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Sunday, 24 February 2013

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Tom Elrod

Good stuff as usual, Scott. Would be interesting at some point to see you tackle an example of deep depth-of-field done well. Citizen Kane is the obvious example, though I'm sure you can find a less well-known film, too. Obviously Mendes is just being lazy with it, though it's not an inherently hacky approach.

Cian

Yeah, this is a rad post. Right on.

This stuff is getting tighter. I love the ability for a blog to just cut and run when you're done saying what you've gotta say (similar to good sketch comedy).

Thumbs up.

SEK

Cian,

Thanks. I do often feel like academia's resident sketch comic, or maybe performance artist, but yes, thanks.

Tom,

Well, I've locked myself in to analyzing Blade Runner this weekend, so I think you'll have your answer soon enough. The difference in how some Voight-Kampff shots are filmed is really significant, at least in the version I watched tonight, which damn it, Ridley Scott ... but as I was saying, at least in the most recent director's cut, variability in depth of field is directly linked to empathy and humanity in a way that's quite telling.

NickS

Yet again, I haven't seen the film in question. But I did watch the opening sequence and while I would agree that there's something off about it (and that the examples you give of his use of color from the rest of the film are annoying and reminds one of this rant) I liked the sequence of shots that you criticize here:

A re-establishing shot that’s more extreme than the initial one? The charitable reading of this decision would be that Mendes wants to communicate the confusion rooftop-motorbiking necessarily entails, but such a reading would be pre-undermined by the close-up he just cut from, in which Bond looks like he’s facing down danger with the unperturbed cool with which Bonds face down dangers. The decision to increase the scale from extreme-long to extreme-longer combined with the one to keep the entire frame in focus results in flat shot in which no elements—not even the Bond one—are afforded more significance than any other.

I thought the second, "more extreme" establishing shot was justified on two grounds (1) that Bond was not the only protagonist of the sequence; the female agent (Eve?) is equally important, and that shot reminds us of her perspective by showing how difficult it will be for her to trail him. (2) That the entire opening sequence shows Bond failing repeatedly -- he does the usual Bond things, but they just don't work. People keep escaping from him, he loses (or at least fails to win) two different hand-to-hand fights, it's one of those days when nothing is working properly. The fact that he can't dominate the foreground of the screen goes along with that.

On a separate note, I'll be curious to see what you make of Blade Runner. I haven't watched it in a while, but I remember it as an excellent firm with some significant problems (particularly with pacing, but I think of the visuals as having some of the best Science Fiction put to film, and also moments which are unnecessarily dark, cluttered, and difficult to follow).

Have I mentioned to you my observation that both Blade Runner and The Terminator open with a shot that includes a craft flying overhead, and a title that says, "Los Angeles [date]." I wonder occasionally if that was an intentional homage in The Terminator.

james suhr

I agree with almost all of your post. The re-establishing shot is silly, because if when I or other board artists I know use this tool, it is used to show added danger, i.e., pull out to the shot and add a pan over to some danger like a bridge out, or pull out to reveal extra attackers on bikes closing in on bond. I also agree with his extreme use of flatness (especially with the museum type shot), it is trying to add philosophical depth where there isn't much or any. But his flatness is probably useful for something like a Bond film, where lots of action and details can occur. The flatness makes the screen easy to read, while the fake philosophy makes the average bored suburbanite feel like they got a little extra in the thought department. But I do disagree with your assessment of the M/Bond conversation. The shallowness of the shot is used to create distance from outside forces that may be looking or wanting to listen in. It makes the walls seem farther away, thus the conversation is more intimate. Also, from a design standpoint, the light in the far away window is the same brightness as the lamp just to M's screen right, so without a blur those lights would be really distracting and the should would be irritatingly flat. Those are my thoughts.

james suhr

Damn my bad typing! The last sentence should read: "those lights would be really distracting and the shot would be irritatingly flat." Sorry for the post posting editing.

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