Kael, famous North American film criticism,1975
Film criticism is a political and social act that makes us not only see how profound
cinema is but also reveals the philophical soul of humanity. Abduallah Habib, Omani
Film and Literature Critic, Feb 23, 2006, Al Watan
Film critique is practice of writing that has existed since the early days of cinema. Like any
film, the essay or critique for Zayed University is a structured argument about a specific
issue of one film. The skill for this assignment is simple. Write a clear and specfic thesis
about one film, then persuade your reader why your thesis is significant.
Your assignment is to write a 4 page critique(1200-1500 words) of a film Your review
must be typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman, and in 12 point font, with one-inch
margins. No cover pages or report covers. Please, be sure your name, the course name and
the date is in the upper left corner of the paper. A persuasive and specific title is
, you must watch film at least 2-3 times and perform plot segmentation. You must turn this
in(see my example). You must discover in this step what you want argue for your
thesis. Make notes and also do screen grabs to remember sequences and types of
aesthetics. Do some basic research on the film. Read credible reviews and also know about
the subject of the film. If you watch the Syrian film, Al Manam(1980) for example, then you
must know about the Palestinian camps. You are responsible for educating yourself about
the generals subjects of your film.
YOUR NOTES, PLOT SEGMENTATION, AND OUTLINE, AND THESIS please
turn in all of your work.
OPTIONAL Rough Draft: Encouraged but not a requirement.
Third, What, then, is a film critique or analysis paper? What do you have to do for this
class? Read my top ten list and also see rubric.
1. You must have a thesis or position. Please remember TREE: Thesis supported by
REASONS which rest upon EVIDENCE and EXAMPLES.
2. No excessive plot summary. A film critique is an effort in understanding the profound
ideas of a film.
3. This is NOT a review. A Film Critique is an analytical essay also puts forth the writer’s
opinion. A review does not address the significance or worth of the film.
What is analysis? I could ask you to analyse a review of a famous Emirati Song.
You could simply describe the song. It is about a Pearl Diver who gets killed by the Djinn
Um Duwais because he lied to his wife, but the Djinn did not know the lie was to protect
You could evaluate the song: It is old fashioned and it is too sentimental.
You could ANALYZE: discussing lyrics, melody, instrumentation, and how many elements
work together to create the feeling of sadness and why the song is significant for a
general Emirati audience to understand culture or social values.
4. You must write an ARGUMENTATIVE piece of writing
• INTRODUCTION: Background information or a vivid example, leading up
to: STATEMENT OF THESIS
• BODY: REASONS to believe the thesis, EVIDENCE and EXAMPLES
• CONCLUSION: IMPLICATIONS and SYNTHESIS. This is not only rewriting your thesis in
a different way.
5. You must show some understanding of the filmmaker, their cultural background, and
their other films.
6. You must show close examination of the film in your own words.
7. You are required to use at least 5 film terms that you learned from the textbook.
8. You must turn in a plot segmentation/outline as an appendix or just a segmentation if
you are doing documentary. See my example.
9. You may use and are encouraged to use still photos to connect to your analysis. However,
do not use them randomly or without intent.
10. Bibliography can be limited to two or three sources. This is a critique, not a research
Strong opening sentences
that attracts reader interest
and establishes the tone and
position of the critique.
Adequate opening sentence
that gives the reader some
indication of your opinion.
Strong and specific thesis
General Thesis and
sentencesthe reader is
how you feel
Fails to have
Follow TREE system well.
somewhat follows TREE
Provides cogent analysis of
film and shows strong
understanding of time and
space of the film.
Provides somewhat clear
analysis, too much plot
summary and some
Makes a provable case for
the film’s merit and analyzes
what worked and did not
work in the film.
Voices an opinion but does
not explain in depth why
things in the film worked or
Shows strong understanding
from the film
the film to back-up
the opinion about the film’s
Clear use of film terms,
methods of analysis and/or
theory learned in
class. Approximately 5
Well studied understanding
of filmmaker(s) style and
Spelling/gramm Makes virtually no
choice/ writing appropriate words and wellfluency
constructed sentences and
Shows some understanding
Provides some examples of
from the film that supports
General use of film terms less Minimal use
of iflm terms
Only general idea of
filmmaker(s) style and vision background
Uses appropriate word
choice and shows
sentences and structure.
Example of Plot Segmentation
Example of a Critique film paper
Obsessing about Fame: Fantasy and Reality in The King of Comedy
America is obsessed with fame. Television shows and magazines have been created in
order to let the masses delve into the personal lives of their favorite stars. Friends gossip
about people they have never met, but whom they feel they know because of the mass
media. The lives of celebrities may not be perfect, but they definitely are exciting. Learning
about your favorite star’s life is an entertaining escape from what can seem a mundane
Fame becomes alluring because a fantasy world surrounds it. Martin Scorsese’s film The
King of Comedy(1976) focuses on Rupert Pupkin’s obsession with fame. Not only is he
obsessed with a famous comedian, but he is consumed with becoming a famous comedian
himself and comes to believe that his idol is more than willing to help him in his quest.
Pupkin’s obsession goes beyond a mere interest in fame; it takes over his life to the point
that he can no longer distinguish reality from the fantasies he has concocted. Because the
viewer is allowed to see these fantasies through Rupert’s eyes, one can track his
progression further and further into his fantasy world. In The King of Comedy, Scorsese
uses various aspects of style in order to manipulate the boundaries between fantasy
and reality in such a way as to draw a parallel between Rupert’s progressive
withdrawal into his own fantasies and the viewer’s inability to tell the difference
between the two.
The first fantasy scene of The King of Comedy, segment number three, blurs the line
between fantasy and reality, but the line is nonetheless still discernible. Here Scorsese uses
aspects of style to create a coherent fantasy that is easily recognizable as such. It is
distinctly separate from surrounding scenes of reality while at the same time drawing on
them in order to create the fantasy.
A combined use of sound and editing is used to tie the fantasy to reality. This is apparent
both in the scenes that surround segment three and within the scene itself. Rupert invited
Jerry to lunch at the end of segment two. This invitation leads into a shot of Jerry and
Rupert seated in a restaurant in the following scene. This link from actual dialogue to
fantasy is a continuing pattern throughout the film, brought out by first mentioning the act
in a real conversation and then having it carried out in a fantasy later in the film. Editing
the scenes together in such a way is one device used to blur the distinction between fantasy
RECENT STUDENT EXAMPLE
Research Title: Thoughts of an International Viewer on the Intouchables.
They are driving at night in the streets of Paris, both consumed in their own thoughts.
Driss is driving above the speed limit and recklessly, “Philippe wake up, I bet you 100 euros that
I’ll lose them [the police officers who are chasing them]”, “Deal”, Philippe says. Driss drives faster
and starts to lose them when suddenly a taxi cab stops abruptly ahead of them and the police
catches up starts yelling to exit the vehicle. Driss smiles “200$ that they’re [going to] escort us”,
they double the deal and Driss gets out of the car and pretends to be furious at the police officers
for stopping them. He exclaims that he’s disabled and having a stroke and that he was rushing
him to the hospital, despite the police officers not believing his story initially he convinces them
by using emotional blackmail by asking the police officers to inform Philippe’s daughter that her
father died because the police officers stopped him on their way to the hospital. Soon after, the
police officers say “We’re gonna escort you, it’s safer! Let’s go!”. Both mischievous boys laugh
loudly after the police officers drop them in front of the ER and thus the movie begins.
A comedy-based drama based on a story between a man on a wheelchair and his caretaker in
Paris is the starring headline of the movie Intouchables. It is a story of an incongruous friendship
that grows between two men who come from very different cultural and socio-economic
backgrounds. Philippe is an extremely rich white man who is tetraplegic resulting from a
paragliding accident and Driss, who later becomes his caretaker, was a poor black unemployed
citizen of the banlieue of Senegalese origin. of . Only nine weeks after its release it became the
second biggest box office hit in France and the film has received several award nominations and
has won numerous awards for “best-foreign international movie.” The movie highlights elements
that concern contemporary France as immigrations, social marginalization’s in the banlieue,
wealth and poverty, multiculturalism however what is fascinating about this movie is that it deals
with a serious delimma of disability in someone with humor and laughter. This combination is
often never seen and if is, it is regarded as not culturally true.
To fully examine and contextually analyze the movie it is imperative and highly critical to
understand the directors, and their reasons behind portraying the movie the way it was done.
Based on an interview conducted by the YouTube channel “pretentious Film Major”, the directors
stated that they didn’t want to take the conventional as quoted, “cheesy Hollywood” style of
making a movie. They wanted a great story and turn it into a movie, so when they encountered
the documentary about Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou and their remarkable story,
there were intent on bringing it more to life in the form of a movie. However, they did
acknowledge on several interviews that they wanted to talk about a seriousness of the matter of
being disabled and the struggles that come along it but with a humorous tone and light jokes that
shifts the mood from dramatic and serious to happy and light. Glancing a closer look at the
directors, in the essence that they both were born in families of migrants. Olivier Nakache was
born to Algerian parents and Eric Tolendano’s parents were Moroccan migrants. we can further
understand why they both attempted to portray Omar Sy’s character (Driss) as a poor man who
was brought by his adopted mother from Senegal to France, living in a banlieue which mainly
consisted of Africans, Muslims and Arabs (as can be seen through the lens of the camera) and as
it presents how arduous life was for the immigrants who were asylum-seekers.
Upon looking at the movie in a more critical level, we see that the directors heavily used two key
elements in the movie; mise en scene and Omniscient Point of View. The former is often used in
scenes to show the clear metamorphosis between the people living in Paris, a fine line is divided
between the rich and poor. Most protuberant example for this can be seen when they camera
showcases the scene of Driss trying to take a shower in the bathroom of his mother’s flat which
he shares with over ten siblings and then the lavish mansion Philippe and his only daughter live
in. In the scene where reluctant Driss and enthusiastic Philippe paraglide on the Mont Bisanne
that [showed] multiple elements such as can be seen in the below
Medium shot was used to further emphasize the emotions Driss was feelings: fear,
anxiousness. In the beginning of the scene he is highly hesitant to go through with paragliding
and continues to be hesitant until the man flying with him shoots to the sky and at first Driss
becomes even more scared but after a while he truly enjoys it.
An extreme wide shot was used to show that both Driss and Philippe are now in the sky and
enjoying their ride. This scene is used to evoke emotions with the help of the song Fly by Nina
Simone that they are both free and happy and are flying. The shot can also be interpreted as
the time when all social classes and culture norms were dropped and people were simply trying
to enjoy their life to the fullest.
The former scene were shot in Mont Bisanne which is located in South-East of France. The
mountains in the background were although blurred very highly useful in showcasing the
challenges and ordeals that continue to be present in his life but are not completely aligned with
the main on-going plot of the story. Paragliding can be concluded that it calms him and gives him
a sense of control, the usage of the colors such as the green grass, the blue skies and mountains
helps further prove the point that Philippe is at his best when he is in the sky. What is also
interesting was how extremely hesitant Driss was in regards to flying. It could be inferred that he
has never paraglide before and thus, does not know what to expect and that scares him the most.
It can also be established that perhaps because of his social and economic situation, he never
paraglided and participated in such sports. The other element that was highly used was
Omniscient Point of View, as throughout the movie each character was as equally important as
the other. Both characters, Driss and Philippe aids one another in forming their relationship. Their
gestures and actions towards each other alleviated the audience to see the growing relationship
between two completely different people and them becoming closer. Another technique as also
used numerous time which was jump cuts. In the opening scene, when Driss is warding the
policemen away the scenes are cut and fast-forwarded to emphasize the high speed Driss is going
on. It can also be seen when potential caretakers are being interviewed. The scene is shot
multiple times between each potential employee really fast to show the numerous applicants
come looking for a job to work with Philippe but he refuses them, this scene was truly effective
in portraying Philippe’s loneliness and desperation to find someone who does not feel pity for
him and does not regard him as an disable person despite him being so.
One of the reasons why this movie was most appealing was because of its perfect and
rightly-times use of music and sounds. Going back to the paraglide scene, the song by Nina
Simone “fly” was perfectly used in it because not only were her lyrics “’Birds flying high you know
how I feel, Sun in the sky you know how I feel, Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel, It’s a
new dawn, It’s a new day, It’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.” Perfect, the mood and
intensity of the scene changes alongside the song every time she hits a note. The change of the
song encourages the instruments to create a peaceful serene feeling. The addition of the jazz in
the song makes sure that the emotions are away from sadness and pity for Philippe, as paraglide
is the only sport and hobby that brings him true joy; It perform its duty to life the mood to
happiness and joy wonderfully. Other than that, the movie used a variation of classical or
orchestral music and not just for scenes in which Philippe starred in. They also used it to show
the hardships of Driss’s life affecting him such as Driss waiting outside his mother’s workplace
and glancing looks at her and the tension and mood of the scene sets in by both the blue hue
lighting and the classical slow instrumental music.
In terms of lighting, the movie beautifully played around with it as it greatly affected the
moods and emotions of the scenes. For example, they used day and night scenese to convery
certain messages. If it day, events that bring out hope that situations might work out were
apparent and Driss was showcased to be less sinister and more happy and hopeful. Whereas,
come night time, it would be obvious that he would not fit in and his actions or certain events
would further prove his point that he didn’t belong there. The dark, dim lights helped conveying
emotions as worry, concern and unease and anxiety. In the scene where Driss was asked to leave
the house by his mother, the dark lighting and nighttime conveyed the message for Driss that
although he is with his friends and smoking and laughing, he is still unhappy and worries and has
negative and dark emotions lingering over him. The alleyways for the banlieue, expressed
everything in different dark shades of blue, brown, grey and black; Feelings as unhappy were
shown as negative colors.
Despite the movie in many aspects was highly efficient in perfectly portraying the
different sides of the French culture and the massive gap between the rich and the poor, in my
opinion it did not do absolute perfect justice to the poor people’s story. It’s understandable that
the directors wanted to showcase a summary of everything the poor people go through, the
movie was simply overwhelmed with the topics and issues regarding the poor banlieue. Why
were the banlieue filled with migrants? Why were there no poor who were French? Why was
Driss’s brother involved with a gang and why was he arrested and then let go of although he was
carrying cocaine? Was it the lack of jobs and high number of unemployment the reason of such
poor condition or is the government responsible for not attending for their migrant or asylum
seekers? Such questions needed to be dealt with and approached separately. As an international
viewer, I often had far too many questions to ask about the French society and culture then
keeping up with the plot of the movie. However, the movie still further elaborated the concept
that happiness can be found in the strangest of places and it can be synthesized that often
politicians argue that people of the same interests should stay within their groups because upon
conversing with opposite groups, conflicts could arise. However, this movie showed us otherwise,
that often the best solution for a problem is to bring to contrasting thoughts, ideas, people in the
same room, because often it results in something remarkable.
ReferenceEric Toledano & Oliver Nakache, The Intouchables’ co-directors (interview).
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