Tuesday, September 11, 2012

400 Blows + Edward Scissorhands

 Social Issues in Film      mcrawford

Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (but first a poem by William Stafford)

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
 and I don't know the kind of person you are
 a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
 and following the wrong god home we may miss our   star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
 a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
 sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
 storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
 but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
 I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
 to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
 a remote important region in all who talk:
 though we could fool each other, we should consider—
 lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
 or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
 the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
 should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 —William Stafford

Truffaut’s film is famous as an example of the French New Wave and the Auteur theory of filmmaking (social realism, a rejection of the polished dialogue, sets and movie stars—a move toward “writing with the camera the way a writer writes with his pen” –Astruc).  Antoine Doinel is no angel, but neither does he deserve to be treated in the way we see him treated.  His resistance to unfairness, to the lack of sympathy or understanding only serves to accelerate his downward spiral toward the reform school.  No one makes any genuine effort to understand him.  The film asks us to recognize and better understand an individual who is misunderstood and mistreated by those around him.

Since Burton’s richly colored and playful fantasy film is located in a suburban environment vividly exaggerated but still quite recognizable, perhaps it is best called magical realism. This style allows Burton to tell a different story about a misunderstood individual.  Burton’s individual is not a victim of parental neglect; he didn’t have parents in the conventional sense—he was “invented.”  But when Edward “comes down” into the neighborhood he is misunderstood, then admired, then exploited and then  . . . .

Your writing prompt:

If one assumes that both films ask us to look at problems of understanding individuals in a context not arranged to favor them, which film makes this request more persuasively?  Which one makes the audience more sympathetic to the subject?  Why?  Which is more likely to persuade the viewer to look at himself or herself? Which is more concerned with asking us to examine the dangers to individuals in our culture? (Use evidence from the films to explain your answer)

poem of last week

Last Trip to the Island

You're mad that I can't love the ocean,

but I've come to this world landlocked
 and some bodies feel permanently strange.
 Like any foreign language, study it too late and
 it never sticks. Anyway,

we're here aren't we? —
 trudging up the sand, the water churning
 its constant horny noise, an openmouthed heavy

breathing made more unnerving by
 the presence of all these families, the toddlers

with their chapped bottoms, the fathers
 in gigantic trunks spreading out their dopey
 circus-colored gear.

How can anyone relax
 near something so worked up all the time?

I know the ocean is glamorous,
 but the hypnosis, the dilated pull of it, feels

impossible to resist. And what better reason to
 resist? I'm most comfortable in

a field, a yellow-eared patch
 of cereal, whose quiet rustling argues for
 the underrated valor of discretion.

And above this, I admire a certain quality of
 sky, like an older woman who wears her jewels with
 an air of distance, that is, lightly,
 with the right attitude. Unlike your ocean,

there's nothing sneaky about a field. I like their
 ugly-girl frankness. I like that, sitting in the dirt,

I can hear what's coming between the stalks.

Erin Belieu
 Black Box
Copper Canyon Press