Archive for the ‘Urban stories’ Category

Still Life (Sanxia haoren, China-Hong Kong, 2006)

June 23, 2009

still life

Despite it’s quite inventive plot, Still Life is let down by it’s abysmal cinematography. It does however, provide an insight into the life around the Three Gorges Dam. The idea to include the rather bizarre CGI is questionable in the relevance to the storyline, and easily confuses the audience. The constant moving of the camera is quite different to Jia’s earlier work, and shows the constant changes taking place in the area in which the film is situated. Also, the inclusion of new technology (mobiles seen as an amazing thing) contrasting the beautiful landscapes which are seen to be deteriorating shows the transformation taking place in China.    – James Brown.

I did enjoy ‘Still Life’ dispite the odd and very confusing use of CGI. Some aspects of the film I didn’t understand straight away, such as the long pauses between speech, but then these pauses may be common in Chinese cinema or Jia Zhangke’s style of film. What I thought was good about ‘Still Life’ was that throughout the film we see the destruction of Fengjie, which is shown through the destrucion of buildings. This gives an insight into urban living in Fengjie, and China, shown through the destruction of peoples homes to make way for the Three Gorges Dam. Another insight into urban stories though this film is where we see Han Sanming scammed twice, once when he first arrives in Fengjie and then when he is given a ride to his old home by a man on a motorbike. This shows urban living by showing that some people will take advantage of others in hard times just to keep a living.           Michael Macfadyen

Still Life was praised critically dispite being such an odd film at times. It has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is very good. It was also accepted by Chinese autorities and released uncensored both in China and abroad, which is fairly rare for a film that depicts capitalism and destruction in China. I enjoyed the film and found some of it’s aspects intriguing, particularly the odd use of CGI that parallels the destruction of the once beautiful landscape.  I also found it interesting how the two main characters the film focusses on don’t actually have anything to do with each other in the end, which goes against our idea of what films will do with characters.
The High Definition camera work was initially hard to get used to and was very sharp, but I thought it added to the realism on the whole.     Alex Turner


— Still life is set on location and that plays a vital role thoughtout the film. its shot beautifully and is the sort of film that would leave many people puzzled. This film is highly realistic but the acting side of the film does leave me feeling annoyed. waiting long lengths of time for someone to talk. As the viewer, many more people would watch this film and immediatly link the characters together and this is because we are so used to it with british and american cinemas. However having this film from a different origin gives us an insight of how films are shot in other parts of world. Tyrone Michael


Couscous (Le graine et le mulet, France, 2007)

June 23, 2009


‘Couscous’ is a good choice of film for urban stories. The narrative of the film is good for urban stories because the use of an ‘underdog’ story gives a good sense of urban living. The setting of ‘Couscous’ also shows the theme of urban living. This is because the very working class setting gives the sense of urban living. Michael Macfadyen

CousCous is a good film when studying realism, the way it is shot and the performances are very realistic, but the plot is (mostly) satisfactory to audiences.  The handheld cameras and (very) long scenes in which many conversations overlap both add to the realistic feel of the film.
The plot is realistic and mundane enough to sustain the realism, but it also has enough typical underdog aspects to keep a more mainstream audience interested.
The film was successful and critics praised it lots. It ended up on several top 10 lists.   Alex Turner


‘Couscous’ is the ideal film for a realism film. Whilst watching the film you find the conversations very close to what you have with your own family and friends in “real life”. It also works away from the typical females being stick thin and beautiful to what i would describe as a real woman. ultimately curvacious and sexy, i think, even just showing her mid-drift while in t-shirts and jeans adds more for me as in a Hollywood film she would be dressed modestly.
The plot is slow paced, but in the last 20/25 mins (or there abouts) the drama really starts. You feel yourself wanting to slap majid for being so spineless. And once he’s driven off you track back to the youngest son not collecting the couscous and in that instant you know nothing will go right. Slimane’s “girlfriend” making the couscous, that we know tastes terrible from a previous scene in the film, you know that will not help the restaraunts success and you are left with Slimane laid in the street.
The ending is bleak, you are left thinking about 2 possible options as to what could happen after. That everything does go tits up, or that maybe it will pull through. Whilst wishing it was the latter, in the back of your mind you can’t help but feel that it won’t pull through. Alex Rattigan

Couscous is deffinately the most realsitic film we have watched out of the three so far. I would say that right from the beginning when the family (which originate from Algeria) is introduced, that the audience get a big insight into the familys life and the every day problems that they face which is a common accurance in peoples life outside of film. For example the scenewhere the mother is potty training her youngest daughter this just highlights the domesticity that is shown. The realism is shown in a way that the whole film seems to be one big struggle for the family apart from  the opening of the restaurant where everything seems to be going on track. Wwhile this might not nessecarily be realism to a British audience it is more so likely to be realistic to a french audience as the family are not originated from France therefore as shown in the film they are treated more disrespectfully than they were if they were French.          Iain Fenton

I have to say, when I sat down to watch Couscous I had already anticipated what the film was going to be like.
In my head I imagined your typical and Slightly obscure, French subtitled film, that’s not very easy to understand and just leaves you expressing such noises as; “Hmm” “Yhuhummm” and occasionally “Well … that was interesting!”
I had not sat down with a very open mind and thus was my folly.
As my classmates above me have already explained; Couscous has got to be one of the most realistic films you can possibly encounter.
Just the simplicity and rawness of it totally dashes whatever expectations you hold when taking your seat.
The most impacting scene for myself which portrayed this, is possibly during the last 15 minutes or so, as the main character Slimane chases three young boys who have stolen his bike, his only transportation back to his restaurant (where the main event of the film is taking place). The poor guy is so old and he’s just constantly running and running out of nothing more than sheer desperation. As a viewer, it’s so real and you relate so well to the strife and agony that this man is going through, comparing it to your own personal experiences, which in turn breaks the language and subtitle barrier that so many people have trouble with. This then brings you and the film closer together in a plain of understanding that doesn’t rely on language to express. The experience of suffering.
Certainly, if a film can make you want to pulverise three small French children, then it must be doing something right as a realistic production?
That all being said, I didn’t really enjoy or like the film.
Where as it’s very interesting to ponder and pick apart, I found the picture itself quite tedious and mostly boring at times due to the already mentioned very long handheld scenes. The manic, crying, mucus covered Frenchwoman, possibly at the mid-point of the film, blaring in my eardrums for what felt like over 10 minutes didn’t really help me become a fan either. The scenes where very realistic and achieved what they set out to do in producing a very believable household scenario, kudos given. But I felt like some of the scenes were just very unnecessary and where just a waste of the viewers time, which they had given up to watch the film.
I understand that Couscous has been highly praised for the work that has obviously been put into it and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. However this is not a film I would say, recommend to my friends to watch. In short, a little too depressing for my taste.
– Luke Haley


June 1, 2009




I thought that Gomorrah gave a very good realist atmosphere for a few reasons. Firstly we are shown long scenes which we wouldn’t see in a non-realist film. These scenes sometimes show irrelevant parts of the film to give a sence of realsim, a lot like in Cous Cous with the very long family meal scene. Also, Gomorrah gives a sence of realism through its use of harsh reality. I believe that in film we can see something as beeing realist through harsh reality such as violence or poverty more other types because we are gripped by it.     Michael Macfadyen