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Weekend Reel Reads: Collaborations, Projectionists and the Film Olympics

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire July 29, 2012 at 3:08PM

This week's edition features a look at famous cinematographer-director pairings, the projectionists at the heart of the film/digital struggle and a hypothetical cinema-only version of the Olympic Games.
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Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

Julie Delpy Rocks New York:

Julie Delpy in "2 Days in New York."
Julie Delpy in "2 Days in New York."

Some of the most intriguing parts of Karina Longworth’s Village Voice profile of Julie Delpy center on the actress-director's conversational style. It’s natural, considering a good portion of the critical attention paid to her latest film "2 Days in New York" focused on her ability to write dialogue. Using her most recent effort as the entry point for a look back at her career, Longworth also covers Delpy’s rise as a teen favorite of world-renowned filmmakers all the way to her experiences in what Delpy perceives as an internationally male-dominated enterprise.

"This is how Delpy talks: in full paragraphs, spat out at run-on speed, her mouth like a scampering toddler that's always one step ahead of the exhausted caretaker of her rational mind. Which is not to say that the way she presents herself is unconscious. Her paragraphs almost always conclude with a punchline—comic, provocative, insightful, or a combination of the three—it just sometimes takes a while to get there."

Who Would Win If Movies Competed in the Olympics?

There are films that have been made about events in Olympic history and, as Friday’s Opening Ceremonies proved, Olympic events can feature elements of cinema history. But in the lead-up to London 2012, David Ehrlich found the optimal way to combine film and the Olympic games into a competitive (if entirely subjective) form for his Criterion Corner column at Movies.com. With select sports, Ehrlich picked various films featuring that particular sport, doling out the gold, silver and bronze in each discipline. Some choices were no-brainers, but some of the most entertaining ones were a bit unconventional.

"Track and Field feels like the last vestige of Olympic roots -- there’s something uniquely primitive about a beefy, anonymous man twirling around and launching a discus at the sun. In addition to being uniquely primitive, it’s also spectacularly boring, which probably explains why the only popular movie ever made about pole vaulting is Magic Mike. Nevertheless, the events that comprise the track-and-field portion of the Olympics have popped up in several notable films...

Gold: BROADCAST NEWS (USA). Category - Relay. Newsman Albert Brooks hurriedly edits a nightly report, pops the tape out of the deck, and passes it off to Joan Cusack, who has to sprint across the office and get the footage to the control room in time for it’s scheduled airing. It’s the most breathless relay sequence the movies have ever known, with only a cluttered hallway and some sweet synths, Broadcast News literalizes the desperate extremes to which American journalists must go in order to preserve the integrity of the Third Estate."

The Reason Christopher Nolan Films Look Like Christopher Nolan Films:

Wally Pfister and Christopher Nolan have one of the most notable and regarded cinematographer-director relationships in the film industry. With word that Pfister might be moving on to an exclusively directorial capacity, Ian Buckwalter wrote a piece for The Atlantic examining how other famous collaborative pairs influenced each other’s work. While it’s difficult to predict how Nolan and Pfister’s careers might develop now that they’ll no longer be working together, Buckwalter addressed the technological innovations that both will likely continue to either neglect or embrace.

"Similarly, while the whole notion of the French New Wave was based around the authorial stamp of directors, it was Raoul Coutard who could be found behind the camera for most of the seminal early works from Godard, Truffaut, and Demy. The freedom that's often associated with New Wave camera work—handheld, with documentary-style natural lighting, and a willingness to let the actors dictate camera movements rather than the other way around—is difficult to separate from Coutard's influence. Elsewhere, there's the lush color and evocative shadows of Powell and Pressburger's three most famous films, A Matter of Life and DeathBlack Narcissus, and The Red Shoes, all shot by Jack Cardiff (I'd wager a guess that Pfister is a particular fan of the use of color and darkness in these). The golden coloring and deep darkness of The Godfather films—which angered studio executives but are inseparable from what makes those films masterpieces—are thanks to Gordon Willis, one of the great innovators of 1970s American motion picture photography."

David Kornfeld's high noon:

There are many ways to frame the digital/film debate, as evidenced by the many stories featured on this blog in the past few months. Rather than view the dwindling role of film through an institutional lens, Chris Marstall’s piece for the Boston Phoenix draws it right to those people whose jobs will be most directly affected. Marstall’s main subject (among many of his peers) is David Kornfeld, a Boston-era projectionist with a long career and reputation. Through the profiler and the profiled, the piece illustrates what is essential to the profession and how certain projectionists can elevate the form. 

"The projection booth in the Somerville's cavernous 890-seat House 1 is Kornfeld's masterwork. Built at a cost of $150,000 or more, it features massive twin Norelco projectors and touches like a recirculating water cooling system and $800 windows that can be easily removed for cleaning (dirty glass can kill screen brightness). Its interior is painted, to his specification, pale blue. 'In terms of the picture on screen and the sound you're listening to, I would put that up against any theater you can name. Any one. And I will either equal or better them,' he told me. John Quackenbush, who runs projection for both the Harvard Film Archive and the Independent Film Festival of Boston, goes to screenings in House 1 regularly. 'It's very close to perfection there,' he told me. 'It's one of the best places to watch in the country.' He puts it in the same league as personal favorites of his like the Coolidge and the State Theatre in Traverse City, Michigan."

A New Dimension of Filmmaking:

Three decades after a tragic accident claimed three lives on the set of "The Twilight Zone: The Movie," Slate’s Robert Weintraub examined the advances made in production safety in the intervening years. Beginning with a brief overview of the fatal helicopter crash, Weintraub delved into the process that created various supervisor positions that ensure a particular film follows various safety codes. Even with advances in CGI, the role of risk managers have played increased roles in ensuring the health of actors and stunt crews alike. 

"Terrible as the Twilight Zone accident was, some good did come of it. At Warner Bros., a behind-the-scenes revolution was set in motion, as a vice president named John Silvia was determined to tighten up the industry’s approach to safety. Silvia convened a committee that created standards for every aspect of filmmaking, from gunfire to fixed-wing aircraft to smoke and pyrotechnics. All the unions and guilds in the business were represented. 'It was like lawmaking,' says Chris Palmer, a risk-management consultant who was part of the committee. 'The committee had to parse words like ‘would, shall, and must’ because of the possibility of negligence lawsuits overtaking Hollywood if they were too strict in the wording.' The committee’s codicils were collected into a group of standards called Safety Bulletins. The studios then issued a manual to their employees based on the bulletins, known as the Injury and Illness Prevention Program."

This article is related to: Julie Delpy, 2 Days in New York, Christopher Nolan, Wally Pfister, Film Versus Digital


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