14 November 2006

3rff: Notes from a Festival 3

Cinematographer Style
(Jon Fauer, NR, 86 min, USA)


4549

Essentially an educational film, Cinematographer Style interviews 110 of the world's best cinematographers, including Gordon Willis and Vittorio Storaro, on the specifics of their art form. It's a fascinatingly rare look at all these minds, who aren't often placed under the lights themselves, and they don't disappoint, stressing to the audience the value of story over substance, of working within your budget, and of the value of saying no. Many of the older cinematographers, who've clearly done a significant amount of teaching, take the time to teach the crew that's filming them--fiddling with the lights and practically demonstrating lenses and shadows and such.

If you're the type of person that finds cinematography interesting, it's a wonderful way to spend 86 minutes, which is not to say the film doesn't have problems. Director Jon Fauer is clearly enamored with his subjects and feels a debt to them for taking the time, so he makes a conscious effort to include all of them in the film. Naturally, this ends up being a bit of a sensory overload, as we're constantly cutting back and forth from talking head to talking head, with some of them repeating what the previous one had just said. A more focused approach would have done wonders, as it would have been wonderful to hear more from Storaro and Willis and less from, say, the guy who shot Armageddon (1998). I pick on John Schwartzman, not because his opinion wasn't of value (in fact, he was very informative), but because of a symptom of one of the film's bigger problems--it was often difficult to figure out who was talking and what they had done. The film opens with a barrage of people saying their names, which essentially helps you pick out the ones you recognize, but for most of the film you find yourself saying "what film is this guy talking about?"

Word is there's a DVD box set being planned which should alleviate many of these concerns, as they plan to show longer, if not full, interviews from many of the greats, allowing the audience the maximum opportunity to soak up their wisdom.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you think that Cinematographer Style stacks up against Visions of Light?

lucas said...

i actually haven't seen Visions of Light, so i haven't a clue

Anonymous said...

I predict that you would enjoy it. Todd McCarthy, the Variety reviewer, had a hand in its production...

lucas said...

well, it's now in my netflix queue, so we shall see...

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