17. Metafilm

Our last week. We’ve looked at the way film charts history in myriad ways. We’ve studied the history of film and the film of history. We’ve talked at length about how film changes history, and how each film about any time often reflects its own time most closely. Now we will end the year by watching films that investigate the history of film. Films investigating themselves, critiquing themselves (the business of film, the culture of Hollywood, the history of technological advances, the passing of and homage to styles and ears, etc.). In this way, we wrap the year with the quintessential Film & History films. Hugo references our first of class, with a fanciful and wondrous revival of the Journey to the Moon through filmic techniques new and old. The Artist re-imagines the transition from silent films to talkies through a critique of stardom and fame, while also providing a subtle investigation of the nationalization of film as a result of the end of the silent era. Pennies from Heaven, Lala Land, and Singin’ in the Rain all look at the business of film from completely different emotional angles. Pennies from Heaven simultaneously celebrates and critiques the fantasy world enabled by film, utilizing musical in the style of Busby Berkeley with lip-syncing and irony to underscore the deep scars of the depression era. Lala Land takes a much more standard Hero’s Journey approach, uncritically celebrating Hollywood, the culture around it, and the struggles of making it. Singin’ in the Rain, is something of a combination of Lala Land and The Artist, as it celebrates Hollywood during the transition to talkies, with the use of musical numbers just as all of the other films on this list except Hugo. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “17. Metafilm

  1. This week, the films I watched were La La Land and The Artist. I feel like these are great films to pair with one another. Both dealing with Hollywood and the life of actors, they are set in different times. The Artist takes place during the transition between silent films and “talkies” or films with dialogue. I love the whole look and feel of this film, being released in 2011, the film is entirely in black and white and silent. It was filmed on modern cameras so it also has clear crisp cinematography. I always get so invested with this film and always feel like I get in the main characters head. The film feels like a love letter to the time it is set in and I can never get enough of it. La La Land feels like a love letter to the classic Hollywood musicals with its own twist. The actors sang each song on the day, meaning there was no prerecording/overlay of audio so it makes the film feel like a theatre piece and more realistic.


    1. It’s cool that a black and white silent film can get you into the main character’s heads. I bet the time during the transition between silent films and talkies made the film pretty cool.


  2. I watched La La Land this week, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was a celebration of Hollywood and musicals as a whole, but also its own story inside the lives of those who live in it. I really connected with the piano player character as he reminded me a lot of ,myself. Anyways I enjoyed the bit at the beginning where the whole highway breaks into song, similar to how in real-life musicals everyone sings a majority of the time. It was a meta nod and puts the random singing into perspective. when we see that happening in real life its confusing and weird and not the same feel as when you are watching it on a stage.


    1. I’ve never seen La La Land (I really need to) but it sounds interesting and I’d like to see how they portray what happens on and off stage from a different perspective.


  3. I watched Pennies from Heaven and I absolutely loved it right from the start with the charming music and the strange lip-syncing. I liked watching the characters struggling with music and the ridiculousness of all of all of them breaking out into song like every 5 minutes. The most entertaining part was when they would sing and the voices wouldn’t match who was singing at all. (For example they would give a man a high-pitched woman’s voice). The film makes you really sympathize with the poor characters that lacking money and trying to be successful. (I really love the guy he picked up on the side of the road with the accordion!!)


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