Monday, March 8, 2010

Blinders off

T.O.H. posted these clips in Spanish, presumably to make a point about the command of space and color and movement -- above and to my mind beyond any reservations one can justly have about derivative plot, cookie-cutter dialog and anti-corporate propaganda. The first one makes the point especially well, because it's just a guy addressing a crowd: no monsters, no tech, no swooping crane shots. I finally saw The Hurt Locker a couple of days ago, and it's very much my kind of movie. Touchstones are guys like Sam Fuller and Don Siegel: classic American genre films. But it doesn't have this, the gift that Kael used to call "film sense." It's right there. You either see it or you don't.

8 comments:

GoJoe said...

Cameron should be applauded for resisting modern shakycam cliches, but if you can't see "film sense" in THE HURT LOCKER, despite a few concessions to contemporary filmmaking trends, I can't help but wonder if we saw the same movie!

Come on Chute Saab, was there a more memorable transition all year than the match cut to James striding forward in his bomb suit? The rust blown off the car in slow motion, the endless wall of cereal boxes, the soldiers sharing the juice box...

I thought the movie had real image-making power and was happy to see that, despite the abundance of handheld footage, spatial coherence was still respected, unlike some contemporary films I could mention.

Of course Bigelow is an old hand at this sort of thing, see the opening of STRANGE DAYS for a superlative example.

Generic said...

You're right, of course. Those are all great images. The cereal boxes especially, as capturing his alination from civilian life in a single image. Bigelow is an amazingly economical storyteller. But I'm not sure it's quite the same thing. There's a sensuality here to the way camera moves and movement within the frame are combined -- not to mention (as a friend has pointed out) the use of 3-D as the Bazinian fulfillment of deep focus. (Can you tell I work at a film school, now?)

GoJoe said...

Haha, I still wonder if you're selling Bigelow a little short: the intercutting of locked-down slow motion with the frenetic handheld footage, for instance. I do think "sensual" is an apt description of Cameron's filmmaking in AVATAR though, as opposed to THE HURT LOCKER's more visceral/surreal qualities. Hope Cameron's competitors will take a long hard look at AVATAR and rethink their shooting/editing strategies. It's nice to actually be able to see the spectacle in a spectacle for a change! We may be able to agree that the long shot near the beginning when Jake is pulled out of hibernation is one of the most thrilling deep-focus shots ever...

Generic said...

I would never sell Kathryn short in any department. My admiration for her is... Let's just say it's as broad as it is deep.

Christian Lindke said...

With regard to the "shakey cam" trend in much of modern cinema. I like comparing the Doug Liman, and Alexander Witt, Bourne and its coherent use of the technique with the Greengrass mess where the viewer often feels lost and gets no sense of place in the action.

The car chase in the second Bourne is a key example of this. I didn't feel motion sick like other claimed, I merely felt as if I didn't know where the hell I was and where we were going.

Generic said...

Intyeresting background here:

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/michaelwalford/entry/deep_focus_cinematography_/

Christian Lindke said...

I think that deep focus can be vital in increasing the verisimilitude of an environment, but using focus as a narrative tool to direct the eye toward/away from action is equally important.

Yes, one must trick the viewer into a suspension of disbelief in order to get beyond what Boorstin calls the "voyeuristic eye." Deep focus can be a way to accomplish this goal, especially with establishment shots, but there are a number of genres that can benefit from directed focus.

Imagine how a director could subtly introduce clues and red herrings through the use of directed focus. Rather than shifting the frame, or cutting away to a clue/false clue, the director could use a quick rack focus to have a better and more subtle effect.

Generic said...

The wide screen can also be used somehwat similarly, to simply include objects in the same frame rather than cutting from one to the other. In the example above, I think Cameron savors the feeling of space. The paralax sensation.