Lost in the Movies: In the Beginning...

In the Beginning...

A meme for those who love pictures

But first, a birthday notice.

In three days, it will be two years since I started this blog. In that time, it and I have been through many changes, but the adventure began with a dual review of Be Kind Rewind and the Lumieres' short films on July 16, 2008. No pictures, no sidebar, an all-white page. And of course, no comments - yet. For several weeks, all was silent - then the first commentators arrived on August 1. Why? I had participated in a "meme", answering the question "if you could program a dozen screenings, what would they be?" Since then, memes - both those I participated in, and those I initiated - have resulted in many of my most popular posts. For that reason, and for another, I am now kicking off a new exercise. In a moment I'll lay out the origin, the rules, and my own tags. First though, thanks to all those who made the past couple years eventful and interesting, and for providing encouragement through the twists and turns of my online enterprises. For those new to The Dancing Image, feel free to explore - visit the "Top Posts" tab to see the work I'm most proud of, "The Directory" to delve deeper, or "The Picture Gallery" to explore what it's all about - those fantastic images which dance across screen and consciousness alike.

Which brings us to that "other reason" for the meme, mentioned above. Several months ago, Stephen of the colorful blog Checking on My Sausages, initiated his own picture gallery. He invited readers to submit "a gallery of images ...to stand for so much of what makes Cinema such a rich and exciting medium." I promised to contribute, but in truth I was stymied. How to chose one image, or even several images, which could represent the thrill of cinema - so much of which has to do with movement, fluctuation, and context? Even some of the powerful moments I could think of - the cut to the static cityscape in Momma Roma, Michael's silent scream at the end of Godfather Part III (or closing the door on his wife in Part I) - relied upon juxtaposition or understanding of the story for their full effect. While appreciating the submissions Stephen received, I dragged my own feet and never fulfilled my promise.

Then, recently, it hit me. When does a single image matter most? When a film opens, when we eagerly await the revelation of its world, and then jump right in. The bulk of my post - nine pictures (including the one above) and my reflections on this theme - proceeds from this conclusion, but in truth, there was a more crucial epiphany here than just the importance of beginnings. I realized that having a theme, an inspiration to go hunting, was in itself enough to spur me on; the actual theme being secondary to the encouragement it provided. And that, finally, brings me to the meme. Here are the rules.

1. Pick as many pictures as you want - but make them screen-captures. The idea is that we're paying tribute to what's onscreen, so production stills - however enticing - just won't do. These have to be images from the movies themselves.

2. Pick a theme, any theme. If you want, you can follow my lead and chose "opening moments" but won't it be more interesting if everybody chooses something different? Character reveals, maybe, or moments of death, memorable reaction shots, even conventional establishing shots (Michael Atkinson wrote a great piece on their poetry a while back). Pick away...

3. You MUST link to Stephen's gallery and my post too. Sorry for the red, but it's an important rule, no? Stephen has also invited submissions to include a caption. I've decided to let the images speak for themselves, but you are welcome to follow his lead and enter a short, terse summary of why you picked what you did.

4. Tag five blogs. I'd like to tag some bloggers who are especially fond of (and talented at using) screen-caps. However, anyone reading this can consider themselves tagged too - get to work! My own tags: Jeremy Richey at Moon in the Gutter, shanh at sixmartinis and the seventh art, Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running, Allan Fish at Wonders in the Dark, and Ed Howard at Only the Cinema (he already contributed one image to Stephen's gallery, but let's see if he can do the themed thing).

The rest is up to you.

And now for my own choices...

The above is a perfect summary of what I'm after here. Who are those two figures - whose faces we can't see? They certainly look tired, bedraggled, pathetic. Indeed, we seem to be coming in after an event, or in the midst of one, rather than before - "in media res," as screenwriters like to say. Yet the written word can do little to suggest the power of the picture itself. The moment comes from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, in which he cuts directly from the final title of the credits sequence to this very image. All of the other pictures I've chosen do the same. I was very strict with myself, and would not include images preceded by even a one- or two-frame fade-up. Only sharp, quick cuts, right into the visual thick of things, would do. So there isn't any "No Trespassing" sign, nor any old Italian man draped in shadow, nor - perhaps most disappointing of all - any suckling donkey at peace in the brief moments before a human hand will reach across the screen, gently but forebodingly separating him from his mother. Perhaps someone else will take up this challenge; if so, I applaud them. For myself, I decided to stick with "cold opens" - not true in the strictest sense, since in most cases these images follow credit sequences; true, however, inasmuch as they hit us with the force of a cold-water awakening. After words - the image, indefinable, uncontainable.

I once wrote about the power of these openings (when reviewing the final episode of "Twin Peaks" - a series that knows something about the power of beginnings). I'll use this passage as a segue into the remaining lineup of seven images, since it references my first pick:
"Nothing satiates our anticipation like a good beginning. I recall several examples of this from my own viewing past. One derives from my immersion into Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales - as I popped Claire's Knee into the DVD player, aware of its marvellous premise, but uncertain as to how it would extend this novel idea into a feature - my curiosity was crystallized in an eager anticipation of the film's first scene. After the briefest of titles, Rohmer opened the film on a beautiful lake, with a figure in a motorboat speeding under a bridge, the camera following in admiring pursuit. Somehow this seemed thrilling, liberating - the journey had begun, and we, like the character onscreen, were the obverse of Fitzgerald's famous boater, borne ceaselessly into the future, rather than the past."

The pictures: Stranger Than Paradise, The Hidden Fortress, Claire's Knee, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Masculin Feminin, The House is Black, Raging Bull, Le Samourai.

This is a Top Post. To see other highlights of The Dancing Image, visit the other Top Posts.

Postscript: List of participating blogs (continually updated)

Special notice to Dean Treadway, who's gone all out and will be offering 101 200 (!) images:
Filmicability Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI

The Agitation of the Mind ("Flight")
Beers on the Beach ("The Vastness of Outer Space")
The Blue Vial ("Curiosity Killed")
Checking On My Sausages ("Passion and Resurrection")
The Cooler ("Images That Thrill")
Colonel Mortimer Will Have His Revenge ("Cinema Within Cinema")
Deadly Serious ("Moments in Madness")
Elusive As Robert Denby ("Visages of Horror")
The Exploding Kinetoscope ("Frozen Smoke")
The Film Doctor ("Cinema and the Eye")
Gateway Cinephiles ("A Study in Scarlet, and other hues")
Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies ("Eyeballing a Meme")
I'm Not Patty ("Guess the Theme")
John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Film/TV ("Images of America")
Kindertrauma ("Darkness")
Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer ("Heroic Silhouettes")
Lights in the Dusk ("In a Lonely Place")
Little Worlds ("Yes! Moments" #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10)
Moon in the Gutter ("In Through The Mirror...")
Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic ("Sci-Fi in Technicolor")
My New Plaid Pants ("Toilets Humored")
Only the Cinema ("Five Sensual Shots")
Peel Slowly ("Tear-Stained Images")
Quiet Cool ("complimentary/contradictory themes/images")
Radiator Heaven ("Images of Isolation")
six martinis and the seventh art ("A Single Image")
Some Came Running ("Sleepers awake")
Things That Don't Suck ("Grace")
Unmuzzled Thoughts ("The Thrill of the Long Shot")
Women Shaping Technology ("Spectacle of the Spectator")
See also "Legsploitation" which was not compiled for the meme, but fits (or should I say "foots"?) the bill.

Sheila O'Malley also seems to have posted her themed pictures independently of the meme, but I encourage you to visit her post on "Doorways in John Ford's The Searchers", which is certainly in the spirit of the exercise.

If you've jumped in, but don't see your blog here, notify in the comments section, and I'll add it.


Just Another Film Buff said...

Just 2 years?! And so many, many posts. Congrats on this achievement, MovieMan. It's a terrific site that you've got here. And all the stunning comments on other sites as well. You really are one of the most thought-provoking commentators on this corner of the blogosphere that I know. Remarkable stuff.

And this is a magnificent initiative as well. Let's see what it generates.

Just Another Film Buff said...

This set of opening images is terrific, MovieMan. Brings back some great memories of Jarmusch and Godard. And for a minute there, I mistook The Shining for 13 Lakes!

I had done something like this collection, very crude and instructive though, on Polanski

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks for the kind words, JAFB. As for the initiative, feel free to take up the baton! Great Polanski post, by the way...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 2 years MM!!!

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Wonderful images, terrific idea and thanks so much for including me in this group! I will try and post my images in the next day or so. I really have to think on it...thanks again. Oh, and congrats on the anniversary...very well done!

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Anon!

Can't wait to see your picks, Jeremy. Feel free to take your time, as you can see with my once-a-week postings, I've no stake in rushing things along...

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Here's my picks (with a specific theme)...hope you dig them and thanks again!


Stephen said...

I'm honoured, MovieMan, to be mentioned here and I will indeed contribute, but what theme I don't yet know. I won't forget to link to myself, either!

"Then, recently, it hit me. When does a single image matter most? When a film opens, when we eagerly await the revelation of its world, and then jump right in."

Absolutely. Very well said.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Stephen - and thanks for providing the initial inspiration!

shahn said...

I got your tag, MovieMan. I' in the middle of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival right now but will add something once I recover.

Stephen said...


I've posted my themed images.


Joel Bocko said...

shahn, take your time - can't wait to see the results...

Stephen, glad to see it come full circle!

Sam Juliano said...

It's a great achievement of course to have gone two years, and you've done much for the blogosphere as well. At WitD you've been a beacon in so many ways, my friend.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Sam. The adventure continues...

Dean Treadway said...

Hey, Movieman! Well I finished the initial salvo of image choices at http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2010/07/i-visited-ed-howards-only-cinema-other.html

Great choices on your end. And I love how you published them so large! That first shot from THE SHINING is always particularly stunning.

Tell me what you think. I'll be posting two more parts within the next 3 days.

Joel Bocko said...

Dean, you nut! I can't wait to see the rest...

The Caustic Ignostic said...

Here's my entry:


Joel Bocko said...

Great post, Cau/Ig, and the Cache picture gave me a great idea for another theme: drawings onscreen. Get to work, someone...

le0pard13 said...

First of all, thanks to Stephen and you for starting and running with this grand idea. And thank you very much for including me in the list of participating blogs. I'm honored to be there among a wonderful list of bloggers and their magnificent image galleries.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks - and I hope it keeps growing!

vision said...

quite an ambitious undertaking, though deviously manageable through delegation amongst film blogs — kudos!

I have eagerly compiled an entry of my own: http://vision.butanpressfight.com/?p=1527

Stephen said...

This thing you've started is really flourishing, MovieMan. I've been following it around the net knowing that if I miss something I can find them all compiled here.

I'm loving it. It's funny how a single image from a film can make you desperate to see it.

Stephen said...

I came across one here:


Joel Bocko said...

Agreed, Stephen. Dean's are particular torture in that regard - but I love it!

Bryce Wilson said...

Here's mine


Stephen Altobello said...

What a great meme! And your choice of images is beautiful.

Here's my post:

Now I have to alert those that I've tagged!

shahn said...

My post is up!

Peteski said...

4 years, one film still a day


Joel Bocko said...

I wasn't going to publish the last comment, as it's formatted like spam, and maybe it is but I have to admit this is actually a pretty cool site.

Dean Treadway said...

Okay! Part six is finally up! http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2010/08/cinema-gallery-200-images-part-6.html

Colonel Mortimer said...

I was never officially tagged, but I did seize upon open invitation on other blogs, and here is my contribution, it was fun!:


Kelli Marshall said...

Here's mine, "The Thrill of the Long Shot": http://kellimarshall.net/unmuzzledthoughts/popculture/film/thrill-long-shot/


KineticFrames said...

Can't believe I've only just come across your incredible site! And this meme has been utterly inspiring. I have been doing mini meme's on my blog but more crude versions in which the focus is on physical items, like the appearance of guns in films.

This meme has also introduced me to some other amazing film blogs - so thank you so much and thanks to everyone for their brilliant contributions. I may summon up the courage and join in myself.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, KF. Please post the link here if you do join up, I'd love to see your entry. You have a great-looking blog there, elegant typeface as well as eye-catching pictures.

Mike said...

That picture of Alex in Clockwork Orange always sends shivers down my spine.

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