Mandy: The Art Of Film Grain



one of the interesting byproducts of the digitization of everything is the steep rise in nostalgia for physicality there's a great lecture from the writer and publisher James bridle where he laughs about the fact that nobody ever really talked about the smell of books until ebooks started to threaten their existence all of a sudden we became nostalgic for a quality that we never really noticed before or take the resurgence in vinyl record sales while it's definitely true that the sound quality of vinyl is amazing I'd be willing to bet that our attraction to it also has something to do with the object itself a real thing that takes up space in your home a symbol of the analog world as more and more of our lives get vacuumed into the digital realm we're increasingly likely I think to look for these symbols and be attracted to them and the crazy thing is that these reminders don't even have to be physical objects all they have to do to tap into that nostalgia is resemble the traits of those objects think about Instagram filters designed to look like old cameras and film stocks these filters mimic objects that most Instagram users won't ever touch as bridal says putting a filter on your digital photo is an attempt to codify that image as memory to wrap it up in something solid and historical that calls back to a time before everything was fluid and changing and impossible to hold on to in this way our nostalgia becomes an aesthetic and in film one of the features of that aesthetic is grain film grain is a texture in processed film that has the appearance of tiny particles moving around randomly in the image the amount of grain has to do with the speed and size of the film stock and the amount of light being used during the arrow in film was the only choice many photographers and filmmakers tried hard to eliminate this aspect of film processing but it was always a part of cinema especially in low-budget independent movies using smaller film stocks like 16 millimeter and without access to big professional studio lighting these days it's easy to tap into that indie aesthetic by using grain the grain itself is loaded with all these associations that reach back into the history of film the question is now that grain has its own aesthetic can that aesthetic be pushed further and that brings me to Mandy the second feature film from Panos cosmatos if you haven't seen it do that right now it might still be playing at a local theater near you Mandy is a revenge horror movie starring Nicolas Cage reminiscent of the grindhouse films of the 70s and 80s when the movie is set it's a simple story as most revenge movies are but what sets it apart is the psychoactive vision and focus of cosmatos who clearly has something very specific in mind visually movie is dark grimy often saturated with primary colors and completely awash in grain in this way it's not unlike Kozma toeses first feature beyond the black rainbow which is much more ambiguous plot wise but interested in exploring the same visual fetishes for cosmatos it's not just about paying homage to old films it's about learning the expressive potential of existing aesthetics and stretching their qualities to see what kinds of feelings and tones they can evoke the way I look at it now though is I feel like in the present time has no meaning anymore yeah and so it's I feel like now if choosing an era for your film is almost like choosing a color beyond the black rainbow and Mandy invited us to consider film grain as a visual tool like lighting or color not just a byproduct of chemical processing so what does green feel like maybe the most prominent quality of film grain is movement the grain is always moving it's swimming which means that even in a still life of let's say a flower on a table that flower is alive even though it's not moving Green gets inside whatever's in the frame and imbues it with motion in fact this kind of swimming breathing movement from within mimics the visual effects of hallucinogenic drugs which play a major part in Mandy film grain is hypnotic and that adds to the sense of the film existing in a dreamlike universe or as one horribly bad acid trip at times the grain almost has a paranoid feeling like there's something squirming under the image another quality of grain is that it blends grain gives an underlying texture to the frame so that there is a continuity between one object and another it gives the impression that the image is atomized into tiny particles that could disperse and overlap cosmatos often mixes heavy grain with smoke to heighten this effect for the characters and the viewers nothing is solid or what it seems things can shift at a moment's notice in a world that looks like this you're always vulnerable always at risk of coming apart the most striking example of this is a scene in the first half of Mandy where Mandy herself is kidnapped by a cult and force-fed hallucinogenic drugs cosmatos turns the dial way up on this scene by drenching the image in purple and pink hues and adding a trailing effect to movement so that when the cult leader Jeremiah sands gesticulates you actually have this steam of grain that falls away from the Christ Buddha spiked then when he kneels down to speak to her up close cosmatos actually fades Mandy's face into sands it's hardly noticeable at first and that's purposeful the texture of the image helps this be so subtle that you're not quite sure if your mind is playing tricks on you it's important to note that even though this is cool as hell and something that film geeks like myself drool over this effect is not just visual decoration it adds to the story sans is trying to assimilate Mandy into his cult as you see her face fade into his he's using the qualities of psychoactive drugs to loosen Mandy's grip on her own identity so that he can substitute his own stuff like this is what gives Mandy its power its aesthetic is not added on to the film after the fact it's a film that literally wouldn't function if you took those aesthetic features away that's true for its use of film grain and for all the other visual fireworks of the movie you know as history becomes nostalgia and nostalgia becomes aesthetic a great opportunity is being presented to new filmmakers I agree with cosmatos time has no meaning anymore every aesthetic of the past is a palette for the future you can copy and paste those old aesthetics onto your work or you can take up the colors with a spirit of experimentation and have some fucking fun how you doing everybody thank you so much for watching this episode was brought to you by skill share an online learning community for creators with more than 18,000 classes and everything from graphic design and film editing to finance and IT security you know when I learned Photoshop I learned it through a mishmash of disconnected View Tube videos and I can't help but feel that the process would have gone a lot faster if there was a class dedicated to teaching me everything about that program in a systematic way learning new skills is super valuable to me because whenever I learn a new skill it's like a bunch of new ideas are suddenly unlocked in my head I think what can I do with this and that always always helps me with writer's block a premium membership begins around $10 a month for unlimited access to all courses but the first 500 people to sign up using the link that's right below in the description get their first two months for free in those two months you could easily learn the skills you need to start a new hobby or business more importantly the skills you learn will help give you the ideas for what that business or art project could be definitely try it out thanks guys I'll see you next time

37 thoughts on “Mandy: The Art Of Film Grain

  1. “Our nostalgia becomes an aesthetic” 1:46, I personally find this in my addiction to cassettes and Walkman’s which I find really cool and interesting mechanisms that bring music to my ears with actual physical copies of songs unlike a name in a list of songs in my phone.

  2. I immediately fell in love with Mandy (The character in the film) She’s like Mona Lisa with a scar. I have this thing for imperfections in people. Like that scar on her face really got me into her even more. I want to care for her and be with her. That’s why her death really hit me and really set a tone within me. As I watched the film, I felt like I was part of it. I was angry wanting vengeance for Mandy. I was Nickolaus Cage during his Tirade. Something about Cosmatos is that he gets people like us.

  3. This movie was hard to watch because of its saturation, use of colors such as red, blue and yellow, and also because of the grain. That's all I gotta input to those considering watching the movie. I didn't finish it because it was boring besides the occasional intriguing cinematography and angles in which it was filmed. The plot is weak as hell, and although I'm supposed to be creeped out by the psychotic freaky villains in the movie, they bored me aside from their unique design. They overused monologues and trying to make certain scenes "creepy" or "unnerving" by the use of the theme song (the one from the trailer). It just doesn't really work out in my opinion. Hard to sit through because of the wrong reasons, that's why I didn't finish it. (Stopped at around 1hr 20 min btw).

  4. I am a Cinema Buff Hardcore ( but not horror ) but this looks like something unique…..will check out ….please do more Film oriented discourses.

  5. Can you do a review of "The Witch" by Robert Eggers…thanks…I really loved it and would like to know why it was so good in your perspective…thanks

  6. After I saw this video, I stopped it halfway. I went to the store and bought Mandy on dvd, I just watched it with headphones on in midnight. Saw the deleted scene's and the behind the scene's after watching the whole movie. I am BLOWN AWAY. I never experienced this before. Thanks to this video I found this gem. Thanks so much for this video, so awesome!

  7. I'm looking for a video, I don't remember what exactly it was about or whether it was you, but in the video, there is a mention of the movie "They Live", was this one of yours?

  8. Nerdwriter: let's make a video about grain.
    Youtube compression: "I'm about to end this man's whole career"

  9. Wait I was under the impression that Mandy was a documentary of a day in the life of Nicholas Cage?!
    Oh no… dem drugs actually work!

  10. I don't know. This movie brought me to the point that I had never come to before, the point were I wanted to turn the movie off before it was finished. I rented it from iTunes for 99 cents. A friend of mine and I were watching it, and when I turned it off with the words "I don't even know why I would want to watch it", she agreed with me. And apparently, a lot of other people had this reaction, to the point that the studio felt that in order to recoup its money for its production, they needed to resort to offering it on iTunes for only 99 cents…

  11. Thanks for the video, plenty of food for thought.
    As an animator, you always hear how static holds don't work in CG the same as they do in traditional hand drawn animation. This could be something worth playing with to see what results I get.
    I also always felt 'The Fellowship of the Ring' had an extra quality 'The Two Towers' and 'Return of the King' didn't because they switched to digital. What I would give for them all to be on film.

  12. Mandy was one amazing work. Subtle things. Like Mandy having 2 different colored eyes. That incredible soundtrack, especially the softer parts. THe art style. The way it was shot. Far more interesting than movies with 6 times the budget. And of course, the Cage, obviously "all in" with this role. Instant classic.

    Nice vid.

  13. In the future, people will add bad compression artifacts to video to emulate that classic Google Video 2004 look.

  14. Whats the song name throughout the video ? Because the one in the description is wrong 🙁

    Edit: i found it, its from the OST of the Movie. So gorgeous.

  15. Mandy is an beautiful looking head trip of a film 🙂 Sorry To Bother You has a couple nice looking scenes that may not use the grain effect as much but the way the lighting is used is definitely similar.

  16. On a side-subject, Kodak’s photographic film used to be tempered in a way that favoured lighter-skinned subjects. Naturally, pressure came for them to amend this issue.

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