When is Non-Diegetic Sound Actually Diegetic?

In my American Film Industry class, we voted on what film we would screen for our discussion of New Hollywood, or what I call “The American New Wave.” The class voted, among a list of six films, for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorcese, 1974).

Aside from talking about the cinematography in the film, I mentioned that the use of sound in the film is quite innovative, especially how the film blurred the boundary between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. You can see the mixing of the two in the clip below.

Alice’s cry functions as a sound bridge between her on the telephone and the scene of the accident. This is not something you saw in Classical Hollywood films, certainly not the back and forth between two spaces, but it was an innovative stylistic device in this film.

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Cinematography for Emotional Distance

As I mentioned in class, the varied use of focal lengths is another technique that Scorcese manipulates, even in the same scenes. This is in addition to the heavy use of handheld camerawork, which itself was not widely used except in news and documentary filmmaking.

I mentioned that the scene with Alice and Tommy in the motel room in Phoenix contains shots with two very different focal lengths. One is a wide angle lens, which distorts the image to expand the distance between objects on the left and right of the frame. The other shot uses a telephoto lens, which distorts the image to compress the space between foreground and background objects.

Alice Doesn_t Live Here Anymore WIde Angle

The image above is the wide-angle shot, where Tommy on the left appears very distant from Alice on the right. This might have been used to visually represent the distance between the two of them as they fight.

Alice Doesn_t Live Here Anymore Telephoto

In the very same scene, there’s the telephoto shot. Here, they have (somewhat) reconciled as Alice reassures Tommy that she will find a job and that things will (somehow) be okay. The telephoto lens compresses the space between Tommy, Tommy’s reflection, and Alice’s reflection. The framing is of course also interesting as it uses a mirror to put Tommy and her in the same plane and within a common frame.

It’s a rough but touching moment between mother and son.

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Cinematography for Emotional Distance

As I mentioned in class, the varied use of focal lengths is another technique that Scorcese manipulates, even in the same scenes. This is in addition to the heavy use of handheld camerawork, which itself was not widely used except in news and documentary filmmaking.

I mentioned that the scene with Alice and Tommy in the motel room in Phoenix contains shots with two very different focal lengths. One is a wide angle lens, which distorts the image to expand the distance between objects on the left and right of the frame. The other shot uses a telephoto lens, which distorts the image to compress the space between foreground and background objects.

Vlcsnap 2011 11 21 16h57m18s157

The image above is the wide-angle shot, where Tommy on the left appears very distant from Alice on the right. This might have been used to visually represent the distance between the two of them as they fight.

Vlcsnap 2011 11 21 16h57m24s222

In the very same scene, there’s the telephoto shot. Here, they have (somewhat) reconciled as Alice reassures Tommy that she will find a job and that things will (somehow) be okay. The telephoto lens compresses the space between Tommy, Tommy’s reflection, and Alice’s reflection. The framing is of course also interesting as it uses a mirror to put Tommy and her in the same plane and within a common frame.

It’s a rough but touching moment between mother and son.

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Class 11: New Hollywood

In today’s class, we reviewed many of the factors that led to the US New Wave of filmmaking, which was known as the New Hollywood era. The movement was characterized by a reinvention of film style, re-imagining Hollywood genres, and by covering adult themes. The movement would come to a close at the end of the 1970s with some pretty big spectacles, specifically Apocalypse Now and Heaven’s Gate. And there was also the blockbuster.

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Evaluate this Course

Take a few minutes to evaluate this course. The evaluation survey is conducted online and available at the following website:

http://www.qc.cuny.edu/evaluate

Thank you for your participation.

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Next Week’s Seventies Flick

NewImage

The votes are in. The winner of this year’s student selected Pick a Seventies Flick is Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Twenty students voted in the poll, and each of the 20 students will receive four point extra credit on the Historical Event Summary Assignment.

Table of Votes for the Seventies Flick

Panic in Needle Park was a very close second in the voting, receiving five first-place votes, and only trailed the Scorcese film by 3 points. Very few students, it appears, were interested in seeing the seminal blaxploitation film Sweet Sweetback’s Badassss Song. The film received only one first-place vote, and fourteen of the remaining nineteen students voted it either as their fifth or sixth choice. Ouch!

 

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Class 10: 1967 and the Youth Audience

In today’s class, we discuss how the 1968 Academy Awards ceremony signaled a seismic shift for filmmaking in the United States. No longer were the studios and their big-budget, something-for-everyone the focus of the industry and the audience. Instead, many factors converged to make this change possible. Some of the factors include rising social upheaval in the United States, the fall of the Production Code, the influence of European filmmakers, and the rise of a younger audience desiring something different.

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Influence of New Waves

As we transition from the classical model of Hollywood filmmaking, we should start to notice how filmmaking in the 1960s begins to change from the stylistic conventions of the Classical Hollywood Cinema.

One of the great influences was the European New Waves, especially the French New Wave. One technique that we begin to see in films from the late 1960s, especially Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) is the jump cut.

In the first minute of the clip below, you can see the jump cut in action.

A jump cut is any edit that takes place where the angle of framing is not changed by at least 30 °. I’ve identified several jump cuts in the clip, occurring at the following timecode.

  • 0:04
  • 0:13
  • 0:18
  • 0:24
  • 0:25
  • 0:27
  • 0:29
  • 0:30
  • 0:32

Do you see any other jump cuts? What effect do they have in this short clip?

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Influence of New Waves

As we transition from the classical model of Hollywood filmmaking, we should start to notice how filmmaking in the 1960s begins to change from the stylistic conventions of the Classical Hollywood Cinema.

One of the great influences was the European New Waves, especially the French New Wave. One technique that we begin to see in films from the late 1960s, especially Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) is the jump cut.

In the first minute of the clip below, you can see the jump cut in action.

A jump cut is any edit that takes place where the angle of framing is not changed by at least 30 °. I’ve identified several jump cuts in the clip, occurring at the following timecode.

  • 0:04
  • 0:13
  • 0:18
  • 0:24
  • 0:25
  • 0:27
  • 0:29
  • 0:30
  • 0:32

Do you see any other jump cuts? What effect do they have in this short clip?

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Pick a Seventies Flick

Please vote for the 1970s film that we will screen on November 21.

Your vote must be submitted by Monday, November 14, 6:00 PM.

Every student who votes will receive 0.2 extra credit points on the Historical Event Summary. For example, if 12 students vote in the poll, every student who voted will receive 2.4 extra credit points on the Historical Event Summary.

The poll will close on Monday, November 14, at 6:00 PM.

Course Link: Assignments / Pick a Seventies Flick

The options for the 1970s film are the following:

  • M*A*S*H* (Robert Altman, 1971)
  • The Panic in Needle Park (Jerry Schatzberg, 1971)
  • Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971)
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorsese, 1974)
  • The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 1974)
  • The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
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