documentary DVD and movie reviews and previews from - curled up with a good dvd
documentary DVD reviews and previews from - curled up with a good dvd
DVD reviews, previews and info - documentary
  action movies on DVD
  animation on DVD
  art house and international / foreign language films on DVD
  comedies on DVD
  documentaries on DVD
  dramas on DVD
  children's and family DVDs
  horror and sci-fi on DVD
  suspense on DVD
  television series on DVD
  Blu-ray DVD reviews


Cinematographer Style - documentary DVD / arthouse DVD review
CINEMATOGRAPHER STYLE Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 3 stars
Featuring: Lawrence Bridges, Roger Deakins, Ericson Core, Allen Daviau
Director: Jon Fauer   Studio: Docurama
DVD release: 23 September 2008   Runtime: 86 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital), Uncut interviews with award-winning filmmakers Vittorio Storaro and Gordon Willis, Filmmaker biography

"Scientists of light," one cinematographer describes his trade. Cinematographer Style is a mostly beautifully shot film (except when the makers are forced outside their controlled, indoor studio) about the technological core of filmmaking. As Arthur C. Clarke always insisted, any technology advanced enough appears to be magic. Camera and film (or digital image) are technologies far enough beyond the ken of most that their technicians are called "wizards" (for a hysterical and cheesy send up of tech wizardry, see Mike Jittlov's The Wizard of Speed and Time, so Cinematographer Style is also about the magic of filmmaking.

The problem with Cinematographer Style is that it is composed entirely of interviews. Jon Fauer interviewed 110 of his colleagues for the film and used snips from many dozens of them in the final cut. That works, because the rapid editing coupled with dramatic lighting and translucent music keeps the pace lively. What doesn't work is not actually seeing cinematography. Rather, we are told, pretty much throughout, what a jolly good thing it is. Cinematographer Style is a pep rally. Motion picture photography deserves pep rallies, but it already had a much better one in Arnold Glassman and Todd McCarthy's 1992 Visions of Light.

In Visions of Light we see samples of great cinematographic style in the form of clips from great movies. As we see, we hear photographers talking about how and why style matters. In Cinematographer Style, we hear but, with one exception, we don't see. The only exception is a scene in which a cinematographer is explaining the different psychological effect created by long and short lenses. He gets the cameraman to change to a short lens and we see as he tells us the difference: yes, now we understand what he means by "closer". The shorter lens is more intimate. This is a marvelous moment in the film, and it reveals a strategy Fauer could have deployed throughout.

Worse, the editing gives equal time to the cheerleading sound bites as to the content-full ones-meaning that the useful information in the film (especially a brief passage in the middle of the film on lighting and one a little later on lenses) goes by too fast. Good narrative should vary its pacing according to the density of its content.

Some of the cheering done by this collection of great cinematographers (Vittorio Storaro, Apocalypse Now; Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men; Gordon Willis, The Godfather) is profound: "Without light we cannot have images." Cinematographers are "visual psychiatrists" and "scientists of light." Using "technology in the service of art," cinematographers "write with light." This is food for thought.

But it is also only the surface of something much more important and interesting. It is self-evident, if nonetheless still profound, that we cannot have images without light; but what is the psychological nature of our perceptual relationship with light? How is it that by concatenating images we can tell stories? This group of brilliant professionals may have said something about how and why lighting affects mood and cognition, but all we hear is that it does.
  buy this DVD now or browse millions of other great products at
reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
    action | animation | art house/international | comedy | documentary | drama | family | horror/sci-fi | suspense | television    
    browse DVDs alphabetical by title    
    contact | home