Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Visual Review 4: "Moonstruck"

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“Loretta Castorini, a book keeper from Brooklyn, New York, finds herself in a difficult situation when she falls for the brother of the man she agreed to marry (who is the best friend of her late husband who died seven years previously) (IMDb).

      The film was released December 18, 1987 by MGM. Moonstruck starred Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello and Vincent Gardenia. Directed by Norman Jewison, this love story shows that anything can happen under “La Bella Luna”—a full moon.

      The movie open with wide shots of New York City, there are extreme wide shots of the cityscape. These shots show places that are later revised in the story (i.e. The Met—which is a key moment later in film). We are introduced to the main character Loretta, an Italian middle aged widow who is book keeper for the local shops in Brooklyn Heights.

      Throughout the film, not only through the camera moves but also through the dialogue there are instances of repetition (i.e., shots of the moon; and scenes with the professor arguing with this dates; accusations of being a wolf). There are also several references of the moon made by characters: Pop’s comment every time he walks the dogs “la Bella Luna” or “Did you see the Bella moon out tonight?” We are also given a reference outside of the dialogue: The Luna Restaurant shown during a street scene.

      In the beginning of the movie, Loretta’s boyfriend, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), proposes to her over dinner at The Grand Ticino, which is the neighborhood restaurant. They agree to start their wedding plans as soon as he returns from Sicily to tend to his dying mother. Johnny asks Loretta to invite his brother Ronny to the wedding—the two have bad blood and he wants a clean slate. During this dinner scene and in the others through the film, there are many two shots. There is a perfect moment of that when Loretta goes to Cammareri’s Bakery to talk to Ronny (Cage) and the camera cuts to the two women standing next one another as they watch Ronny and Loretta argue. The two go to Ronny’s apartment to talk—after Ronny reveals he was engaged lost his hand during an argument with his brother while slicing bread. His fiancé left him because of the incident and that’s why the two aren’t on speaking terms--Loretta tells Ronny that he is a "wolf" (there’s another reference here; repetition) for allowing himself to cut off his hand instead of be entrapped by marriage. That instance sets Ronny off and he grabs Loretta and kisses her. “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” she yells then the two make love. There are dolly-ins and truck-ins as we move through Ronnie’s apartment. During their dialogue cut-ins are used to show them pouring and drinking whiskey. After Cage and Cher’s’ love scene--as well as other scenes in the film-- we are show again shots of the moon.

      There is effective use of light and shadow to showcase location and time of day. Dolly-ins take us into the setting so they audience gets a feel of where the characters are (i.e., showing us rendezvous shot of the father with mistress—here we see like father, like daughter).

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      This film has a lot of camera movements and shots and alternates between them throughout. I feel as if that is a common formula in romantic comedies because of the content and emotion they want to convey through the characters. Any extreme shots would take away from the story and here we have close-ups, two-shots, and mid-shots to show us intimate moments which are necessary for the film. Shots of the moon are done from low angles and shown with a cast of fog surrounding it, and symbolize passages of time. At night—after Loretta and Ronny’s love scene--the characters gaze at the moon which creates streams of light over their faces and shadows to enhance the characters moods. During this same night scene, textures are shown from the lace curtains onto faces and blinds onto skins so that moon reflects patterns. We are shown scale through a low angle, and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, as we transition from night to day.

     The next day, Ronny confesses his love to Loretta who is disheveled and knows what she did was wrong. Ronny agrees to leave her alone if he can have the two things he loves for one night: The Opera and Loretta. She agrees to see La Boheme with him at The Met later that night.

      As a catholic woman, Loretta feels the right thing to do is to go to confession. Again there are cut-ins which focus on the priests’ hands during confession, which is enhances the moment of privacy. We are shown high angle shots of stairwell at the home and when we revisit The Met we are shown extreme wide shots so that one gets a sense of the vastness of the theater. During the dinner scenes (Rose and the professor) the restaurant provide a lot of distractions, and to keep the audience focused on the characters, the camera zooms in so that the background is out of focus and your full attention is on the dialogue. There are warm colors shown in the scenes indoors – these color choices of the clothing of the women in the kitchen and the color on the walls create a feeling of warmth from the household. Darker colors and shades are associated with night. After the opera we see the two characters in the bar and we are shown a deep depth of field shot so the two characters in background are in focus even though the condiments are closest to the screen. After the Opera, Loretta finds out about her father’s affair and comes to realize that she’s in love with Ronny after all—she may not say it until the end but you can see a change that begins when she and Ronny start to hold hands during the show.
     The ending brings together the typical structure of a romantic comedy. It turns out to be just Loretta’s luck that Johnny has to call off the engagement because his sick mother was cured and if he marries her, his mother will die (What?!). This gives Ronny the perfect opportunity to propose to Loretta. “Where’s the ring?”, and after Ronny borrows Johnny’s pinky ring, Loretta accepts and confesses “I love him awful”. The camera dolly outs and trucks left and right as we leave the house as a form of closure. The story has been told and we end with panned left and right shots of family portraits, which symbolized one of the themes for the film which is family. The final shot is a mid-shot of the updated family portrait with the newest addition—Ronny—to the picture.

      I thought this was a great movie, I especially loved the dialogue. It’s very smart and witty. The two actresses awarded with Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were well deserved. Cher and Olympia Dukakis delivered wonderful performances. I’m proud to own this film listed on AFI’s top 10 romantic comedies.

Sources: IMDb, AFI, Wikipedia


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