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The Cinematography Discussion #1


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#241 of 311 OFFLINE   Allen Hirsch

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Posted July 13 2002 - 04:25 AM

Thanks, guys, for a great discussion and your reviews.
I want to commend you all for your efforts.

A final note: my wife LOVED The Man in the Moon, which we finally got around to seeing (It's so much fun to see an actress who's well-known now just command the screen in her very first major role). My wife actually said it was good I frequent HTF, if it helps us to uncover little gems of films like that. (Now that's a first!!)
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#242 of 311 OFFLINE   Rain

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Posted July 13 2002 - 07:08 AM

Hell, yah, guys. Great work.

I would have liked to contribute more, but the problem was that either I hadn't seen the film or just couldn't think of anything to add to the already thorough analyses. :b

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#243 of 311 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted July 13 2002 - 07:28 AM

No problem (once I got the new DVD player at least). Posted Image

John, nice sig. Posted Image

#244 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted July 13 2002 - 11:52 AM

will there be a cinematography discussion number 2?

Actually, that is part of the reason I asked for some feedback, and to have people let us know they were here. If I can justify asking others to put the time into doing these reviews, I need to know people are getting something from it. I would like to do another discussion, though it will probably just be two films, or three if Agee does his one on Oliver Twist. It seemed the discussion started off strong, but lost steam, which isn't fair to the later contributors.

John, nice sig

As a recently engaged guy, hopefully you won't take it too seriously.

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#245 of 311 OFFLINE   Agee Bassett

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Posted July 13 2002 - 02:54 PM

I must apologize for not being able to do my film, but personal issues of mine have unfortunately conspired to relegate it to the back burner at this time. I still hope to be able to do it, and hopefully within a month's time or so, these offline concerns will have subsided to the point where I can. Encouraging to see that there is still indeed some interest. Posted Image

Great thread, John. Posted Image
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#246 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted July 13 2002 - 03:17 PM

I am inclined to do another thread, which probably will just be a film of my choice plus one other individual, and Agee, if he wants to do it. It is unlikely it will be before September, though.

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#247 of 311 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted July 14 2002 - 04:12 AM

FWIW, I would love to see more of this kind of discussion here. If I don't post, it's just because I have nothing to say, but I do read it. Posted Image

#248 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 02 2002 - 06:49 AM

I'm reviving this thread because I am going to revisit The Man in the Moon. I have come up with other things to discuss about it, and since I can do my own caps, that is a lot easier to do now. If anyone would like to discuss any of the other films from this thread, knock yourself out. Maybe we can get a free flowing discussion going as a warm-up for other Cinematography threads that will be starting this month.



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BTW, Mike. With all the attention on that guy from The Who, who died at almost the same time, it sure is nice to see one of the greatest talents in the history of the instrument recognized here.

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#249 of 311 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted September 02 2002 - 07:04 AM

Excellent! I'll be looking forward anxiously to more movies and discussion, this has been one of my favorite (and most educational) experiences at HTF.

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#250 of 311 OFFLINE   Agee Bassett

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Posted September 08 2002 - 06:15 AM

I look forward to it, John. Posted Image

For the record, I now have most of the ideas for my essay down in (very) rough form (although I need to revise my screencap selection). Now comes the tough part--making something coherent and interesting out of it. Posted Image
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#251 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 08 2002 - 12:36 PM

Well, I have the caps, but I constantly suffer from rapidly shifting motivation. I have a lot more ebb than flow. I'll get them here. After watching The Man in the Moon about 20 times, I suddenly discovered a visual trick Freddie Francis used in one sequence that seems so obvious now I wonder how I ever missed it.

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#252 of 311 OFFLINE   Agee Bassett

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Posted September 08 2002 - 12:42 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by JohnRice
Well, I have the caps, but I constantly suffer from rapidly shifting motivation. I have a lot more ebb than flow.
My doctor has diagnosed me with the same thing. Posted Image
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#253 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 08 2002 - 04:42 PM

Ok, here it is. This scene is where Dani and Court basically have their only attempt at something resembling a date. I didn't think to note the chapter, but if anyone really wants me to, I will.



[c]The scene starts with Court and Matt, the two "Men" talking on the porch.
It is shot from a low angle to enhance their power.

Posted Image


Dani comes out of the house. Because of the low angle and her being
in the background, her youth and small size are exaggerated.

Posted Image



We now get a close-up emphasizing their height and age difference.

Posted Image



As the point of view changes sides and moves back, Court and Dani switch places
to put her back further from the camera again.
Dani even steps down one step to increase this.

Posted Image Posted Image

Posted Image Posted Image




Dani reduces the difference in their size by sliding closer to Court.
This also shows a certain amount of power on her part.

Posted Image Posted Image

Posted Image




Finally, Dani and Court are on the same level, and she looks much more
powerful and mature than before.
The camera position has been raised to achieve this, as well as using a much longer
focal length lens to compress the depth of the shot. I think Dani is probably sitting
on something as well to place her higher.

Posted Image



That is, until Maureen arrives.

Posted Image



The gap widens.

Posted Image Posted Image

Posted Image




And Court completely forgets Dani.

Posted Image Posted Image

Posted Image




The entire sequence ends several minutes later with Dani having
Virtually disappeared.

Posted Image
[/c]


In the end, without any lighting tricks or special effects, Freddie Francis and Robert Mulligan have completely changed the apparant age, size and power of Dani, and back again. Perfectly fitting with what is happening in the story.






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#254 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 09 2002 - 07:08 PM

What? Did I lay an egg here?

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#255 of 311 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted September 09 2002 - 08:15 PM

Interestingly simple.

It certainly shows how little touches, the actual approach, most definately can make a difference in the emotional effect of a scene.

Of course, when it's done well we simply accept the roles that are being visually applied to the characters. We know weak, strong, young, old, etc simply from how the characters are shown.

And you can change all that with a different camera angle or some lighting.


BTW, speaking of cinematography, as I was watching the commentary for Resevoir Dogs I was noticing just how terrific the opening c'tography is. For example, take note of the use of some of the slow pans and how the conversation is giving a smoother flow by their use and the use of cuts. The camera is moving between the gaps of 2 characters with their backs to us and we can see the character speaking. Then, just as that character is starting to be blocked by one of the characters with their back to us, their dialog ends and the character right next to them, now pushed into center stage as the only visible (face) character, starts talking. The slow movement continues right up to the point they stop talking and then a cut is thrown in to a response dialog, or even a side dialog like Joe figuring out his phone book.


It gives that conversation scene a terrific rhythm. Actually the rhythm comes more from the editing I suppose, but the editing requires the great source cinematography in the first place. And that photography has to be timed perfectly with the snippets of dialog that are to be used so that each burst matches the slow camera movements.


I just can't say enough about this scene as I think it's a case where strong dialog is amplified at least twice as much in power simply due to how it is presented.

Hopefully the Resevoir Dogs SE has made it into many homes, or the original DVD is already there. Posted Image

#256 of 311 OFFLINE   Allen Hirsch

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Posted September 10 2002 - 03:41 AM

Well done, John.

It is amazing how, when it's done well as in the scenes you captured, you don't even NOTICE being "manipulated". It fits the characters so well, conveys what we've already learned or are beginnning to understand, that we don't even consider the cinematography "tricks" that reinforce or help create our impressions.
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#257 of 311 OFFLINE   David Tolsky

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Posted September 10 2002 - 03:43 AM

It's funny, this kind of reminds me of the Universal Studios backlot tour. They take you into the Western town and show you saloons and bordellos and casinos where the entrance doors may be purposely smaller to make the cowboy or bandit "bigger than life". Then around the corner, the doors are oversized, to make the person exiting look smaller. There are all kinds of tricks that can be pulled off without the audience ever knowing, yet the effect is achieved.

#258 of 311 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 10 2002 - 04:32 AM

Hopefully the Resevoir Dogs SE has made it into many homes, or the original DVD is already there.

In my case, both. Reservoir Dogs was one of the first I bought. I still remember the look of the guys at Circuit City, 4 1/2 years ago, when I bought DVDs of Brigadoon, Dirty Dancing (both to please the wife) and Reservoir Dogs. I haven't watched the SE yet, and haven't watched the other copy in a year or so, but I clearly remember that opening scene, and you are completely right. I'll have to watch it more closely.


It is amazing how, when it's done well as in the scenes you captured, you don't even NOTICE being "manipulated".

I probably watched it half a dozen times while I preparing my original post, and I was watching it closely, but still missed this. It wasn't until I sat down and watched it, purely for enjoyment, six months later that it finally hit me.



They take you into the Western town and show you saloons and bordellos and casinos where the entrance doors may be purposely smaller to make the cowboy or bandit "bigger than life".

Good point David. Rattling around somewhere far in the back of my mind I seem to remember something that used forced perspective sets to a comedic end. I just can't drag out what it was. Could it have been Chaplin or Keaton?

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#259 of 311 OFFLINE   Agee Bassett

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Posted September 10 2002 - 05:42 AM

Director Rouben Mamoulian, elucidating his approach on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (American Cinematographer, Feb. 1932) had a good analysis of the kind of effect illustrated by your screencaps above, John:
Quote:
"It is not only the action that is important, but the way in which the camera sees that action. The cinematographer must . . . have his camera at exactly the right position matching the dramatic perspective of the scene.
"This is the salient point about camera angles: they must be used to match the dramatic angle of the scene, [and] never for their own sake . . . If they aid the dramatic progress of the picture, they are good, and must be used; if they hinder it, they must not . . .
"But the use of camera angles extends beyond this. It definitely enters the realm of the psychological. It can convey the underlying significance of a scene as nothing else can. Take, for instance, a sequence from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll has just found himself transformed, involuntarily, into Hyde, with no way of returning to his laboratory to secure the chemicals necessary to return him to his real self . . . He is forced to call upon his friend, Dr. Lanyon, who brings the necessary potions to his own house, where Hyde is forced to use them to restore himself, changing back to Jekyll before Lanyon's horrified eyes. In the scenes which follow, Jekyll, physically and emotionally exhausted, pleads with his friend for forgiveness. Double strength was given to these scenes by the camera angles used. Jekyll is crumpled up in a low chair, pleading piteously with his friend; Lanyon sits behind his desk, which is on a dais, as one on the 'Throne of Supreme Judgment.' The angles from which each is photographed subtly heighten this contrast: Jekyll is always photographed from above, looking up into the camera — an abject supplicant. Lanyon is always photographed from below, looking down at the camera — a stern and uncompromising judge. To enhance these visual contrasts, I placed Jekyll in the lowest chair in the studio, and Lanyon (already on a raised platform), on the highest, severest chair in the studio, to which I added three-inch lifts under the legs."
Very fundamental, but undeniably effective, visual trickery, put to fluent use; by Mamoulian in '32, and Francis in '91. Posted Image
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#260 of 311 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted September 10 2002 - 06:47 AM

I remember noticing that scene, though not in the detail John did, when I initally watched the film. But all I really saw was that Dani was shown smaller than Court for quite a while and that Maureen was always emphasized as being on the smae level with him. I think I said something briefly to that effect in my inital post; it's good to see how cleanly the full effect is pulled off, thanks for pointing it out John!

This sort of style of cinematography; focused on the composition of the characters to each other and their environment, is more interesting to me than the very cool sweeping 'new' techniques seen in the Matrix and David Fincher films (though I love those films dearly). I guess more of a classic style really appeals to me, that is so simple it is often ignored. A film that comes to mind is Pollyanna. There is some excellent cinematography in this film, especially in her arrival at the mansion that emphasives the wealth and grandeour and Pollyanna's tinyness, and the 'DEATH comes UNEXPECTEDLY!' sermon; which has some wonderful low angle shots of the pastor, framed very humorously by the cieling joists. In fact the cinematography of this entire sequence is played for laughs, I think.

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