Archive for cinematography

Wisdom From Father Cocteau

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , on September 13, 2009 by Nathan Douglas

I’m slowly working my way through The Art of Cinema, a collection of writings on film by Jean Cocteau.  One passage, from the essay ‘Poetry in Cinematography,’ is too good to not share:

And if the man who carries out a work of cinematography offers us the essence of his heart and soul, precisely because he cannot control the impulse to do so; if he submits himself to undertaking a humble task and this essence escapes from his innermost being, an essence and charm that owe their effect to the very fact that they are uncalculated; then how do you expect this essence and this charm to work when the audience, his true collaborator, responds with ill-mannered indifference to this proposal of a marriage of love?

If the public goes out of its way to lose its childhood faculties, if it pretends to be an incredulous grown-up unable to slip into that sphere where the unreal becomes matter-of-fact, if it insists on hardening itself against the euphoria it is being offered, if it makes fun of things that are beyond it instead of attempting to raise itself to their level, in short, if it will play the sceptic when confronted with the mysteries of religion and art, I am no longer surprised when people complain that producers are inclined to make only films of the most lethal vulgarity.

This craving to understand (when the world that people inhabit and acts of God are apparently incoherent, contradictory and incomprehensible), this craving to understand, I say, shuts them off from all the great and exquisite imprecisions that art deploys in the solitudes where men no longer try to understand, but to feel.

This is why I am fascinated by cinematography, which goes beyond the little audience for theatre and is that much more likely to reach those few souls in the world who are searching for food and dying of hunger.



Matt Zoller Seitz essay: The Following Shot

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , on June 3, 2009 by Nathan Douglas


Matt Zoller Seitz has posted a video essay on the “Following” shot.  Excerpt from his written introduction:

“Following” is a montage of clips illustrating one of my favorite types of shots: one where the camera physically follows a character through his or her environment. I love this shot because it’s neither first-person nor third; it makes you aware of a character’s presence within the movie’s physical world while also forcing identification with the character. I also love the sensation of momentum that following shots invariably summon. Because the camera is so close to the character(s) being followed, we feel that we’re physically attached to those characters, as if by an invisible guide wire, being towed through their world, sometimes keeping pace, other times losing them as they weave through hallways, down staircases or through smoke or fog.

I share Mr.  Seitz’s enthusiasm for the following shot.  It’s a technique that I’ve been thinking about constantly over the last couple of weeks.  I’m also in the middle of editing a short film that has several following shots spaced throughout; in some ways the film is structured around these moments.  I’m fascinated by the sense of movement that comes with the following shot, and the expectation of going Somewhere that’s built into it.  As Mr. Seitz writes, the shot has been used by many master filmmakers over the years; off the top of my head, I’d say my favourite uses of the following shot have been found in films by Michael Mann and Zhang Yimou.  The above frame grab is from the trailer for Lance Hammer’s BALLAST.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing and watching the attached video.

h/t: The House Next Door