Tag Archives: plot

Plot structures in Polanski’s films | Leo Robson | The Guardian


☞ To say that most of Polanski’s films have one of three plot structures may sound too formulaic, but it is hard to argue against this article’s main contention. Polanski’s vision is not only in the recreation of bleak and unforgiving settings, or, according to Roger Ebert (!), in the recurrence of characters who, like Charles Manson, are “anti-intellectual, witless, and driven by deep, shameful wells of lust and violence.” It also lies in the reiteration of a restricted range of plot structures that run across many of his films. They are of course not plot formulas in the conventional or generic sense, but they also highlight the fact that, in spite of his films’ variety, Polanski does not engage in significantly new thematic departures in many of his films.

Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion. Photograph: BFI/Ronald Grant

The backbone of Polanski‘s body of work is formed by three kinds of narrative – the testing of an unequal marriage, the humbling of a complacent professional, and the crumbling of a lonely mind – and few of his films buck all trends to any significant degreeFrantic, for example, a cleverly exasperating thriller about a Paris kidnapping, has similarities with other humbling narratives – ChinatownThe Ninth Gate and The Ghost – including a tendency to frustrate a major star, this time Harrison Ford, in petty ways, but it lacks some of the things they share: a corpse in water, the sense of thwarted rebellion against one’s place in the food chain, a downbeat ending. The Pianist, one of two films, along with Oliver Twist, that deals directly with the personal experience to which Polanski’s other work gives oblique or allusive treatment, belongs to the lonely-mind genre only in its second half, once ghetto turns to wasteland. (Polanski started off writing his own films, or working closely with the authors of original screenplays, then, having found his formula, turned to adapting source material, much of it strikingly well-matched to his interests and strengths.)

But even these different narrative formations are telling, at bottom, the same story. Polanski has no favourite technique, favourite actor, or favourite genre; he does, however, have a pet concern, one that adapts well. If there are two men on board, both will indeed want to be captain, but it is the woman – a wife or girlfriend, never a mother – who decides which man, and the judging process is sure to be characterised by tickled malignity or scornful glee. (“The women we like,” Christoph Waltz tells Jodie Foster in Polanski’s most recent film, Carnage, speaking on behalf of men unnerved by feminism, “are sensual, crazy, shot full of hormones. The ones who want to show off how perceptive they are, the gatekeepers of the world, they’re a huge turnoff.”) Polanski’s film of Macbeth, which he adapted with Kenneth Tynan, is usually seen as his response to the murders at his house in Cielo Drive, in which his wife Sharon Tate was killed, but given that it involves a man who over-reaches himself at the insistence of his wife, it is easy to imagine him making it at more or less any point. (Of his adaptations of classics, it is more in line with his sensibility, and a stronger, more convincing performance, than Oliver Twist or Tess.)”

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The Hobbit: Narrative Validation or Vandalism? «concluding observations»


☞ Again, adaptation becomes an issue… How close is the film to the original? When should this become an issue? Or, to put it in the terms of this review, when does a film begin to “vandalise” the original?

“What began as a necessary fleshing out of narrative allusions and foreshadowing to effectively translate literature into a movie ended up as Jackson’s sheer invention and gratuitous abuse of the characters, all of whom sword fight more often than Conan the Barbarian and more bloodily than Leonidas. If Thorin had shouted in the midst of battle with the Goblins, “Dwarves! Tonight we dine in Mordor!” no one in the audience would have been the least bit surprised. Zorro and the Three Musketeers had less skill with a blade in hand-to-hand combat than do these Dwarves, Gandalf or at times, Bilbo Baggins.

The only scenes where Jackson manages genuine fidelity to the story are the ones with Gollum, Bilbo and their Riddle-Game – perhaps out of fear of trivializing his previous movies, Tolkien’s actual dialogue and plot enters the script before vanishing again into a Jacksonian cinematic homage to every American action movie ever made. No wonder Christopher Tolkien looks on with weary despair.”

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Christopher Nolan’s Following, from Film School Rejects’ “Year in Review: The Best of Criterion in 2012”


☞ It’s the end of the year, and writers and periodicals produce lists of the best (or worst) films of the year. In Film School Rejects’ “Year in Review: The Best of Criterion in 2012,” the most narratively interesting brief review is of Christopher Nolan’s first feature film, Following.

“Earlier in his filmmaking career Christopher Nolan was drawing comparisons to Quentin Tarantino in his toying with writing structure by breaking up his linear story line into movable chunks that could be mixed and matched to move the story forward to a more entertaining effect than had the story been told in sequence. Also like Tarantino it was with his second feature film that Nolan would make his more prominent impact. While the two would separate themselves from comparison beyond that point their roots remain planted in similar soil.

In Following Nolan tells of a writer who chooses to stalk people to assist in getting material to write about. In doing so he meets a professional thief who gives our unsuspecting writer a tour in the life of a criminal. Like in his second feature, Memento, Nolan does a fine job of locating the climax in his story and ensuring that while the plot doesn’t follow a sequential timeline, the events that occur are told to us as they should be in order to accommodate a familiar, expected, and enjoyable rhythm. – Adam Charles

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Movie Review: Rurouni Kenshin is a hack and slash live-action treat | Mikhail Lecaros | GMA News


☞ The accuracy in the depiction of non-fictional narratives boils down to the crucial similarities between the two narratives. In a similar vein, films that have been converted from another medium, even if the original medium involves moving images, usually involve changes, as the following article, on the life-action feature film version of a televisual animé series, illustrates.

“The bulk of the film takes its plot from the anime’s first two story arcs, with a few sequences lifted directly from the OVA (original video animation) mini-series that chronicled the protagonist’s bloody backstory for good measure.”

“Sadly, fan-favorite characters Saito Hajime (a pitch-perfect Yosuke Eguchi) and Sanosuke get short shrift in their big-screen debuts. In the case of Saito, the former Shinsengumi captain-turned-police officer’s personal history-based storyline with Kenshin is condensed to the point of near irrelevance, his very presence hovering dangerously close to glorified fan service.

This is especially evident during the final battle where, after much build-up, his big moment is so awkwardly edited and executed, I had trouble figuring out what I’d just seen. Fortunately, Sanosuke, despite randomly popping in and out of the plot as necessary, gets several applause-worthy moments.”

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