Tag: Hugh Jackman

The Greatest Showman

GSOE_D32_013117_9584.cr2The very likeable Australian, Hugh Jackman, and that other very likeable Australian, Michelle Williams, join an ensemble cast including Zac Efron (who reprises his High School Musical years and proves he’s still got the moves) to bring us the latest big screen musical.

The Greatest Showman is based very loosely on the real P.T. Barnum (Jackman) who grows up a pauper and marries his childhood sweetheart Charity (Williams). The film tells his rags to riches story as an entrepreneur and entertainer who gathers a bunch of “freaks” and forms a lucrative entertainment show. Soon, Barnum with the help of Carlyle (Efron) is mixing in the same circles as the famous Opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Lind becomes a distraction he cannot afford and that is when cracks appear in his entertainment empire.

It’s important to know that this retelling of Barnum’s life is certainly not a good history lesson.  This tale of empowerment is completely at odds the real Barnum who was, if the history books are to be believed, more exploitative and self-promoting than the warm and affable Hugh Jackman version would suggest. The film quickly becomes a fantasy that distorts the truth so much it makes you wonder why they bothered to “base” it on a historical character in the first place. In short, The Greatest Showman is peddling the age-old Hollywood lie. But hey, that’s ok when the musical numbers are this heartfelt, right? Certainly, The Greatest Showman doesn’t seem to make any apologies.

There is no denying the film’s enthusiasm and emotive sway.  It’s musical numbers drum up the kind of feel-good vibes that would put the likes of Gordon Ramsay in a good mood.  Musicians Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, seem to be at the peak of their powers right now; they wrote songs for last year’s La La Land and here they’ve penned the kind of songs that become household anthems, playing in your head for weeks. Before you know it you’ll be dusting your daughter’s copy of Frozen just to change the channel.

Outside of the music numbers (eleven in all), the film methodically moves from plot juncture to plot juncture in search of the next foot tapping number.  Narratively, The Greatest Showman doesn’t break any new ground, nor does it seem to want to.  Instead, it appears content to plod an increasingly well-trodden path and trade in narrative complexities for the evocative cheer of its musical numbers. No doubt its well choreographed and sentimentally catchy tunes will have you leaving the theatre basking in its warm glow but unfortunately its lack of narrative depth makes the glow fade fast… but you’ll be humming those songs for months.

   

You can see my published reviews here.

Cinematic complexion and “feeling” colour: The Fountain

FountainBarcode

I have explained in my previous posts the significance of cinematic colour complexion to aid the spectator’s ability to “feel” films. You can read my entire thesis on Aronofsky and phenomenology by following this link. Here I will illustrate this using the colour signature and colour barcode of Darren Aronofsky’s third feature film, The Fountain (2006). This signature and barcoding technique offers a concise visualisation of a film’s dominant colours. The colour signature (the solid bar above the barcode) is a consolidation of all the colours used in a film and serves to distinguish a film’s propensity to lean towards a particular hue. The signature is broken down into the RGB (red, green, blue) colour-space and the values represent the brightness of each hue (the higher the number the brighter the hue). The colour barcodes (below the colour signature) represents the colour of each frame in the film. Each frame has been captured and squeezed into a strand of colour. When the colours are placed side-by-side chronologically, the result reads like a colour barcode of the film. Starting from the beginning of the film at the left, the barcode can be read as a colour timeline and indicates the dominant colours for large portions of the film.

The Fountain has the darkest complexion of the colour films studied here, as indicated by the lower colour signature values. The significantly lower blue value confirms the film’s propensity towards golden and earthy hues. Unlike Requiem for a Dream‘s changing hue, The Fountain only changes the brightness of the same hue. Furthermore, The Fountain‘s colour palette operates in the opposite temporal direction to Requiem for a Dream‘s undulating descent towards the winter of addiction. As the title suggests, the The Fountain thematically explores ascent rather than descent as is immediately apparent in the barcode’s increasing brightness from left to right. It achieves this structure through various methods. The theme of ascent is illustrated through the progression of multiple narrative arcs: Tomas’ (Hugh Jackman) progress through his quest, the completion of Izzi’s (Rachel Weisz) book, and Tom’s progress towards Xibalba. There are also visual motifs that support this theme: Tomas’ ascent of the Mayan pyramid, Tommy and Izzi’s constant gaze towards the heavens, and Tom’s vertical (as opposed to horizontal) ascent through space. These motifs dramatically illustrate the film’s progression from dark into light. However, these thematic markers require immediate cognitive assessments on the part of the spectator. Consider Tom’s ascent towards Xibalba. His journey towards this dying star represents his journey towards accepting death. The journey lasts for the entire film, and, as the spectator, I am cognisant of his progression due to narrative clues contained within the film’s script, paired with visual clues, such as stars flying vertically past the spaceship. However, the feeling of ascent is strengthened through the treatment of colour. The Fountain‘s colour barcode clearly illustrates the film’s ascent from darkness towards light. This gradual treatment of colour is something that the spectator is not immediately cognisant of. Through the use of colour, The Fountain helps the spectator to feel the theme of ascent non-cognitively, and therefore phenomenologically.