Tuesday, November 07, 2006


After reading Keith Lango's comments about good staging examples found in the Iron Giant, I wondered, "Is there a live action film that really stands out in this respect?"

I'm sure there are plenty, but the first movie that came to mind was Chicago. It is such a good movie for many reasons, but the shot composition and use of staging principles to guide the audience's view across the screen is particularly remarkable. It really follows the golden rule of showing one piece of information per shot. Some examples:

There's a lot going on in this shot but our eye goes to the brightest part of the image:

The audience's head become abstract shapes that serve as foreground elements, adding depth to this shot:

The dark, massive figure on the right opposes the light, smaller figure on the left, creating balance:

The warm light on Catherine Zeta-Jones makes her stand out. The cool blue light makes everything else recede. Also, she is framed by the figures in the foreground:

Again, our eyes go straight to the brightest element. The verticality of the pole is balanced by the horizontal rectangle implied by the audience:

I don't know what rule this image exemplifies, but I like it:

Our focus doesn't always have to be on one thing. This shot is more about the pattern created by the black silhouettes inside the red rectangles, than the individuals:

Again, the emphasis on this shot is the collective, not the individual:
Some very nice silhouettes:

Foreground elements framing the main character:
Use of warm and cool colors to stress the evolving conflict between these two characters:

Warm colors stand out over cool colors:

The use of these principles is pretty obvious in a movie like Chicago. After all, most of the action takes place on a stage which facilitates the use of dramatic lightning and staging. But there are plenty of other movies that take place in several other locations where the composition is also superb. Welle's Citizen Kane, Leone's "Once upon a time in the West" and the Coen brother's "The man who wasn't there" are fine examples.


Evan Richards said...

Chicago is a good one for cinematography. Dion Beebe was nominated for best cinematography for shooting it too. He didn't win for Chicago but he did win this year for "Memiors of a Geisha"

"The man who wasn't there" has phenomenal cinematography. As does everything shot by Roger Deakins I suppose. He is probably my favorite DP.

VaneRV said...

Guille! buenisima tu perspectiva! se mi teacher de cine jajaja!

VaneRV said...

Fantastic analysis, guille. I have "Lenguaje audiovisual" (cinematography language) at college and I am really enjoying it. You have given me a great analysis.

Habia sido ya deje un comment.jajaja