Sunday, March 20, 2011

Remember When Camera Movement Meant Something?

I have been reading a book on samurai films, and I just finished Hideo Gosha's Sword of the Beast (1965). Old, Japanese films make me appreciate the art of visual style in film; in other words, the camera is expressing something at all times through composition, movement, and, by extension, editing.

These terms have less and less meaning in American cinema, as the big-budget movies contain incessant, meaningless camera movement (see everything after The Matrix), or they are shot in the increasingly popular documentary style of shaky-cam madness. One of my favorite films of the decade, 2006's Children of Men, was shot documentary style, so it lacked that particularly cinematic type of artistry I love so much and wish to fully understand. However, it was one of the best films I have ever seen, so I guess the directing style, which was appropriate for the film's narrative, is excusable. The hand-held camera allowed for some of the most amazing long takes ever filmed.

Luckily, not all directors have abandoned their camera as storyteller. The camera rarely shook in Road to Perdition (2002), which was also one of the most beautiful movies ever made. An example from that film is a sequence in which Michael Jr. watches Michael Sr. from a distance, and they are also emotionally estranged. The wide angle lens that Sam Mendes uses makes the hallway between them look exceptionally long.

Happy viewing,


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