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Monday, January 17, 2011

MLIT: Vampire Film School 101

Say what you will about the original Twilight film. True, the pancake make-up is laughably bad (though it gets better as the film goes on, almost as if they were running out toward the end). True, a lot of misguided effort went into practical effects (like, say, a complex-looking treadmill system used to make the vampires move quickly in sequences that were ultimately shown in slow motion, WHOOPS). True, Robert Pattinson doesn't have a grip on his American accent yet. But in many ways, it's an admirably weird film, especially when you remember that it was hugely popular with pre-teens. Most films popular with that set are slick, glossy-looking artless things. Twilight (directed by Catherine Hardwicke) is scrappy and nervy. The color palate is almost entirely blue, green, and black (including, weirdly, a few sequences set in Arizona).

I'm particularly a fan of the (admittedly) corny scene in which Edward forces Bella to speak aloud her suspicions that he is a vampire. It's a popular one among the Twi-Hards because it's quotable. "How long have you been seventeen?" Bella asks. "A long time," Edward replies. Ha ha. But someone like me can get behind it too, because the editing is way bizarre, and kind of... awesome?

For comparison's sake, take a look at a sequence of shots from the sequel, New Moon (directed by Chris Weitz):
Paired over-the-shoulder shots, pushing in closer as we grow to the point: Bella is coming. FINALLY, am I right? But seriously, this is some textbook shit right here. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's prosaic, workman-like. It gets the job done, nothing more. Now, here's an actual sequence of shots from the original Twilight (some of the lines are omitted because they take place in the same shot):
Kind of great, right? We keep unexpectedly veering up into the air, cutting in super-close to Robert Pattinson's face, changing filters for basically no reason at all. Editing-wise, it's anarchy! And tween romances could use a little more anarchic editing. A bunch of dead French writers from Cahiers Du Cinema are smoking cigarettes in their graves, going "Impeccable! Bonne! Croissant!" and other French shit.

If you're interested in reading about the way Breaking Dawn explores, or rather cheats at exploring, the issue of abortion, go here.


  1. Last week I watched twilight for the first time and I loved it. I was genuinely impressed by the realistic teen dialog. If they edited the ridiculous vampire fights they could actually have made a great non-guilty pleasure film. Maybe make Edward sick or something, give him a legitimate reason to not want to date Bella.

    However, 2ilight not only starts off with the vampire crap, but it never really gets on with the human side. Even the "longing scenes" come off like a bad evanescence video. I hope Eclipse is more like the first.

  2. I watched Twilight when it came out on DVD to see what all the backlash was about (and have since watched all three, because apparently I hate myself. Also, Anna Kendrick and Kristen Stewart are pretty). Like Chris, I kinda liked it, decent acting, loved the color palette, it was at least on par with most of the teen flicks from the 80's or early 90's. The whole inclusion of vampires, which made it super explainy for no reason (everyone knows what a vampire is, stop telling us or making up new shit about them) and the sexual motif were what made it terrible. There is a scene where Edward flies into Bella's room at night and just watches her? That is restraing order creepy. It wasn't the director's fault, she did a great job with the source material. The source material is just a pile of shit.

    I don't agree with your Biterion review that New Moon was better. It became too self-aware of its popularity, trying to make everything look prettier and more dramatic, but my guess is the new director tried to stay closer to the book (please confirm or debunk, zac), so we get about five plotlines which are all stupid and non-sensical.

    And get to reviewing Eclipse already. Because that is the biggest piece of shit out of the three. Even though its gotten more meta, which is a good thing, the pace is so terrible, nothing actually happens for, like, two hours and the super-cool fight between the two armies is only four minutes? Go fuck yourself, Eclipse.

  3. I actually did review it, it's just that the directory system on my blog is totally unsustainable and I haven't updated it.

    And having seen Twilight and New Moon twice now, I take back my claim that NM was better.