This week I’m bringing you an arthouse film from Russia which competed at the 69th Venice Film Festival. What particularly struck me is the cinematography of this film. Shot in the fall it presents a rich, somber and gloomy palette of colors. Study this to see how mood and atmosphere is conveyed through weather. Russian cinema has been struggling since the fall of Soviet Union but it is slowly re-entering world cinema. Self taught filmmaking team of Andrei Zvyagintsev and Mikhail Krichman – director and cinematographer respectively – are some of those people who have proven that true Russian cinema is not dead yet. Betrayal comes from Kirill Serebrennikov. Watch the trailer below
SHOT BREAKDOWN 006: BETRAYAL (2012)
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The beautiful black & white cinematography of Manhattan by Gordon Willis is also a testament to storytelling being done with simplicity. There are quite a bit of long takes and single setups which cover pages of dialogue with effectiveness which is rarely found in modern day cinema.
SHOT BREAKDOWN 005: MANHATTAN (1979)
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In the second part of this rare track, Ridley brings you the goods one more time on filming inside cars, Washington, D.C., differences between anamorphic widescreen and Super 35, continuity logistics, working with cameramen, having a vision, editing process, directing process, rehearsal with actors.
If you missed it, watch Part I below
One of my favorite cinematographers, Dariusz Wolski shares his thoughts, ideas, philosophy on cinematography in this short and sweet bit of commentary I’ve put together for everyone’s learning and enjoyment.
I’ve been waiting quite a few months now just to include Ridley’s comments on shot sizes, but I waited because I wanted to supplement it with another filmmaker’s comments on the same topic. I’ve finally come across just that – courtesy of Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) – we now have two filmmakers commenting on constructing a visual narrative through shot sizes. It’s a topic I’m personally extremely interested it and have studied at great length and continue to on a daily basis. It is a very important aspect of the cinematic language that one must have a solid grasp on. It can be complex in the beginning, but once one grasps it, it becomes much easier to tell a story visually.
There’s still many more to come of Ridley Scott’s take and process on filmmaking. In this particular segment, there’s more in depth discussions about the mood and atmosphere of a film, the characters within that world. A ground that is more cynical and more a reflection of real life. Ridley also talks about the line in filmmaking that’s tricky – going over the top, or the sentimental route.
I am close to finishing taking notes on The Five C’s of Cinematography – a highly illuminating piece of text that any aspiring filmmaker absolutely must read – and I’m going to share those notes when I’m finished transcribing them to a word file. For now, here are the 7 Do’s and Don’ts as outlined in the book in the chapter of Composition.
DO’s & DON’Ts
- Do combine long horizontal lines, static or slow panning camera, soft lighting, slow moving or static players, lengthy scenes, to inspire a quiet, peaceful, restful mood. Don’t destroy the effect by tilting the camera upward, or by allowing fast player movement, or by editing with short, choppy scenes.
- Do compose a series of tall vertical columns fronting a courthouse in a dignified manner with a symmetrical, static composition. Don’t destroy the effect by panning horizontally across the vertical columns.
- Do increase the action effect of mountain climbers, racing cars, marching soldiers, by staging their movement so that the viewer’s eye must travel in a diagonal pattern.
- Do record the graceful effect of a skier twisting and turning downhill by following with a curving camera movement.
- Do employ slanted Dutch camera angles, dynamic compositions, dramatic lighting, and rhythmic editing to create an unbalanced, tilted, unstable effect on anything weird or violent.
- Don’t employ unusual camera angles, distracting background movement or off-beat lighting on a simple scene with important dialogue, which requires greater audio than visual attention.
- Do strive always to preserve unity of style throughout a sequence.
Here are some selections of Conrad Hall speaking his mind about filmmaking and on his love of being a cinematographer. I will later upload some of his screen-specific comments on some of the scenes and lighting.
The cinematic knowledge from the master continues.
Part II – enjoy & comment.