… is an award winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker and writer whose first celluloid love was “Godzilla.” Since age 9, he’s been chasing monsters and men, camera in hand. His chief inspirations are classic German Expressionist cinema, the free-wheeling creativity of Terry Gilliam, and the fog-shrouded forests of his New Hampshire birthplace. Through his films, Peter strives to unlock the experience of “ecstatic cinema” — a viewing experience that challenges, delights, and sweeps up the audience in equal measures. His work has appeared in American Cinematographer, Red Shark News, various broadcast networks, and various festivals around the world.
His most recent film “Working Horses” premieres this fall.
You must have come across FilmakerIQ. If you haven’t, what have you been up to? Watching more films? The time has come to do a petit Godard*, take your iPhone iPad or Android and get out there to make a film. Well, don’t stop watching films, of course, but try a little something even if it is to prove film-making is not your forte. A film mind you is not a wobbly bit of video of a disemheaded body. It’s lots of wobbly bits editing together. Even a soundtrack. Apparently the young folk tell me you can do this all from a mobile nowadays which leaves me impressed but well behind. For me it’s editing software on a PC because I can’t see a keypad very well …(when is software an app? Is everything an app nowadays?)
Strangely since making and particularly editing film is a big preoccupation of mine (more a preoccupation than praxis mid you..), I don’t seem to to have either highlighted FilmmakerIQ yet or put up a video. Unless that is as well as not being able to see tiny keypads I’m losing my memory as well.
A very informative and personable video by John P. Hess. There are lots of others equally informative and interesting. A pairing with this one, perhaps, The History of Cutting – The Birth of cinema and Continuity editing.
Why is it that crusty academics (all over the web nowadays..) come to mind droning on about their considerable knowledge of film, to little effect, when a dynamic presentation like this wants to make you learn? It’s in a nutshell, but some nutshell, some nut, as Winston Churchill might have said if he used the words nutshell or even nut.
*Godard mention – aah, so satisfying to have got one in another post….he recommends in his latest interviews qua his new film wot he did in 3D but thinks 3D a waste of time, you all get out there with your iPhones alors recherche la femme et le pistol – or is it revolver with the accent on the -ver – et bien aussi le chien which might be a dog or a bitch and have some significance to the overall message of the film.
Conscious of the underlying significance of this term and its many interpretations within the context of visual culture, particularly as related to film and screen media, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media set out to provide a forum to explore the myriad of interstices that exist both within the medium of film and between film and other media, firstly in the form of an international conference held at University College Cork in September 2012, and now in a special issue of Alphaville dedicated to the topic.
Lot’s and lots to read.
I was drawn in by the word interstice. A wonderful sounding word which most people couldn’t pronounce let alone define. The editorials starts with:
The interstice: something empty, something minute—a crevice, a chink, a narrow gap—yet, in spite of this definition of something apparently slight and inconsequential, one perhaps may make the claim that the interstice serves as a foundational element of film. The “intervening space”, as the OED defines it, in its celluloid form provided the connection between multiple images, allowing them to run together to form the illusion of movement. While this interstitial black strip that imperceptibly framed the moving image is no longer a constituent part of cinema in its current digital format, interstices continue to proliferate in screen media, perhaps to a greater extent than ever. Indeed, just as cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography, this intermediality takes on a redefined role in the digital era, with the lines between cinema, television, art, video and new media becoming increasingly difficult to define.
And so I was off, thinking about black bars between frames of pellicule. Though I knew in my bones, chasing a few rabbits down their holes, this was the entre to a lot more things of interest and use among a whole swathe I probably wouldn’t understand or be bothered with. But how do you know till you read?
And so what exactly are the film things I am bothered with? Think, Think. One, how films are made, particularly cinematography and editing, aesthetics goes without saying (but there, I’ve said it), and the limits of film (and the sort of questions that cropped up when Godard started writing in the Cahiers and then made films himself which, if we use A Bout de Souffle, was often about how film was not up to the job he wanted it to do – and/or was dead and gone in the terms in which he saw it: in two words Eisenstein and montage. Godard a writer trying a new medium and as I see it often being disappointed and expressing this disappointment in his own films. Alright, I admit it, I’ve been trying Histoires yet again). Phew! How hard it is to attend to three things at once and have the added disadvantage of English subtitles. Perhaps better without enough French to read La « partition » des Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard by Céline Scemama as a companion-piece to Histoire(s). My ideal: watch it first, then the transcription,then both together. But it becomes a study not an experience, where it has to be watched on DVD to stop it at will.
The start point – stimulated by the Alphaville editorial’s first para – was that black gap between each frame. Faux naively (sometimes the ridiculously obvious can turn up insights) I mused the black dividing lines had to be there because of the way a roll of film running through a camera exposed individual frames. A shutter or shutters opened to expose each frame and it couldn’t do it quick enough to have no gap between frames. Though of course even if that were feasible, with each frame abutting directly to the next, the separation of frames as they are by a gap might well be needed to help create the moving images at a certain speed of projection. Who knows – not many – if the movie would work projected without the few millimeters of black space?
It wasn’t there in order to. It was there because it had to be there, and then they found a way to get over these leetel black bars between frames by projecting the film at a certain speed both to eliminate them from perception, and eventually at 24fps to get a movie that wasn’t jerky as the early silent films were.
Then the assertion that
[..] cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography
made me think some more – and this is the first paragraph of the editorial! – what interstices were these exactly? That later.
The fourth wall. We know that cinema was distinctly theatrical in it’s beginnings. But surely, film rather than being in cracks between the traditional arts – once the theatrical style was left behind – was a new art form which superimposed itself on them as a whole, using them; or perhaps that the arts fed directly or indirectly into film, rather than the other way round. Or even that it parasitised on them or was in symbiosis with them. Or both. Or saprophytic. Or even commensal. But it did become the predominant – as in popular and wide-spread – art form the 20 century. Pretty quickly it was the flicks people went to see instead of music hall – certainly not art galleries or museums. Though come to think of it, music and film became close partners in a way that art and theatre did not. Theatre and ballet became favourite subjects of film and have remained so to the present day. Opera became the musical. But film technique has developed on its own.
→ Film Studies at University College Cork
Well, better start reading. Might learn something.
Why use my own words when those of the website are readily available and, well, they know what they’re doing. I’m just shining my spotlight on another corner of the film world magnificently exposed to everyone – film expert, buff, film student, even those unsure about film over book – through the wonders of the interweb:
INTERCUT is a film podcast supported by the #yegfilm collective which explores a love of film, the process of filmmaking, and filmmakers themselves.
I started with Dailies #1 purely because it has Michael Douglas in Kubrick’s 1957 Paths of Glory as it’s cover. Think it’s time to watch that again. What a pleasure to hear them start talking about Bela Tarr. Since I’ve spent hours rewinding the opening cow sequence of Tarr’s Satantango, hearing anyone at all talking about his films is really exciting.
My Tarr’s can be found in this search on Cutting on the action. Slow, slow film, requires slow, long posts.
N.B. I’m not a film expert, I just watch films and dream of making my own. (The making equivalent of the guy working in the New York restaurant as a waiter who says he’s an actor, usually seen as a scene in a film…). So don’t expect illumination: you might be disappointed. Anywhere I have written at length about a film is mostly me working through things about a particular film I’ve just seen. It won’t be expert analysis or criticism. Or if turns out to be either or both, that’s probably purely accidental.
P.S. Check out these images of Paths to Glory. There’s a whole set of posts in there on colour and black & White film…
….note the way light rays and blocks of light on objects work so well in monochrome.
Leni Riefenstahl in the cutting room
Becoming a Professional Film & Video Editor -5 Tips to Think About When Getting Started as an Editor
By Lawrence Jordan
in Hollywood Reinvented
“The basic rules of film editing, first established in the silent era, still govern the industry today: maintain your eye lines, preserve continuity, respect planarity (the rules governing the transposition of three dimensions onto a two-dimensional plane), find a good rhythm, and, most important, always advance the story.”
Catherine Grant’s latest post in Film Studies for Free has a selection of links to mostly academic articles on editing: Seeing the join : on Continuity editing. This includes:
CHAPTER 1: Film as Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business‘ from Film Art: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill, 2010, 9th ed.) by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson
While trying to write posts on film essays and camera-stylo this is a classic displacement activity. Remember the animal behaviour text books: the three-spined stickleback males have distinct territories. When they confront each other right on the dividing line between each other’s territory in a fish tank, they cannot attack but dip downwards.
Watching The Tall men [Raoul Walsh,1955] starring Clarke Gable, Jane Russell and Robert Ryan on Film4 this week, with half and eye and a third of an ear, it was pleasing to note a classic piece of cutting on the action involving Clarke Gable closing a door, turning through 90 degrees in order to be facing Jayne Russell opening a door to enter the room. I am not sure if that was three cuts or two (i.e. the door shutting and the turning as cuts or a single shot), but it all looked just right.
The other day I saw another film in which a similar scene looked all wrong – name escapes me. Close up of face looking left, jump cut to close up of same face looking right, in order that another element of the scene could be introduced. The left-right-two-faces-looking-at-each-other felt wrong, let alone looked wrong, just because he wasn’t re-arranged pointing in the right direction. No different from a few notes in a piece of music which shouldn’t be there. How is it that one off note stands out like that? That’s how the brain is made: it notices little differences. (Though it also well-attested in all good psychology text books that men in bearskins can walk across the hotel foyer and not be noticed) That’s why it can see the difference between those paired cartoons, where something has been deliberately left out on one of the pair of seemingly identical pictures.
I suspect the reason the cutting on action failed in this case is because a decision was made not to go back to shot[s] they needed to re-film to to make it right*: something that the editor will have seen very quickly and have to tell the director about. It’s not always general incompetence but necessary expediency. Often true for continuity: they know the hair’s not the same length but no one dare ask for the money to re-film it.
* O.k., how many of you noticed the ‘to to’ mistake?
Watched Climates on iPlayer last night and was struck by the way several shots were set up in extreme close up, trying without success to remember a well-known film that used the same technique.
Steven Yates in his review of Climates in kamera.co.uk, did not give a direct answer but confirmed that Ceylan is both filmmaker and photographer. Right from the beginning of the film the main character Isa, played by Ceylan himself, is taking digital photographs, boring his girlfriend played by his wife Ebru Ceylan.
In his own photography website, nuri bilge ceylan photography, the bumf for his 2007 Grenada exhibition includes:
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s career as a filmmaker is indivisible from his interest in still images. He is in charge of the cinematography of his own films and often includes a photographer in the plot, such as the protagonist of Distant, a spectator of the city of Istanbul from the other side of the lens, and who is incapable of verbal communication beyond images. During the preparation and shooting of his latest feature, Climates, which Cines del Sur presents in the Itineraries Section, Ceylan took a panoramic camera with him to capture exteriors; what were initially locations to be used in production soon became a specific work…
One of photographs in his Turkey cinemascope series, Ishakpasa palace, 2005, is in the film near the end.
Came across some of these Herzog documentaries before but reappeared in a surf on something not that related purely serendipitously:
Notes: wiki: my best Fiend
Notes: Wiki: Dieter Dengler
There is no doubt a personality disorder called STBOS -BWNTBSTMTACAU*: I need to say about Herzog’s non-fiction that he films it in feature film style, which is in sharp contrast to the default style coming from cinema direct/cinema verite tradition. Even his colouration and mis-en-scene is big-filmic. This has a strange but satisfying effect, a kind of equivalent visual effect to the aspects of the contrapuntal in music.
With this in mind, I am a little bit disappointed with some of the music he uses, particularly in films like Lessons in Darkness. Though music can be used to almost poke fun at the cinematic. In the oily-boy story – which is as riveting as any he has made – the music is what can only call kitsch because of its relation to the visual: that is, it is not kitsch in and of itself, but becomes so when associated with the particular visuals he uses. I would be prepared to argue this one! But it does need a sort of reply that includes the details in shot (moment-by-moment) specific film terms to explain why my opinion is wrong.
The music in Dieter does work very well unlike that in Lesson in Darkness. One is reminded of Dr.Strangelove: I can’t give chapter and verse right now, but will add to this post when I re-look at some extracts of the Kubrick.
Even if one can see where Herzog is going with all the heavy music with its deeply ironic tone, it is not as one-to-one as one might think on first seeing/hearing the film. There are many layers to the symbiosis between the music and cinematography in Lost. Repeated watching highlights subtler colours within the, at first, seemingly bleeding obvious purpose to this particular set of sound backdrops.
STBOS-BWNTBSTMTACAU* = Stating The Bleeding Obvious – But Wot needs To Be Said To Make Things Absolutely Unambiguous
You’d expect a man like that with the vision and energy for film to find a way to tap into the social networks beyond the grave!
Mogan Meis’s essay in The Smart Set, Quite Ripples – Capturing the moments indifferent to being captured, plucks a chord for me: a harpsichord –and not clavichord or pianoforte — kind of moment. Meis moved from an idea from Thales to a quote from Hericlatus (‘You can’t step into the same river twice’), followed by Plato’s, ‘ if the nature of things is so unstable as that, you can’t even step in the same river fronting an explanation of a photographer’s art.
A clear litte expansion on the philosophical background from Siva Prasad might help at this point.
The photographer he looks at is Paul Graham: his exhibition, A Shimmering of Possibility, at MoMa, the perfect excuse for Meis to deliver two killer paragraphs:
..human beings have been trying to figure out what makes one thing one thing and another thing another thing. In very general terms, there have always been some people who are more comfortable with Being and some people who are more comfortable with Becoming. The Being people get excited about how identity remains stable, how a chair is always a chair, a table always a table. The Becoming people are fascinated by the gray areas, the things you can’t quite categorize, the fleeting, the indefinite.
Photography, since its invention in the 19th century, has always played the role of a double agent. On one hand, photography fixes time, a notoriously shifty and ever-changing phenomenon. But photography grabs time and sits it down. You could say that photography freezes moments of essence. This pleases the Being people. A photograph has a sliver of forever inside it.
and two killer sentences:
The old saying tells us that a picture is worth a thousand words. Graham, however, thinks you need somewhere between four and nine pictures.
Meis dissects the notions of being and becoming a bit more, but it was something else that occured to me: somehow the great filmmakers are and were quite aware of this ‘between four and nine pictures’.
Recently I saw an interview with Truffaut in which he was talking about 8 frame freezes: the maximum was 12 frames: more obtruded into the movie shots either side: the viewer was aware it was a still. Somehow at the optimal 8 frames, the stillness of a face amongst action is more a psychological stop than a physical one. Is the 8-frame an artifical construct of film with no parallel in real life? Perhaps an equivalent; is the sensation of a person talking to you suddenly having her sound off as one’s concentration goes from the words to the expression, and suddenly back again as some process in the brain decides to switch the sound back on, which hasn’t been off at all (so to speak).
In film we are being shown this 8-frame phenomenon as a stylisation. It has been used time and again by many directors. So why are cinematographers like Truffaut obsessed with it? For me, it runs right back to the simple pleaure of a flick book:; bored in a school classroom on a hot summer afternoon, teacher droning on, we idly draw a matchstick man in the top corner of the text book and make him move: the 8-frame splice is a reverse flicker book. It is a little bit ‘because it was there’, but it has a serious purpose, noneless.
No film-maker gets over the way film works: 24 fps. Even a photographer who has run off a rapid set of shots of a face, now finds it possible, with digital technology, to make the head move up and down with a loop of two photographs. There is something mesmerising about creating movement from stills.
Many filmmakers use a sequence of photographic stills or frames from a movie shot – in lieu of tight montage sequences – because they come to the conclusion that these stills — simply a short set of consecutive frames — played slower than 24 fps by digitally chosing say 1-3 seconds which is the poor man’s; still creating the necessary movement both in cinematographic and perceptio-cognitive (narrative) terms.
In a short documentary I am making, after much playing around with one sequence of someone arriving on a train, decamping, and walking back up the station to where I, the cameraman, am standing, I came to the slow conclusion it was more effective as film not just to show the sequence at normal speed (the edited shot with only a few seconds taken off each end), but also a repetiton of the same shot in single frames at an optimal fps to produce an inexorable slow movement forward, which at the same time was seen as a set of ever changing stills.
Such a design is always self-reflexive: that is so much what the fun of filmmaking is. In some cases, the auteur seems to be almost solely concerned with cinematographic reflexivity. No crime. The medium itself has it built into its DNA. The films such people make are as much about the pressure and satisfaction in the making as any subsequent viewing by a third party. True of all creative art.
In the process of running a sequence of screen grabs, one is consciously aware that this is what it must have been like for the first filmmakers – and their enchantment with the new medium – as they ran their celloid through a projector. The movie made of stills or screen grabs, though often run quite slow, is smoother than the flickering of those films at less than otpimum speed. One is fully aware, as all this happens, that one is watching how movie works, but also fully conscious immediately, or in slow stages, what it can and can’t do.
If I was teaching film (not likely) these are aspects of film-making I would emphasise: practical exercises with HDV cameras, each student would be told to go out and film and bring to class to work on: a few tricks to encourage the enjoyment of the filming such as how to film continuously, panning and zooming at the places where they envisioned cuts for example, to prevent them wasting too much time switching the camera on and off (and missing some of the action in the process) in the attempt to create ready made and editable shots.
Creating movie sequences from stills is quite a laborious process, involving grabbing maybe as many as 50 – 100 digital ‘frames’ for a 20-30 second shot. It is only when the slow motion sequence is played and replayed that it can become apparent how other elements such as music can subtly but radically alter the images.
In this specific case, I found quite quickly – almost by chance – a backing track from music site Jamendo that moved forward at the same speed as the slow movement of the stills. This sequence lasts about 30 seconds, which would be considered incredibly long by some ‘default’ filmmakers. But the slow pace of the figure moving up the station platform, facial expression slowly changing, physical actions – the posture of the body in relation to limbs – is enhanced by the perfect matching of the pace of the film with the music.
The world cinema page tabulates films he has written about, and is where I would recommend you look for writing by him on film.
Fifty years ago, François Truffaut’s Quatre cents coups
heralded a revolution in cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu salutes
a modern classic
NewStatesman 2 April 2009
Well it’s Mindf**k Movies, but who wants the whole world arriving at your door on Google searches?
The word itself (mindf**k, not movies…) came into my ken during a brief doomed relationship. The two separate words ought to hint at what it means. Make it a compound and as the urban dictionary demonstrates, disparate definition happens. Seven here.
A concept or argument which is fraught with contradictions, and is used as a control tool.
“The way men can appear to both worship and objectify women is the ultimate 20th/21st century mindf**k.” [uc, ed.]
Knock me down with a feather. Puzzle and puzzled. I was having a reverse no. 5 perpetrated on me. It was the resistance which evoked the accusation: a clever trick to bamboozle the resister (who would do so by instinct if not on moral and ethical grounds) by suggesting resistance is the mindf**k itself.
I don’t like the expression: it clearly originated from the the U.S. : probably find something much more British in Shakespeare.
If this topic seems interesting follow it up with a quick look at NPD (narcissistic personality Disorder).
There are two ways to watch 8 1/2: sound on/sound off. Only when the incessant shouting and histrionics of Italian women is removed, is the sheer briliance of the cinematography fully seen: the organised movement of the camera and the magical editing, and also that special thing about the films of geniuses: that almost every frame is a photographic work of art.
First, it is a film which illustrates cool to the nth. degree just by showing Mastroiani with his eyes almost looking over the top of his Raybans.
If we are going to be all technical here, it is the brilliance of the decoupage which has made 8 1/2 a classic. Though, of course, one suspects much of the filming is ad hoc.
“Naturally, the knife never touched the body; it was all done in the montage.”
Hitchcock talking to Truffaut about the shower scene in Psycho
8 frames of Psycho: a post in It’s Only a Movie
The movie sequences og these 8 frames that are mentioned in the post can be played from here.