Sunday, 25 March 2012

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Filmed in: United States 
Title Sequence

This film was directed by Quentin Tarantino, it is a tribute film to the 1970’s Blaxploitation films. The film is about a middle aged black air hostess who is involved with an arms dealer in the film.  The opening sequence of the film uses a medium close up, tracking shot to show the character moving along a moving walkway; these are commonly found in airports. The profile view enables the audience to see her iconic costume, which the audience can relate immediately with an air hostess, they can also tell that this woman is a very important character within the film due to the long period of time just focused on her in particular. Tarantino has chosen to use ambient lighting in this scene; he has also used non-diegetic sound of the song 110th Street by Bobby Womack.

When the woman comes off the moving walkway, the music becomes a higher tempo and reaches the chorus, the camera then cuts to a shot of the scanning machines, scanning the bags in the airport. It shows the passengers going through high security procedures, and shows the main character Jackie Brown passing past security and going straight to the terminal, and behind the desk.  This could suggest why no one suspects her to help the criminal, or to have committed the crime.

It then cuts to a low angle tracking shot of Jackie walking through the airport. She has an elegant posture which suggests importance, she is also at the forefront of the shot; this suggests moral superiority; she is powerful and stands out.  It also suggests to the audience that she has a high status and moral status. She does not make eye contact with anyone she comes across, and therefore may seem obscure.  Jackie is walking the opposite way to everybody else walking in the shot. Tarantino may have done this purposely to foreshadow that Jackie will later turn against society.

The camera then cuts to a medium close up of Jackie walking towards the camera, the camera is entirely focused on Jackie, everyone else is blurred out, and this suggests she is extremely important within the film. It  then cuts to a low angle, medium shot of Jackie walking through the airport, but this time she is walking much faster than everybody else , this suggests she is one step ahead of everyone in the film. Tarantino has purposely done this to ensure that the audience are completely focused on Jackie and no other characters within this clip.

When this scene is finished it cuts to another of two men slumped on a sofa watching television, Tarantino is trying to convey the corrupt society of America through the programme on the television. The programme is about guns and half naked girls; he also conveys the violence in America by showing the statue of liberty with a gun.

The shooting of Beaumont Livingstone
At the beginning of this scene we see Ordell visiting Beaumont at his apartment, during night time. Tarantino has used a medium close up of the two characters on a thin balcony, there is no sense of community and the low key lighting are all factors that connote isolation. Beaumont is represented as vulnerable due to the fact he is half naked.  Ordell however is fully dressed and is shown wearing flashy gold necklaces and pendants, something which indicates he is a wealthy man. It creates a sense of power, but also vulgarity.  Ordells costume reflects that of a hip hop gangster. This may reflect on the way he views women, videos such as the one below show that women are shown as pretty 'objects'.
At 3.34 the two characters are shown from a very low angle, within the boot of a car; a very generic convention of the thriller genre as it connotes claustrophobia and isolation. The angle used by the camera is to show the power of Ordell within the scene. This low angle shot from within the boot is very much part of Tarantino’s style; he used it in, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir dogs, Death proof, Kill Bill and several other films that he has made.
PULP FICTION (1994) Marsellus wakes up after being hit by Butch's car

Later when Butch hits Maynard.
RESERVOIR DOGS  (1992)   Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink and Mr. White looking at Marvin Nash.

Zoe and Kim looking under the hood of Jasper's 1970 Dodge Challenger.
The Bride looking at Sofie Fatale in the car.

The Deadly Vipers and Sheriff McGrawooking at the dead Bride.

 He even uses the ‘trunk shot’ more than once throughout ‘Jackie Brown’

Ordell looks very confident; they are talking about hit men and guns, and standing over a boot containing the guns.  They also talk about junk food, a way in which Tarantino is trying to convey to the audience the obsession with junk food in America. Tarantino has used this angle to create tension and to create a sense of threat.  The noir lighting has been used to create a dark atmosphere amongst the audience. From this angle the audience can see that on the left; Ordell, is wearing black and on the right of the shot is Beaumont; in white. Beaumont is wearing white to indicate his naivety and that he is gullible.
Beaumont is then shown to be shut in the boot, which can be linked to the victim in Essex boys who was put at the back of the van and taken to a place where Jason could dispose of him. When Beaumont enters the car trunk on his own accord, it foreshadows his death that is soon to come. It also allows the audience to think about how trunks are usually used in thriller films; for kidnapped victims. Quentin has used dark mise on scene and to a close up shot of Ordell sat in the car, which is a very generic convention of the thriller genre. The audience can hear the non- diegetic sound of the music and the diegetic sound of him putting on his gloves. The audience are then made aware of the gun when Ordell pulls it out of the glove compartment.  The audience can hear the diegetic sound of Ordell touching and twirling his gun. Ordell is then shown turning round and smirking; this indicates to the audience what will happen next.
It cuts to a shot of the car, from the front with the headlights on. A car with its headlights on is a generic convention of the thriller genre; it was used in Peter Weirs ‘Witness.’ Both shots in Witness and in this scene have used noir lighting and been used to create surrealism and to create visually pleasing aesthetics, it has also been used to make the audience feel as if they are witnessing a nightmare.  As the car turns around, the light is faced straight into the camera lens.  The low angle shot of the car makes it seem menacing, and like an angel of death. It also makes the audience aware in this case that the car takes people away, and doesn’t bring them back.  The car speeds down the wet, dark street. This can be inter-textually referenced to Thelma and Louise, in the scene they are escaping from the car park; the streets are also wet and dark.
Non ambient lighting is used to show the low angle, panning shot of the car speeding into the vanishing point, which can be linked to Witness also, when Samuel walks into the toilet. The camera pans to a high angle long shot of the car. The camera is also showing a high angle, long shot of a poorly lit abandoned warehouse/ factory which represents Ordells’ personality, something which the audience realise shortly. The audience can then see the car coming into the grounds of the abandoned factory. The scene of the shooting is filmed from a long shot, which leaves the audience to use their imagination. This conveys to the audience Ordell’s attitude, it tells them that his morals and emotions are detached from society and from his actions.

Shopping with Robert De Niro is no fun
In this scene Louis and Melanie have gone to the shop, where two bags have been exchanged. This scene is set in day light, which challenges the conventions of the thriller genre. At the beginning of the scene the audience sees that Melanie is struggling and trying to escape from Louis’s clutch. They also see that she is winding him up, by playing games. The audience can tell that Melanie is immature – she is the ‘Dumb blonde’ that smokes dope.  As the scene continues the audience can tell that Louis is growing to be aggravated. 
When the two exit in the car park, and are finding the car, Melanie questions him. The audience are abruptly surprised when Louis shoots her in daylight in the middle of a supermarket car park this shows that Louis is ruthless; he murders Melanie in broad daylight, and is not afraid of the consequences. He is a dangerous canon.  This scene shows that the typical ‘dumb blonde’ has taken another direction, but ‘Black Jackie’ is going places. She’s going up in the world, whether than Melanie is going down.

1 comment:

  1. My teacher posted this:
    vmbJan 12, 2012 08:08 AM
    Mandy I posted a long comment about your work on how Tarantino establishes character in Jackie Brown. Did you get this post through the school email system?
    vmbJan 12, 2012 08:47 AM
    The soundtrack over the title sequence is a reference to the Blaxploitation films that Pam Greer starred in in the 1970's so the soundtrack is a homage to these films specifically a film called "Fox Brown"
    You say... Jackie is walking the opposite way to everybody else walking in the shot. ..
    Well done for identifying this aspect of mise-en-scene. I'd not noticed this before. Of course you are right, Jackie goes against the grain, she is not only smart and challenges the authority of the law and of the gangster Ordell Robbie, she also goes against the grain of the female archetype in thriller films. She outsmarts everybody, is independent and doesn't define herself through relationships with men; she challenges the conventional representation of women in mainstream films - she is black, middle aged and works for the worst airline in the USA.
    The image of the Statue of Liberty and the gun blasting is an ironic reference to the USA's obsession with guns - here he's having a dig at the gun lobby.
    Note contrast between the long title sequence where the focus is on iconic images of Jackie Brown who's body language indicates her status (as you've noted) and the slumped body language of Ordell and Louis. Immediately Tarantino establishes their characters as low life losers through the way they're sitting. Their attitude to women and guns also suggests impotence and immaturity. This is linked to Ordell's bling in the sequence when he shoots Beaumont, his costume here indicates his vanity whilst also linking him to the dress code of some wrap singers and hip hop artists some of whom are notorious misogynists.
    Well done for identifying the purpose of the long shot of Ordell shooting Beaumont suggesting his detachment from reality (he can't look his victim in the face), his cowardice and lack of empathy - all the ingredients that indicate his psychopathic nature.
    Splendid references to similar low angle shots from Tarantino’s repertoire - this indicates your engagement with research and understanding of the importance of inter textuality in films
    Some promising work and indicating growing confidence in conceptual understanding. An interesting and intelligent post Mandy.