Tuesday, June 14, 2016

sun, milk, red meat, college

Typing here last Friday about a section of the film Gaslight, we were highlighting the point where, in the Tower of London Ingrid Bergman (Paula) quietly absents herself from the tour group, to search in her purse for something -- she moves away when her husband isn't looking, so -- first he cannot see her, then she keeps going and the tour people can't see her, and finally she even moves out of the CAMERA's view, and the film-viewer loses sight of her.

Then we can see a shadow on the wall, of her, looking down and searching in her drawstring bag.

A little further on in the movie, there's another scene where she leaves the CAMERA's view -- goes offscreen -- and we can still see what she's doing, see the pose and position of her figure, as a shadow on a wall, and we can hear her voice speaking.


When Manhattan came out in 1979, at least one reviewer mentioned the fact that sometimes the characters speak their lines offstage, or out of CAMERA-view.  In his Woody Allen biography, Eric Lax writes,

---------------------- [excerpt] ------------------- Woody also does not hesitate to have actors speak their lines off-camera, something almost unheard of in Hollywood. 

Producers and studios feel that people pay to see the stars in movies and that the films should be full of close-ups to give them their money's worth, yet Woody will shoot scenes where actors move in and out of the frame. 

In doing so, he ignores the traditional view that in comedy the jokes must be delivered in good lighting and full frame and that in any film the actors should always be visible.  He credits cinematographer Gordon Willis [All The President's Men; The Godfather] with teaching him the effectiveness of offscreen actors during the filming of Annie Hall....

"I usually know how I want to shoot comedies," Woody says.  "I knew in Annie Hall, for example, that when I meet Keaton, I want to see us playing tennis and I want it to be wide. 

And most of the time it was completely logical. 

But on this occasion I said to Gordie, 'Hey, if we shoot Keaton this way, I'm going to be offstage when I do my joke.'  And he said, 'That's okay, they can hear you.'"  It was a revelation.... 

(In Stardust Memories, there are several instances where characters walk out of the frame and continue talking while the screen is filled with a static shot of a white wall.) --------------- [end excerpt]


And -- come to think of it, earlier in Gaslight, there's the scene where you see the shadow of Elizabeth the cook in the hallway, and hear Gregory Anton's voice coming from a room unseen by the camera/audience, as he's talking to the maid he's hiring.

So -- Gordon Willis did not come up with these concepts all by himself.  Perhaps he referred to Gaslight cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg...


Annie Hall