In the Cut, Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight). I really, really liked this dissection, by Jim Emerson, of a chase scene in The Dark Knight. I think the scene still communicates on a sequence-of-events level – chase goes underground, trucks smashes car, weapons are fired, Batmobile rams a dump truck – but there are definitely ways the editing makes it less spatially coherent or viscerally “real”. You can set aside whether that makes the scene good or bad, or whether it undermines or supports whatever Nolan’s intentions were. It’s still a nice primer and breakdown of how they communicate narrative through the frame, and how ignoring or adhering to visual conventions affects how you understand what you see.

Observations on film art : Unsteadicam chronicles

Run-and-gun technique doesn’t demand that you develop an ongoing sense of the figures within a spatial whole. The bodies, fragmented and smeared across the frame, don’t dwell within these locales. They exist in an architectural vacuum. In United 93, the technique could work because we’re all minimally familiar with the geography of a passenger jet. But in The Bourne Ultimatum, could anybody reconstruct any of these stations, streets, or apartment blocks on the strength of what we see?

Reminds me once again of Die Hard as an architectural film. I don’t think this kind of spatial understanding is an absolute requirement for a good action movie or any movie, really, but it’s interesting to think about. I recently mentioned The Thin Red Line did a great job during the hilltop battle. Rear Window, too, but that’s maybe an easier task, given the confinement. Which others?

Observations on film art : Unsteadicam chronicles

Visions of Light

Visions of Light. If you have the slightest movie nerd or photography tendency, this will be a treat. It’s a documentary about cinematography, told through interviews with cinematographers and lots and lots of clips – I wish I’d taken notes to track them down later. Favorite bits: early silent film and how way, way advanced they were when it comes to lighting and movement; how the dynamism of silent film was lost when the talkies came around (sound recording required isolating/insulating the camera, which was thus rendered largely immobile); how Hollywood starlets formed relationships with the cinematographers who lit them well; early color technique; New York style vs. Hollywood style; film noir roots, style, and influences; and so much more. Great stuff.