April 25, 2014

'The Nature of Frédéric Back' by Phil Comeau

The Nature of Frédéric Back draws a masterful portrait of an exceptional man. A visual artist and animation filmmaker, he has produced an immense body of work that imparts an essential message. With their luminous poetry, their freshness and emotion, his films are both universal and timeless.

The two-time Oscar winner for "Crac!" and "The Man Who Planted Trees" had reached a wise old age but lost none of his passion, or the wonder or outrage that have always moved him. Frédéric Back was, and will always remain, a model for us all.

Here's the trailer for the biographical documentary film.

Four months ago today, Frédéric Back passed away at the age of 89. I'm so glad this film got made before his passing, and is now available to purchase here.

He was a prolific illustrator and graphic artist in addition to being an astounding filmmaker and animator. He documented his life and work in extensive detail on his personal website. Something else worth reading is this remembrance by historian Charles Solomon.

His films, beautiful and expressive works of art in their own right, are also noteworthy for their environmental and social consciousness. A true artist, and a master of his craft.

Abracadabra (1970)

¿Illusion? (1975)

Tout rien (1978)

Crac! (1981)

The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)

The Mighty River (1993, in French)

April 09, 2014

Korgoth of Barbaria

Korgoth of Barbaria is a pilot episode for what was originally planned as an American animated television series created by Aaron Springer, storyboard artist, writer and director for Dexter's Laboratory, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and SpongeBob SquarePants. The pilot episode first aired in the United States on June 3, 2006 at 12:30 AM (EST) on Adult Swim. On June 18, 2006, Adult Swim ran a bumper announcing Korgoth of Barbaria was officially picked up as a series. Later events, including a formal petition to revive the show would indicate that it was dropped before production began.

King Star King

April 05, 2014

The Cinematography of Boardwalk Empire

I've been a big fan of this HBO series.
The 5th and final season premieres this coming September.
Each passing season has gotten better and better. The quality of the writing, story structure, character development, acting, editing, props, sets and costumes, have all been nothing short of stellar. But in my opinion, the cinematography has been especially astounding.

Here I've singled out episode 5, from season 4. It stood out to me as being notably exceptional in this category, it's titled "Erlkönig", directed by Tim Van Patten. You will see how well-placed props, specific angles, thoughtful framing and lighting, and well planned scene setups have all lead to some beautiful shot compositions. With careful and deliberate choices of color texture, perspective, depth of field, and lighting - these elements worked together to create an appealing and well-balanced image. Even the way actors are leaning or tilted in a shot, or effects like cigarette smoke, shadows, and highlights add to the purposeful way the viewers eyes are continually lead to the focal point.

In particular, this episode had interesting artistic and stylistic choices. A few sequences are shown with the characters' positions heavily favoring one side of the frame. To me this skillfully portrays the context of the situation the characters are in.

In all cases, the choice for this composition shows how vulnerable the characters are. The visual storytelling informs us the characters are feeling very alone, bleak, exposed, and desperate in the circumstances they find themselves in. The cinematography depicted this by creating lots of empty space away from where the characters were facing.

Loneliness, isolation, desperation, paranoia, seeking opportunities, gaining power, losing control; all these are common themes in the series, and the cinematography always compliments these themes, these moments, these emotions.

If you haven't watched season 4 yet, the following displays spoilers.

Cinematography is a process of continuous change created by the control of its three basic elements - placement of people and objects within the frame; movement of people and objects within a fixed frame; and movement of the frame itself. In Boardwalk Empire, these elements are designed and manipulated in a specific and masterful way, to draw the viewer’s attention towards the focus of the scene. The actors, objects and backgrounds are staged so that the shots and visual ideas are unmistakably clear, an action so that it is understood, an atmosphere that evokes a specific feeling, a personality so that it is recognizable, and a mood so that it can affect the audience.

David Franco is a Director of Photography for Boardwalk Empire. He has worked on the second, third and fourth seasons. He has been active since 1987 and has also worked on the films The Assignment (1997), The Whole Nine Yards (2000), and he won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie in 2007 for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007).