Archive for November, 2011

Not All DVD Artwork Is Equal

Posted in film, Miscellaneous with tags , , , on November 23, 2011 by Nathan Douglas

The current state of my desk and two of its more  conspicuous residents, who wound up side by side today purely by coincidence, leading to the entirely unexpected revelation that Tom Cruise DOES kind of have a pop-art-Christ-look thing going on there, glower aside. Having such an association in mind while watching a romanticization of warring Buddhists-cum-Bravehearts makes the effort of sitting through Samurai all the way through seem more enticing than when I started a few days ago, with the intention of revisiting favourite movies of my childhood and teenage years to see if they’re still all that beloved, stopped for perfectly menial reasons, and failed to pick it up again. We’ll see how it goes. Buñuel might have saved the day.

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Master Shots #1

Posted in film, Master Shots with tags , , , , on November 23, 2011 by Nathan Douglas

In traditional film terms, “master shot” refers to the widest angle of a scene, typically cut and left behind in once it’s provided a perfunctory overview of the scene’s geography. An “opening shot” is of course the first image of a film, and when used by filmmakers so inclined, can serve as a spiritual or symbolic (and for some daring folks, even literal) master shot for the entire film it is introducing. It could be ingenious, inept, or just functional; in every case, the construction of the shot tells you something about the experience of the rest of the film. Should you trust this film? The opening shot, like any first impression, hints at the answer.

It’s truly exhilarating to experience an opening shot that seems to resonate deep down, generating excitement simply because it exists, and because it exists exactly the way it is, and then have that tingle of intuition confirmed by the rest of the film matching that one frame in skill, precision, and intention. It’s all of a whole, of course, and the opening shot is really but one element working in concert with many others, but we don’t think like that when we’re in the middle of seeing it. The gift of time allows us to discover the film, peel the layers, and tremble, wondering if our trust in such a strong first impression will be validated. The films that launch on such a single, compelling image, and sustain the trust earned by it are the films I consider masterful. The experience of learning that they are “true” in a sense, true to that tingle, makes me think of them like friends.

And so, as the title suggests, here are three master shots in spirit and in truth:

In order: Three Colours: Blue (Kieslowski, 1993); Birth (Glazer, 2004); Certified Copy (Kiarostami, 2011)

Related: Jim Emerson’s Opening Shots Project