San Francisco Art & Film for Teens


Free cultural programs for teens, including Friday night film screenings, Saturdays art walks and free seats to cultural events. Open to all Bay Area students, middle school through college. Established 1993. 

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2019 Tarkovsky Prize First Place: Sebastian Kaplan

Sebastian Kaplan (16, Lowell High School)
Hiding Behind Sunglasses in Fellini’s 8 ½


 8 ½, directed by Federico Fellini is a landmark film, it is a circus, it is theater, it is a dream, and it is all very, very liberating. The idea that the imagination liberates us from the entrapment of life’s absurdities is expressed throughout in dazzling ways.

It begins with a dream of liberation, and quickly breaks the rules of neorealism that Fellini once ascribed to , separating himself from his earlier work- ala The White Sheik (1952) La Strada (1954), and in turn opening himself up to criticism from such men as Guido Aristarco, prolific dean of Marxist film criticism and founder of  Cinema Nuovo (who resembles well the film critic from early in the film). The Camera immediately makes itself known, panning through a traffic jam. Our hero, Guido, played by Marcello Mastroianni is introduced from the back, through the rear view window of his car, in fact we will not see his face at all until the films next sequence  So far few clues are presented to suggest we are in a dream. From the beginning the sound is odd, as if off, lacking car horns or noise except for faint drum, suggestive of a heartbeat. Next  fog spews from the dashboard of the car and an off-putting shot of a busload of people with their arms out, heads covered, might tip some over the edge and into the understanding this is a dream.  After seeing Carla, his ‘fat assed, small headed- placid’ (as described by Fellini himself ) mistress being pleasured by an unknown older man - Guido, promptly looks to those around him in other cars for help as he cannot seem to escape his car,  Guido manages to liberate himself from his vices and tensions, and more importantly the car by climbing out of the roof. Arms outstretched, Guido glides over the cars and Fellini presents us with a very dynamic  image. Guido, freed from the traffic is now free to fly, advancing toward rapidly moving clouds. (Fully in the air I can’t help but think of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will, the gorgeous shots of the sky, and plane that holds Adolf Hitler.) Guido, flying high, looks to escape the world below, discovered by Claudia's press agent, who promptly yanks him down- sending Guido from his unconscious mind back into the possibly more confusing reality of his life.


Although it is dangerous to equate the film completely to Fellini’s  life- it’s hard not to at points. Obviously he didn’t pull the idea of a director who has trouble with his latest film out of thin air, he went through it!  Fellini, began his career as an assistant and writer to Neo Realist director Roberto Rossellini and after making the mad sprawling high life dramedy La Dolce Vita,  expected to be on his feet for his next work. Instead Fellini felt the horror of an inspirational void. Fellini had been fixated for a while now on the idea that a director only lasts ten years before he begins to repeat himself, pointing towards what he deemed exhibits A, Rene Clair, B, G.W Pabst, and C, Jean Renoir for reference. Fellini was panicking when he should have been celebrating and it created an obsession that he decided to make the subject of his new movie. Although the original intent was to have Guido the lead, be a writer struggling to write, Fellini could not decide how to clearly depict this  and so found the idea reborn with the struggle of the director.

After his Neorealist period Fellini found in his hands Carl G. Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963) by the fault of Jungian psychoanalyst Dr. Ernst Bernhard. There is no doubt that Carl Jung’s work has found itself into 8 ½ and many of his later films to come, especially the daring Fellini/Satyricon. The most prominent aspect of Jung I found to surface in 8 ½ were Jung's theories on dreams, the Anima and the Animus.

The Anima is most clearest perhaps in what is my favorite segment in the film. About 35 minutes into the film, as pressure mounts on Guido to begin filming, as he won’t even tell actors their roles, he retreats into the comfort of Childhood Memories. We are escorted to a whimsical land of children and mothers in a scene at Guidos Grandmothers, off screen, a woman is humming the “Ricordo d'infanzia” theme. This voice and this music persist through much of the sequence, along with a pattern of notes soothingly played on a guitar. All the women here are bizarre, yet loveable creatures held in great esteem by Guido. As the many children are tucked into bed by seuxalized Nannys  we can look to a quote by Jung selected by Albert Benderosn in his book Critical Approaches To Federico Fellini's 8 ½ ,“His aeros is passive like a child’s. The son hopes to be caught by the mother, sucked in, enveloped and devoured”. Specifically a young Guido is tucked in and embraced with a long kiss by a Nanny in White as the Camera tracks closer, letting us in on the slightly perverse, if not relatable moment.


The women here are very innocent seeming and kindhearted, and don’t give off the impression of wanting to bud anything sexually in the children. Saraghina, is the sort of archetype of woman on the fringe of society, witch, the anima projection responsible for the emergence of Guidos sexual deviance portrayed later on, who nests in a small hut on the beach. Jung in Man and His Symbols  describes a Siberian tale which illustrates the dangerous aspect of the Anima. One day a lonely hunter sees a beautiful woman emerging from the deep forest on the other side of the river. She waves and beckons him to her, singing of embracing him, that her nest is near. He swims to her only for her to transform into an owl and the hunter drowns in the water. The Anima here symbolizes an unreal dream of love, happiness and maternal warmth. When Guido is young he and his schoolmates visit Saraghina, she dances, beckoning him over, they dance only to be caught by Priests, dragged away, similarly to when he is dragged to the press conference towards the end of the film. Interestingly the priests Guido is then brought before are played by women with odd complexes (The only reason, Fellini claims, was that they looked the part). Later Gudio visits his Saraghina, and the scene is accompanied by a final zoom on Saraghina, an odd sort of objectification of her.

 Later in the film, as the line between his life, his film and his fantasies have become so blurred, we wonder if Guido has any life at all outside of his own film. As Carla sings and dances with his wife Guido is serendipitously transported back to La Fattoria Della Donna from earlier in the film, “Here he comes” says his wife as she takes a boiling cauldron of steamy water off the fire. Guido enters bearing gifts to many wonderfully shaped women, the ones who bathed him as a child plus a whole array of wife type archetypes and participants in his sex life. Carla comes from downstairs, a very dangerous place because that is where you’re put after you turn 30 (how wonderful!?). The Cinematography here by Gianni Di Venanzo has incredible depth and eccentricity, as something is always fluttering past the lense of his camera, always moving, like a young man's eyes trying not to be caught staring as beautiful women surround him. The Ramba plays as a Hawaiian girl dances for Guido as he begins to prepare for his maternal bath. It’s a wonderful comic scene, I’d never seen anything like this before-- such a capturing of a rampant teenage, and apparently middle aged mind pulsing with sexual thoughts. Ana Nisi Masa. Memory and fantasy merge as the Nanny in White appears for a brief moment and then he is wrapped in a sheet, perfect male fantasy of regression. Saraghina appearance in the scene reinforces this as she says upon seeing Guido again, “Such nice, thin legs.” and another woman adds on “Straight like when he was a boy”. It’s hilarious and very disturbing but I found myself not being able to say I wished I was where he was, (or did I?).


A showgirl bargains not to be sent upstairs and flaunts herself proving she indeed has a “tight little ass”, later “Look at my chest!”. But Guido, in the fashion of the decadent Roman Emperor (Caligula? Nero seems the better comparison reflecting on Fellini/Satyricon) sentences her upstairs. Saraghina interjects with an infantile high pitched moan and begins to ignite a rebellion against their patriarch, soon the Hawaiian girl shouts “Down with the tyrant! Down with Bluebeard!” as Wagner's Valkyrie creeps in. the women rebel against the god. The lighting here intensifies through use of a technique of pulling on lanterns and swinging them around, the camera work is equally eye catching. As Guido draws a whip the scene goes into full swing- a woman when whipped lets out an “oooh Delicious”, perverse enough? Yeesh.  

This scene for myself, and many others was so wild and inventive, i’d never seen anything like this. This surreal sequence continues and the showgirl is allowed one last song. It’s rather, degrading, embarrassing and depressing in comparison to the fun at the crack of Guidos whip.

 Reflecting the last scene, we fade to a scene of Guido watching Screen tests. Much mirroring here as we see how similar some of the footage is to his life. The film ends soon after.


 All in all this oneiric film guides us to view it in the perspective of dreams. Many films do this; Scorsese’s After Hours . Kubrick’s The Shining and most everything by David Lynch… Though Fellini ensures that the lines between dream, reality, fantasy and memory remain blurred, the audience is forced into a deeper level of involvement. Honestly, I still don’t understand the film. It’s still as much a mystery to me as when I first saw it. I’m serious--  this film is very shaking, it grabs you and slaps your silly face. If you’re afraid of the world around you, afraid of women, afraid of vulnerability, afraid of being disappointed, and afraid of being a disappointment slip on your sunglasses.

Folks, this film is bananas. Everyone should go see it!

2018 Tarkovsky Award Winner: Sebastian Kaplan

Sebastian Kaplan (14, Lowell High School)
References & Religion in THERE WILL BE BLOOD

With the release of Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson’s mature, classy and contained new film I have had a Paul Thomas Anderson renaissance in the living room. For the last few weeks I have been actively watching/reading about the director along with watching all eight of his films. For me, the one film that truly stands out (besides Inherent Vice) would have to be his 2008 film There Will Be Blood, a straightforward (at face value) haunting epic, sun dried-western that tells the tale of Daniel Plainview, a silver prospector who, as he puts it himself in the first dialogue spoken, is an Oil Man (similar to John Wayne’s cattle speech in Red River). Having just made the ditzy and critically acclaimed Punch Drunk Love in 2002 it seems Anderson was dead-set on creating something completely different, a mixture between horror and western. It certainly contains both, but There Will Be Blood is a straightforward, bare bones story of the foundations of American capitalism and business ethics that conjures up images from films like Days Of Heaven to The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.


To discuss the opening of the film, I’ll hand it off to Anderson himself to describe it as he does in the screenplay:


This is taken from the first slug line in his screenplay and watching it on a screen it’s almost identical. This isn’t to say that everything he puts on the page ends up on the screen (*cough *cough The Master) but Anderson was most definitely inspired by films like The Shining which opens similarly. I take that back, to say they open similarly is an understatement.

These two films, There Will Be Blood and The Shining share more than a few things in common. First, the dynamic between father and son, Daniel Plainview and H.W in There Will Be Blood and Jack and Danny Torrance in The Shining. Both Daniel and Jack try to destroy their sons at the end of the film for, essentially becoming threats to their job, for Daniel H.W decides to become an Oil prospector in New Mexico, creating a new business threat to Daniel, and for Jack, Danny becomes a threat to his caretaking job at The Overlook Hotel. What is more interesting is that Eli Sunday, the young, god embracing, evangelist showman of a prophet, and antagonist of There Will Be Blood, who Daniel despises and sees through- becomes Daniel’s own stepson as H.W marries Eli’s younger sister.

The second similarity between the two films is the music, in There Will Be Blood by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and in The Shining’ a compilation of music from Wendy Carlos, Béla Bartok and Krzysztof Penderecki. While I feel Penderecki is the most prominent influence on the music of There Will Be Blood, there is an argument to be made that Carlos’s droning synth do appear in the strings in some scenes of There Will Be Blood. Penderecki seems to echo eerily during static shots or slow zooms or dollys of the wilderness during both films. Those well compositioned wide open landscapes of either the desert or the snowy mountains of Colorado seem to act as entrapment for our characters and the music reflects that. Seemingly nothing scary or shocking will be happening on screen but the music tells us something different, filled with violent crescendos and scraping strings. This creates a layer of unpredictability in the films, as the juxtaposition of seemingly peaceful, un-threatening images are contrasted with terrifying music.


Both films also use sound in an interesting way. When the Oil bursts from the well and tosses H.W. to a ledge the sound goes out, similarly to The Shining when blood pours from the elevator, consuming the furniture before cutting away. Sound is also used when Daniel tries to speak with H.W. after the accident, we cannot hear anything being said as we look up at an oily Daniel mouthing words while the well catches fire behind him. This is similar to a scene in The Shining when Danny can hear Jack fighting with his mother. The shot occurs midway through the movie, slowly dollying in on Danny as he uses The Shine to hear a conversation he should not hear. Other themes present are of the power of fathers. In The Shining Jack holds power as a male force, his family is trapped with him. In There Will Be Blood Daniel holds power in his wealth as an oil pioneer.

The Shining is also not the only Kubrick film with commonalities with There Will Be Blood, Kubrick’s 1962 Lolita, though seeming to have more in common with Phantom Thread, shares some similarities, specifically in the final scene of There Will Be Blood. Here Eli attempts to wake Daniel up by saying the room is on fire, just like in the Hotel Room, Lolita wakes Humbert up by saying that the room is on fire.

No doubt that Anderson is a film aficionado who consumes art in order to process it and then use and adapt it into his own work, but another striking similarity comes between this film and The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, specifically in o ne of the opening shots of Plainview digging for silver. This shot identically recreates a shot of Dobbs mining for gold. This shot helps establish Daniels ethic in the film. He is hardworking and relentless. Light shines in from the top of the mine shaft as he continuously pounds his pick into the rock. The next sequence illustrates without words Daniels character; Daniel finds the clear, tracing, glistening vein of a silver ore chamber. He shoves some dynamite into the shaft, lights it. He exits the shaft in time but his plight comes as he enters into the shaft. While Daniel is somewhere between passing out and tripping a rung snaps, sending Daniel to the bottom of the shaft. He awakens and looks up to the light, he pulls himself out all in camera and proceeds to drag himself, one inch at a time through the sweltering open desert. This sequence shows, without words how determined Daniel is at success. He is willing to nearly die for his success. As much of a bastard that this man proves himself to be, that courage of being able to drag himself by his elbows through the roughest terrain gives him the heroic right for almost everything that he does. He went through hell to get this fortune and he’s not going to just let it go away

Other similarities include Terence Malicks 1973  Days Of Heaven, specifically in Nestor Almendros’s handling of the American West. One scene that stands out is the cricket swarm/fire scene in  Days Of Heaven that seems to have connection to the Oil fire in  There Will Be Blood in which H.W loses his hearing. These two films handle the scenes very differently though. In Days Of Heaven the camera work is wild and adjusting compositions on the fly, while Robert Elswit in There Will Be Blood  uses slow pans and static silhouettes. The fire in There Will Be Blood is more contained and has hope because, as Daniel puts it “a whole ocean of oil under our feet”. While in Days Of Heaven the fire is a nightmare that leads to the end of hope for most of the characters, the camera work by Almendros and Elswit reflect this.

This seems to help segue into the next topic, Eli Sunday and religion. Let’s take a look at a shot that visually conveys their relationship in terms of the film. The shot suggests they are no doubt on opposite sides. They are arch rivals cut from the same cloth, all you will need to show this is two shots. One tracking into a character (Daniel Plainview) mumbling to himself while bathed in light. Another, tracking out from a character mumbling to himself covered in shadow. A visual trope evident in this film is longer takes lead to impactful cuts lead to attention to framing.

Eli’s promises of salvation and cure to those who are ill are prominent throughout the film from the first time we see him give a sermon, supposedly curing an old woman with arthritis, until the very last scene in which he is forced to denounce himself by Daniel. From the start Daniel sees no need for Eli, treating him like a child both physically and mentally, only cooperating with Eli to get what he wants weather it be the Sunday ranch or the pipeline, etc. He only puts up with Eli to get what he wants. Daniel doesn’t see Eli as a threat, but more of an annoyance. The audience, however can see Eli as a reflection of Daniel, another wordsmith and god assigned figure, who uses words to manipulate and show power over the people around him. Daniel means in hebrew judgement of god”. Daniel sees himself like a god among men, especially with the citizens of Little Boston, he even refers to himself as the third revelation in the final scene with Eli, somewhere between mocking Eli and believing he in fact is the third revelation.

Daniel also says he believes in “plain speaking”, backed up by his last name, but in fact he sees his words as gospel, using his words and ability to speak as means of manipulating and securing land for drilling. Daniel instantly sees through and despises Eli because Daniel’s voice is his source of power. He sees in Eli the same power of words. But the last straw comes when Eli cannot help H.W. One of Daniels best insults to Eli comes at the end of a sermon when Daniel says to him “well, that was one Goddamn helluva show”. If saying “goddamn” and “hell” isn’t enough Daniel calls it a show. He does this because he knows exactly what’s going on, Eli’s promises are empty and fake. This is shown when Eli cannot help Daniel with H.W’s hearing. We could believe Eli is a prophet until H.W. loses his hearing and Eli, of course, cannot use his magic powers to heal him.

Before this Daniel had also disrespected and insulted Eli by not letting Eli bless the well. Daniel does this because Eli tries to put words into Daniel’s mouth, telling Daniel exactly how to introduce Eli and what he will do. Daniel, seeing himself as god, does not like being told what to do, further evidenced by a scene where fellow oil businessman H.M Tilford makes one too many comments about how Daniel should run his family during an oil discussion and so Daniel threatens to cut his throat. Very abruptly Daniel leaves and then later brags about his deal with Standard Oil to Tilford in a later scene, at this point I might add, “lost” in terms of his family. In the first scene with Tilford, Daniel has (what he thinks is) his brother with him plus a hearing H.W, but when Daniel has what he wants in terms of business (the Standard Oil deal) he doesn’t have much of a family that he is happy with, just his deaf son H.W.


Later, all of his conflict with Eli adds up making for sweet revenge when Daniel has to become baptized and confess his sins for the sake of the pipeline. Daniel goes along with Eli’s show of a baptism until Eli asks him to admit to abandoning his child. This is shown by Daniels compliance with repeating phrases like “I will never backslide” or “I am a sinner!”, but when asked to say that he’s abandoned his child Daniel gives a long look to Eli, the shot HOLDS for some time before Eli says, in a ghastly voice “saaaayyyy ittttt, sayyyyitttt....”. This line is difficult for Daniel because it’s a hard truth. It’s something Daniel does not want to admit and the fact that it’s coming from Eli doesn't help.

One moment that stands out after the baptism is when Daniel shakes Eli’s hand, leans in and whispers something into Eli’s ear, leaving Eli with a stunned expression on his face as the piano and choir sing “Would you be free from the burden of sin” . This is reminiscent of the beginning of the film when Daniel uses the same posture and handshake when he tells Paul, Eli’s brother, that he will take back more than his money if he finds he is being lied to. Now weather Daniel whispered “I’m going to bash your head in with a bowling pin”, one can only imagine the threat of violence Daniel has left Eli with as he walks back down from the stage.


The final scene in the movie shares some similarities and reversals of power. Daniel was embarrassed and slapped in the church and Eli is embarrassed and even killed in the bowling alley. Daniel has disowned both of his “sons” by the end of the film, telling H.W. he was nothing more than face to buy land with, and killing Eli, neither of them are connected to him by blood. This conjures up further connections to Christ as Christ left no bloodline. Another connection to Christ through Daniel is the final line of dialogue, “I’m Finished”. This refers to a few things, the quest for oil is over, the battle with Eli is over, his family is over and perhaps now god is judging him as he grows ill and closer to death. The direct connection to Christ comes from John 19:30 , the second to last of the seven words of Jesus on the cross, “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished;" and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit." In the movie Daniel says “I’m finished” and seemingly gives the film permission to finish. As the strings of Brahms Violin Concerto in D major kick in Daniel does a take back before bowing his head, as Jesus does. In Jesus’s case the phrase carries a sense of accomplishment, and it very well could for Daniel Plainview too.

Paul Thomas Anderson has an incredibly diverse, original, and thought provoking body of work. As one of the true auteur directors out there P.T Anderson gives fans of cinema some of the most intriguing contemporary films to dissect, discuss and write essays on. Though I love the kinetic, lavish, Goodfellas version of the porn Industry that is Boogie NightsHard Eight is always a movie you can watch and be sucked into, and The Master grows on me every time I see it. I think There Will Be Blood will hold up as his masterpiece. In 20-30 years this will still hold up as one of his best, if not his best film. This movie garnered 8 Academy Award nominations and will no doubt hold up in cinema history. It’s crazy to think the 20 year old who made the low budget Cigarettes And Coffee went on to make this epic piece of American art and I wonder how I will see the film differently at the next Cine Club screening.