Cold and silly.

Apart from Shirley Clarke’s THE CONNECTION, which I’ll be writing on elsewhere, one highlight of Sunday was certainly cinematographer Roger Deakins in conversation with Seamus McGarvey. I am now very VERY psyched to see THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (I’m tired, I initially typed “ROBERY FRODO”) which looked stunning.

The concept of “poor man’s process” was raised, but not explained. Fortunately for us all, I’m clever and have worked it out. Process photography was most commonly used back in the Golden Age, for travelling shots in cars. It went out of fashion when colour and wide-screen rendered it less technically convincing, and location filming became far more common, rendering it less convincing by comparison. But it’s come back to some extent now that green-screen has advanced in popularity and technical perfection.

“Poor man’s process” is when you’re pretending that a stationary car is in motion, but you’re not actually rear-projected or front-projecting or matting or green-screening anything at all into the background. As Deakins put it, you just film in a shed. The background will be black, as it would be in the country at night.

Substantial parts of the first killings in FARGO were filmed in a shed, anything that’s just about cars and people in and around them. Because to do it outside, as Deakins attested, would be “too cold…and silly.”

I had just seen a rather different example of poor man’s process in Bunuel’s DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID. As Moreau is driven to her new job in a horse and trap, the vehicle jolts and jounces enthusiastically in the foreground (assaulted by stagehands) while a line of trees stands completely still at the far left of the ‘Scope frame. As long as you’re looking at the actors, as you should be, it isn’t a problem at all. I was sat at the front and my eyes were still getting used to the wide frame, so I clocked it, but it was rather sweet. And it tied in nicely with Mr. Deakins’ comments a day later.

6 Responses to “Cold and silly.”

  1. There’s a similar (and much celebrated) moment in The Magnificent Ambersons where Anne Baxter and Joseph Cotten are walking through a grove of tress in no real way visible to the spectator.

  2. Yes, that’s a beautiful way to enlist the audience’s imagination to help tell the story.

    Fuest talks about the rest home in The Final Programme, which is basically a bed, a black set and a door with a neon sign above. “The imagination paints in the rest.”

  3. David K Says:

    Did you watch TAOJJBTCRF (you know a film title’s a bit long when the acronym’s too long aswell)? I’m looking forward to a post.

  4. It’s been in my rental queue awhile, I bumped it up to top priority after seeing the clip of the train robbery at night.

    I quite like long titles though, and that one has a nice period feel to it. Plus, with a title like that, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING.

  5. The Assassination of Jesse James etc (can you imagine the porn version title?) is a BIG screen experience if ever I saw one. It’s also my favourite film of 2007 (I was on a Deadwood kick at the time). Beautifully shot by Roger Deakins, elegantly paced, wonderfully scored and has a place for both Nick Cave and the excellent Garret Dillahunt. I hope you enjoy it.

    Did you ever get around to A Midnight Clear?

  6. The Ass of Jessie Jayne?

    Yes, we watched A Midnight Clear and i’ve been meaning write something but it’ll probably get combined with something on Waking the Dead (another Keith Gordon film) when I get around to that.

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