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Beauty in Cinematography


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#1 Guy Meachin

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 09:20 AM

I'm writing my dissertaion on beauty within cinematography. I'm discussing how cinematography should not detract from a film or overpower it to an extent where it distracts the audience. Can anyone think of some well known example of this?
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#2 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 09:59 AM

mate this probably aint a right example but just a minute ago I was making some referance to Busby Burkeley and his overhead shots... the success they had... the audience they drew... don't know if that is what you meant though, but like i said, it was fresh in my mind...

but you wanted an example where cinematography distracts the audience... so i guess that aint it...

cheers,

Edited by lav, 19 January 2006 - 10:00 AM.

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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 05:45 PM

Hello Meach,

You've definetly jumped into the great ocean of artistic subjectivity on this one. Recently, my wife and I saw Narnia. We felt it over used scenic great-scapes along with motion way, way, way too much. Give it a look. While it is not in DVD yet, it may give your paper a very recent example.

Due to the artistic sensibilities of Japan, you may use their tendencies to frame unbeliebably beautiful images. While they are absolutely eye gougingly lovely, they do not appeal to the average American notions of what cinema is.
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#4 Denis Warburton

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 05:57 PM

A case can certainly be made that the cinematography in "The Constant Gardener" is distracting. Check out this film's thread in the On the Big Screen forum.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 07:57 PM

Cetainly there are beautiful-looking movies where the narrative fails to match the quality of the photography -- "Snow Falling on Cedars", "Heaven's Gate", and "1492" come to mind. What's debatable is when beautiful cinematography is actually detrimental to the film.

While I don't completely agree, Michael Chapman used to complain that Storaro's photography of "Agatha" completely overwhelms a simple little story, like pouring heavy gravy over everything. Some critics made the same complaint about the photography of John Ford's "The Fugitive", which is a bit over the top. Again, I'm not sure I agree because I don't believe these movies would have been improved by a change in cinematography, only in the scripts. But the complaints have some validity.

I tend to feel that a much greater problem is mediocrity in cinematography rather than overt expressiveness. The question is when does cinematography crossover from gentle, low-key subtlety (which I love) to mediocrity.
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 01:01 AM

Hello David,

You bring up an interesting point. I recently saw Snow Falling On Cedars on my digital projector. The images were stunning. So much so that the story seemed belabored by them. I would go so far as to say that the story kept interrupting the sequences of beautiful images!

I'm speculating that it may have something to do with what part of our brains we use for what. As I review my memories of that movie, I recall it as two different presentations. I have stored the amazing imagery as a seperate information base than the story line. Possibly, the cinematography can work as a seperate strength from the story. However, my notions of movie making incline me to assume that the cinematography and story should work in union.
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#7 Guy Meachin

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 07:08 AM

Thanks for the comments guy's. I was going to look at Pearl Harbour as a mainstream example (or any Michael Bay film). David mentioned the script falling short of the cinematography. I always assumed the cinematography always had to follow the script, or must come second to it. I'd never thought of the cinematography being too good for a film only it taking away from the story by being too spectacular. Not sure if that makes any sense. How could this happen then - employing a too good a cinematographer? Surely the cinematographer would be employed on the strength of the script or for budgetry reasons?

David have you ever turned down a job because you thought i fell short of your ability? Hope you don't mind me asking.

Thanks

Guy
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#8 Greg Gross

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 08:30 AM

I was really awestruck with the film "Geisha". The film was an example to me of rare
beauty. The low light photography was extraordinary to me. I was impressed and em-
otionally moved by the older japanese era as it progressed towards world war II. The
change of people and places as the film progressed chronologically along. I was partic-
ularly moved by the beauty of Michelle Yeoh as she progressed chronologically in time
throughout the film.

Greg Gross
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 09:47 AM

Sure, the script drives the look, but if the script is weak, is the cinematographer supposed to design weak cinematography for it to match? He may feel that he has to create MORE powerful images to hold the viewers' attention throughout. He may be trying to tell the story the best way he can, pretending that it doesn't have the weak bits to it, trying to play to its strengths.

I've done plenty of bad films, but I sometimes turn down something either because I don't feel they have the budget or schedule to do justice to the script, or because the script, though fine, has no compelling visual aspects to it.
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