Category: The Imposter

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 4 – The Imposter Micro Analysis

As with Grizzly Man you should now do the same for 3 (or 4 as they’re shorter) of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

 

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 2 – Fact or Fiction

Task 1: Why are documentaries made?

  • Why do audiences watch films?
  • Why do they watch documentary films?
  • What does an audience seek from a documentary film?

Task 2: What are the key issues we are faced with when watching documentaries? 

Discuss the key issues as a class and consider how you could debate these in an exam essay. Put your ideas on a post it note & stick to the board.

In small groups develop a hand made poster to consider how the following macro ideas create issues for the spectator in a documentary film. Particularly reflect on ideas of truth & persuasion or the trust in the documentary film maker. Remember to add any macro terms you use to your glossary.

Try to think of those ‘so what’s’ those ‘points’ those elements of ‘significance’ rather than considering the specific examples at this stage. What questions would you ask about these macro elements? What challenges do they present for an audience?

The pre reading post of helpful articles & videos may help you with some of the overarching ideas.

Task 3: What are the different ways in which the audience might be positioned with a documentary film? 

Consider the idea of the ‘present’/ ‘distant’ positioning and how Imposter / Grizzly Man fit into these. Add these terms to your glossary

The Imposter : Your Analysis

Next Monday you will submit a 750 word essay on The Imposter. Your question will be a choice from the following:

Either:

‘When watching documentaries, we are just as involved in narrative and character as we are when watching fiction films.’ Discuss how far this is true in relation to your own studies of  documentary spectatorship.

Or:

‘For the spectator, the viewing of documentary films is really no different from that of viewing fiction films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?

For your essays it is crucial that you have MICRO evidence from specific moments in the films.

In pairs or 3s you will be analysing one of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

Use this template to help you make notes on the micro and macro impact of the scene. 

Remember also to reflect on Bourdin as the central focus of the film’s narrative and the spectator’s relationship with him. His role as protagonist or antagonist and how we as a spectator respond differently to him at different moments within the film. Remember Layton’s overarching intention in this film:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

These are the questions we considered before watching the film in class. How can you develop your answers and include them in essay format? You could use some of these questions as part of your plan for your mini essay. (In 750 words you won’t be able to answer them all!)

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

A Intro to The Imposter – Deceit and Cinematic Technique

We will now be looking at our second documentary ‘The Imposter (2012) Layton.

Before we get started let’s think about some of the key issues / conventions / debates that are arising from the film and from issues of spectatorship.

In class we will discuss these questions:

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

Here is a great video from Every Frame a Painting about The Imposter.

The video describes how the spectator is drawn into Bourdain’s deceit and how Layton uses cinematic techniques to deceive us. In particular, the video makes several excellent observations about the set up of the interviews:

Here’s a great quote from *cough* wikipedia *cough* where the director Layton talks about his intentions for the audience/spectator response towards Bourdain:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

Spectatorship Revision

THE PROBLEMS WITH SPECTATORSHIP?

  • How far is the spectator challenged by issues of manipulation in documentary film? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.
  • ‘The complexity of spectator response suggests that documentary offers much more than just a window on some aspect of our world.’ Discuss this statement with reference to the films you have studied for this topic.

My definition:

Spectatorship refers to the dynamic relationship between the active audience, who have expectations that include: generic features, narrative & character development, themes and emotional catharsis, and the film (maker) which can exploit, develop or subvert those expectations through use of macro and micro feature. Thus the meaning of a film is fluid, complex, dynamic and formed in the active reading of the text by the spectator.

CONVENTIONS OF DOCUMENTARY FILMS?

Essays from past papers:

  • Discuss the significance of cinematography and sound in shaping the response of the spectator to the documentary films you have studied for this topic.
  • With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far can it be said that different kinds of documentaries offer different kinds of spectator experiences?

Resources

NARRATIVE

  • How far can it be said that narrative is key to the documentary spectator’s engagement with a  film’s themes and ideas?
  • How far is it preferable as a spectator to be presented with a documentary that offers a very definite point of view towards its subject? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.

Worksheet for Narrative Analysis

CINEMATIC DEVICES (FROM FICTION FILMS)

  • ‘Documentaries make different requirements of the spectator compared with fiction films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this statement?
  • ‘The best documentaries are those which are aware of the need to engage spectators cinematically.’ How far do you agree with this statement?

Worksheet for Textual Analysis

REPRESENTATION

  • ‘For the spectator, identification with certain characters is crucial to the viewing experience of documentary films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?
  • How far are documentaries more challenging to the spectator because they appear to represent real life characters and situations?

Our textual analysis notes on characters at key moments in The Imposter.

Wider Reading / Research:

On documentary conventions and truth.

On documentary conventions

On Modes of Documentary

Our summary of the key points from key article / videos

Video Essays

Here are our video essays.

We are going to watch and respond in the following ways:

  • Does the essay directly address the question?
    • How many arguments or points are made?
    • Are the arguments well made and coherent?
  • Does the video explore specific (correctly identified) micro features from the film to support the argument being presented?
    • Are their alternative examples, which would work as well or even better?
  • Does the video explore the impact of the micro features on the audience?
    • Is there analysis vocabulary to link the example to the audience response?
  • Does the video consider the wider issues surrounding spectatorship:
    • Context, expectations, representations, documentary conventions, present / distant effect, alienation, emotional / intellectual responses…

How do the mode(s) of documentary in Amy & The Imposter seek to impact on the spectator?

How are the subjects of the documentary represented at key moments in the ‘narrative’?

What kind of experience do Amy & The Imposter try to construct for the spectator?

How do micro features seek to influence the spectator in one key scene or sequence from each documentary?

Here is our feedback on those essays, in which we feedback on what went well and even better if.

Your Video Essay

In pairs, you are going to be making a video essay on  the documentaries we have studied.

The video essay titles are:

  1. How do the mode(s) of documentary in Amy & The Imposter seek to impact on the spectator?
  2. How are the subjects of the documentary represented at 3 key moments in the ‘narrative’?
  3. What kind of experience do Amy & The Imposter try to construct for the spectator?
  4. How do micro features seek to influence the spectator in one key scene or sequence from each documentary?
    1. Sound
    2. Editing
    3. Cinematography

The video should be approx 3-5 minutes and should include a voice over. You must also use examples from the films, which can be repeated, frozen or slowed down. You should also use titles at key moments in your essay to emphasis your points / observations.

Plan your video essays carefully:

  • What are the points you are going to make?
  • What examples from the films are you going to use?
  • In which ways are the film comparable?
    • Please discuss this with your teacher.
  • Once you have selected key scenes, you should consider what you’re going to say about the micro features in that scene.

You can find complete versions of the films in the D Drive of each computer in room 79.

Create a project file for your video essay and start a new Adobe Premiere Project in that folder.

Import the two films into the project and find the sequence(s) you would like to explore in your video essay.

We will show you how to do enough editing in order to make a basic video essay.

The Imposter Essay

‘Documentaries work on the spectator in ways that are very close to fiction films, using narrative and character to create drama and suspense.’ With reference to The Imposter (2012) Layton, discuss how far you agree with this statement.

This essay is going to require you to consider the spectator in relation to narrative and character.

  • How are we invited (guided) to respond to the characters (especially Bourdain) through micro features that have been appropriated (borrowed) from fiction films?
  • How do we engage with the different characters through the documentary convention of the interview?
  • How does Layton use fiction film techniques in the specific reconstruction sequences to ‘work on’ the audience and create drama and suspense?
  • How is the narrative established and structured for us? How are we positioned in the ‘narrative’ and how does Layton restrict or reveal key narrative information?
  • What is the central theme in the narrative and  how is it revealed to us in the denouement?

Spectatorship Presentations:

Discuss the significance of cinematography and sound in shaping the response of the spectator to the documentary films you have studied for this topic.

Essay Plan 01 – George

Essay Plan 02 – Nicole

Essay Plan 03 – Katherine

‘Documentaries should never be trusted.’ How important to the spectator is the sense that they should trust the documentary filmmaker? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.

Essay Plan – Megan

With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far can it be said that different kinds of documentaries offer different kinds of spectator experiences?

Essay Plan on modes of documentary – Maggie

How far is the spectator challenged by issues of manipulation in documentary film? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.

Essay Plan – Jess

Grierson defined documentary as the ‘creative treatment of actuality’. What are some of the key issues raised by this definition for spectators of documentary?

Essay Plan – Tom

What are some of the pleasures that viewing a documentary film offer the spectator? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.

Essay Plan – Amba

Spectatorship – Final Essay

Please complete one of these essays as your final submission on spectatorship & documentary.

You should write approximately 1,000 – 1,200 words and should refer to at least two of the documentaries we have studied for this unit in depth.

  1. What are some of the pleasures that viewing a documentary film offer the spectator?
  2. ‘For the spectator, identification with certain characters is crucial to the viewing experience of documentary films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?
  3. ‘The best documentaries are those which are aware of the need to engage spectators cinematically.’ How far do you agree with this statement?
  4. ‘Documentaries should never be trusted.’ How important to the spectator is the sense that they should trust the documentary filmmaker? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic.
  5. Compare two or more approaches to documentary film-making and discuss which you feel has the greater impact on the spectator.
  6. Discuss the significance of cinematography and sound in shaping the response of the spectator to the documentary films you have studied for this topic.