Sunday, November 12, 2006

You Can Make It Like They Use To--NY Times

The NY Times Sunday has a fascinating article about the making of Steven Soderbergh's new film, The Good German, with George Clooney and Cate Blanchett (requires log-in with free account). The article discusses the classical approach to filmmaking that Soderbergh used and is so rarely found in today's big budget studio filmmaking.

I do think the article overstates the loss of the classical style. The mode of filmmaking, based on the studio approach to working, hiring, etc. has largely been lost. But the classical style of continuity editing and narrative clarity has not, despite many people trying to claim the opposite. For example, the author states that the film used wide angle lenses to create multiple character compositions that are no longer in fashion today, thanks largely to the use of 2-shots and CUs influenced by composition for television. While this may be generally true, the situation is more complicated. The use of multiple character compositions may have been due more the widescreen innovations in the 50s, and many films from the 30s-50's used two shots and CUs. Furthermore, many films today still use a wide range of compositional strategies. And with the emergence of widescreen TVs, a denser compositional approach may be returning (who knows). And while camera movement may be easier, it is still in the classical tradition. Besides all this, the "classical style" embraces more than just compositional strategies. In also refers to editing and narrative. While editing might be faster paced with short shots, the shot reverse conversation has remained common for decades and narrative clarity is still the top priority in the majority of films released in Hollywood.

Despite my comments, I think the article does an excellent job of discussing changes in style generally and in modes of production from the studio era to today.

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