Stairs, with LNS

London Nautical School have joined the Cinematheque project for the third year; half of the cohort of 16 boys were with us last year, half are new to the programme.  They’re a mix of Years 8 and 9.  Film-maker Sam Lawlor, and teacher Chris Waugh, are with us once again.  It all happens on a Thursday after school..

Last week, week 3 of their programe, we were looking at the use of stairs in the mise en scene.  It looked to be all about Hitchcock (Shadow of a Doubt; Marnie; Psycho, Vertigo) until we came across the staircase sequence in Wong Kar-Wei’s In the Mood for Love, on the project DVD, but included here, with an informative piece of exegesis by Mike d’Angelo, and more here, from Little White Lies, on the sound in the film.

When we talked about it, asking what’s going on here, Daniel (I think) said ‘it looks like it’s about two neighbours who are in love with each other, but don’t realise it yet.’  That’s the essence of the film, picked up in one viewing of a two minute sequence.  For good measure, Eugene I think added about the music,  that ‘it made the story seem.. more formal.’  And formal is exactly the right word – the theme, lifted from an earlier Japanese film called Yumeji, is a waltz, and together with the slowed down cinematography, we’re being asked to look in outline, and in detail, at these two people passing on the stairs.  The music heightens – formalises – our awareness, our attention.

Other clips we watched from the DVD: Arbogast’s demise in Psycho: the fateful choice he makes between going up the stairs, or down the corridor.  Stairs always entail drama – confrontation, revelation, exchanges of power, or as in this case, being stabbed in the chest by a cross-dressing psychopath.

Which makes all that aching yearning of Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung all the more powerful for being repressed in a series of ‘passing on the stairs’ moments.

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