Magic Lantern Review Issue 3 Poetry The Horses of Winnipeg (Re: Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg) Josh Gaines Hermetic Women of the Galaxy venomous glands Peter Marra Reasons to Worry I Don’t Want to Play Jayme Russell Black and White Aaron Poller The Aluminum Bounty Hunter David S. Pointer
Magic Lantern Review Issue 3 It’s All True (1942) Greg Rappleye Thank Heaven for Little Girls C. B. Anderson Squeezed Dan Encarnacion
Film Essays The Camera/Eye: “Realism” in Cinematography Dan Prestwich
The Horses of Winnipeg (Re: Guy Maddinâ€™s My Winnipeg) Josh Gaines In 1926, 11 horses Running from a fire Set in the racetrack stables By a wire chewing squirrel Galloped into the cold Into the red river Swimming against current and ice Legs locking, muscles Steam engine breath Puffing in clouds From the icing noses Blown out like 22 candles Would smolder and hiss. Locked ice age heads Wide eyed and screaming In the winter freeze, A place for hand holding lovers Picnic baskets and ghost stories, Reflections of place and Briefness of life. So much for horse racing So much for human predictability So much for myth. In 2003 I drove to Winnipeg In January to find the cold, To find the un-Texas north lands, To find a place that may cause
The girl in the car To huddle closer to me, Maybe saying something like, "Oh! You're so warm." The snow hadn't fallen In the usual amounts, But the angry dog wind Bit sharp through our layers, Cold with its teeth— She moved closer. Out on the river On its magical layers We walked on the cold above the myths Next to our new myths Of neveryear unwinter of 1926 When nothing of the sort happened: The lovers, the picnics The fire, the horse heads— These worlds never existed These lovers, She held my hand tighter As we neared the river's middle. Underneath, pike chewed at rotting horse hooves— Some things are worth believing. Anything could exist under three feet of ice. And on top of it all I imagined the children running through us Through TV static snow, In and out of arms or ever screaming horse heads— Because I wanted to believe anything was possible I imagined that we were in love. That this moment, Her cheek on the arm of my coat,
Could also be frozen in time. That these could-never-happens Could, and Had. In the distance the dusting skyline Of lonely Winnipeg Cast long shadows on short days, Smokestack work coat lunch pails Crushing dreams And leaving no sign to mark the place Where the horses never were, Where ghost stories never escaped Steaming cider lips, Where one river never layered above the others Growing like where the myth never grew Or where we stood, or never did, on ever melting river ice Dreaming of the impossible. I had turned away from the city, Had said something, But you were walking back Towards the running car Shivering, Cold cheeked, And empty handed.
Hermetic Women of the Galaxy Peter Marra “Audiophile crescendo speak to me I awoke and felt cold She was walking alone on a street Not far from dormancy What is the time When can we do this? The victims hadn’t arrived I tried to be good.. Not far from normalcy” The taste of arabic words held her tightly as she removed her clothes to bathe a very nice and interesting massage impaled the silence clung to her softly the silence clung to her tightly the desire ruptured her deeply hands lifted her and hands spoke to her through her desire it caused a rip in the scenery and the stage collapsed throat and mouth and night the sphinx emerged and merged with the pyramid she sat a a table naked and transcribed the dictation I couldn’t translate she couldn’t enunciate We committed a crime and hopped into the car
venomous glands Peter Marra sounds of scratching outside awaken the clocks. white doors. a taste for the light/the smell of translucent glass announcements from her of what i'd done to myself. flicker lights flickering. pale faces ripe laughter a young lady tattoos herself in the 3rd subway car because andrea true is dead a needle so thirsty writes notes to herself a shopping list forever extended. the 1st moon explodes hungry faces watch as they dance on the beach mute & deadly silent & damp the 2nd moon â€“ a slow turn faces beaten to rawness
look up at a sky a voided touch
black spikes pounded into stone mythic planets swirl out of synch scratching at the white door a black dog sighs luring affluent tourists lower herself it wasnâ€™t about watching the films it was about meeting the people who made the sleaze lower herself & the pretty ones the smell of sweat the women in glass booths a sound of tokens fingerprinted surfaces click click click the shudder of figures ripped from the sprockets i awoke uncomfortably in her quenched thirst for her clenched fists rust inhaled deeply as a cameraman works in fear predominantly predatory
he collapses inward survivors of a once diverse & obscure pleasure slide away. they walk slowly to the water. they count each otherâ€™s desires. they sleep underneath the bare knives. a a a a a
time tide short breath fever collapse.
Reasons to Worry Jayme Russell You may find a man in the pantry spouting off about your imminent death. You may be experiencing car trouble. Do not even attempt to turn your key in that Volkswagen ignition. Itâ€™s especially foreboding to hear a child shouting Help Me from the forest, at night, while itâ€™s raining. Do not search for that child on the archery range. Worry if you find blood in the woods. Worry if you find blood in the barn loft. Avoid putting the kettle on for calming cups of tea, you will never have the chance to pour your drink.
I Donâ€™t Want to Play Jayme Russell It's strange, when my father lived in the house I was less afraid than when he was locked out of our lives, trying to break back in. At least as a child I wasn't afraid to sit by a window for fear of him looking in. Even though, when we were younger, he would sneak outside in the dark, creep to the window, and lightly tap the pane to get our attention. We couldn't see him, just a blackened mirror with our own puzzled reflection staring back. We sat like frightened characters who can't quite see their killer waiting nearby. We sat wondering with growing paranoia as we heard another tap and another. Then he would hit his fists against the window make us jump, but then relax. It was just him.
Black and White Aaron Poller The B movie always the one to see. Vincent Price or the monster from another galaxy that threatened earth. In black and white the threat seemed real, more gritty, while we awaited to be ravished for our sin, our pride, our greed, our failure to communicate with alien life that came in peace but had enough power to destroy our world, as our heroines and families are gathering round the radios for the broadcast of the end of life on our planet. Sometimes I wished for more. For something that would save us all from destruction. And sometimes we were spared. In some cases, a few would escape, populate a new world where they might get another chance to start from scratch, rectify mistakes made in that parallel universe, while we who donâ€™t survive, witness the projected end.
The Aluminum Bounty Hunter David S. Pointer Gunfighter dismounts, goes through prospector party debris, until finding a plate remnant for his soggy porkâ€”ties it to a pick handle going over the campfire flame, then shakes out a buffalo skin carpet, hanging gunny sack curtains waits for cyborgian bounty hunter circuitry not the same since the branding iron and the kiss from the dead saloonkeeperâ€™s carbine
It’s A ll True (1942) Greg Rappleye Even the reconstructed portions of “Jangadeiros” (the only fully reconstructed episode), shown in the 1993 documentary, function as just such a synecdoche: “now that you have seen this, you can just imagine what the rest is like.” -Catherine L. Benamou, Orson Welles’s Pan-American Odyssey, p. 66
Peter Bogdanovich: Well, it’s usually used against you: “some kind of drunken orgy.” Orson Welles: Yeah, I know, but nobody was drunk at all. It was a lunch party, you know––middle of the afternoon. Just terribly high-spirited. -This is Orson Welles, p. 161
“[Martin Johnson Heade’s landscape paintings] may be of some interest to Middle Americans; I would expect to see one hanging in a parlor in Ohio or Illinois. His hummingbirds are of less interest. Perhaps one could find them decorating a hut in Brazil.” -The landscape painter Albert Bierstadt (1869)
There are mostly negatives––some say 100,000 feet––rotting in a vault in Century City; what a studio big-shot called “reels of sweaty natives jumping up and down,” perhaps thirty re-spliced minutes of Carnival, another ten of Bonito the Courageous Bull, and forty minutes on the odyssey of the Jangadeiros, those brave, doomed fishermen. ii There was no script. Only a “Dream Book”–– margin doodles, Orson’s elliptic scribbles, notes of what might have been–– “the Story of Jazz” sent churning up the Mississippi, the immigrant tale of an Italian
brick- layer, a starvation-narrative set among the Eskimos, Pizzaro’s lonely conquest of Peru. It was to be “a full night of cinema,” it was to tell “The Big Truths” and rally a hemisphere against the Nazi menace, but when the money went––*poof!*––Orson and his second unit pranced and drank through Carnival––its theme that desperate war year, “Let us samba before we die”––smoking dope, sniffing ether, chasing girls with seltzer bottles, drinking the last Chateau Latour in Brazil; Orson pointing out the women in the stills: “I fucked her, I fucked her, I fucked her...” iii When the macumba priest mumbled a curse, and drove a feathered spike through the “Dream Book,” and RKO sent a Pan Am Clipper to claim the equipment, Orson purloined some black-and-white film, sworn to finish the tale of the fishermen, though even that would end in disaster, when the biblical Leviathan, fighting the colossal squid, rose from the bay––foaming, spuming––and slurped down the fabled Jacare, Ahab of the Jangadeiros. Or so Orson said. iv On his last day in Rio, scheming to dodge his landlord’s claim for damages, Orson hosts a boozy lunch for Alfonso Reyes, a poet from Mexico, whose work you’ve never read, because little exists en Inglés––not his Yerbas del Tarahumara, not his Homero en Cuernavaca. v They drink mojitos. They smoke figurados. Orson groans about his greedy landlord. Alfonso looks about. The chairs, the pill-balled couch, the dressing screen––all seem fine to him. The poet pronounces the landlord “a Nazi, ridiculous, a thief!” Alfonso shouts, “Let’s see what happens if we really break something!” The poet yanks the coffee table, trots to the veranda, and tosses it to the
street. Orson grabs a torchier and throws it after the table. vi If everything is damaged, everything must go––and the continuity girl, the gaffer, the beach-boy turned best-boy–– everyone begins to throw things: a side chair, the armoire, a box of smoked fish. vii A crowd sweats outside the apartment. Orson toasts Brazil, he makes a slurry speech from the veranda: “Death to Fascistas!” The Cariocas cheer as forks, pans and Depression ware––“Made in Japan!” Orson roars––crash onto the boulevard. viii Now there is only a small painting––two Sun Gems, face-to-face in a rain forest. Their bodies, green. Their tails flare. Alfonso eyes the painting at arm’s length, thinks, Si, their tails are piano keys! Lovely, but no matter. He throws the painting over. And because it’s true, Yes, because it’s all true, the canvas loop-de-loops to the street, where a small boy lifts it from the shambles and runs for a favela on the hill.
Thank Heaven for Little Girls C.B. Anderson It’s been two weeks since I remembered that I’m not a star. Maurice Chevalier, Enshrined forever as the true old hat, Was debonair, with such sweet things to say That everybody’s mother once upon A time was charmed by him. But back to me: While heading down the one-way Autobahn Of life, attentiveness and urgency Aren’t necessary, and they’re out of place, For over time one learns to float and drift: As teachers say, “This test is not a race.” A second bite at failure is a gift That no one can refuse, and if success Occurs, it’s something any Anderson Will take in stride and cotton to, unless The benefits surpass all understanding. I’ve long pretended to enact the role Of some laconic self-sufficient human Being averse to living on the dole, A character such idols as Paul Newman Or Gary Cooper might have played. The truth? I’m good at dishing, not enduring, pain, An actor more akin to John Wilkes Booth And nothing like a latter-day John Wayne,
Who made the world a living hell for cattle And outlaws in the Technicolor West But never let a lady feel like chattel. The girl who knows me best and knows whatâ€™s best For me is unbelievably forgiving. When I lose track of what I am, sheâ€™ll grin And somehow find a way to keep me living The scripts where bad guys stand a chance to win.
Squeezed. [from Rhumba., a novel-in-verse]
Dan Encarnacion “Where converging lines meet, it is also where we cease to be.” - Mark Strand, Hopper
Railroad tracks pull. Rust-rimmed railroad tracks pull Little Rhumba into the face. Into the pulled face of a gray-coiffed distance. Trouble in mind, I’m blue. But I won’t be blue always. Day. Day and Little Rhumba can. Know he can feel. Yellowed fingers. ‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine. In my back door someday. Singeing yellowed fingers of the august August sun web cat’s cradle with tattered threads trailing from the simpering wind’s worn cape. The singeing yellowed fingers of the simmering summer sun cools its ego playing. Playing cat’s cradle with the silvered silent fingers of the rising yawning moon. Yellow fingers thrum your skin. Smooth brown skin. Trouble in mind, I’m blue. But I won’t be blue always. The smooth humid brown skin of Little Rhumba. Can feel. Can you feel the vacuum. Little Rhumba you feel the pulling polarizing emptiness of the impositioning oppositioning infinities—the rust-rimmed railroad tracks running running sunward, running moonward, running inward, running out, pushing, pinching, peeling him apart, puckered into suspended drop. Hear. Hear here. Little Rhumba hears. You hear grinding mines. You here. Swallowed in the air, Little Rhumba hears Nina Simone plaintively mining the jeweled blues “Trouble in Mind”. ‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine. In my back door someday.
Gravel grinds underfoot. Gravel defining ground ground between gripping crossties. The sky. He thinks, the sky. Much more suffocating here. Here more suffocating than in New Mexico where once a baby blue Ford Falcon emerged pregnant. Pregnant with two people. You been a hard-hearted mama. Great God! You been unkind. Brown man, brown woman. A ’62 Ford Falcon emerged carrying two young people for the first time sharing. Sharing cool wedges, the squirting meat of the segmented fruit some have called ‘togetherness’. Little Rhumba you wuss. Feeding one another, wombed by the Falcon’s insides. Two people nourishing. Gonna be a cold, cold papa. ‘Cause you to lose your mind. A Dodge, a Valiant pass. Despite his valiant veneer of stoicism, deep down Little Rhumba. Down Little Rhumba is romance. Yellowed fingers thrum your skin as you are pulled into a gray-coiffed distance. Little Rhumba armed. I’m alone at midnight. And my lamp is burning low. Armed with his artificial-I. With his third eye seeking, seeing through the lens of Olympus the gods’ game board behind which, sometimes, when he is inhaled. Inhaled into the throat of his vanishing point, he shudders. And his resuscitating here freezes into a breathless there. Little Rhumba armed with Little Rhumba’s artificial-I as Little Rhumba follows. Rhythming ties. Rhythming rhythming crossties securing secure rust-rimmed railroad tracks coaxing. Coaxing as calliopes sirening a superfragilistic circus. No. Serenading as stepping stones prefacing shaded soft serenity. Ain’t never had so much. Trouble in my life before. Seek, Little Rhumba Searches for architectural details standing silent. Silent in the sun. Little Rhumba sees. Sees cacophony. I’m gonna lay my head down. On some lonesome railroad line. A cacophony of color orgificating on the blank-faced.
Speechless, blank-faced backsides of. Cacophonic colors twining and orgifying on the broad backsides of mute warehouses, self-storing storage centers, exhumed factory shells. The contracted flatus of consumptive commuter want. And let the two nineteen train. Pacify my mind. See, Little Rhumba. See the garrulous graffiti, the querulous architectural tattoos. See the psychadelic caterpillaring screams of Little Rhumba’s ungentrified generation. Little Rhumba sees. See the neediness. Sees the neediness of Little Rhumba’s expurgated era of. Of self-expression. Of self-recognition. Of self-pride. Of self-selflessness. Little Rhumba sees the need of Little Rhumba’s peers to have a voice. To have a voice means you might be. Of the heard. To have a voice means you can be. Presented with identity. Little Rhumba says, “To be the heard.” Little Rhumba says, “Which isn’t the same as needing to break.” “To break the silence.” To break bread. Pregnant silence. I’m gonna lay my head down. On some lonesome railroad line. Little Rhumba says, “I can hear my self.” Rimmed by rust. Little Rhumba thinks. My vibrations in the track. Think, you can hear yourself. When I speak. Sees, Little Rhumba. Sees the sun-seared cacophonic tattoos fading. Script which Little Rhumba never prescribed his self. Little Rhumba has Little Rhumba’s artifice. Little Rhumba’s artificial-I and Little Rhumba’s art. Armed. And let the two nineteen train. Pacify my mind. Little Rhumba captures. Capture your present. Captures yours now. Little Rhumba captures his present rather than bullhorn his presence in tangled tongues—they mass mosaic then melt into masked Mardi Gras anonymity. Little Rhumba captures his present to be developed and matted, glassed and admired in black-white-gray solemnity. Little Rhumba captures his present to prove that he’s passed.
Little Rhumba wanders down rust-rimmed railroad tracks wedded with weeds, bedded in sun-seared gravel, pillowy pads of yellow-green fennel erupt through cracks in monochromatic concrete. Tracks with ties strung like stepping stones across the platter of a placid pond. Tracks with ties strung like stepping stones measuring the meridians of a meditation garden. Inchworm, inchworm—one and one are two. Tracks with ties like open hands catching your feet coaxing. Hands coaxing you to carry forward if you should want to feel. Carry forward should you want to be complicit in their quiet caress. Little Rhumba pulled. Swallows in the air. Pulled toward the pulled-face distance. Little Rhumba pulled towards the pulled-face, gray-cotton-candy-coiffed distance that rolls just a little bit further away with each of Little Rhumba’s cross-tied steps. Steps stung by the simmering summer sun. Always a vanishing point. Little Rhumba passes. Always a point where things are lost. Passes homeless camps. Haberdashery of hair-toned hues. Little Rhumba considers. Thread-bare quilt of bodies still waking to be, stretching into bodies. Little Rhumba considers training his artificial-I on those homeless shades standing silent in the shadows back scrimmed by polychromatic, crying cacophonic architectural tattoos. Little Rhumba decides against it. He doesn’t know how to expose emotion. He doesn’t know how to exploit emotion. Little Rhumba doesn’t know. Doesn’t know if harvesting the hunger of the homeless would feed his. In his mind, Little Rhumba squeezes. Squeezes the shutter release and sees homeless supine. In his mind, homeless supine, scattered, askew, silent, strong dry as hay. And the rest—rimmed rails run. Casts. Little Rhumba casts his artificial-I down alleys slithering between silent solemn buildings. Silent and sedimentary, faceless and flaccid, old men bunched on a bench beyond the tips of a reaching tree. The gray-coiffed distance. The yellowed-fingered sun. The garrulous graffiti swaddling and blindfolding stillborn buildings. Sees. Little Rhumba sees leaning against the back of a red brick former factory, now a skin binding voids segmented into an assembly line of off-white offices, a man. Partially screened by pillowy pads of yellow-green fennel erutping through cracks
in the monochrome concrete, Little Rhumba sees a white-skinned man. Little Rhumba sees a white-skinned man wearing a white dress shirt and darkhued tie. A white dress shirt, dark-hued tie, black slacks, black socks, black wing-tip shoes, gold wedding band, white, ass, white thighs, white calves, white shins and looking. Very middle-management. A white-skinned somewhat marshmallowy man of indeterminate Caucasoidal stock. Little Rhumba sees a meddling man looking very middling, middle management, middle class, middle brow, mm-mm-good Middle American, homogenized milk-marinated former high school backup middle linebacker, moribund with a mounding midlife Manwich midriff gut and potential corresponding crisis; mute, save a gridlock of gridironed grunts. Little Rhumba sees a middling, meddling man muddled with the mud-mask of middle management mumbo jumbo spittin’ in the gumbo, wielding aloft a lit cigarette in his white left hand, black slacks slack around his black socked ankles, white-calved, white-shinned, white-thighed, white-assed. Facing. Black slack slacks wrap black socked ankles, gold wedding banded white right hand throttling pink pulsed pusillanimous erection, facing the eye. The unblinking eye, uncensored eye, the anonymous artificial eye, of a turned-on palm-proportioned digital camcorder running. Running running. Run run running atop the unfolded tongue, the smooth seat of a gray metal folding chair before him. Him grunt, grunt, grunting. The chair waited, wait, waiting. For the off, oft, offering. Yellow-fingered sun thrums thrums thrums. Wonders. Little Rhumba wonders if. Should he help his fellow man? His fellow tensed. His fellow distressed, stressed out, undressed, isolate man? Hard up. Hard on. A beacon. A gnomon. A pillar. A hook. A hook from which to hang. To hang one’s hat. When home. Watches. Watches, Little Rhumba. A gold analog watch, a two-hand face, ablur against the white man’s pistoning white right wrist. Watches, Little Rhumba. Tick. Tick. The man finish. Finish his cigarette—flick it away. Flick it away, continue to.
Pull! Pull! Pull vigorously at his cock. Head leant back. Neck muscles taut. Right arm piston. Swollen member reddened. Trouble in mind. I’m blue. But I won’t be blue always. White knees bend. White ass cheeks clench. White calves vein. Flush of pink. ‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine. In my back door someday. Little Rhumba watches. Flush of red. Little Rhumba wonders. Flush. Little Rhumba hardens. Hold yourself, Little Rhumba. Little Rhumba wants. Tighter, don’t lose. The white-skinned man opens his gaze into. The anonymous. The unblinking eye of the camcorder. That wish. As his white right arm pistons quicker quicker. To see. Gridiron grunts gather grow. To witness. Grow, grow grand, grand, grand. To value. Grand gland glands. Release. The mm-mm-good Middle American squirts a midrange missile that would be hard-pressed to pop a pimple on the nut brown face of Middle Eastern terror. Ghosts of grunts dribble drop. The homogenized milk-marinated man squeezes out the last droplets, fingers off the gob adhered to the tip of his tumid glands. Ritual. He zips up his slacked black slacks, regains control of his tobacco-baited breath, the red rush drains from his white ass cheeks. Wipes his hands on his white shirt tail. Comes out from behind. Tucks in. From behind the fur of yellow-green fennel. The white-skinned man tucks in his white dress shirt and adjusts the black leather belt below his blossomed, bowled belly. He straightens. Straightens his composure, straightens his tie, straightens his posture. The white man spies.
The white man spies Little Rhumba standing silent. Little Rhumba, his artificial-I slung limp, standing silent, a gunslinger squinting slits under the singeing August sun. The white man can’t see. The meddling man can’t see Little Rhumba’s hard-on. The middling man sneers and whips his right hand at the wrist. The midlife man flicks stray sperm from the back of his hand. He says, “Enjoy the show, faggot?” He says, “Get some good pics?” He says, “You like watching a real man?” He says, “A man unafraid.” I’m all alone at midnight. And my lamp is burning low. “Unafraid to turn.” Ain’t never had so much. Trouble in my life before. “To turn on fags?” The white man walks off, lights. Another cigarette; endstop rite. Little Rhumba says, “No.” Little Rhumba says, “No, gringo.” “I am emotionally impaired, not.” “Not a constipated caricature.” “Not a castrato to convenience.” The white-skinned middling man. The moribund, meddling marionette of mendacity. The man don’t care. Care to hear. Hear the voice of Little Rhumba.
The Camera/Eye: â€œRealismâ€? in Cinematography Dan Prestwich
A few weeks back, I was having a discussion about the overuse of blue filters, color desaturation and other cheap cinematographic and postproduction tricks in modern American films. This prompted one person to express his feelings as "Just make the fucking movie look like my eyes see." After further discussion, he offered several caveats and clarifications to that sentiment, but the initial statement made me think. Do films ever actually look like the way we see? Realism in film, and whether it's desirable or achievable, is an interesting topic to me, and this seemed like an intriguing variation on that. Setting aside narrative realism (a worthy debate for a different day), can and do movies ever look like real life as we normally see it? When a movie is highly stylized, we tend to notice right away. Bold colors, exaggerated shadows, rapid editing and acrobatic camerawork all typically draw attention to themselves.
Something weird is happening in Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain (1973)
Something blurry is happening in Paul Greengrass's Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
But what about films with subdued, subtle colors, lighting, editing and camera movement? Are these films an accurate representation of how we see the real world? I submit that they are not. Filmmaking is a complex process, so much so that even a visually unadorned movie represents a series of intricate choices involving lighting, color, focus, framing, and so on. Or, more simply put, the camera doesn't do a good job of approximating the human eye. POINT OF VIEW We could start by talking about films that literally try to approximate vision. I'm talking about delightful gimmick movies like Robert Montgomery's The Lady in the Lake (1947), in which the camera assumes the POV of classic noir detective Phillip Marlowe for no real reason whatsoever. If you've never seen it, it's definitely worth your time just to see the gimmick attempted. Any 30 seconds of the film make it clear that the gimmick doesn't work. The result is strange and stilted, and doesn't allow for natural head movement, despite all sorts of fun moments, as when Marlowe smokes a cigarette and the smoke wafts in front of the camera.
Nope, not distracting at all
Let me ask this: What is it you always see, out of focus and differently in each eye, all the time even though you rarely think about it? Your nose. Technically, a film attempting an overly literal POV shot should include a blurry nose in the frame, but I don't believe I've ever seen this attempted. Yet. Now that I've typed it out, I'm hoping some young filmmaker takes inspiration and goes for the gold. Although he doesn't quite go that far, Dario Argento has some fun taking the POV shot to silly, literal extremes in Opera (1987), one of his best films. In it, the heroine is repeatedly subdued, tied up and forced to watch the mysterious killer murder her friends. The killer forces her to keep her eyes up by taping pins underneath them, so that if she shuts her eyes, the lids will be pierced. Argento not only has the balls to stage POV shots that include the pins in the foreground, but actually simulates her eyelids dangerously drooping towards the protrusions!
POV shot from Opera...
…and one with the drooping eyelids
The best attempt at this style I've ever seen might be Enter the Void (2009), which tries to approximate more natural head movements into the camerawork, and also includes blinking (amusingly so). It stages some impressive, and entertaining, long-take POV shots that effectively give the illusion that they last 30 minutes or more.
Note the tips of his fingers partially obscuring his view. Nifty and completely unnecessary.
Yet, even at this level of cleverness and sophistication, with over 60 years to learn from the mistakes of The Lady in the Lake, nobody has figured out how to do one important thing: eye movement. Ever notice that when you look around, you don't just move your head, but your eyes, too. In fact, your eyes are almost constantly in motion, endlessly scanning your surroundings. Cameras just aren't able to imitate this, and if they were it would likely result in something very disorienting to the viewer. Camera movement, even a whip pan, is just too slow. Ironically, a simple cut to a new shot might be the most accurate way to represent eye movement...which, of course, would completely defeat the point of staging a POV shot in the first place. FOCUS Okay, so you're thinking "Big deal, Dan. So overly literal POV shots are phony looking? So what? That doesn't mean that other movies can't look real." Fair enough. So now I'd like to try to argue that even your most natural, unadorned looking movie is the result of some serious stylization. Let's talk about the problem of focus. Deep focus photography (which uses a large depth of field) allows for a kind of god's eye view. Background, middle-ground, and foreground can all be in focus at once. Does this style, which affords the viewer a wide, open playing field of a frame to explore, lend itself towards realism? Let's look at a few classic deep focus compositions to admire how much they remind you of what you see every day:
Citizen Kane (1941)
Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1967)
Children of Men (2006)
Okay, you got me. I cherry picked stills from some very stylized, visually unrealistic movies. I still think I have a point, though: as much as the world around us feels like its in focus, you will never see in extreme deep focus in your life. What does visual focus even mean when we aren't talking about the human eye or cameras? Focus doesn't really exist from an "objective" viewpoint. Going by the criteria of making a movie that "looks like my eyes see," deep focus is not at all similar to how we actually perceive the real world. Acknowledging that degrees of focus would need to exist in order to make a film look a little more like how we see the world, we could look to cinematography that goes for a more shallow depth of field, in which one visual plane is in focus, at the expense of the rest of the image. It's not uncommon for this to be quite severe in films, even though we often don't think about it. Take these examples from two movies pitched as gritty, working-class dramas:
Hustle & Flow (2005)
The Fighter (2010)
Unless you are Mr. Magoo (or, you know, nearsighted), you've never actually seen anything look like that in real life. Especially the Hustle & Flow still, where the focus turns the background into an abstract painting. Still, even using a much less severe example, I think it's still apparent that this doesn't imitate the way our eyes focus. Here are two typical images from The Time to Live and the Time to Die (1985), an early film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien:
I bring up Hou because his early films are photographed in as unobtrusive and naturalistic a manner as any fiction film I can think of. The films themselves are often focused on the mundane details of everyday life, de-dramatized to a degree that's a little bracing to those of us accustomed to plot-heavy mainstream films. The visual style is designed to match, with its muted colors, lack of ornate sets or costumes, and subtly complex framing/blocking of the actors to capture their unselfconscious, apparently semi-improvised actions. Yet even Hou's tasteful, quiet, telephoto framings show major signs of stylization. Look at the way they can flatten out the image (especially in the second Time still above. The still from Robert Altman's Nashville below also provides an example), so that objects on different visual planes appear stacked right on top of each other. The focus may be closer to what we see, but the effect of distance is greatly altered.
A sea of faces in Altmanâ€™s Nashville (1975)
We could probably go on about the ways different lenses change the image, distorting and altering space and depth, etc. And by "we" I mean a smarter person than me who has a greater knowledge of photography. Just sticking with the focus, even the look of the focus itself isn't quite right:
Houâ€™s Dust in the Wind (1986)
For one, most of us have two eyes, and things that come too close to our face tend to not only blur, but double as well, a visual effect only duplicated by bad 3D. Even discounting that, cinema allows us to do something that we can't do with our own eyes: explore the out-of-focus areas. Try that in real life, and your eyes uncontrollably go into focus. COLOR It always struck me as an amusing irony that some filmmakers, when attempting to give their film a "gritty" or "realistic" look, opted to shoot in grainy black and white. I suppose because of its associations with low budget documentary filmmaking, it's become something of a code for a lack of artifice. Of course, we see the world in color, making black and white the more artificial option (my apologies to any color blind readers). And let's not even get into sepia tone or anything like that. Of course, I've heard other, more persuasive arguments for monochrome's realism, but let me state here that the very reason I love black and white is precisely because I find it less real than color.
Could you imagine Out of the Past in color? Ick.
As for color photography, well... if it's not clear already, I'm not a person with a great knowledge of the technical nuts and bolts aspects of filmmaking, so I'm not able to go into depth here. That said, color photography is a complex chemical process, and different types of film stock process the colors in different ways. Even a highly sensitive stock used to film dull, every day colors isn't going to perfectly duplicate every nuance of even those colors that our eyes can pick up on. (And of course, this applies to film and video quality in general, which even in its most highest definition still isn't as detailed as what we see in real life).
Houâ€™s Dust in the Wind again, because I had another still left to use.
IN SUMMATION: FRAMING Our visual perspective is incredibly limited, but have you ever tried to see those limits? Obviously our vision stops at some point, but there's not a perceivable end point; you can't find the exact "line" where it stops. Part of the beauty of film is that it exists in a clearly delineated frame. It's not like vision; it's better than vision. It gives us a specific, artful way of looking at things, and opportunity to see things from a new perspective that is, I must say, inherently full of artifice. My final point being: awesome. As much as film is a record of "real" things that "really" happened in the physical world, it alters those things in the process. Every shot is a specific choice. Images pass through a interpretive lens and burn themselves onto film, creating something new and special. Film isn't just about reproducing the real world, but about reinterpreting and reinventing it.
This essay originally appeared on the blog Roads? Where Weâ€™re Going, We Donâ€™t Need Roads at http://danandthemovies.blogspot.com/2010/12/cameraeye-realismin-cinematography.html
Contributors Josh Gaines. Josh writes poetry, and has been trained by the military to survive in any wilderness environment... but in Chicago, can't even find a parking space. He has been published in elimae, Gloom Cupboard, and in a few Oklahoma anthologies. He is currently working towards his MFA in poetry at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. https://www.facebook.com/spiderjosh
Peter Marra. Originally from Gravesend Brooklyn, Peter M. lived in the East Village, New York from 1979 to 1993 at the height of the punk – no wave music – art rebellion. Peter has had a lifelong fascination with Surrealism, Dadaism, and Symbolism, some of his favorite writers being Paul Eluard, Arthur Rimbaud, Tristan Tzara, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry Miller. His favorite artists are Salvador Dali, Felicien Rops, Dante Rossetti and Amedeo Modigliani. Peter also cites Roger Corman and Russ Meyer as influences. He has had approximately 100 poems published either in print or online. www.angelferox.com
Jayme Russell. Jayme Russell is a poet and essayist who has received her BA and MA in creative writing from Ohio University. She is currently seeking her MFA in poetry at The University of Notre Dame. Her writing can be seen online at Fringe Magazine and Marco Polo. firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Poller. Aaron Poller currently works as a nursepsychotherapist in Winston-Salem, N.C. He also teaches Mental Health Nursing at Winston-Salem State University. He has been writing since the 1960′s when he studied poetry with Jean Garrigue and Daniel Hoffman while a student at the University of Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared recently in Barnwood Poetry Magazine, Eunoia Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Writing Disorder, Cherry Blossom Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, Poetic Medicine, The Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine and Palimpsest. He lives abundantly in a small house with his wife, four dogs and three cats. email@example.com
David S. Pointer. David S. Pointer has been publishing poems for nearly 22 years. He has recent acceptances in Rattle, The Spirit of Poe Anthology, and Beneath the Waves anthology. He currently lives in Murfreesboro, TN. firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.facebook.com/david.s.pointer
Greg Rappleye. Greg Rappleye’s books include A Path Between Houses (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), which won the Brittingham Prize, and Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press, 2007), which was first runner-up for the Dorset Prize. He lives near Grand Haven, Michigan. email@example.com
C.B. Anderson. C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series The Victory Garden, and for the last six years of his tenure there he appeared regularly on the small screen. Over the past eight years, hundreds of his poems have been published in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and India. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Encarnacion. Dan Encarnacion lives in Portland, Oregon. An MFA graduate of the California College of the Arts, he has previously been published in Margie, The Exquisite Corpse, The Five Fingers Review, Eleven Eleven, The Red River Review, The Berkeley Review and Fault Lines Poetry. In late 2012/early 2013, in Upstairs at Duroc. email@example.com
Dan Prestwich. Dan Prestwich holds a B.S. in Cinema Studies from James Madison University. His writings on film can be seen in Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads, a blog he has maintained since 2007, as well as in his 140-character movie reviews on Twitter as @ASeriousDan. Dan works at the GWU Law School, and lives in Arlington, VA. He is also a consulting editor to Magic Lantern Review.