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kottke.org posts about Jacob T. Swinney

Supercuts of the Stylistic Cues of Master Filmmakers

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2019

Video essayist Jacob T. Swinney makes makes these great little supercuts of the stylistic habits of filmmakers. His two latest ones are of Barry Jenkins’ close-ups and Christopher Nolan’s wide shots.

Barry Jenkins may be the modern master of the close-up shot. Jenkins’s close-ups are reminiscent of those crafted by the late, great Jonathan Demme — shallow focus with the character looking directly into the camera’s lens. Take it from close-up aficionado, Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson once told Jenkins, “I’m very jealous of your close-ups. There’s a long line of people who have really tried to do Jonathan Demme close-ups and I try all the time, but I have to say, you got it right better than anybody.” In Jenkins’s last two features, MOONLIGHT and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, the close-ups seem to transcend the narrative of the films. Time seems to stand still as we gaze into the eyes of the characters. They are intimate and profound, and they are simply pure cinema.

For a man whose films cover everything from masked vigilantes, to dream heists, to interdimensional travel, Christopher Nolan is a rather personal and intimate filmmaker. This is expressed in the way that he tends to position his camera. Nolan prefers to keep his camera close to his characters, often hugging their bodies in warm medium shots or close ups. So when Nolan chooses to back off and take a step back from his characters, we are going to feel it. Nolan’s wide shots are obviously beautiful, but what they convey extends far beyond a stunning visual. They convey magnitude and significance, isolation and disorientation.

Swinney has also done supercuts of David Fincher’s wide shots, the sound design of Jurassic Park, the use of shallow focus by Denis Villeneuve, P.T. Anderson’s reflective silence, and Darren Aronofsky’s extreme closeups. May I suggest some women filmmakers for the next round of videos though? Lynne Ramsay and Ava DuVernay for starters…