Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See

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<ul><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 1/14</p><p>Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p>By: Greg Stott</p><p>http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/ten-movies.shtml</p><p>______________________________</p><p>Lists are often arbitrary and this one is no different. It springs from my tastesand my opinions and I won't be surprised if some visitors to this website feelstrongly that I have overlooked movies they think should be included. In thatregard, I welcome your suggestions but let's set some guidelines.</p><p>For me, the movies that populate my list are not those that containextraordinary special effects or extended dolly or crane shots. Nor are theyfilms that necessarily contain great acting though the blend of great visuals</p><p>and admirable acting often do seem to go hand in hand. There have beenmany great movies over the years, of course, but only a small number I thinkare able to visually inspire a still photographer. In my opinion, the qualities ofsuch movies include quality of light, first and foremost, but also fetchingcomposition and, sometimes, camera effects. The most inspirational moviesfor still photographers often possess powerful and memorable scenes thatmake you wish you were there with a camera to capture some of the magicmoments. Indeed, if I watch a movie and am left with an urge to go takepictures, it's one of the factors that make it a contender for my list of moviesworth recommending. By the way, as my list suggests (lots of foreignmovies), I'm not bothered by subtitles.</p><p>Most of the films listed below are available on DVD but some are admittedlyhard to find. The Conformist, for example, cannot be found in my experienceexcept through rare copies offered at high prices on Amazon.com. Likewise,Raise the Red Lantern can be hard to locate although the owner of my localvideo store got one in a week through a Hong Kong contact. The quality isexcellent. Many of these films mentioned here are not available through youraverage video store. In bigger cities, you can usually find a specialty outlet</p></li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 2/14</p><p>that caters to more art-house tastes through rentals or sales. Of course,there is always Google and the chance to undertake some Internet sleuthingto locate a copy of your own.</p><p>Here then is my alphabetical list ofTen Movies Every Photographer</p><p>Should See soon to be followed by a list of Honourable Mentions. If you wishto add a recommendation or comment, you can e-mail me atstottshot@rogers.com.</p><p>______________________________________</p><p>Baraka</p><p>Baraka (1992) - In a review written several years ago, the author declaredthat this was his choice of a film for a desert island. If he had just one movieto take along to an isolated refuge away from the human race, this would beit. Certainly it would be one of my candidates as well. The movie has no plotbut it's anchored by a riveting stream of images shot over 14 months in 6continents and 24 countries. A three-person crew, led by director andcinematographer Ron Fricke, employed a $4 million (U.S.) budget to capturescenes of beauty, mystery and destruction in the expensive TODD-AQ 70mmformat. Throw in a hypnotic soundtrack and you've got a 93-minute feast forthe eyes and ears.</p><p>Baraka contains at least several dozen scenes any photographer would loveto have captured digitally or on film. One minute you're mesmerized byimages of the very human-like faces of Macaque monkeys immersed in hotsprings in snowy Japanese mountains and sometime later you're watchingburning-of-the-dead ceremonies on the Ganges River or Whirling Dirvishesspin in what I believe is a Syrian temple. It's all very captivating although the</p>mailto:stottshot@rogers.comhttp://www.spiritofbaraka.com/slideshow.aspx?width=480&amp;height=208%5F=images/baraka/fullsize/Baraka0263.jpghttp://www.spiritofbaraka.com/slideshow.aspx?width=480&amp;height=208%5F=images/baraka/fullsize/Baraka0832.jpgmailto:stottshot@rogers.com</li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 3/14</p><p>film is probably best viewed in two or three viewings because there is almosttoo much to absorb in a single viewing.</p><p>For movie-goers who insist on a beginning, middle and an end, Baraka mightbe a little bewildering because there is no narration or explanation and there</p><p>is often little context except, for example, that the viewer might knowintuitively that certain scenes were shot in, say, Asia or Australia.</p><p>While nature and exotic location photography anchor this movie, Frickeemployed a computer-controlled camera to record some wonderful time-lapse shots in congested locations such as Manhattan at rush hour or Tokyoon the crowded subway platforms. These are scenes that illustrate motionbut they are also reminders that still photographers can capture motionthrough the use of time-lapse exposures as well.</p><p>It's no surprise that this film was supplemented by a nicely-printed and</p><p>handsome coffee-table book. It compliments the movie and photographerMark Magidson describes the move-making process and shows the peopleand equipment that made the film along with a variety of images in both blackand white and colour.</p><p>If the film seems a little derivative to some, it's probably because it bears aresemblance to Koyaanisqatsi, a 1983 movie that was the first film of the typeto dish up a well-constructed sequence of music-laced world scenes. Notcoincidentally, Koyaanisqatsiwas filmed and edited by Ron Fricke.</p><p>Baraka is an ancient Sufi word which can be translated, in part, as "a</p><p>blessing". The film is just that, a gift to anyone who appreciates visualartistry. Prepare to be inspired.</p><p>______________________________________</p><p>Barry Lyndon</p><p>Barry Lyndon(1975) - Okay, who out there has an f 0.7 lens? Well, amongstill photographers no one I know has such a treasure and even in the richlyfinanced movie industry, such an extraordinary piece of glass is very rare,</p></li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 4/14</p><p>possibly limited to just one - the one director Stanley Kubrick used to film thelingering candlelit scenes in Barry Lyndon. For these moments, Kubrick hada 50mm lens built for NASA by the Carl Zeiss Company modified with aKollmorgen adaptor used in still cameras. No artificial lighting was used withall the illumination coming from the candles. The warm light generated by the</p><p>candles creates a compelling painterly look that is reminiscent of ThomasGainsborough and other artists of the era in which this movie is set.</p><p>The movie focuses on the exploits of a scheming Irish rogue who wins theheart (and fortune) of a rich widow and makes a sideways entrance into 18thcentury aristocracy. There are some powerful battle and dueling scenes butit is the candlelit scenes and meticulous composition that hold visual sway forphotographers. The frame is often held and the action allowed to developwithin it. Often landscapes rather than people dominate the screen.</p><p>Barry Lyndon is played by Ryan O'Neal who was never a great actor in my</p><p>view but who, nevertheless, manages to capture the rakish failings of a manwho doesn't have the moral compass to match his lofty ambitions. BarryLyndon won several awards including Academy Awards for BestCinematography (the late John Alcott) and Best Art Direction &amp; Set Directionand The Best Cinematography Award by the British Society ofCinematographers. The film runs 184 minutes. In those three hours and abit, I counted at least 22 scenes I would like to have recorded with a stillcamera. It is impossible not to watch this movie and not want to indulge insome portraiture of your own employing candles, perhaps employing a fewreflectors to spread the light.</p><p>______________________________________</p><p>The Conformist</p><p>The Conformist(1970) - I saw this movie three times before I was able tofully digest the complicated - some would say disjointed - plot that revolves</p>http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/conformist/dvd.php</li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 5/14</p><p>around the story of an ambitious professor in Italy in the late 1930s and early1940s. It's a time when Mussolini has risen to power and the professorconveniently declares himself a fascist. His commitment gets tested later,however, when he gets involved with the secret police and is given asassignment to murder one of his former university teachers who leads an</p><p>anti-fascist resistance group. Disturbing psychological themes and sexualundertones abound. Freud almost deserves a credit on this film.</p><p>While director Bernardo Bertolucci didn't cater to viewers with a traditionalbeginning, middle and an end (the movie jumps around, as I said), whatmakes the movie irresistible is the inspired and daring cinematography ofVittorio Storaro and the vision of Bertolucci. The movie features some of themost dramatic use of light and shadow I've seen. Often, unusual shootingangles or the use of filters to tint colours heighten the visual tension. Manyscenes from the movie stay with me still such as the windshield wipers of acar sweeping across a window or sunlight streaming through a forest or the</p><p>daunting interior scenes of Mussolini's art-deco headquarters. Some of thesescenes manage to be both beautiful and creepy and they are always powerfuland often surreal. Still today, 35 years after it was released, this film iscapable of inspiring a still photographer to think outside the box - to createcompositions that defy convention.</p><p>The movie is arguably Bertolucci's most intriguingly photographed filmalthough some viewers might feel another Bertolucci movie, The LastEmperor(also on my list), is a more elegant contender for that honour.</p><p>______________________________________</p><p>Days of Heaven</p><p>Days of Heaven (1978) - Still Photographers are often reminded that the</p><p>best times to shoot are the "magic hours", the time around dawn and dusk.These are the times when the light is warm, low and flattering to its subject.Movie directors enjoy the magic hours too but they have significantconstraints such as budget and plot and onerous schedules. It would cost afortune to have highly-paid actors and crew waiting around just to shoot theirscenes for one or two hours a day when it might not advance the plot.</p>http://www.eskimo.com/~toates/malick/days/days11.jpghttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077405/posters</li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 6/14</p><p>Nevertheless, back in 1978, shooting a film almost exclusively in the "magichours" is just what director Terence Malick did in a remarkable film calledDays of Heaven. Telling a story about a love triangle in the early 20thcentury, Malick employed the talents of two of the greatestcinematographers at the time, Nestor Almendros and, to a lesser extent,</p><p>Haskell Wexler. For much of the film, the decision was made to only shootduring the "magic hours" and it paid off: Days of Heaven and Almendros wonBest Cinematography at the 1978 Academy Awards.</p><p>While the movie opens in a Chicago steel mill, the heart of the film ostensiblytakes place in Texas farm country when three of the main characters in themovie, including a young Richard Gere and Brooke Adams, join a wave ofitinerant workers following the farm season. In reality, the sweeping farmscenes were shot in the rolling plains of southern Alberta which has neverlooked more evocative. Fields of wheat ripple sensuously in golden light, agrand farm house often anchors simple, elegant compositions and trains</p><p>packed with workers cut ribbons through a dreamy agricultural landscape.</p><p>The beauty comes under siege though when swarms of locusts descend onthe landscape and fires started to control the plague get out of control.Almendros, who started as a still photographer, builds visual tension withclose-ups of the grasshoppers intercut with tight shots of torches and hemakes the scenes go from warm and romantic to hot and dangerous.Tension is also heightened by the plot which has Richard Gere's charactergetting trapped in a deception of his own making when he pretends to be thebrother of Brooke Adams rather than her lover. Adams moves in and getscozy with the terminally-ill owner of the vast farm where they find employment</p><p>and while it starts out as a way for Gere and Adams to inherit the farm, thingsdon't go as planned. In all, the movie presents some low-key quirky actingbut it's really the visuals that reward the viewer. A bonus is the soundtrack ofEnnio Morricone, one of my favourite composers.</p><p>Here are a couple of relevant quotes from Nestor Almendros given not longafter the Days of Heaven was completed:</p><p>Terence Malick told me it would be a very visual movie, the story would betold through visuals. Very few people really want to give that priority toimage. Usually the director gives priority to the actors and the story but herethe story was told through images. In this period there was no electricity, Itwas before electricity was invented and consequently there was less light.Period movies should have less light. In a period movie the light should comefrom the windows because that is how people lived.</p><p>"Magic hour is a euphemism, because it's not an hour but around 25 minutesat the most. It is the moment when the sun sets and after the sun sets andbefore it is night, the sky has light but there is no actual sun. The light is very</p></li><li><p>8/3/2019 Ten Movies Every Photographer Should See</p><p> 7/14</p><p>soft and there is something magic about it. It limited us to around twentyminutes a day but it did pay on the screen. It gave some kind of magic look, abeauty and romanticism."</p><p>______________________________________</p><p>Dreams</p><p>Dreams (1990) - It's a challenge to pick one film by Japanese director Akira</p><p>Kurosawa that ranks as my visual favourite. He was very prolific in hislifetime and he displayed a knack for potent cinematography but, without adoubt, Dreams remains the most haunting of his films for me. In fact,Dreams is eight short films, some quite melancholy and all born from hisactual dreams and memories. The surreal, ethereal visuals in each of themis quite breathtaking.</p><p>The mystical tone of the film is set in the first vignette when a boy witnessesan eerie procession of fox spirits in a wedding procession. It's visual poetry.Another vignette involves a party of mountain climbers struggling through afierce blizzard. Another section includes a man, a former military leader, who</p><p>encounters the ghosts of Japanese soldiers he once commanded in a lonelytunnel. It's chilling to the bone. The same man is seen in the next vignetteas he wanders through a Van Gogh painting and encounters the famousartist (played by Martin Scorsese).</p><p>What this movie offers still photographers is imagination. I am guilty, asmany photographers are, of sometimes failing to wring the most out of mycreative instincts. Going beyond the tried and true is always a challenge.Commercial and editorial mandates don't always allow a photographer toblend illusion or fantasy or artistic licence into an image but it's my belief thatwe should always try to pursue at least some personal work that displays</p><p>creative flourish and imagination. We need more images that...</p></li></ul>