cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM Reflections and mirrors in film






Reminded of the classic uses of mirrors in film, such as those in Renoir’s Regle du Jeu, by looking at Darren Hughes’ clever ‘movie still’ in his profile page in the new version of Long Pauses. The page I was reading was his post on Fred Brakhage. {wiki:Stan Brakhage}

In Regle du Jeu, I thought there was a mirror shot within the complex tracking shot involving the opening and closing of a wardrobe door, a corridor and two rooms, but as yet can’t find it!

There is one like that in The Million Pound Note. Though according to this, there is one scene where the cameraman can be seen in the mirror.

In another shot in Le Regle du Jeu , a pan involving the Countess, Christine de la Cheyniest, played by Nora Gregor, coming out of one door and entering another on a landing, the mirror is used to extend the shot. There is no need to move the camera to do a shot of the maid: the maid moves into view in the mirror on the right as Christine moves towards the mirror on her left. Then her maid, Lisette, is seen with Christine on the landing without her reflection. Christine moves to a door with a flunkie standing outside, leaving Lisette with the dog in the foreground. She enters. As she does so, we can see the closed door of the room she has left.

At the end of La Regle du Jeu, Octave is getting ready to leave. Again Renoir uses a mirror to extend the shot, showing the door behind him through which he is about to leave. Within the shot he walks towards the camera to get his hat and returns to the set position. While he does, we can see him getting his hat in the reflection. Towards the end he can be seen looking at his own reflection in the mirror: staring in a sudden realisation, over the shoulder of Lisette.

Without the mirror, walking out of shot towards the camera won’t look right. With the mirror there is no need to set up another shot to show him unhooking his hat.

Came across this forum in MUBI [formerly Auteurs] with quite a few examples of stills and movie sequences sent in by the debaters. The topic is ‘reflections and mirrors’  which slightly widens it out a bit.  Please post in any films with reflections you like.

The one at the top is from Regle du Jeu.  One can always make obvious remarks and seem slightly naive about film-making, but I can see in my mind’s eye the image being noticed by Renoir as he looks for the first time at  the set up created for him by the cinematographer. He has asked for the maid (in black) to seem to be the reflection of the Contess, but when he sees what has been done for him, sacred blue, he is impressed.

Godard talked about guns and girls, but this is surely as much why men and women nearly kill themselves to make films.





O.k. this is Berman – you get the idea.  In fact you more than get it: you’ve seen films, or documentaries of films being made, in which directors look at the cinematographs set-up and start enthusing.

There is also that thing about a cinematographer catching a light effect while filming a shot which is seen by director for the first time in the rushes. “Wahddisdat? BriiilliaNt! Cut it in ” [THICK GUTTERAL GERMAN-AMERICAN  ACCENT]

A real chateau was used for Regle du Jeu. It would be interesting to know if the interiors were sets or chateau. If chateau, there would have been a time when, on arrival and initial shufti, the possibilities of the mirrors became apparent and were probably included in the working script. If he chose the chateau partly for its mirrors before the script was written, then he really was a clever chap.

#

Below a cut and paste of photo a quoter quoting a book:





Film noir often uses mirrors as symbols of a person’s dual nature.

Quote from Dev Anand: Dashing Debonair by Alpana Chowdhury (p.43).

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P D Smith reviews what looks like a must have for the generally curious, film mirror lovers and narcissists:

Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection
by Mark Pendergrast 404pp
Basic Books, £19.99

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August 6, 2010 Posted by | cinematography, cognitive illusion, cognitive science, culture, director of photography, film directors, film narrative, film still, film techniques, Fred Brakhage, perception, Renoir | , | Leave a comment

FILM Film as an act of Love {by Sukhdev Sanhu}





antoine-les-400-coups1




Film as an act of Love


by Sukhdev Sandhu

Fifty years ago, François Truffaut’s Quatre cents coups
heralded a revolution in cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu salutes
a modern classic



NewStatesman 2 April 2009

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Antoine Doinel, Cahiers du cinéma, criticism, culture, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques], Truffaut | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fear of death is intransitive becomes cutting on the action

img_1178

After a sudden inspiration, and a little consideration, it seemed a good idea to change the name fear of death is intransitive (which is, in any case, meant to be more motif than title) to cutting on the action to reflect my growing interest in and preoccupation with film and photography. Cutting on the action is often expressed as cutting on action, but it does not quite say what I want it to say beyond film technique.

Match cut means the same thing, roughly, but does not transfer out of film into other realms, as I like to think ‘cutting to the action’ does.

Cutting on the action is nicely explained in Basic training: cutting to action page in videomaker.com.

There are quite a lot of Youtube videos, such as Horrors of War EDITING 1 web doc, which also do it well. They don’t get the interpretative value of a good title when they post in YouTube. Here, Horrors of War refers to a film used to explain the technique not to the editing process. Genus => species => variety, guys – please – and all will be much clear. So first say what it is about, then what about is about.

~

Solzhynitsyn once defined an intellectual as someone who had an insistent and persistent concern with the spiritual, which I take to mean soul: what man is or thinks he could be. Whether that meant overall or if one could be obsessed with one little corner of how men act and think and feel,to some effect, who knows.

rubins-vase

fear of death is intransitive seemed like a good idea at the time – a word vase illusion: about how words are only as good at expressing what the author meant for them, as the care with which they were laid down one by one in a certain order – but the novelty has worn off now, and it is probably off-putting to many who think the blog might be focused on death: there must be an awful lot of people on the internet who have been looking for some way to overcome their fear of death who have ended up here reading about film and books and stuff.

The version of the vase illusion above appeals to me because it itself is more subtly designed than your average vase illusion and so flip-flops more readily. The bog-standard vase illusion in black and white often needs a bit of a perceptio-cognitive push to make it transform between faces and vase. And so, in a way, with words: sometimes they are so perfect they create a whole world without any help form the reader of them; sometimes just good enough to take you on a smaller, though not in itself not insignificant mental journey; often completely impenetrable and, in turn, in their way, as if created by a random sentence generator – or a deranged mind. Do they have a larger proportion of deranged intellectuals in France than elsewhere? (Reference to the myriad of totally impenetrable writers France seems to produce….)

girl-and-deer1

What photography and film are, can do, means has become overidingly important to me. You watch hundreds of films in a life time and then wham, something happens – you get it. You really see why the greats of the stills and movie camera were so obsessed with their crafts. Not unlike looking at cubist paintings for years and then realising that while, before, you understood one of the principles of cubism as showing different views at the same time, now you live the feeling you imagine Picasso had at getting to that point in his artistic journey.

image01

Cromer Pier 14 November 1993

The journey I have travelled to get to this point – reaching a sheer dazzlement at what film is and does – was not an epiphany out of the blue. I reached a similar point with photography 30 years ago. And somehow getting photography – though not how to take well executed photographs! – laid the ground for my much later getting of film, nurturing my ‘insistent and consistent’ desire to be a film-maker.

Girl and a Deer was one of the hundreds of duds on contact sheets which were never printed. Years later, once I had made up my mind this photo had really said something – would say something –  I spent several pleasurable hours framing and reframing it with sheets of white paper and paper clips to try to make the best of a bad job, and to make it mean to others what I saw one day in a second in a wildlife park in the lake district.

I sent it in to The Observer weekly competition. It was published the following sunday.

It was not well executed shot: I had not got the hang at all of using my then new toy, a semi-automatic Nikon. One day, many years after taking the photograph, I overcame my rejection of the shot, because it was a poorly exposed photograph, made a few prints at photography night class and cropped with a vengence. I sent an A4 photo with a neatly cut out of a sheet of A4 showing the crop, and was gratified to see they accepted the crop exactly.

The photograph was taken very quickly.  As they are.  I think I remember the deer approaching people, or at least not running away, and was drawn to the situation. With a Nikkormat there was control over shutter speed and aperture, but they were linked (as they are…) through the light meter. If you chose the speed route for shake (no slower thatn 1/60th.), aperture was then set by middling the light meter needle; if aperture was set (do you want depth of field or not?), the speed in its turn was fixed by metering. And, yes, you had to focus manually.

I am trying to re-imagine what I would have done: speed or aperture.  I guess speed. A professional can tell which I chose from the photograph: it should be possible to work it out now. The background is over exposed and out of focus. The smaller the f-stop number, the bigger the aperture. I might have known enough to set the focus to infinity for maximum depth of field, but because I didn’t know all the permutations at that stage, I probably relied on what in a digital camera at the press of a button sets shutter priority, hoping for the best. It was a very bright day but the two figures were under a tree, in shade. A no-win situation, as they say. You focus on figures 15 feet away and you get a bleached background.

I had wanted that arm round the deer at any price (I wondered later, looking at the image many times, if the deer did a little side line in posing with all the children…) so the technical element went out of the door. However, the people assessing the cropped A4 size photograph I sent in must have accepted it was “all in the eyes”,  like I had done, and were prepared to publish a poor shot for the sake of the greater art, so to speak.

When the girl suddenly put her arm round her new deer friend (I can’t help think she is a she), I saw the photograph and what I thought it meant before I pressed the button. This is sort of decoupage. A detailed ‘pre-planning’ of the result in three seconds rather than hours slaving over a timed script.

The conviction I had the photo right when I took it was confirmed a decade later when it was published so quickly: exciting, shocking and vindicating.

The shot of Cromer Pier was also a disaster. Couldn’t improve it with printing. I knew next to nothing of taking photographs with a fancy camera or developing and printing.

It seemed, from the numbers passing up and down the front, every professional and amateur in the area had honed in, as if by telepathy, on Cromer in atrocious weather on that particular November day. I was the unlucky sod who was duped into standing in a foreground shot for a professional: as I did so, a massive wave rose up, curled over the concrete rolled lip of the sea wall, and dumped itself on me and my precious Nikon, which I frantically swathed in kitchen roll to get the worst of the salt water off. Years later I had to have the internal mech. de-rusted. The water marks on my pier photo show I had already taken it before he got me to do his biding. After its soaking, I did not feel very confident to try winding the film on any further. I wonder who he was and what his photographs were like. And if he deliberately tried to ruin my camera, or really did need a foreground subject. Let me know if you are he and reading this.

In my mind that day, I was taking photographs like these by Richard Trim.

Today, with digital editing, an artistic smudge does wonders:

image02

April 1, 2009 Posted by | blog name change, cinematography, cognitive illusion, culture, film editing, film [its techniques], photography | | Leave a comment

Is Google Making Us Stupid?



Nicolas Carr writes in Atlantic Monthly (link from 3 Quarks) on reading and writing styles and technology. Though it deals with surfing vs. old fashioned reading, it also picks up on such fascinating arcanerie as Nietzsche having to resort to a typewriter when he couldn’t write by hand any more and what effect this had on his writing style attested to by contemporaries.

John Naughton [Observer, 22 June 2008 ], I Google, therefore I am losing the ability to think, takes up the cudgels bringing in mention of Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age and the  notion that having it so readily to hand removes the need to remember it. Then he finishes with:

But people have worried about this since… well… the Greeks. In the Phaedrus, Socrates tells how the Egyptian god Theuth tried to sell his invention – writing – to King Thamus as ‘an accomplishment which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt

for memory and wisdom.’ To which the shrewd old king replied that ‘the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practise it… Those who acquire writing will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful… What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory.’

If you are talking about the web you are talking about hypertext, which can be revised by checking out The Electonic Labyrinth. One of the main points is that hypertext existed before the web. This particular website deals with the creative implications of digital hypertext — pointing out that hypertext itself existed before digitally hyperlinked hypertext — which can be read starting from the page, The non-linear tradition in literature.

I have written on the web as hypertext, including what a blog is and isn’t in this respect( e.g. TiddlyWiki ). When checking this post from Moleskine Modality, make sure to go to Eli Springer’s home page, then open up links in it to see how the new information is added to the original home page text. Stage I: open link Eli Springer in the home page then in that page, as an example, the link ‘moral change’ to show how all three sets of text are available on the same page. Note in each new text box, in the top right-hand corner, there is a choice to close the box down. It is possible to open every link in the home page, and every link in (for simplicity) the Eli Springer page.

In the Carr is the argument that something radical is happening to both reading and writing, in the suggestion there might be some sort of cognitive change going on. This, from the background of writing being something we learn as opposed to spoken language which we are essentially born with the ability to use.

Since the brain is an associative organ (but this only works because it had something stored away in memory) it seems more likely that the web, as the ultimate, though not infinite, hypertext, is echoing what the brain is already good at. And that linear texts, though traditional and popular, are the anomoly. It is just that the technology took time to catch up with the the way the brain works. Saying this does not mean that surfing is more efficient than reading books.

There can be no better analogy to this than conversation. There are different styles, but in the main we latch onto keywords and respond to them, much in the same way we are attracted to a particular link in a webpage. When we pick out a keyword from someone else’s speech, we might intervene if we know something about the subject and want to say what we know or think. We often semi-switch off our concentration when someone is saying something we feel we already know a lot about, but switch back on (if we are good listeners) when words and phrases alert us.

A conversation between two people, is often surrounded by other external events such as other people talking who may not be connected with that particular conversation and other things going on which the couple talking are not interested in. It is not unknown for a person to be distracted by something happening even if the conversation is riveting. A child falls off his tricycle; a car backfires; a light-bulb blows; a woman breaks down in tears. This can stop a conversation and lead to the two people talking about the ‘external’ event. What is this if not coming across something startling in a webpage and taking the link to find out what it offers?

Leaving aside surfing as a way to pass time, there is ‘good’ surfing and ‘bad’ surfing just like good conversation. Good surfing is a discipline in which the surfer does not stray too far from the intended object just like good research from books. The worst surfing is a kind of Freudian free-association, in which at the end of the session you have no idea why you started, and may be a bit vague as to why you began. A good surf always stays within bounds or reason because there is a limited goal and because within each brain is a core of what the individual possessing it considers important or significant. So a fact already known or an idea already familiar, will be skipped or rapidly scanned. Isn’t this what we do in books? Book index people check what is in a book by checking its index. This may lead one to decide not to read a particular book because enough keywords do not appear to overcome a threshold of interest or relevance. So what is the difference between all this and leaping over web pages to get to one you think is important?



June 19, 2008 Posted by | books, culture, digitisation, hypertext, Internet, Literature, narrative style, neuroscience, Nietzsche, reading, science, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

Culture is….




….everything we are not that tells us what we are

{Well, it wasn’t Bob Dylan}



What is culture?

9 definitions but none as simple as that. Though Edward B. Taylor’s ( a separate 10th. one) :

“the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”

is pretty satisfying as definitions go. I first saw it in the intro to a compilation of papers by amongst others, Mumford, Lynne White, Aldous Huxley, called Technology and Culture, ed. Melvin Kranzberg and William H. Davenport [Meridian/New American Library, 1972]

Which suddenly reminds me of something along the lines of “If you want to know yourself, examine other people; if you want to know other people….examine yourself” but why exactly I can’t quite say. But it is probably something about ‘reading’ a culture.

Might as well do some quick revision:

wiki:culture

Which is a reminder: there are a couple of succinct pages on Braudel’s Civilisation vs. Civilisations in Taming the Tiger: The Struggle to Control Technology by Witold Rybczynski. Oh, alright then, I check: pp. 186-88.

June 6, 2008 Posted by | culture | , | Leave a comment

Si hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades



The title of this post according to Fun Latin means:

If you can read this bumper sticker, you are both very well educated and much too close.

* Orationem pulchram non habens, scribo ista linea in lingua Latina.

Howard Jacobson in today’s Independent picks up on Children’s Secretary Ed Balls’, “All young people should have the chance to experience top quality culture.”, to wax about his sturdy grammar school education. His complaint being that culture is not an add-on:

Culture in the grammar school was not an appendage to what else was on offer. Culture was continuous with the curriculum. Culture – at least when we weren’t freezing in our shorts on furrowed fields of ice or clambering up wallbars like chimpanzees – was what the school exuded.

The mention of culture brought to mind a definition in the introduction to Technology and Culture: An Anthology, by Melvin Kranzberg and William H. Davenport. Attributed to Edward B. Taylor, and used “in the broad anthropological sense”, it goes:

Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Since it is a book on technology as part of culture, the authors add:

Technology itself is one of the most distinctive and significant of man’s capabilities, and it is essential that we learn how it developed in order to analyze its relations with the other elements of culture.

Writing an earnest (Grammar School?) sixth form essay or examination question, What is Culture? (the questions tended to be very short in those days… ) would inevitably bring in The Two Cultures – exemplified by Jacobson only mentioning the arts in his encomium to the superior education he got. Closely behind this would be whether elitism was a Good Thing.

The Grammar schools were designed to put the brightest 5-10 percent in touch with the best teachers. Under those circumstances it was possible to give a version of the sort of education provided at the best private schools. One can only guess what went through the minds of the theorists and bureaucrats when landed with a comprehensive system of secondary education. It probably went along the lines of broadening the definition of culture (not unlike the one above) to try to get away from the problem of high-culture being necessarily elitist.

It is strange that though a typical religious education course in a British secondary school will essentially be a sociology of religions, you would be hard pressed to find an AS course in the the history of ideas or the history of science.

* Lacking anything witty to say, instead I offer this tagline in Latin

February 16, 2008 Posted by | culture | , , , | Leave a comment

Underneath the Bunker



Darlinks! You simply must read ‘Europe’s premiere culture journal” :

Underneath the Bunker


January 14, 2008 Posted by | culture, online magazine | 1 Comment