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Watching old movies for visual storytelling and great operating


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#1 Morgan Peline

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 10:10 AM

Hi,

I on a 'classic film' kick at the moment as I realized I really don't know my old films well enough. Any suggestions for great old films to watch with great visual story-telling or great operating? They can be from anywhere...the US, Eastern Europe, Europe, India, Asia...

Thanks!
Morgan
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#2 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 10:49 AM

Kubrick's '2001'.
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#3 Gene Fojtik

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 11:35 AM

I don't know what period you consider to be "classic" but a few of my favorites are:

F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (silent) You won't go wrong with most things by Murnau

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (silent)

Carol Reed's The Third Man (visually impeccable)

Ingmar Bergman's Sawdust and Tinsel, The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Sping, The Magician (really any Bergman with Nykvist at the helm)

Among the Italian Neo-realist, I'd say Vittorio De Sica's work stands out. See especially Bicycle Thieves and The Children are Watching Us.

Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers

Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2

Orson Welle's The Trial ( the DVD transfers are all pretty bad of this one)

In Indian cinema Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparatijo, Apur Sansar) comes to mind not for its technical prowess necessarily but as an example of what a guy with no money and in the case of Pather Panchali no filmmaking experience whatsoever can pull off when committed to a vision.

Ritwik Ghatak's A Cloud-Capped Star also stands out in this regard. Not technically great but if you contextualize it and see the kind ground he is breaking you will appreciate it more. It is a powerful story.

There are probably a hundred others that are worth mentioning as well.
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#4 Alex Hall

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 11:45 AM

Citizen Kane (1941), There is a lot to be learned from that film.
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#5 Simon Wyss

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 12:18 PM

The Third Man by Sir Carol Reed, 1949; in the U. S. as The 3rd Man

Pépé-le-Moko by Julien Duvivier, 1936

La nuit américaine by François Truffaut, 1973

Hannah and her Sisters by Woody Allen, 1986

Dshamilijah by Irina Poplawskaja, 1969

High Noon by Fred Zinnemann, 1952
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#6 Tim Tyler

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 12:27 PM

I've published a list of recommended DVD's.

Most of the titles have been pulled from member recommendations in this forum.

I'll add new titles recommended in this thread too.
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#7 Gene Fojtik

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:08 PM

A few others came to mind.

Carl Dreyer's Vampyr, Day of Wrath, and Ordet. I don't know if I would agree with many critics that he is the best of directors but he does have a compelling visual style that is worth studying.

Robert Mulligan's To Kill A Mockingbird

Satyajit Ray's Charulata

Luis Bunuel's Viridiana

Bela Tarr's Damnation (1988) Although this one is not a classic per se, it stands out as one to watch for its b&w cinematography and camera moves (done in all long takes).

David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) Again not in the classic era but the cinematography really shines and it is great movie.
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#8 Gene Fojtik

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 02:36 PM

And if I may add another...

Seconds by John Frankenheimer (DP James Wong Howe).
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#9 Rod Otaviano

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 02:38 PM

I recommend "The Fugitive" (1947) by John Ford (don't confuse it with the other "The Fugitive" with Harrison Ford ...). Stunning photography and as far as I've read that was Ford's favorite picture.

Another one ... "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) by Charles Laughton, his directorial debut, actually his only film as a director. I think he got depressed by the negative reviews and never directed again but ... it's a truly amazing film, a must-see for any filmmaking student (the river boat sequence is one of those scenes you'll never forget)

I also recomend "Knife in the water" (1962) by Roman Polanski. Great use of deep DOF, unusual camera angles (and if you are a jazz lover, you can't go wrong with this one) and "Kiss me Deadly" (1955) by Robert Aldrich that has one of my favorite opening sequences (watch here).
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#10 Steve Phipps

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:06 PM

In terms of visual story-telling, you might try Buster Keaton's The General. Possibly that's not exactly what you want, because the film is not striking due to some innovative style of camera-work. It is silent. So it is visual, though.

It's hard to say, because I don't know what you've seen.

There is All the President's Men. Look for the split-field filter.

Klute (another Pakula and Gordon Willis) I think is a beautifully lit and shot film.

Barry Lyndon I think is a beautifully shot film. Beautiful.

12 Angry Men. Lumet has talked about using the camera to create a claustrophobic feeling, then finally going to a relatively open high-angle when the dramatic dilemma has been resolved. Someone also pointed out to me that what they felt was so impressive about the film was that it took place around a table and featured twelve different characters, but that you always knew exactly where everyone was. I think it's one of those things you discover about making a film, that with continuity and coverage, shooting a mundane and ordinary event (like people just sitting around a table and talking) the event becomes not so simple.

Another James Wong Howe is Hud. Beside cinematography (it would be a shame to call it a "side note"), Patricia Neal is excellent in that film. She gives an excellent performance.

The Last Picture Show. Bogdanovich will stage for complete scenes, which is so very welcome.

You might try Onibaba or Woman in the Dunes.
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#11 Ira Ratner

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:36 PM

Morgan, how old are you, where are you from, and do you have any particular interest in a certain genre?

Although there were a bunch of real classics mentioned here, you might still think they stink depending on where you're "coming from," and that's totally okay.

They say Shakespeare is a pretty good author (HAH!), but if anyone tells me that they actually enjoys reading that stuff, I think they're totally out of their mind.

Like, I myself can't sit through 99% of silent film stuff--but that other 1%--OH MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Total genius.

Edited by Ira Ratner, 28 January 2009 - 07:38 PM.

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#12 Ira Ratner

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:50 PM

And Steve--THANK YOU for mentioning 12 Angry Men.

It's always nice to be reminded what a stunning film it is, and it sure must be EASY for anyone to do the same kind of work, right? I mean, aside from the opening scene, it's just 12 shumucks (and the bailiff now and then) in a room.(HAH! I'm being sarcastic here.)

This IS such a great example of visual storytelling. It doesn't have to be sunsets and rolling hills and flashbacks about a horrible childhood. It just has to be long, medium and close-ups of 12 angry men, in one stupid room, each doing his own thing and bringing his own emotional and other history to it.

And forget about political correctedness--it's OKAY that there wasn't a single broad in the whole film.

Edited by Ira Ratner, 28 January 2009 - 07:52 PM.

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#13 Steve Phipps

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 05:11 AM

Ira, thanks for your kind words. 12 Angry Men is definitely a favorite.

You also mention Shakespeare. I was definitely of the same opinion as you say, and I just could not fathom what it was that people got out of the stuff. I had hated it when I had read it in high school, and for all the performances I was dragged to, my opinion never changed.

But when I took up acting, I have to admit my opinion changed. I had figured, what better venue to see what it is that people like about Shakespeare: I was in a theatrical acting seminar, so I’d put a Shakespeare monologue in my audition bag, or at least try. And there were two revelations for me.

First, every acting teacher and coach I have asked has said the same thing: “Oh, I get lost too.” And these were highly trained actors, with MFAs and whatnot. They all lost track of exactly what it was that was being said unless they had performed the piece themselves, and knew it that well. (And so I think there is actually a kind of delightful perversity there. Everyone is attending the same play, but the only people who know exactly what it all means ... are ... the actors who are actually performing the thing. Shakespeare. It’s experimental theatre.) But they understood the motivations, and when the actor was good, it was enough.

And, second, it turns out Shakespeare is peculiarly fun to perform. I would never have thought to say such a thing, but then it’s my experience. If you like language, then to perform Shakespeare is this kind of opportunity to literally play with words and their pronunciations, in a pleasing way. I would never have thought to say such a thing, and as an avowed Shakespeare-hater, it’s also slightly to my embarrassment, but then it’s my experience.

By the way, you can get a Shakespeare dictionary that helps you decipher just what the hell the Bard meant.

And to return to the topic, your mentioning Shakespeare reminded how good Olivier’s Henry V is. That’s another film I would definitely add to the list.
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#14 Morgan Peline

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:08 AM

I have to admit that I had to smile when I saw '2001' but you are absolutely right there is so little dialogue in it that it absolutely is visual storytelling.

I am in my 30s and basically I think I'm want to go back to the '40s to early '70s I think. I was brought up on '80s and '90s Hollywood - basically I am from the beginning of the Hollywood blockbuster popcorn generation so now I'm looking for more 'poetic' visual cinema...I definitely want to look at other directors from Eastern Europe.

This basically all came about because I was wondering why so many of the the student cinematographers from the Eastern European schools e.g. Poland and Russia manage to shoot such poetic films yet with hardly any or no dialogue. I want to go back to thinking about telling stories with as little dialogue as possible. At the moment I'm gonna go back to Kieslowski and Tarkovsky. I absolutely love 'Ivan's Childhood'. I am also going to check out 'Persona' and Cries and Whispers, the Apu trilogy and also look back at some the '50s and '60s French directors e.g. I love 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'...

This is all basically watching old movies as a mental exercise to try to go back to thinking about stories visually as opposed to using dialogue to explain everything which everybody seems to do these days...it's all blah, blah, blah!

And actually, I probably will look at some Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin!
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#15 Sam Wells

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 10:11 AM

For it's transcendence and tragedy in the most direct and beautiful terms, for subtle shifts from camera movent <-> montage, for framing as almost religious idea I suggest "Sansho dayu" ("Sansho The Bailiff") Kenji Mizoguchi (DP: Miyagawa)

-Sam
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#16 John Allen

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 01:39 PM

Here are just a few of the many. lol

------------------------------------------

"Rebbecca" George Barnes

"Vertigo" Robert Burks

"Wait Until Dark" Charles Lang

"Hud" James Wong Howe

"Apocalypse Now" Vittorio Storaro

"Foreign Correspondent" Rudolph Mate

"Doctor Zhivago" Freddie Young

"Shadow of a Doubt" Joseph Valentine

"On the Waterfront" Boris Kaufman

"2001: A Space Odyssey" Geoffrey Unsworth

"Laura" Joseph LaShelle

"The Naked City" William Daniels

"How Green Was My Valley" Arther Miller
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#17 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 04:18 PM

There's the Val Lewton RKO 'horror' movies from the 40s.

John Ford movies are pretty obvious.

Kurosawa movies.

Anthony Mann noirs from the 40s.

David Lean from the 40s and 50s.

& Sidney Lumet stuff.
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#18 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 08:45 PM

Pretty much anything from early - including silent - to classic Hitchcock.

Almost anything by Buster Keaton, especially "The General."

Also "Greed," by Erich von Stroheim.

They made a lot of silent movies way back when. Many are standard studio crap, but the good ones are really good!
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#19 Sasha Riu

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 01:57 PM

All movies already enlisted are great sugestions!!!

But....they all belong to the filed on mainstream masterpieces that everybody tries to clone and copy these days!

My suggestions are avangarde-alternatives (masterpieces never the less) that made Eastern Europeans such a good "visioners", sort of what Blues and Missisipi folk performes were to Elvis....
:)



Inspiration in a sense of camera operating:


Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors- Sergei Paradjanov
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058642/
(the way camera acts;no movie outplayed camera behaviour and it's poetics in this movie)

The Shop on Main Street-Elmar Klos
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0460033/
(the way hand held follows the actors and frames them without compromise especially in the first half hour of the movie!!! To put most of the modern operatorars at shame :)

My name is Ivan-A Tarkovsky
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056111/
(positions and angles of the camera )

Soy Cuba-Mikhail Kalatozov
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058604/
(camera movements are just insane!!!)

Rebellion-Masaki Kobayashi
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061847/

The Man with a Camera-Dziga Vertov (Boris Kaufman) FIRST MASTER AND GRANDFATHER of all modern Camera work!!!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019760/

If we talk about OLD movies (up to 60s-70s)...

or pretty much any chinese martial arts movie ever since they have the most elaborate camera set ups, moves and positions!

Why all those bizzare movies?!

First of all, because they are top notch in the field of "camera movement possibilities" without too much tech aspects, and they are old enough that it doesn't frustrates and limits your own imagination which means there is a vast field of improvement by yourself!!!

(After SOY CUBA when you see where and how camera goes, you will say IT IS NOT POSSIBLE!!! well these fellows proved that it is:)

Second, they are all great movies in whole!!!

Third....ALL of these movies were made way before steadicam, motion tracking, complicated and expensive cranes!!!
All of them were accomplished by extreme imagination, top inventive engenereeng, on a shoestring bugdet with the simpliest tools you could imagine!

And also, they are all under the threat to be forgoten as a masterpieces,due the pressure and agression of mediocre majority!
:)

Visual storytelling inspiration?!

Any Kurosava, Tarkovsky, Kobayashi, Bergman, older Fritz Lang, Hitchcock, Miklosh Jancho...

These movies compared to the most of newer productions (even the ones we consider good and artistic, not like holywood lemonades) feel like Mozart-Leonard Cohen-Led Zeppelin-Beatles compared to Britney Spears...
:)
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#20 Chris Keth

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 03:58 PM

There area lot of great suggestions above. I think Hitchcock is a great place to start. It's readily available and he was really one to lead the audience visually. If he wanted you to notice something, you will. Now it can seem a bit heavy handed at times but his work is a ton of fun to watch. Some of his must watch movies IMO, both popular and not-so, are Vertigo, Rear Window, Marnie, The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Lifeboat. Lifeboat in particular, is a really cool example of a very simple scenario (to entice you, during WWII a U-Boat sinks an American passenger vessel. 8 survivors in a lifeboat pick up one more: a german sailor) with a lot of visual limits (entirely confined to a lifeboat in a studio) that was made into a pretty good movie.

Edited by Chris Keth, 01 February 2009 - 03:58 PM.

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