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The Constant Gardener


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#1 drew_town

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Posted 03 September 2005 - 07:31 PM

For those of you who have seen it, what did you think of the blending of so many cinematography styles? And editing styles for that matter? There were doc style scenes lit with what appeared to be natural light, overexposed scenes that reminded me a lot of a Terry Gilliam film without the wide angles, there were scenes filmed with a webcam, and there were more traditional scenes as well. I kept wondering how that was impacting the narrative as I was watching it. Any thoughts?
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#2 Roman

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Posted 03 September 2005 - 09:50 PM

... what did you think of the blending of so many cinematography styles? And editing styles for that matter? ... ...  I kept wondering how that was impacting the narrative as I was watching it. 


Seems to me that Fernando Meirelles approached this movie in a same manner he had approached his "City of God". Frantic editing exibitionism and bopping back and forth with or without any apparent reason for such an approach. It made me think about camera movements and a style and directing - and that was, for me, a distracting factor that took away from the story (a quite interesting one) and performances (both Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz were great).

Do not know what to think about his directing and the camera use. At least it reminds me of infinite number of ways one can approach movie making...
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#3 Austin Schmidt

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Posted 04 September 2005 - 12:56 PM

I agree with Roman, in that the same approach seemed to be used for both films. Though it is a beautiful and stylistic approach, unfortunately the wrong one for "Gardner" as it was distracting and did not lyrically fit with this story. I was amazed, badly so, at the way they photographed Rachel Weisz. The dreamscapes created in Ralph's mind were anything less then pleasing to look at as they were supposed to remind him of her in better days. In fact they didn't seem like pleasent and beautiful memories at all, rather harshly lit and full of sharp contrasts. I was amazed at how much they showed her acne problem. Not something I would choose to remember about a loved one who has died.
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#4 Sean Azze

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Posted 04 September 2005 - 02:59 PM

  I was amazed at how much they showed her acne problem.  Not something I would choose to remember about a loved one who has died.


I'd have to say that's a highly subjective point.

I haven't seen the film yet, so I'm not privvy to how 'raw' Weisz was filmed, but I'd say someone's memory of a deceased love one is not always rosy colored. People remember the good and the bad.

A perfect example of that can be found in Chris Nolan's director's commentary of "Memento". There is a scene in the film where the protagonist, Leonard, has a memory of his wife that involved her reading a book while he was getting dressed. After asking his wife why she bothers to read the same book so many times, she snaps at him and they end the conversation on a low point.

Nolan mentions that he purposely wrote an exchange for Leonard to remember that was not so pleasant. Leonard has several flashes of his wife throughout the film that portray her in a rawer light. But like I said before, I'd have to see the acne in question to know whether or not that was Meirelles intention. :D
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#5 Greg Gross

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:18 AM

I wonder maybe if the constant moving camera bothered you? The camera
was moving most of the time in this film. Actually to me it appeared that the
story moved right along with a wonderful use of color,light and camera. The
mood set was the reality of Africa as relating to this story. How would you have
done the scenes where Tess re-appears to him in his mind? I particularly was in-
triqued with the scene where he's driving down the road talking to Tess in the
land rover. Of course she's not there but in his mind she appears to him out-
side the vehicle, within the frame of the side window or close to it. Did you not-
ice how the camera went right up to the action? In groups of people holding a
conversation, the camera went right up to the conversations,action, with a freq-
uently changing POV. I was never bored as the story just kept unfolding like the
peeling of an orange. I do remember while watching the credits,that I reflected
on what the editing process must have been for this film. I would have loved to
be present to see the editing process. I hope AC does an article on this film. I
was with a friend at the screening who used to write for the television series
"Tool Time", and he suggested to me that the film's length could have been cut
by one hour. Well considering that I'm like a modern day John Cassavetes,it was
the wrong thing to say to me. I think that it was edited splendidly. I proceeded
to tell him that cutting the film by one hour would have been pure bullshit. I was
also thinking about how well the Arri 235 could have been used shooting this film.
The camera did such a damn fine job of getting into the faces of people having dis-
cussions. Nothing about this film is intended to make one happy,it stirs the emot-
ions about injustice,social and economical problems in Africa. Some how I could
just not get clean after viewing this film,a shower wouldn't do it. I do want to get
the novel and read it. I can't remember a film recently with so much wonderful
use of color. I will wait about a week and go to see it again.
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#6 Tim J Durham

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 12:25 PM

Not something I would choose to remember about a loved one who has died.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Oh...

So she dies in the film, then? Thanks. I hadn't seen it yet.
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#7 Austin Schmidt

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 01:46 PM

Don't worry Tim, the film pretty much opens with her death, I don't believe I spoiled anything for you.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 04:34 PM

the film pretty much opens with her death

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Like the opening of the "Police Squad!" TV series where the special guest star is killed as their credit appears?
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#9 drew_town

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:02 PM

The one thing I really liked about the film was how it played with your (the audience's) perception of Tessa's ties to Arnold and the African culture. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it:



SPOILER:


Like the scene in the hospital when Tessa is breast feeding the black infant. You see Arnold, then Tessa with the baby, and then Justin looking obviously upset. The only thing I could think was "Oh my God," how is Justin going to react to this. Then Meirelles turns that thought on its head to alleviate the situation. But that idea is always on your mind. Like it's always on Justin's mind. Remarkable.

The other good example is in the morgue, when Tessa appears to be an African until Justin identifies her as his wife.

Those were two remarkable filmmaking feats.
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#10 Tim J Durham

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 02:06 AM

For those of you who have seen it, what did you think of the blending of so many cinematography styles? And editing styles for that matter? There were doc style scenes lit with what appeared to be natural light, overexposed scenes that reminded me a lot of a Terry Gilliam film without the wide angles, there were scenes filmed with a webcam, and there were more traditional scenes as well. I kept wondering how that was impacting the narrative as I was watching it. Any thoughts?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I just saw the film an hour ago and I liked it a lot. I think the melange of different shooting styles were meant to make the viewer feel the different levels/ways in which Justin felt out of his element and in that regard, I found it very effective. Whenever Tessa was by herself (or atleast without Justin) Nairobi was vibrantly colorful as she seemed to have found her element. The scenes of her walking around the shanty-town with Arnold and up on the tracks by herself. When Justin was with her, it took on a more frazzled look, mostly with a more active camera showing Justins dis-orientation. Still colorful because he was with her but jumpy and unsure.

Contrasted with the times when he was alone and in the present, it was greens, blues and stark. Like the scenes at lunch with the Brit minister (Bill Nighy) or out on the golf course with the cabal of drug co officials and the MI5 guy Tim.

I also appreciated the fact that the villians were human. Like in life, they got to be villians not from inherent evil, but from watching benignly as a good intentions went awry and a cover-up was launched or looking the other way when they could have had a positive impact but instead slipped onto the track along the path to money. Still capable of kindness or of feeling regret and acting on it even after having parrticipated in some monstrously banal crime.

You feel the weight of what's pressed upon the powerless as they try in vain to get corruption exposed. This is when fiction can go where documentary could never get off the ground. This sort of story goes on in real life every day, right now I'm sure. But the companies have too many weapons and too much money to be stopped by underfunded do-gooders and when they ARE exposed, the denial machine just crushes them. The way this film presents how easy it is for well-meaning but naive people to be pushed out to the margins or worse for opposing the big money interests rings true to what you read in the paper (albeit in a different context) on a regular basis. But it wasn't preachy or strident. You discover the story along with Justin and it propels you along.

I need to see it again but it's on my short list for the best films of this year and as far as I could tell, Rachael Weisz looked great. Even though this was not a slick-looking production like "Mission Impossible" or something- the lighting was never stylized in that way- she looked naturally beautiful. Not made up. Unfortunately I read one of the previous posts so I was actually looking for acne problems. There were none that I could tell, if that makes anyone feel better. I know I feel better.
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#11 Greg Gross

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 12:41 PM

Was she not the most beautiful star of this summer? Could it be that "The
Constant Gardner" will be the best film of this summer. Is it not the finest
example of the art/craft of cinematography? I will be going to view it again
next monday to try and make up my mind on these questions. Did someone
once say,if it looks like a rabbit,hops like a rabbit,then its probably a rabbit?

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#12 Louis

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 06:19 PM

Just saw the movie this weekend, and was really impressed with it. Does anyone know if the DP cross-processed any of it, especially some of the exteriors in Africa? I noticed there was a credit for a DI at the end, so is it possible that they just shot high contrast negative and gave it that cross-processed look, or did they do it the old-fashioned way? Just wondering.
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#13 Jeremy Russell

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 06:49 PM

the jib shot of justin when hes looking at tessa on the stretcher in the morgue is stunning

jeremy
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#14 drew_town

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 07:33 PM

I think the melange of different shooting styles were meant to make the viewer feel the different levels/ways in which Justin felt out of his element and in that regard, I found it very effective. Whenever Tessa was by herself (or atleast without Justin) Nairobi was vibrantly colorful as she seemed to have found her element. The scenes of her walking around the shanty-town with Arnold and up on the tracks by herself. When Justin was with her, it took on a more frazzled look, mostly with a more active camera showing Justins dis-orientation. Still colorful because he was with her but jumpy and unsure.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's a good analysis Tim. I think you've made an arguable point as to the film's style and the thought process that went into it.
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#15 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 08:17 PM

I noticed there was a credit for a DI at the end, so is it possible that they just shot high contrast negative and gave it that cross-processed look, or did they do it the old-fashioned way?


Cinematographer César Charlone, as he did for City of God, shot most of the dialogue in Super 16mm and the wide shots in 3-perf Super 35, using Kodak 5245, 5246 and 5218 in 35mm and 7245, 7246 and 7218 in 16mm. The whole film went through a 2K DI and printed on high contrast Fuji, so it has more resolution than the HDCAM DI (about 1.4K) they did for City of God. I never saw that film theatrically, but in this film I've found that the 35mm footage stands out too much; it's far more sharper, far more saturated and has much deeper blacks. Since they intercut both formats on the same scenes for covering different angles, sometimes I've found it very distracting and without a real motivation. In my opinion, they should have used only one format or at least tried to match them better.
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#16 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 05:13 AM

I was also thinking about how well the Arri 235 could have been used shooting this film.
The camera did such a damn fine job of getting into the faces of people having dis-
cussions.


The 235 is an MOS camera, you can't shoot dialogue with it.
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#17 Chris Fernando

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 06:23 PM

Cinematographer César Charlone, as he did for City of God, shot most of the dialogue in Super 16mm and the wide shots in 3-perf Super 35, using Kodak 5245, 5246 and 5218 in 35mm and 7245, 7246 and 7218 in 16mm.



Igancio,
Just curious if he offered any insight as to the motivation for his decision to use S16 for dialogue shots. Cheers.
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#18 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 06:51 PM

From AC article, October 2005:

"I mixed the formats for the same reason I did on City of God: Super 16 is quick, easy and light, and Super 35 is good for wide shots when you want a lot of detail in the background. And we have so many tools in the DI that I've become dependent upon the things they can do".


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#19 Cameron Speaks

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 10:41 PM

Since they intercut both formats on the same scenes for covering different angles, sometimes I've found it very distracting and without a real motivation. In my opinion, they should have used only one format or at least tried to match them better.
[/quote]

I don't think the normal, everyday movie watcher sees the difference of 16mm and 35mm when it's projected. I think it works for this film. [quote][/quote]
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#20 Max Jacoby

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 08:41 AM

I saw this film yesterday and was seriously underimpressed. To me it was a film that felt very constructed but did not have a heart. I never bought into the relationship between R.Fiennes and R Weisz, it felt fake all the way through, like the director was trying to prove a point. And these peple they never shut up, do they? All this constant talking really went on my nerves, just let these characters breathe for christ's sake! For a film that wanted to feel real it failed utterly because of this.

The whole film was overdirected as well. This pseudo-documentary approach has been done so much better and much more expressively (by Michael Mann in 'The Insider' and 'Ali' for instance) and I thought DIs of such bad quality as this one were a thing of the past by now.
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