a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

YouTubing-to-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: Richard Lester Rulez

When I arrived at film school in 1997, I emulated Woody Allen. When I left in 2001, I emulated Richard Lester. My thesis film, which I never completed or even got terribly far into, was supposed to be a shameless Lester imitation, specifically of his exhilarating, experimental Grand Prix winner The Knack. Apart from granting an epic interview for Steven Soderbergh's book Getting Away With It -- which spanned both his career and unexpected asides, like evolution, atheism and Richard Dawkins -- Lester has remained frustratingly modest and reclusive, not even sticking up for himself when the director of Radio Flyer and Timeline kicks him around over Superman II. And yet suddenly he's...well, not everywhere, but at least present, chatting up on the finally dropped Help! disc -- something he did not do for A Hard Day's Night back in 2002 -- and granting an honest-to-the-intelligent-designer interview with Keith Phipps for The Onion A.V. Club.

Will his time finally come? We'll see, though the interviews with both Lester and his frequent, amazing and innovative d.p. David Watkin will hopefully at least awake the peoples to his considerable technical prowess. On the disc, it's revealed that this was one of the first films to make extensive use of bounce boards, which reflect the light, either natural or non-, onto the subjects. Back in Getting Away With It, Soderbergh and Lester had the following exchange:
SS: I'll make a bold statement here and say that Help! is, to me, the birth of what I consider to be modern color cinematography. The basic principles that are at play in that film -- particularly in the "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" sequence -- are still being used by the people today [i.e., 1995-ish] who are considered to be the top cameramen in the world. It's all there. Especially the hard, overexposed back light and the reflective fill light, which Watkin is a master of.

RL: I think it was the first serious attempt to make diffused lighting positive. In other words, I think people like Raoul Coutard were working with natural light and doing it fairly effectively, but David was making it into a dominant factor in the way that he photographed people's faces. It was stunning and he was brilliant. Totally extraordinary.
Hey, judge for yourself.

Today's PW A Six Pack on cartoonish cinematic representations of right-wing demons -- I would make today's YT clip Ed Begley in Billion Dollar Brain if someone had ever uploaded it or if I actually knew how to myself -- a review (third down) of Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten and Rep. Don't forget to read Burnsy's hilarious, dead-on review of Robert Redford's awful Lions for Lambs, which also swiftly assesses this season's dearth of blunt and underperforming War on Terra dramas: "Pundits are wondering if the timing is off. Too soon? Maybe so. But after enduring In the Valley of Elah, Rendition and now Lions for Lambs, I humbly suggest that perhaps the real problem is these movies are awful."


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