Saturday, August 27, 2011

Film As Art

In my time on this planet, I have seen a LOT of films, for a lot of different reasons – I like the cast, I like the story, I’m bored and want to kill a couple of hours, you name it and I’ve probably used that as a reason. And from this, I come out of the film with any number of feelings – and my favourite would probably be “my god, that film was beautiful”. I am of the opinion that filmmakers and cinematographers are the “great masters” of the modern era.

And with that in mind, here are a couple of my “Most Beautiful Films”.

Suspiria : The newest member of the “My God, This Film Is Beautiful” list, and what stand out most to me in Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece is the colour scheme. Sure, people had used the “colour as clues” device before, and have since, however I have long heard the argument that it is done best in this film – and, having now actually seen it, I would have to agree.  The scheme is a nice, direct palate, with minimal mix’n’match (the few scenes that do mix and match do so in complimentary ways).

What strikes me most about the film, though, is (as was said on a film podcast I listen to) that just about every frame Suspiria could be used as a print, and sold as art. This I would have to agree with, as I could see several shots that would not look out of place on my walls (I have a lot of film based art on my walls at the moment – most coming from FilmBarcode). The entire look of the film is a labour of love between Argento, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli and an art staff just as dedicated as the two heads.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford : The first thing that struck me about this film was the pacing – very slow, very deliberate, not allowing the viewer to take any path but its own. But what stuck with me through each subsequent viewing is how beautiful the film is – from the first frame, the viewer is met with a palate that is part Autumnal pastoral and part living sepia photo print. Both colour choices are done intentionally, as the film takes place in the late 1800’s, thus giving the viewer a sense that they are watching photographs for the era.

But what really strikes me, every time I watch the film, is that every frame of the film could be its own photograph or even painting. The framing, the positioning of the various players, any number of lighting and shooting tricks employed by Andrew Dominik and Roger Deakins all come together to make a film that is beautiful to look at through and through – and I have paused the film at multiple places in multiple viewings, just to stare with wonder at the beauty that they have put on screen. Even something as simple as a boot on the ground or a water pump, right the way up to a train robbery and several shots set to look like old timey stereoscopic images – all of it looks amazing, both moving and still.

Tideland : Say what you will about Terry Gilliam’s much maligned take on the Alice In Wonderland story, but you can’t say it’s not a gorgeously shot film. In fact, a good sized part of the film was shot having been influenced by Andrew Wyath’s painting, Christina’s World – a fact that has been pointed out by better men than I (on further research, the whole film could – minus the darkness and fucked up characters, of course – be influenced by pretty much all of his work). Much like The Assassination of Jesse James, this film is drenched in a palate of pastoral warmth which play against the darker colours introduced by way of the story itself, both of which play of each other to increase their light and dark traits.

In addition to the three I just spoke of, other films that I look on with the same sense of wonder are The Fountain, Speed Racer, Paprika, The Fall, Hero and (tying back to a name I mentioned above) just about anything shot by Roger Deakin. Sure, there are plenty of others that I have seen, and that I haven’t seen – but that doesn’t mean they are any less impactful. I just figured I would shine a light on a couple of my favourites.

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