Sunday, April 8, 2012

Color, Sound, & Humor

After several weeks of deeply serious science fiction, we took a break this past week with Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, a cotton-candy light romp.  The idea here was to take a look at the use of color in film.  Ever since the magical year of 1939 (which gave us both Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz), color has been a significant element in film - to the point that we don't usually think all that much about it.  A film like Fifth Element can remind us of the power of color.  Plus, having Jean-Paul Gaultier design the costumes is a guarantee that there will be something to talk about.

Sound is also an important element in Fifth Element - there's the Divine Language and that wonderful sequence of the Diva's aria from Lucia di Lammermoor intercut with Leeloo's balletic battle.  Sound is where the class is headed this week, although color will continue to be an important element as well.  That's right - it's Cowboy Bebop week.

I'm using Bebop to provide examples of the "dubbing v. subtitle" debate, to showcase the use of music as more than mere background filler and to introduce (however briefly) the genre of Japanese anime.  Spike Spiegel and Co. also bring the discussion back around to free will, genetic manipulation, and determining what's actually the real world.

Bebop is an interesting film to show - it starts with a slower pace than some films we've seen (typical of Asian films in general - certainly Kurosawa was never in a hurry to get where he was going), and it's an adult-themed cartoon, albeit one with a lush mise en scene and a soundtrack I've been known to play for the heck of it.  It has an ensemble cast rather than one or two "star" characters, so there was the added challenge of making each character memorable.  It's a challenge I believe Shinichiro Watanabe rose to meet.  Moreover, it provides a terrific starting place for the debate of "space opera" or "space Western."

We'll see what the class has to say about it!

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