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I have to weigh in belatedly on 2046


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#1 Steven C. Boone

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 07:58 AM

I've read a lot of dismissive comments of 2046, which to me is one of the great films of the decade so far. Disparaging comments about its poor DI, overuse of closeups, strange colors, etc.

How can such a gifted bunch of cinematographers be so technically obsessed as to miss the sheer beauty of this film? What's wrong with all-closeups? Dreyer did it. And if it fits the theme of the piece--in this case, the way that particular society straightjacketed people by commodifying and yet cheapening every human interaction--then I say go for it. The film was mesemerizing to me because of its titanic closeups and use of decor as an almost spiritual component. It is every bit as thoughtfully designed as In the Mood for Love.

I despise this very prevalent camera-crew mentality, which treats all films as something to be approached with a kind of generic supercompetence (hence the crew term I equally despise: "shows"). Good coverage. Proper use of wide lenses. Mapping out the set geography in a logical manner. To hell with all that. We all got that stuff in film school, but Wong Kar-Wai, like Godard and so many others before him, understands that film art is made by reacting expressively and intimately to the distinct rhythms and concerns of the film at hand. I prefer the visual jazz he cooks up with Chris Doyle to the ice-cold virtuosity of Doyle's work in epics like "Temptress Moon" and "Hero."

No one in the audience, besides some tightly wound DP's, gives a poop about the DI or whether the wallpaper was an acceptable shade of green. We want to be moved, spontaneously, subliminally. I say "we" because a filmmaker who stops counting himself among the moviegoers is like a politician who thinks of his constituents as dupes.
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#2 Max Jacoby

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 09:34 AM

I think you are thoroughly mistaken if you seem to think that people on this forum do judge the overall quality of a film by the quality of the cinematography alone. This being a cinematography forum, it is only natural for people posting here to comment first and foremost on the look of films, since that is their area of expertise. However that is only a piece of the puzzle (if a very important one) in the overall film.

And if the DI was bad, which in this case it was, that needs to be pointed out. A judgement of one aspect of the film is not a judgment of the film as a whole, since one can focus on that single aspect seperately without looking at it in the context of the film as a whole.

As a film, '2046' was to me a weak remix of the same ingredients that made 'In the Mood for Love' a great film.
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#3 Jason Debus

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 11:13 AM

What's wrong with all-closeups? Dreyer did it. And if it fits the theme of the piece--in this case, the way that particular society straightjacketed people by commodifying and yet cheapening every human interaction--then I say go for it.

I posted an article in the original 2046 thread here (why didn't you post your comments there?) that details the fact that the lack of wide shots was dictated by the quality of lenses that were available to them. A 100mm lens was used almost exclusively.

Personally, I thought the images in this film were gorgeous. There was a bit of graininess present (although at the time I thought it was film grain), but apparently these are artifacts from a bad DI.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 12:10 PM

I loved the movie and the cinematography. Many of Wong Kar Wai / Chris Doyle movies have technical shortcomings, mismatched grain, uneven sharpness, whatever... it doesn't particularly bother me because I know that the productions are difficult, and besides, it all contributes to the fever-dream tone of theirs. I find their work exciting and inspirational. "2046" was perhaps not a big leap artistic forward after "In the Mood for Love" other than the use of anamorphic, but I was still fascinated by the tones, colors, framing of close-ups, etc. But I think I prefer "In the Mood for Love" overall.

The D.I. was so-so technically, nothing bad but not high-end work either.
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#5 Charlie Seper

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 01:02 PM

"This being a cinematography forum, it is only natural for people posting here to comment first and foremost on the look of films, since that is their area of expertise."

Its a "Big Screen" forum. We have a forum at the same web site called "Cinematography" but this isn't it. Now granted the web site itself is called, cinematography.com and is probably going to appeal to cinematographers more than other people, but you shouldn't rule out there may be a large number of people happening through here who's area of expertise may be something else entirely, like myself. I've been primarily a sound guy for 25+ years. I would like to learn more about cinematography though which is why I look through here now and then. I'm also a Flash developer, so framing is important to me in other ways as well. But I empathize with what Nikatsu says here. I'm not one who's crazy about close-ups. I mean they're great for bug documentaries but... However, its the story that's really important and we must never forget that when watching or discussing films. Looks are great but my mama told me that good looks would only take me so far in life. :)
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#6 Gareth Munden

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 01:46 PM

I agree with Nikatsu 100% , it's the flaws that make it a great film . A piece of cinema art , few of which come along .Some say it's not " technically " well done , maybe it's not like the new starwars film or Spiderman II or what ever peice of Hollywood coke ad they keep spiting out . We need more work like this out there , that can tell a story without a gun fight .
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#7 Max Jacoby

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 03:36 PM

Its a "Big Screen" forum. We have a forum at the same web site called "Cinematography" but this isn't it.

If you look above you will notice that it says: Cinematography.com > Cinematography Forums > On the Big Screen.

The 'Cinematography' Forum that you mention does not exist by itself, it is divided into different sub-forums, of which 'On the Big Screen'. To me that means that in this particular forum one discusses the cinematography of films shown on the big screen, as evidenced by the many posts on this subject. Of course one is free to comment on other apsects of the film as well, but to complain that it is geared too much towards cinematography is in my opinion nonsensical.
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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 03:41 PM

It's not a bad film and the close-ups look great. It's just that it annoyed me - never any room to breathe, take in a room, a setting, an environment. It was just like a nicely lit TV-film, or something.

And I absolutely see myself as a better cinematographer on close-ups then I do on wides - and I think most cinematographers are. In wides, art direction, location, blocking, lighting and so many other things come into play that it makes it so much harder to pull off. Therefore I can't be as impressed with a film visually where none of that exists. I feel cheated out of true craftmanship - close-ups are to easy.
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#9 Charlie Seper

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 05:31 PM

"The 'Cinematography' Forum that you mention does not exist by itself"

In my opinion the forum called, "Cinematographers", is the forum for discussing cinematography. We have a sound forum here too. Do you really expect people there to focus entirely on nothing but the way sound interacts with a frame(s) of film? Should we delete all the posts that deal with connectors, mixing desks, effects sends/returns, compressors and so forth?

"Of course one is free to comment on other apsects of the film as well, but to complain that it is geared too much towards cinematography is in my opinion nonsensical."

Well gee, don't you think that to have 10 or 12 posts all talking about nothing but the look of a frame of film in a forum about movies might also be a bit nonsensical? To harp on and on about anything in particular in life seems silly to me. And when people run a subject into the ground to the point of missing any of the inherit merits the film might have is short sighted at best. I see nothing wrong with reminding folks of that. Besides, cinematography on its own becomes a boring subject fairly quick. There's just not that much to it.
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 05:36 PM

Gee, you seem like a person who goes to a steak house and complains about the lack of vegetarian options on the menu...
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#11 Steven C. Boone

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 06:58 PM

In wides, art direction, location, blocking, lighting and so many other things come into play that it makes it so much harder to pull off. Therefore I can't be as impressed with a film visually where none of that exists. I feel cheated out of true craftmanship - close-ups are to easy.


I think the sensation, ideas and emotions one wishes to elicit should be the primary consideration for any choice of lens--not whether the DP was sufficiently challenged. Shooting 2046 another way would result in a completely different film experience--granted, one that would feel less suffocating to you but likely less enthralling to me. Different strokes.

But to me, the telephoto lens is a great liberator for low-budget filmmakers. In the right hands, it lends atmosphere, gravity and mystery to a location or set. THX-1138, for instance, wasn't all close-ups, but many of its most dazzling evocations of the future happened in very tight closeups that took advantage of Walter Murch's tanatalizing sound design. And again, the claustrophobia also resonated with the theme.

I see so many clunky-looking shows on the sci-fi channel that could have gotten more out of their okay-looking sets by lighting and shooting them with a little more "mystery." There IS a skill involved here.

The anamorphic gorgeousness of "2046" never signaled creative compromise or insufficient budget to me. But to have that experience of a film, one must sometimes get away from the clubhouse atmosphere of the crews and take in the work in a more intimate way. The way one writes and dreams of films is the way one should watch them.

Alright, this soapbox is about to collapse, so lemme pack it in...
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 06:58 PM

I don't see why it matters if some people here liked the movie or its cinematography less than others. Or if they only want to discuss its technical merits, whatever. Why is it necessary that we agree on things when it concerns artistic merit? As long as our opinions seem based on some intelligent reaction, some thoughtfulness.

The lack of close-ups bothered me less than it did Adam -- like "Blade Runner", it gives the movie a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. It IS a bit suffocating and relentless, but that's sort of their style.

I don't really buy the argument that the lack of wide-shots was because the old anamorphic lenses weren't sharp enough... because the movie did not seem overly concerned with creating the sharpest, cleanest image -- which is what would happen if the DP's attitude was like "These lenses don't meet my standards for sharpness so I'm only going to shoot close-ups with them." The film is not so technically slick & polished to suggest Chris Doyle was a sharpness freak refusing to shoot wide shots if they weren't going to be sharp enough. Besides, we're talking about C-Series Panavision anamorphics probably, which are used for wide shots in anamorphic movies all the time. And if sharpness was so important to them, they probably wouldn't have done a 2K D.I. either.
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#13 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 07:06 PM

Charlie Seper, you have a fundamental non-understanding of what this place is about.
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#14 Steven C. Boone

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:01 PM

I don't see why it matters if some people here liked the movie or its cinematography less than others. Or if they only want to discuss its technical merits, whatever. Why is it necessary that we agree on things when it concerns artistic merit? As long as our opinions seem based on some intelligent reaction, some thoughtfulness.


If this question is for me, I never said that it was necessary to agree on artistic merit, which is why I posted my disagreement. This always crops up in forums, someone feeling compelled to remind us that we all are entitled to our opinions. But what about our opinions of those opinions? Let's argue freely, without shame.

But you do make some excellent points about Doyle and Wong's methods, and I have learned a lot from you on this and other forums over the years, David, so hats off.
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#15 Charlie Seper

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:03 PM

Well you can think that if you want John. But I personally would be miffed if my kid took a class in mathematics and then was forced or bullied into spending his time in that class only yapping about how math applied to God or religion just because his school had the name "Catholic" on the building. I would expect him to learn math in math class. If they get sidetracked into an occassional dicussion about God I think that's fine, but I expect him to know his math by the end of the year.
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#16 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:32 PM

Hey, you got it - math in math class, cinematography on a cinematography forum.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 10:13 PM

Being a cinematography forum, I don't think it is appropriate to complain that people here focus too much on that aspect in a movie. Certainly one can offer a broader perspective -- and I think we are all smart enough here to understand the relative importance of cinematography to a movie as a whole -- but one of the reasons for this forum is discuss things IN DETAIL related to cinematography, so I don't think it's right to accuse people of talking too much about that aspect here. If not here, where else?
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#18 Charlie Seper

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 10:49 PM

"Hey, you got it - math in math class, cinematography on a cinematography forum."

Surely one of the great all-time comebacks. And you wonder why people make fun of the weird wide web? I just don't see the problem with Nikatsu wanting to focus on what everyone else missed. What's the problem with someone wanting to emphasize the positive aspects of something? You told what you thought was wrong with the film; he told what he thought was right with it. Everyone ought to be happy.
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#19 Tim J Durham

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 11:14 PM

"Hey, you got it - math in math class, cinematography on a cinematography forum."

Surely one of the great all-time comebacks. And you wonder why people make fun of the weird wide web? I just don't see the problem with Nikatsu wanting to focus on what everyone else missed. What's the problem with someone wanting to emphasize the positive aspects of something? You told what you thought was wrong with the film; he told what he thought was right with it. Everyone ought to be happy.

Nobody said he couldn't say what he wanted to say about the film. Infact the only one trying to limit what was being said in THIS thread is you:

"Its a "Big Screen" forum. We have a forum at the same web site called "Cinematography" but this isn't it."

Now, Nikatsu made a few complaints about what other forum posters had said about the film and those people stopped by to defend their comments. Nothing wrong with that, right?
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#20 Sam Wells

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 04:41 PM

No one in the audience, besides some tightly wound DP's, gives a poop about the DI or whether the wallpaper was an acceptable shade of green. We want to be moved, spontaneously, subliminally.


You can only be moved by the images as they materially exist.

In a film designed (William Chang I assume and he's great) like 2046 is, even the shade of the wallpaper does have weight.

-Sam
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