Friday, February 13, 2015

Media on Repeat

Inspired by the monthly newsletter I've been receiving from Kyra and Nico of Snail Mail, here, one more time on this blog, are three short films I'm crazy about. After how many views and how many years since I first saw them, I continue to draw fresh air from them.

There is something very rewarding about watching a piece of art that has elements of serious planning as well as elements of serendipity. What each of the short films accomplishes is a neat structure that supports a goal that is both concrete and unpredictable. The truth about both life and filmmaking is that planning does nothing more than get you there. It is a vehicle in which to turn the key; the rest seemingly happens on its own. I admire how each film works from a simple platform to embrace the spontaneous moments that evolve around the camera.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

"MOVE" has that entrancing structure; the main subject is centered on camera and is making his way towards us from an extreme long shot. He reaches us quite quickly, walking into a medium shot and satisfying that question if he ever will reach us. Next the music shifts and we see a full-body, side-shot of him walking and progressing from the left- to the right-hand side of the screen. He travels through different backgrounds and different cities. As the viewer, we get a sense of his journey and how far he has walked and how much energy it has taken.

The soundtrack carries us back to the original set up with the main subject centered and walking towards us. This time, the eye flutters away from watching him (because he has already reached us) and is able to better watch what is going on around him. It is here that those wonderful life moments make the heart well with pleasure.

Two particular shots: the first one with the birds taking off when he claps is fucking awesome. I imagine the filmmakers being very pleased and very excited about capturing that moment. I feel like it was one of those great shooting days - where they had been doing a lot of filming already, using the chosen formula, and they came across this opportunity and it worked marvelously. The second is of him walking through the field and running his hands across the grains, which is so instinctual. How soothing and peaceful it is among the mostly urban sprawl of shots. The editor does an excellent job of working with the music to hold that moment up, letting the ambient noise take over for as long as it needs.

The main subject's progress in reaching us the second time is slower, but the edits get quicker as he moves into a close-up shot, where he smiles at us from the shoulders up. We experience more of those great life moments - shouting at a baseball game, the nightlife fun, and those scenes of pure worldly beauty. It is exhilarating and madly comforting to watch.

During the faster and faster edits, the music gains momentum and lands us in the final shot. There he is, a big grin on his face, the mountains behind him, and a backpack on his back. Turning around away from the camera, he moves with curiosity as he takes everything in. It is funny; we have seen him in so many different places yet he remains full with wonder. As he finds his pace, walking down the trail towards the mountain, the camera pans up to the blue skies with its message: MOVE.


LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

"LEARN" and "EAT" do similar things as "MOVE." They have a defined structure that leaves plenty of room for life. Some of the more planned elements, again, revolve around the camera movement and shot choices. In general, the camera moves with the action in both short films. There is an interesting artistic decision to swoop in and out of shots in "LEARN" that surely was fun to edit together. There are also a ton of close-up shots of the main subject and the people he meets, as well as extreme close-up shots of faces and details in these two shorts. I would argue that the addition of detail shots, or insert shots, is more successful in "EAT" than in "LEARN." 

The real world audio is something really nice to hear. It gives the viewer a sense of the atmosphere and the sounds associated with the new activities and skills being learned and the new foods being eaten. I really enjoy that effect, to which I say, "Bravo!" sound editing. 

Again, the unpredictable scenes captured on film invigorate my heart. In "LEARN," that groan when he is playing soccer with the group of kids and the shot with him and the chocolatier, both sweaty and proud, are my favorites. In "EAT," those noodles falling just before he gets them to his mouth and the final shot with the champagne. Brilliant.

The filmmaking decisions made do an incredible job of embracing the ideas that title these three shorts. "MOVE" is indeed about moving and traveling. The shot choices (extreme long shots, long shots) give us a beautiful view of the world and the different kinds of environments one can walk in. There are some recognizable landmarks, but the emphasis is not on any particular city, just that there are many cities in the world.

The following, hand-held camera movements (steadicam, perhaps) and close-up and extreme close-up shots in "LEARN" and "EAT" give us an eye in the action and the eats. It is well done, and the viewer gets a good sense of friendship and camaraderie, moving along with the main subject. He is attractive and seems like an all around nice guy. It feels like we might be the ones filming him, and I really like being able to hear reactions from the off-camera crew. The laughs when the champagne explodes unexpectedly, for example.

Watching these three short films gives me joy and hope. Joy in good filmmaking and concept. Hope about my future and what I could be doing. I do consider travel to be part of my values system. I am working on making money less of a mental priority so that travel can seem less expensive and more meaningful. There are tendencies of forced dancing and laughing and eating because I spent money on it. The emphasis on experience and open opportunity in these films makes things very simply: possible. 

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