and behavior. Doorway begins to dominate the image= dozens of small children commence pouring out in all directions into the open, sunny grounds. Indoors can=protection against hazards of outdoor and/or a restriction on the freedom of movement. Doors and doorways are extremely prominent throughout the film (they are definitive architectural elements since they constitute the transition between 2 different spaces exhibiting differing degrees of confinement and constriction. Door separates a closet space which is too small to hold a human being from the open taxi yard (where Ed was seen running). His freedom of movement is marginally affected by the rows of parked taxis. Lou Avery is locked in her hall closet while Ed attempts to kill her son (she?s trapped in this case and isn?t able to protect her son?trapped in the thing that at some point could have protected him?). In All that Heaven Allows, the opening shot in Carrie?s house uses the mirror to deny the ?reality? of architectural space to comment on the characters directly. Close-up of a tree-cutting given to Carrie by Ron in the previous scene and now seen in a vase on her bureau then the camera focuses on the mirror where it follows her reflection as she goes to the door to embrace her children Ned and Kay on their arrival home for a weekend. It is the camera rather than Carrie which is seen to make use of the mirror in the shot. Ray uses architectural elements but Sirk uses the mirror in a way to involve its function as a mirror within the film?s diegesis. The primary space of the foreground is separated from the secondary, background space not by a sense of real architectural space linking the two but by the principle of framing action within the film frame. Architectural features= Sirk?s principal means of elaborating character traps, it is tempting to suppose that architecture must form a large part of the content of those traps. The home is sometimes compared with an Egyptian tomb. The mirror then becomes an icon of the artificiality which is suggested by its potential uses as a mirror in such a house. Reflection shot of Carrie into the screen of the TV that she gets for Christmas. This shot evokes the idea of Carrie being trapped. She is trapped. PAGE 45 ?Rebel without a Cause: Nicholas Ray in the Fifties.? Peter Biskind. Film Quarterly. Vol. 28, No. 1 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 32-38 Notes: one critic repeatedly writes that Fuller ?assaults the social preconceptions of his audience.? Another critic sees Nicholas Ray?s Bigger than Life as ?a profoundly upsetting exposure of middle-class aspirations... Each emblem of the American Dream...is systematically turned on its head.? Fuller and Ray both criticize certain aspects of fifties America. Underworld USA is seen as a social criticism and this makes viewers feel better about spending time analyzing it. critics like analyzing films that counter the popular beliefs. In the end though, Bigger than Life is not a radical critique of American middle-class values. Ed Avery was demented by cortisone treatment and became a spokesperson for elitist and authoritarian antidemocratic values, entirely at odds with the dominant Dewey-Spock progressivism of fifties child-rearing and educational theory. Avery?s behaviors constitute a warning to keep your place, keep your aspirations in line, don?t rock the boat and be like everybody else (characteristic impulse of the fifties). Backbone of the fifties consensus= a family member?s bloated ego threatens the integrity of the family. Ray contributed with distinction to almost every genre except the musical, and it serves as a sensitive barometer of the changes in the cultural climate of Hollywood during the cold war. Ray= a serious director concerned with social problems. Ray?s films shared a fondness for psychological and occasionally mythic categories which replaced the social and political ones of the thirties and forties. Johnny Guitar (1953) shows the tendency at work within a single film. The political dimension in this film concerns the economic antagonism between old entrenched money on the one hand, and new money on the other. Although both articles considered middle-class families in the fifties, one focused solely on the architectural impact on film?s themes while the other looked at one artist?s take on familial impact. McNiven looked at how Ray and Sirk?s use of architecture further developed their films. On the other hand, Biskind considered how Nicholas Ray?s films changed throughout the fifties and their impact on the film industry all together. While McNiven looked at examples of both directors films and analyzed their approach, Biskind focused on Ray and his variety of films while employing other?s techniques as examples (to elaborate). By seeing views of an aesthetic approach to film history versus a biographical approach, it was easy to recognize the difference that various views of film history can alter the history as a whole. McNiven, making various points, focused on how archituecture has helped in the development of themes throughout films. He used various examples of both Sirk?s and Ray?s films to illustrate the effects on film and to show how different approach can change themes. Both Sirk and Ray looked at the concept of the middle-class family but their use of architecture contrasted. Ray conceived architecture as architecture while Sirk used architecture as a tool. ORGANIZATION of PAPERI. intro: Brief summaries of each articles central thesis or claim. A brief overview of each argument?s core logical structure. A brief comparison of each essay?s central approach to film history. II. Go into how McNiven looks at architecture and use examples. Talk about how architecture helped contribute to the development on the themes throughout the films. Looked at aesthetic approach to film history?architecture. III. Talk about how Ray?s development of filmmaking changed throughout the fifties and how these changes contributed to filmmaking. Looked at biographical approach to film history?Ray?s works. IV. Tie together the similarities between the two articles. Did both praise Ray? V. conclusion: impact of articles
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