Archive for the CONCERNS…….. Category

Are We Suckers For JUST Beautiful Visuals???

Posted in CONCERNS........ on July 30, 2008 by tayh0010

In 1968, award winning cinematographer, William A. Fraker, probably faced a dilemma when working on the set of “Rosemary’s Baby”. It happened during a shot where he was required to show an actress talking on the phone inside a room. The shot was framed and looking through the viewfinder during the rehearsal, William realized that the actress’s face was partially blocked by a door frame when she is talking on the phone. Eager to remedy his mistake, he immediately suggested to redo the shot and re-framed it. However, Director Roman Polanski told him to just shoot it the way it is, without having to do anything to it.

Like how every dedicated cinematographer must have felt, William was faced with the dilemma of either allowing his professional judgment take over or just trust the Director’s creative decision to go with the shot. He decided to go with Roman Polanski’s decision instead. Not knowing what the outcome would be.

Months later, during the premiere screening of Rosemary’s Baby, when the scene with the shot came up, William realized to his astonishment that almost one third of the audience in the theater, leaned slightly towards their right as if hoping to peer behind the door that is blocking the actress’s face. It was then that he knew what the director was trying to achieve and had succeeded in doing.

He had been trying to get his audiences to be more involved with the story and he had succeeded in even making some of them be physically involved with it.

So hence, the big question that this story poses to all of us is this……Why the HELL are we such SUCKERS for beautiful visuals when it comes to film?

Many times after a short or feature film screening, the usual comments I kept hearing from my peers, who study or work in the same field as me, are: “Not bad. The movie is well shot.” “Good movie, nicely shot.” “The handheld shots are handled very well.” “The art direction looks flawless.” “Shot very well. Wonder if it is film or HD?”

So if a film is shot well, does that necessarily mean that it is a good film? We watched tons of films from the cinemas these days that project high quality visuals and some times even with the bonus of a state-of-the-art special effect. But are they all good films?

How do we justify shows like “Cloverfield” where the aesthetic of it from start to finish is to look like an unprofessional handheld shaky one take roller-coaster ride?

Do we usually sit through a film and ponder more over the process of how that beautiful shot is taken or do we ponder more over what the storyteller’s purpose might be for that shot to be there?

In the case of the recent award-winning Singapore short film, “Keluar Baris” by Boo Junfeng, how many of us went into soul-searching ourselves when issues of national identity are being raised in the film? How many of us ponder over the lines when they talk about Malay being a national language but no one even regards it as one in Singapore? This short film is so much more than just a beautifully-shot piece yet a lot of my peers who studied film or watch as much as me can only comment on the beautiful shots.

Maybe for people like us who have went through film education or training will be more prone and sensitive to the process behind a shot. Even for me I some times do find myself indulging over a master scene shot or a visual effect for too long. But in the pursuit of acquiring knowledge to boost our skills, are we also at the same time losing sight of our judgment over the content?

If the case of a bad shot didn’t bother an academy award-winning director and neither did it bother the audience or the critics, why then are we seeing films so critically based on this superficial value?