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Cabaret


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 01:06 AM

There is the scene near the end of "Cabaret" that I've always loved for how it's shot.

It's a good example of what I said about Unsworth being a transitional figure from the old studio system to what emerged in the 1970's. On the one hand, he often reverts to hard classical lighting, but on the other hand, he is often softening the colors, contrast, and sharpness way beyond the clean Technicolor look of the 1950's & 1960's.

It's a difficult sort of space to light - two people in a corner of a room, with only a table lamp providing an obvious source. The boarded-up daylight windows don't really provide a chance to use them as a light source, but they create this great broken-up pattern as a backdrop that matches the mood of the scene, which is sad.

The coverage is very simple: extreme wide, medium, close-ups, but it works perfectly for the performances in the scene, and the editing is first rate.

I like the little squared-off spotlight over the white bed, which keeps the spill down but also has a nice theatrical effect. And I've always loved the flaring of the window slats from the Fog Filter on the lens, something I got excited about when I first saw this movie in college and probably have been trying to copy my whole life. Here are some shots from the DVD:

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 01:39 AM

Here's a shot from "Northfork" where I probably was subconsciously thinking of that scene in "Cabaret" in terms of the arrangement of elements (lamp, blinds, etc.) plus use of smoke, diffusion...

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#3 John Holland

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:54 AM

I think Geoff Unsworth starting using softer keys after working with Kubrick on "2001" . No hard light on that one .
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 12:04 PM

You also can see in "Cromwell" sort of a transition between his clean 1960's work (like in "Beckett") and his diffused, smokey work as in "Cabaret". "Cromwell" sort of alternates throughout, some scenes are very painterly, like a recreation of a Dutch Masters painting, others very old-fashioned studio style.

For years, I've been waiting for a DVD of a small drama he did called "The Abdication", which was heavily fog-filtered. Starring Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch, it was mostly shot on sets representing the Vatican, but with some very dreamy flashbacks. That and "Lucky Lady", his most over-filtered movie, hasn't been available yet.
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#5 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 12:19 PM

I haven't seen "Cabaret" in years, but this particular scene may well be my favourite in terms of photography. Beautiful, simple and moody.

I remember a lot of smoke on this one, but I think he didn't use the fog filter as much as he did for his later films, or at least, he used lighter grades.
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#6 John Holland

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 12:23 PM

Yes i remember seeing a 70mm print of "Cromwell" when its was released the soft lit Vermeer scenes looked beautiful the rest not it was although they had changed cinematographers some where down the line ,bit i dont think that was the case .
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 12:33 AM

Most of "Cromwell" is pretty lit-up, to show-off the sets and costumes:

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But there is one scene towards the end where the set is smoked and the lighting is softer, which has a very painterly look. It sort of points towards the style that Unsworth would use more often in the 1970's:

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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 04:13 AM

You also can see in "Cromwell" sort of a transition between his clean 1960's work (like in "Beckett") and his diffused, smokey work as in "Cabaret". "Cromwell" sort of alternates throughout, some scenes are very painterly, like a recreation of a Dutch Masters painting, others very old-fashioned studio style.

For years, I've been waiting for a DVD of a small drama he did called "The Abdication", which was heavily fog-filtered. Starring Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch, it was mostly shot on sets representing the Vatican, but with some very dreamy flashbacks. That and "Lucky Lady", his most over-filtered movie, hasn't been available yet.


Lucky Lady is one of my all time favorite movies. I love the look of it and I defiantly see what you mean by his use of lighting elements especially the softness of the lighting in certain spots in that film to envelop the scene with mood appropriate to the emotional quality of the script at any given moment. Wonderful stuff. The filtering never seemed to distract me, in fact I never thought about it until you mentioned it here. I've always felt that film was way underrated though. I'm glad to hear someone else appreciates it perhaps as much as I do.
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#9 John Holland

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 06:13 AM

Just look at that wonderful 5254 such a tonal range .
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 07:05 PM

Just look at that wonderful 5254 such a tonal range .


Well, don't wax nostalgic for the older stocks too much ;) This is way before my time, but I am told by my retired R&D friend from Kodak that the printers at the labs couldn't get the grey cards neutral in the tests and also get pleasing skin tones with the stocks in the '60s and '70s. For instance, the top shot in David's last post is a tad on the magenta side, to provide for pleasing flesh rendition no doubt. They still managed to make prints look fantastic, but there was still a lot of trial and error involved, whereas now it is almost an exact science with computer controls, DIs, and other sophisticated printing machinery. In short, while we lament the loss of contrast and grain in the older stocks, we certainly have a far more consistant, flexible product to work with.
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#11 John Holland

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 01:55 PM

Sorry for being a boring old fart but 5254/7254 being removed from my toolkit was very painful ,might have been some of you retired R/D Kodak people where responsible just to introduce a high speed developing process ECN II , to make more money for Kodak and th e Labs.
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