Thursday, August 13, 2009


I tend to speak a lot in technical terms, what I like about this blog is that I can be a film fan again. As one works in this biz one tends sometimes to forget about that love... So lets talk film.

The art of creating a lasting image on image that will stay with you and represent the film. A great film usually has several of them, some other films have one, but one that stands the test of time.
I knew I wanted to shoot pictures from early on because I always dissected the film frames I was watching. The use of lenses and lighting which differentiated one Director from the other.

Usually a great Director will give his or her film a defined look, a feel that is only his.....That is one of the things that makes a great Director great.
But great images are not only about lighting and framing, its about the moment, the message being expressed in that frame, the emotional power of that moment:

Since I was a kid I knew JOHN BOORMAN framed and shot things differently, his films just looked..."better", more polished. Excalibur is a triumph of costume design and lighting. In Excalibur, he decided to shine lights with green gels on all the knight's armors, and it looked amazing.

DAVID LEAN was a great Director that started as a great Editor, and he always made his films look epic. Never one to compromise, he left images that will last 1000 years. Like the famous cut with Peter O'Tool blowing the match and then cutting from that close up to THIS extreme wide shot...priceless in 65mm!

One of the real best gangster films ever, John Mackenzie's masterpiece ends with a lengthy shot of BOB HOSKINS in the back seat of a car, once a powerful gangster, now knowing that his girlfriend will be killed, so will his family, and he will be tortured and then killed too...and there is nothing he can do. The shot stays, and stays and then fades to black. I will never forget it.

One of the frustrating things about teaching films to young students is that most of them will never see knockout stuff like this, thinking "old is boring". The amazing Laurence Olivier scared the crap out of me as a child and to this day his scene as the "dentist" with Dustin Hoffman is an example of tension and just pure film making. "Is it safe?"..if you have seen'll know.

I know this film has been seen by the entire human race...I remember seeing this on a Cinerama screen on a 70mm print (35mm blow up), and here is an example of patience, something most of today's director's seem to forget. The frame tilts up and stays a bit showing us the blackness of space, then this massive ship enters the top of the frame. My then 6 year old jaw dropped and I knew I wanted to make films forever.

Stanley and the trusty 18mm or 25mm lens, always wanting deep focus and always creating memorable images. I loved his compositions and his use of production design. Of Stanley Kubrick there is nothing left to say.

Yes, I know...not John Carpenter's best, but he knew how to make smaller projects look better, look bigger, look w-i- d- e- r. One of the few Director's that in his prime knew how to make things look more cinematic. In The Fog, an old fashioned ghost story, there are great wide screen moments, like the very last shot, when the priest gets killed.

When the Alien comes out John Hurt's chest, Cinema was never the same again. Ridley Scott instead of giving us a cheesy 70's version of space (like Logan's Run, which was still fun though...)...he made the characters real, they were blue collar workers, miners, it became a template for almost every space film that came after for many years..

I recently saw a Blu Ray version of this old favorite...and, its full of so many memorable imagery. They only had 2 lenses, since this CINERAMA process was new, so they could not get real close ups, and the image size was staggering, amazingly wide. But the best craftsmenHollywood could buy were showing their stuff here. If you see it, see it on Blu ray, it reminded me why I got into this crazy biz in the first place.

Well, that's enough for today, I'll add more things on this topic later.


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