The Effects of Greyscale Filming: La Fille Sur Le Pont (1/20/12)

30 Sep

When I first began watching the film, I thought it was going to be an interesting vision of disjunctive love. Adele’s first speech shows that she has an awkward relationship with sexual adventures, basically addressing her own nymphomania in a rather calm manner. The whole first scene is filtered through two important motifs: the black and white choice of color and the instrumental movements used in the soundtrack that more-often-than not add an additional layer to a scene’s meaning. These directorial techniques, specifically the black and white texture, place the film in a sort of vacuum. For some viewers, the combination of black-and-white tone (largely associated with age and older film-making) and subtitles stand together to challenge the audience. More and more as film-making moves forward two fields seem to be forming: those who believe a subtitled film is making them work too hard and those who believe true art should present that sort of challenge or requirement. I was surprised at the success of Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards considering the amount of subtitles involved in the watching of it, but in reminding myself of his previous cinematic masterpieces, many otherwise unwilling viewers gave him the benefit of the doubt.

            As far as the middle-eastern, often jazz-based soundtrack goes, there were so many instances where it enhanced the emotion of the scene. My favorite scene is probably one that wouldn’t normally be chosen if it wasn’t for the music’s aid. When they just get to the hotel room and Gabor refuses to give up a credit card to the door man, a track begins to play over the scene. Gabor has told Adele to use eye-shadow to convey a certain desperate quality in their knife performance, so as she puts some on in the mirror so does he at another corner of the room. Not only does this contribute to the idea of the androgynous entertainer but the scene also cuts into their entry into a circus-type environment. The middle-eastern tone is then equated with mystery and adventure as an elephant is introduced to the scene along with a fire-breather and sporadic instrument and vocal play within the song itself.

            Another technique achieved through the use of black-and-white is a second dual-tone: the ability of the director to emphasize contrasting emotions with the black-and-white opposition. In this case, the plot’s dual-wielding of violence mixed with love and sexuality are the opposing conditions that mirror the black-and-white texture. While the film’s suspense and cutting, not to mention the director’s choice to posit the film in greyscale, lends to Hitchcock, the sexuality that centers itself in some scenes breaks up that tension. There is a very stylized scene in the latter half of the film that I wasn’t sure was reality or a dream by either Gabor or Adele. As the setting is very dark and only relieved by gaps in the boards behind Adele, it’s hard to tell whether the scene takes place in a mental landscape or on what mildly resembles a train-car. In the scene, exasperated breaths and focused eyes contribute to a sexual give-and-take between the protagonists. As Adele has knives thrown around her, she hangs from them rather lustfully and Gabor bites his lip a couple of times to symbolize his own desire. This isn’t an isolated incident in the film, and in many cases, Gabor’s character (played by Daniel Auteuil) seems to inhabit the role of observer/admirer.

            The camera work of the film wasn’t particularly different from most films, catering to medium shots and close-ups to emphasize the two main characters. The few instances of long shot contributed to a greater connection to the setting, often used with sunsets or serene backdrops. However, the camera often stuck with the mood. When the plot was tense, the director utilized cutting techniques to create sharp suspense – again, very reminiscent of Hitchcock. The one instance of camera taking a risk was when Adele was tied to the spinning wheel and the camera rotated with her. The audience is given a feverish Gabor back-dropped by the on-screen audience watching the knife throwing and the camera is strapped to the wheel, rapidly doing a few 360 degree rotations. This and the many scenes filmed entirely for emotional purposes contribute to its Western “Art-House” entitling. Americans, largely used to blockbusters and relatively easy film-viewing experiences, aren’t often willing to take the next step in analyzing a film. Whether film reviews are some of the most popular reviews to date or not, some Americans are too quick to judge a film based on its trailer, director, or actors within. Furthermore, the black-and-white filming strikes a concern in many that the content is dated or boring. Color has come to be related with excitement, so taking the color out of a film has negative effects on some audiences. However, La Fille Sur le Pont stands as a great love story and example of cinematic art against its largely Western criticisms.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses


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