Friday, August 03, 2007

Exposition with Len Massaar

Hey guys,

Today, we have a double-header! Our good friend, Len Massaar gives us not only his exposition article but a breakdown of V for Vendetta.

Many of you know him as
Crossword on TriggerStreet. He’s also the author of A Curious Potpourri blog. Plus, you can find Len here on the IMDB (where you can see his picture)! Hehehe… The first thing Len ever wrote, he sold, and he got his name on the IMDB. It was non-fiction, but as he told me, “I laughed my ass off and had some money to spend. lol I'm a real beginner when it comes to writing fiction. It's a slow plod because I need to find time & focus. But then don't we all?”

He was born in The Netherlands, raised in Australia and Britain (mostly). He’s been in the U.S. since '93. In fact, he lives in L.A. and became a U.S. citizen last year.

Great to know you, Len. Thanks so much for both articles.



* One BAD example of exposition.

This example comes from the Wachowski Brothers' V for Vendetta (2005). You may recall that the entire film has been spent toying with the central question as to whether or not the terrorist known only as "V" will make good on his promise to bomb the Houses of Parliament (set in the future year of 2020). In a key moment in Act 3, two Detectives talk to each other about how heavily fortified the Houses of Parliament are today.

Zoiks! This is our first opportunity to witness the actual response of dictator Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt)... up to now the Fascist government have been in complete public denial that there was a terrorist, that he was alive and then that they took him seriously.

What's worse is that we HAVE to eventually see what they're talking about anyway. The ending pretty much HAS to happen at Parliament anyway and the story wouldn't be believable without our witnessing armed troops.

But the writers/directors didn't want us to see this imagery just yet. To do so would diminish the power (presumably) of our seeing it right at the very end of the movie. So the Detective characters of Finch and his partner yak about it instead, hoping to create suspense and anticipation. Wrong. It wasn't worth the additional 15 minute wait.


* One good VERBAL example of exposition.

This example comes from Kenneth Lonergan's fine You Can Count on Me (2000), a story of a single mother Samantha (Laura Linney) trying to keep it all together and having to put up with a slacker of a younger brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) who makes an impromptu visit to her home in the Catskills.

Before her brother arrives though, an early scene in Act 1 establishes the protagonist Samantha's character well IMHO. While out on a date with her ersatz boyfriend, we see them have dinner and not long after find them in bed, post coitus hehehe. The super polite Samantha thanks Bob (Jon Tenney) for "a lovely evening".

That's it! She's calling the shots and the conclusion to their date is now over and she's moving on to thinking about the next day already. This is probably as vulnerable as she'll allow herself to be right now.


* One good NON-VERBAL example of exposition.

Actually there are two in this scene. My example comes from Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) starring Mia Farrow as the young Rosemary Woodhouse. You may recall that towards the end of Act 3, Rosemary has given birth while heavily sedated but was told her baby had died due to complications.

While watching television, she hears the faint cry of a baby coming from somewhere close. Up to now we have drifted into and out of consciousness along with her... we really have no idea what happened and so now this is our first inkling of proof that the others were lying (e.g. notably her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) and Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) her obstetrician).

Eventually a neighbor enters her room to administer some medication along with a meal. Rosemary pretends to take the tablet but secretly hides it among the brickwork behind her bed. Again we drift in and out and for Rosemary all the days blend together... but the very next time we see her hide her medication, there are about half a dozen tablets secreted into the brickwork.


Mim said...

I like Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo. Now I'll have to see this movie.

Rosemary's baby remains a classic. Yay Roman Polanski, a fellow Pole.

crossword said...

What a surprise! This whole week has been pretty bad (and has all the hallmarks of continuing to be so), but it's a welcome respite to log on and read what everyone has had to offer. :)

Mim - I'm sure you'll love it. It's a great character piece IMO, full of very touching moments. It's not about dysfunctional families per se, more how a tragic accident (parents) can affect the family members long after their passing.

MM - thanks as always for the encouraging words. I'm making efforts to become more devoted to the craft. PS. I've left the warmth of SoCal and NoCal for the wetter Pacific NorthWest. I do miss LA sometimes bit in all honesty not too much. I may return one day.

Anonymous said...

My favourite piece of exposition comes from an unlikely source...Rocky IV.

Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Brigitte Nielsen) sits in the audience with a Soviet official watching her hubby Draco attempting to "break" Rocky. The official is smoking a cigarette - Mrs Draco leans very close to him and takes a drag of his cigarette. There is no other "moment" between the two characters throughout the film and nothing to suggest that they have any kind of relationship.

You could add this simple moment to so many films and completely change the dynamic between two characters. I love it!


Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was my Rocky IV comment. Google never wants to let me sign into my account!


Mim said...

WOW! I just went to visit Len's blog and saw all these film breakdowns. Cool.

GimmeABreak said...

Guess I'm gonna have to watch V. Thanks, Len.

crossword said...

To be honest the Blog is just a pathetic excuse for me to get my notes sorted out. :)

If you want Mim, I can let you know whenever I have a new breakdown found & typed.

I'll be honest Ger and admit that I've never seen any of the Rockys. Perhaps now I will. I'd love to read your other choices if you've sent them on to our gracious host. :)

Gimme - hmmmm... not sure you'd approve of "V". They made some choices which you might find rather grating... characters who tell us what we've just seen, very short scenes embedded into very long ones, tell-not-show, repetition (eg. Evey's cell) and parallel stories (eg. the previous occupant of Evey's cell) and so-on.

GimmeABreak said...

Since I've had the DVD sitting on a shelf since...... whenever it came out, maybe it's one of those things I "watch" while making soap or candles. Of course, Lynch's Dune violates a lot of rules, too, and it's one of my faves.

Thanks for the caution and hope the upcoming week is better.

Anonymous said...

Len, maybe I'll breakdown a Rocky for you sometime...

I suspend my disbelief so much when watching films I often miss the things that make them great - so I'm not so hot on the analysis; which is why breakdowns like yours and sites like this are so helpful.

Write on!


sabine said...

Good stuff, Len! :) I only watched the last 20 minutes of V and wasn't all that impressed... Maybe I should watch "the rest" of the flick O_o

ROCKY ROCKY! Did you watch the last one, Ger? Wasn't as bad as I expected. Just didn't like that they used Tarver. Rocky had some good lines. You go, Sylvester!

Anonymous said...

Well, they asked me, Sabine, but I thought Sly should fight someone he had a chance of beating.

I enjoyed the V for Vendetta breakdown and I did actually enjoy the film despite my minor bitchings.

Is there any chance we can have a breakdown of the prequels: I for Vendetta, II for Vendetta, III for Vendetta and IV for Vendetta?


crossword said...

Ger, I think suspending disbelief is grand... often watching something with your analytical eye can spoil the fun somewhat. So hold onto that!

Bean, fer sure the whole thing needs to be seen. For example, the satirical skit (my #45) could be viewed as Benny-Hill-cheesy nonsense, BUT in point of fact is totally in keeping with the state of the country at this time in 2020. Dissent wasn't tolerated so it stands to reason a satirical sketch on tv would be naïve in an exaggerated way.

Mystery Man said...

I've been gone and I so very much apologize for not being able to contribute to this discussion. I loved "You Can Count on Me." In fact, after posting this, I bought it for cheap. Such a great film.

Great job, Len.

Thanks so much.


crossword said...

:) Spreading the love....

Jason said...

awesome work len! thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to see Rocky fight Rambo...