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Heaven Is for Real

Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#154 February 6, 2013

Marie writes:  The late John Alton is widely regarded as being one of greatest film noir cinematographers to have ever worked in Film. He perfected many of the stylized camera and lighting techniques of the genre, including radical camera angles, wide-angle lenses, deep focus compositions, the baroque use of low-level cameras and a sharp depth of field. His groundbreaking work with director Anthony Mann on films such "TMen" and "Raw Deal" and "He Walked by Night" is considered a benchmark in the genre, with "The Big Combo" directed by Joseph H. Lewis, considered his masterpiece. John Alton also gained fame as the author of the seminal work on cinematography: "Painting with Light".

The Big Combo (1955) [click to enlarge]

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#57 April 6, 2011

Marie writes: ever stumble upon a photo taken from a movie you've never seen?  Maybe it's an official production still; part of the Studio's publicity for it at the time. Or maybe it's a recent screen capture, one countless fan-made images to be found online. Either way, I collect them like pennies in jar. I've got a folder stuffed with images, all reflecting a deep love of Cinematography and I thought I'd share some - as you never know; sometimes, the road to discovering a cinematic treasure starts with a single intriguing shot....

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Cinematography: Harry Stradling(click images to enlarge)

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Opening Shots: 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"

An empty landscape, an endless, desolate (and TechniScope-horizontal) landscape...

... suddenly replaced by another enormous sun-baked landscape, and the long shot is instantaneously transformed into a close-up of...

... a human face, staring into the camera -- and, by extension, into the distance off-camera. It's a variation on the signature Leone shot, and for him these faces (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach -- and in other movies Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, Woody Strode...) were landscapes, and landmarks, as characteristic of his stylistic world as the buttes of Monument Valley were for John Ford. -- JE

We've had several excellent appreciations of how the opening shot of Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" works, each with its own unique angle, if you will. Here are a few -- beginning with Roger Ebert's 2003 Great Movies review:

A vast empty Western landscape. The camera pans across it. Then the shot slides onto a sunburned, desperate face. The long shot has become a closeup without a cut, revealing that the landscape was not empty but occupied by a desperado very close to us. In these opening frames, Sergio Leone established a rule that he follows throughout "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." The rule is that the ability to see is limited by the sides of the frame. At important moments in the film, what the camera cannot see, the characters cannot see, and that gives Leone the freedom to surprise us with entrances that cannot be explained by the practical geography of his shots. There is a moment, for example, when men do not notice a vast encampment of the Union Army until they stumble upon it. And a moment in a cemetery when a man materializes out of thin air even though he should have been visible for a mile. And the way men walk down a street in full view and nobody is able to shoot them, maybe because they are not in the same frame with them. Leone cares not at all about the practical or the plausible, and builds his great film on the rubbish of Western movie clichés, using style to elevate dreck into art. When the movie opened in America in late 1967, not long after its predecessors "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) and "For a Few Dollars More" (1965), audiences knew they liked it, but did they know why?

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