Archive for May, 2012

So now back to our scheduled work…

BLOG TASK 3: (due week12 semester 1)

Given the screenwritingexercises you have been doing the for past few weeks you should by now be experts at discerning a stories central dramatic question, defining character choices and nominating ‘whose film’ it is.

I would like you to take a short film or substantial scene  and analysis it in the following ways:

1. Establish whose story it is?
2. What is the central dramatic question of the short film/scene? When is the question asked? When is the question answered? Is it answered in the positive or the negative? Is it answered at all? How does it (or not) reflect the thematic questions of the scene/short film?
3. What choices does the central character make that defines their journey through he scene/short film?

AND GO!

The vignette above, Cousins comes from the larger piece Coffee and Cigarettes, directed by Jim Jarmusch.  The scene revolves around the relationship between the famous Cate Blanchett, playing herself, and her fictional cousin Shelley.

Although we first meet Cate, waiting for Shelley, it is clear that this is Shelley’s story, as she attempts to reconnect with her cousin, as well as undermine her glamorous lifestyle. The central dramatic question is will Shelley gain the respect of Cate, and fit in with her famous life? Whist, yes, I know I should be trying to find something more ‘practical’, this seemed to be the only conclusion I could find.

The dramatic question is posed right near the start of the scene. Cate doesn’t not remember the name of Shelley’s boyfriend, and has not read any of Shelley’s letters. Shelley attempts to empathise with Cate about the frustrations of the paparazzi and being famous, but is in fact attempting to undermine her. The two women then continue to not connect, with Shelley undermining Cate and refusing to share her boyfriend’s music. Cate gives Shelley a bag of ‘swag’, failing to understand how frustrating her privleges are to those outside the glamour of showbiz. The answer to the question is a resounding no. Whilst Shelley initially tries to copy Cate and be like her when they order coffee, she is reduced to mocking her hand gestures by the end. The two promise to catch up again, but the chances of it happening for a long time are unlikely. It seems that the cousins will not be able to find a common ground.

At the conclusion, Shelley defies Cate after she has left, removing her glamorous fur coat, revealing a T-shirt. She orders a double tequila and lighting another cigarette. She is told she is not allowed to smoke in the lounge, despite doing so earlier with her cousin, again emphasizing the difference in class and lifestyle, and how irreconcilable their worlds are. Curious it is that Jarmusch chose to use Cate in both roles, perhaps hinting that the fame is really the only thing separating them.

Throughout the scene, Shelley is the far more active one, and her major actions are –

  • Offering Cate a cigarette and smoking with her.
  • Attempts to copy Cate whilst ordering coffee.
  • Adds five sugar cubes to her coffee.
  • Admits she has used Cate’s name to get into a club.
  • Confronts Cate about not reading her letters or listening to her boyfriend’s CD.
  • Refuses to share her boyfriend’s CD.
  • Admits she didn’t send a CD after all.
  • Subversively suggests her gift from Cate is swag.
  • Affirms Cate and thanks her, though she is really attempting to undermine her status.
  • Refuses Cate’s offer to go up to her room.
  • Takes off her glamourous coat, orders tequila and takes out a cigarette.
  • Puts away her cigarette.

Through these actions the viewer can trace Shelley’s awe and jealously for Cate, which slowly turns to contempt. She has attempted to fit in with the glamourous lifestyle, talking about her boyfriend’s band, and discussing a club she has been to, but she finds herself ultimately disgusted by the lifestyle: “It’s just funny, don’t you think? When you can’t afford something, it’s like really expensive, but then when you can afford it, it’s like, free. It’s kinda backward, don’t you think?”

Here is a short piece. I met a particularly colourful character whilst waiting for trams tonight. His name was Ray, he owns a whitegoods store, was about forty-five, wore a suit, had been drinking, and was very friendly. Here is what happened when he found someone else to talk to. We’ll call him George. This has mostly been taken from memory, though the last part, mostly involving John Travolta, came from a discreet voice recording I tried to get. I have attempted to copy the conversation as best I could, but unfortunately there are gaps. But never mind, Ray had some interesting things to say:

Ray, on Marriage and Whitegoods

This is a piece that was written on the journey to and from VCA on the tram today. I haven’t written the script yet, and I’m using this spare time to try and get right into the back of my story, and explore the origins of the characters. This is a diary entry from the protagonist, James, probably from a time after the period in which my film ill be set. It explores the first night he suffered sexual abuse by his mother, and some back story to their relationship. This isn’t a back story set in stone, but it gave me an interesting insight into the psychology behind the Mother-Son relationship in my story.

22/5/12

It wasn’t that weird at first. She used to come into my room some nights after I had gone to bed and show me pictures of my Dad. Ones from when he was younger, fooling around with all his friends, and ones of him and Mum, before stuff got bad. She won’t show me the later ones. I always wondered if there ever were any. She told me over and over, and I had to admit I shared a certain likeness to my father. I looked nothing like her. There was something in the eyes, and the chin.
This one particular night she came in. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the night of what would have been their tenth anniversary. I think she’d been crying. Her face was still a bit red, and her voice slightly haggard as she came to say good night. She tried her hardest to hide it, though some of the photos were stained, and still slightly damp. I tried to hug her, but she felt stiff, strange, distant. And then in a moment she became like water, and fell into me, squeezing me tight. She wore that exact same perfume that night I would come to dread over the coming years. Light and fruity at first, then fuller, richer beneath.
She pulled away from me, as suddenly as she had fallen, and looked me dead in the eyes. “It’s been ten fucking years, and now he still won’t leave me alone! Bastard!” she slapped me sharply across the face. My cheek stung, but I sat for a moment, too stunned to say anything. Then I sobbed, unsure of what was wrong. She grabbed me and pulled me in tight. She stroked my hair softly, just as she used to when I came to her, fearful from some nightmare. I quickly hushed in her warm embrace, still confused about her reaction to the hug. She spoke quickly and softly. “It’s okay, darling, I’ll be here. You won’t leave me. I love you, don’t fret. You can’t leave me”. She rambled on. I think she was comforting herself more than anything else. I felt her free hand begin to trace to bones of my skinny chest. Her caressing touch was so soft and gentle. I didn’t move, but as her hand moved with more urgency, I shifted back. She held me down tighter. “It’s okay darling, I’m here” she cooed, trying to abate my agitation. Her hand then went lower, reaching my leg, though I didn’t move then. My mother knew what to do, and I loved her. She was all I had. But somewhere in the back of my self I knew this was something I couldn’t tell anyone else. It was something so intensely private, but I’d never felt so exposed in all my life.
After what felt like an age, but was really only minutes, she left me. “Now go to sleep honey. I’ll see you in the morning”. She smiled and tucked me in as though nothing had happened. “It’s okay, not many people know what it’s like to have to grow up without a daddy. We’ll keep this in this room, special yes?” I nodded mechanically at this, not knowing what it entailed. “I love you James”. She kissed me on the forehead and left me alone in the dark. I lay awake for hours afterwards. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so exposed and ashamed and love at the same time. I tossed and turned, weighing up the feelings in my mind that I knew I could share with anyone. I finally fell into a restless sleep. I was ten.