Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three Reasons: Bicycle Thieves

Directed by Vittoria De Sica

Italian neorealism broke the rule that movies had to be filmed in studio lots. By taking the camera and shooting on location they capture on film the lives of ordinary people and their problems and joys. Motivated with their conscience instead of potential profits, the result is a beautiful, sometimes painful look at what it is to be human.

Whenever I watch the Bicycle Thieves there are two states of mind I naturally fall into. One focuses on the social aspect of the film (poverty, class divisions, etc.) while the other is more concerned with the endearing portrayal of a father and son relationship. These two share a bond and fondness with one another that is so authentic it makes potentially banal scenes - such as crossing the street or sharing meal - so enthralling.

The film is always thoughtful of class divisions and the disparate existence of the rich and poor. It may not be subtle sometimes but then again why should it be?

What are your reasons?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The nightmare we wish we had

Vampyr (1932)
Dir. Carl Theodore Dreyer
Starring: Julian West, Maurice Shutz and Rena Mandel

Vampyr is Carl Theodore Dreyer's first sound film but it might as well be called a silent film since, like most of Dreyer's work, dialogue is kept to a minimum. In fact, the music takes over and envelopes the entire picture and transports us into one of the most unsettling and surreal realisation of a nightmare ever put into celluloid.

Julian West (also the producer) plays Allan Grey who travels to an inn and discovers strange, supernatural occurrences. A young woman is found with marks on her neck. An older woman is seen with her, presumably the vampire, hovering above her victim before suddenly disappearing. Now, that's what I think happens but it's not entirely clear.

Dreyer utilises a disjointed and jarring narrative style jumping from one scene to the next, from one character to another, without any clear links between them. We don't really know what is real and what is not real. We see from the perspective of Grey but we can't judge what is real, imagined or dreamt. Trying to distinguish what is what is futile. This is a film that is concerned more with setting an atmosphere than setting up a story.

There are intertitles in the beginning of the film that act as a silent voice-over. I tried imagining what it would have been like if these words were spoken. I cringed. The sombre mood would have been broken. Even if a serious voice was used it would still sound silly and if a dark, brooding voice was chosen then it would have felt like a parody. 

Grey finds a book about vampires and discover  that the strange occurrences eerily match the descriptions found in the text. Dreyer films the pages of the books, filling the screen with its inscriptions, acting as on-screen, silent narrators and thus taking over the role of the intertitles shown earlier.

Dreyer once said that "the old book is not a text in the ordinary, stupid sense, but an actor just as much as all the others." Even though the spoken dialogue in the film doesn't hold much presence, the on-screen text certainly do.

Familiar horror conventions are plentiful here but because of the unorthodox way in which they are filmed they seem fresh rather than stale. A shadow of a gravedigger filmed digging a grave plays out in reverse and you can't help but feel like you've lulled into a kind of enchanted trance. 

Shadows leave the bodies they follow and spirits leave the bodies they bring life to and in a strange way, the film itself feels like it makes our consciousness leave our very own bodies, even for only an hour or so.

Images from The Movie DB

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sensible, playful style (part two)

Part one here

A woman is always sexier when she is covered up. Suggest, never show. Giovanna Battaglia  can wear a low length dress with a high neckline but the fit of the garment ensures that it still pays attention to her body. Again, it's simple and sensible but with smart touches such as the bright, bold colour of her dress and the necklace.

Fur and frills may be overdoing it if the colour isn't right but this nude, peachy dress with black tights and plain black pumps adds frivolity in an otherwise simple and practical silhouette.

Again, nude and earthy colours mix so well with a pop of bold colour. The skirt and bottom half of the jacket makes for some interesting angles.

Battaglia is a working woman but that doesn't mean what she puts on her back has to be reduced to blacks and greys. Wearing top to toe floral is one way of rebelling but paired with a tailor jacket to make it look a bit more professional.

It's all in the details. Such a timeless dress that makes her look like Tilda Swinton's best friend from the film I Am Love. Add a touch of contemporary cool with the accessories.

Need I say more?

Images from : Place to be seen, Purse Forum, We Good Looking, Front Row View, Fashion Prose, By Christelle

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sensible, playful style (part one)

There are two fashion editors I would like to comment on for their consistent, sensible sense of style (try quickly saying that phrase 10 times without getting tongue-tied) without straying into the land of the dull.

Francesco Cominelli and Giovanna Battaglia. Even their names sound stylish. Damn Italians.

I've written a post about Cominelli before but I figured an update would be good:

A simple shirt-trousers combination is elevated with some lace detailing on the shirt. Rolling up the sleeves makes it even more casual. Keeping the accessories minimal means less distractions and the earthy tones of the trousers and shoes really makes the lapis blue even more intense.

Question: How can one wear a leather jacket and dark leather boots without looking like a James Dean impersonator? Answer: Pair it with tight floral pants.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that's a jumpsuit, right? Reduce the femininity by adding a grey long coat over it.

Again, he has a really good eye for colour and the three he chose here work so well together. Plus, tucking in both the jacket and the top makes for a more refined and sartorial look.

The biggest problem I have with large, thick scarves is that they make me look like I'm being attacked by a small, furry mammal. Or a cursed piece of fabric is trying to suffocate the life out of me. For some people, however, this is not the case.

Part two: Giovanna Battaglia

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Instagram: Film Memories #1

Instagram: Film Memories are a series of posts showcasing great films I saw during a certain time period. Includes a super short, two line recap (like a haiku! but not really) and a screenshot of the film taken via Instagram.

Films I saw from 7 Aug 2011 - 14 Aug 2011

Raging Bull
A film by Martin Scorsese

Brutality and anger make him a great boxer.
But not a very good person.

Stand by Me
A film by Rob Reiner

Four friends search for a dead body.
Best road movie, minus the car.

La Dolce Vita
A film by Federico Fellini

Italian journalist parties with the elite and intellectual.
Left struggling to discover what he really wants.

Through a Glass Darkly

A film by Ingmar Bergman

Four people go to an island, one is a schizophrenic.
She thinks that God is a spider.

Happy Together
A film by Wong Kar-Wai

Gay couple travel to Argentina to see the Iguazu Falls.
They lose each other and find each other.

Follow me on Instagram! @jesuevalle

All images are owned by me and cannot be re-used without permission.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


One of my favourite spots to eat in Sydney: the Mizuya Japanese restaurant where you order your food from a touchscreen! A short wait later and your food magically appears. 

Now the touchscreen is both a blessing and a curse. It's extremely convenient and makes the whole ordering process much faster BUT it does make you order more than what you need. Especially when you're still waiting for your first order and you start eyeing other things on the menu and you end up ordering more things. It's like online shopping - it's so fast that you don't have time for the 'do I really need this?' internal dialogue.

I went there with my friend Nycel a while back. I had the tempura plate and takuyaki and she had the chicken curry and the crab.

I'll be back there soon!

All images are owned by me and cannot be reused without permission.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Artist Profile: Courtney Howlett

Courtney Howlett is a fashion illustrator I met through IFB. The only other fashion illustrator I know of is Garance Dore and her work is very pretty and fun but Howlett's is just jaw-dropping. I love the fact that the fashion aspect is treated as a point of inspiration rather than the point of focus. The emphasis is on the use of colour and lines. 

I really like the effective use of negative space and the minimal feel of the work. It's incredibly elegant, beautiful and - I've never used this word to describe an artwork before - very, very chic.

He's currently trying to establish himself as an artist and I'm glad I found his work. It's really exciting to discover new and establishing artists. Please support his work and follow his tumblr, deviantart and twitter.

All images are owned by Courtney Howlett via his tumblr.

That was a great film. It had no plot.

I don't usually quote people in here but I just had to post this one by one of my favourite directors. He says he doesn't like to engage in telling stories. Obviously as a filmmaker this is inevitable. No matter how bare the plot is or how very little happens in a film - if anything at all - it will still produce some remnant of a story. I think what he means is he doesn't try to tell a story first. It's not his primary objective when making a film. 

You hear it all the time: story comes first. In some films, yes, but in the best ones, no. For me, film as a medium has a transformative power that goes beyond merely telling a story or portraying a character. Other mediums do this well, if not better. I've walked out a number of times from a cinema thinking that that film would have worked better as a novel. Or I would love to see that character on a stage production.

What film does best is this: its makers capture life and the world through the lens. The audience sits down and watches it, bringing their own experiences, frustrations and pleasures of their life and their world. Then as the film passes through our eyes and ears it changes a little part of ourselves and our perceptions.

Through the combination of image and sound, we walk out with our moods changed. Whether for better or for worse, it doesn't matter. My favourite films have always been the ones that are more concerned about setting a particular atmosphere, either through the 'look' of the film, the editing and even to something small like how the film is paced. The tone of the film must always come first. Story and character can follow after but if the tone is off, the entire film falls apart. All the good films have a certain tone or mood that can leave us feeling angry, sad, jovial, confused, etc.

The bad ones leave us feeling indifferent. 


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