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Analysis of the Film American Beauty Filmed in 1999 - Essay Example

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“American Beauty,” a film released just before the turn of the millennium in, November of 1999, and directed by Sam Mendes both follows in the foot steps of many films that have come before it whilst maintaining a unique and independent style. It differed significantly from the traditional practice of movie production in several ways, most notably the heavy involvement of the screenplay’s writer, Alan Ball, on set throughout production (Sarris)…
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Analysis of the Film American Beauty Filmed in 1999
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Analysis of the Film American Beauty Filmed in 1999

Download file to see previous pages... “American Beauty” is a remarkable achievement in several ways. Despite having somewhat traditional cinematography, the artistic accomplishments of this movie in other aspects of film making and its following critical acclaim (including all of the awards that it won upon its release) led directly to widespread commercial success. Many aspects of the cinematography of “American Beauty” are somewhat traditional while avoiding cliche – at very least they are very far from experimental in any real way. The film, for instance, follows the rule of thirds nearly dogmatically, always maintaining action along the imaginary lines that would divide the screen vertically and horizontally. It tends to avoid extreme close-ups and distant medium shots while focusing on close ups and long shots, which all conspire to give this film something of a classical Hollywood look. This traditional Hollywood look that pervades the movie is useful, however, in differentiating the ‘produced’ aspects of the movie which has a generally negative tone, focusing on emotions and ideas such as despair, and ugliness, from other aspects of the film which focus on the polar opposite of these ideas, namely hope and beauty. Hope, one of this films major themes, is consistently connected a certain kind of shot: aerial shots of the suburbia in which the central family of the show lives. These aerial shots, frequently featuring excellent narration by Kevin Spacey, usually focus on the chances of life to expand beyond the mundane and reach into the ethereal. These shots are especially effective because they invoke an otherworldly quality, almost of a being in an afterlife looking down benevolently onto the town. By evoking the afterlife these shots give an underlying feeling of hope and possibility in the crowd. These shots, by departing so drastically from more traditional Hollywood cinematography, draw attention to themselves and their departure from the darker themes of the rest of the movie. This departure from the traditional Hollywood style for the purpose of aerial shots has one other major parallel in the film, the classic and oft referenced (and mocked) handheld shots of a bag blowing through the breeze. These shots focus on beauty that can be found anywhere in the world, even in the most basic events throughout life. The shots are not only of bags blowing in the wind, but also show one of the main characters, Jane Burnham, portrayed by Thora Birch, disrobing and exposing her breasts to another person for the first time. This openness and beauty juxtaposes her general shyness and awkwardness, showing that even in her somewhat un-perfect packaging beauty can be found. The use of a grainy and unsteady handy-cam to display these signs of beauty, contrasting the high quality shots of ugliness not only draws attention to the shots, but also highlights a final of the film’s major themes: conflict and juxtaposition. One of the essential aspects of “American Beauty” is that there are incredible amounts of contrast within everything from characters (such as a homophobic gay man) to the world itself, which is both ugly and beautiful. Beauty displayed by an ugly handycam video contrasts with ugliness from a high quality video camera to show the essential conflict between opposing ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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