The City in Film Bullit

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How do you portray the city? A negative view or a positive view? A big city may be over crowded, with smells of fast food, lights and lots of pollution. Scott Ridley’s ‘Bladerunner’, Merchant Ivory’s ‘Room with a View’ use similar ways to present the city. But the film ‘Bullit’ is rather different. The film ‘Bullit’ is unique in that, despite being set in the popular city, San Francisco, it is not shown much throughout the film. Rather than presenting the city in an interesting or original way, the director uses it as a backdrop for the story. San Francisco is famous for its hills, trams and Californian Bay.

These create a backdrop for the story as early in the car chase, Steve McQueen stops to allow a tram to go by. The hills make the car chase more challenging and exciting, as they are woven into the chase. Also as McQueen drives, his rear view mirror shows the Californian Bay rolling along behind him, and as the car goes over hills you are able to catch a glimpse of the bay. The sounds featured are mostly those of engines, and tyres screeching as a large part of the film is based on the car chase. Ridley Scott’s ‘Bladerunner’ is one of the most famous futuristic pictures.

Its backdrop is a future world taken over by bright lights advertising and pollution. The atmosphere is smoky and dingy, in a sharp contrast with the dazzling neon lights. These neon lights are always seen as a symbol of a city of the future. Some of the special effects include a huge television screen, standing out in the skyline of the city. It features advertising played repeatedly, loudly and can be heard at ground level. The first shot of the city is from the air; the skyline looks beautiful with only a few garish, yellow lights. Straight away the shot cuts to a dingy, smoky city and a large neon sign. Read about the film Saving Private Ryan

Most of the people are carrying umbrellas, some with neon handles. They appear to be wearing near identical raincoats. Drastic changes are clearly apparent in this futuristic world. A type of flying car, or train/tram can be seen often. However basic objects such as newspapers, umbrellas and cardboard takeaway boxes still remain the same. At the end of the first scene Harrison Ford’s character is taken away by the police, as the flying car takes off into the air a different view of the city is portrayed. It seems calm and tranquil, the music played is also quiet and calm.

As British gangster films have become more fashionable, ‘Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels’ has become more famous. The director, Guy Ritchie produced one of the best takes on this style of film, while working from his own script. The first scene shows London gangsters dealing stolen and expensive jewellery. The dialogue is delivered in a strong London accent, with rhyming cockney slang. This slang expresses that the film has been filmed in a London setting. The clothes worn by the gangsters are typical British mob clothing; tatty and dirty. This reflects the city being rundown, vandalised and dirty.

The music in this scene is fast paced, to fit in with the excitement and speed of the chase. As the police intrude on the trading, as the gang flees the camera cuts often and quickly showing the gang from every angle. Whilst the camera moves about it allows the viewer to get a look at the vandalism in the capital city. As this is a brief scene there are no special effects used. However it is still an effective introduction to the film. Merchant Ivory’s ‘Room with a View’ is from a totally different time period to the rest. It is set in Florence, Italy in the early twentieth century.

The city of Florence is a setting filled with classical beauty and class. As the film is a costume drama there are no special effects, instead more subtle techniques have to be applied. The atmosphere and general setting look near perfect and the city is seen as a backdrop of vintage beauty. There is rarely any music in the city scene and there is none of the background hustle and bustle noise that is found in ‘Bladerunner’. However the city revolves around a contrast. As two women visiting from Britain get lost in the back allies a more dark, claustrophobic side of the city comes across.

The two women find this almost exciting because they are used to the touristy side of Florence; with the bright open spaces and emphasis on architecture. Down the back allies the camera shots seem to be from ground level, this makes the buildings look towering and threatening. The women are wearing well-made, expensive clothes, as they enter the back allies they are greeted by native Italians peasants with dark features and are dressed shabbily in comparison. They are seen as unsavoury characters, and threatening to the wealthy British women.

In the main forum a fight breaks out between two Italian men, it ends with a stabbing and death. A British lady faints at the sight because she is not used to it whereas the Italians do not make a great deal of it. All of these films have a negative side to the city, but they also have a positive side. The negative side seems to be stronger as the bad points are picked up more easily. ‘A Room with a View’ seems to have a positive side, but yet the deeper you delve and the more you find out about the city you realise that it is not all it seems.

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