Re: Jack Webb's PETE KELLY'S BLUES - mise en scene as point-making
- Caution: unsupported assertion of personal taste ahead.
I'm at work so I wish I had time to respond to this, but I wanted to
chime in that DRAGNET makes it pretty clear that Webb is one of the
major visual stylists of the decade... "The Big Thief" can stand toe-
to-toe with any other film from '53, imo.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "thebradstevens"
> I picked up a VHS tape containing a nice letterboxed transfer of
> Webb's PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955) a few days ago. Watching it thepractices
> other night, I was struck by the presence of mise en scene
> that were quite typical in American films of the 50s (Sirk,shot
> Hitchcock, Ford, Preminger, Minnelli, etc.), but have now virtually
> died out, with a handful of exceptions (Cimino's THE SICILIAN,
> Hellman's STANLEY'S GIRLFRIEND, some of Spielberg's work).
> Essentially, mise en scene is here being used as a rigorous form of
> point-making. Take, for example, the splendid 3-minute sequence
> in which Lee Marvin's character explains to Kelly that he intendsto
> leave the band. Webb's mise en scene here makes a series of veryout
> specific points, every detail selected for its didactic rather than
> naturalistic value (though nothing actually violates the demands of
> naturalism). Thus the relationship of the two actors to each other,
> their relationship to the camera, their relationship to the
> props/decor, their gestures, their movements within (and finally
> of) the frame - all these things provide a kind of runningevents.
> commentary as to how Webb wishes us to interpret the dramatic
> The demise of point-making mise en scene - a mise en scene that
> depends for its effect on our clear understanding that the
> world does not have an independent existence, but has been createdthe
> specifically for the camera's benefit - is obviously connected to
> ever-increasing resort to rapid, fragmented editing patterns. Butpoints).
> this is far from being the whole story. Compare the above scene in
> PETE KELLY'S BLUES with the long take that begins Hou Hsiao-hsien's
> CAFE LUMIERE, which deliberately resists all forms of point-making
> (or, to be more accurate, makes general rather than specific
> Here, we have the sense of observing a dramatic world that has ansomehow
> existence independent of the camera, and which the camera has
> intruded upon.is
> Obviously, I'm not arguing that PETE KELLY'S BLUES is superior to
> CAFE LUMIERE (I would actually argue precisely the opposite), but
> watching Webb's film did help me understand exactly what is meant
> when people talk about the death of mise en scene. Of course, this
> the death only of one particular type of mise en scene - but it'sif
> still something worth mourning. Though I'd be interested to learn
> anyone could come up with some additional examples of modernscene.
> filmmakers who still practice this kind of point-making mise en
- --- In email@example.com, David Ehrenstein <cellar47@...>
>Much of RAGING BULL gives the viewer the impression that what we see
> Now I'm really confused. How can the camera be present
> and absent at the same time?
> Of course the characters in the film, like so many
> others, are inahibiting a simalcrum of reality where
> no camera is ever acknowledged. But what makes Webb's
> use of this convention different from that of 99% of
> the movies ever made?
would be happening anyway, even if the camera were not there to
record it. This is clearly not the case with PETE KELLY'S BLUES or
the works of Minnelli, Hitchcock, etc., in which everything has
clearly been arranged for the camera's benefit.
- Michael Curtiz's THE EGYPTIAN, which I watched last night, turned out
to contain an excellent example of point-making mise en scene during
a sequence in which Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) talks to Nefer (Bella
Darvi). Nefer is seated, applying makeup while gazing at her own
reflection in a mirror. Sinuhe stands on the left of the frame. At
one point, Sinuhe walks towards Nefer, moves behind the mirror (which
now partially obscures him from view), and grabs hold of it. The
resulting image shows Sinuhe embracing not Nefer, but rather a mirror
in which her reflection is visible...visible, that is, to the camera,
but not to Sinuhe. Curtiz here demonstrates two things; a) that
Sinuhe is in love not with Nefer herself, but rather with
that 'image' which she presents to the world; and b) that Sinuhe has
allowed his own identity to be 'obscured' by his obsession with Nefer.
Of course, this image is constructed entirely for the camera's
benefit, allowing the film's viewer to understand something that
would not be comprehensible to the on-screen participants. Indeed,
the fact that Sinuhe is not consciously aware of the nature of his
desire is exactly the point that Curtiz is making here.
- And Curtiz is doing so rather elegantly. This use of a
mirror reminds me of that scene in "Under Capricorn"
so beloeved of the CdC critics where Michael Wuilding
holds up his coat behind a glass door in order that
Bergman see her reflection.
--- thebradstevens <bradstevens22@...> wrote:
> Michael Curtiz's THE EGYPTIAN, which I watched last____________________________________________________________________________________
> night, turned out
> to contain an excellent example of point-making mise
> en scene during
> a sequence in which Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) talks to
> Nefer (Bella
> Darvi). Nefer is seated, applying makeup while
> gazing at her own
> reflection in a mirror. Sinuhe stands on the left of
> the frame. At
> one point, Sinuhe walks towards Nefer, moves behind
> the mirror (which
> now partially obscures him from view), and grabs
> hold of it. The
> resulting image shows Sinuhe embracing not Nefer,
> but rather a mirror
> in which her reflection is visible...visible, that
> is, to the camera,
> but not to Sinuhe. Curtiz here demonstrates two
> things; a) that
> Sinuhe is in love not with Nefer herself, but rather
> that 'image' which she presents to the world; and b)
> that Sinuhe has
> allowed his own identity to be 'obscured' by his
> obsession with Nefer.
> Of course, this image is constructed entirely for
> the camera's
> benefit, allowing the film's viewer to understand
> something that
> would not be comprehensible to the on-screen
> participants. Indeed,
> the fact that Sinuhe is not consciously aware of the
> nature of his
> desire is exactly the point that Curtiz is making
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- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, David Ehrenstein <cellar47@...>
> And Curtiz is doing so rather elegantly. This use of a
> mirror reminds me of that scene in "Under Capricorn"
> so beloeved of the CdC critics where Michael Wuilding
> holds up his coat behind a glass door in order that
> Bergman see her reflection.
> An idea, incidentally, provided by Hume Cronyn. JPC
- To my
> knowledge the late great Raymond Durgnat is the onlyCf.
> critic to acknowledge the brilliance of "Pete Kelley's
> Blues," particularly as regards mise en scene.
which even contains a bit about the mise en scene.
- --- In email@example.com, "Eduardo Valente - grupos"
> > But who is
> > > keeping the Webb/Hitchcock/Minnelli line of mise en
> > > scene alive?
> whether people like him or not, I'd have to sign in M. Night
> right here.Yeah, I'd pretty much agree with that. Mel Brooks is another name
that comes to mind (though I guess his directing career is now a
thing of the past).