What’s to Hate?

•April 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment


Cheesy title, I know. But seriously, I was not expecting such a beautiful film. Director and Screenwriter Mathieu Kassovitz drew up this masterpiece way back when I was learning the proper intro, body, conclusion structure to a story in Fifth Grade (’95). So it makes me wonder, why haven’t we heard more of La Haine (Hate) by now?

Set in a contemporary French urban landscape, La Haine explores the adolescent virtuousness of three friends who wander the streets, killing time in the wake of a racially-driven riot. Out of the three there’s Vinz, who found a cop’s gun the night before and vows to kill an officer if his friend Abdel dies. Abdel was seriously injured due to police brutality the night before during the riots.

Where to start…Cinematographer Peirre Aim’s use of black and white (actually 35mm colour negative printed on a high-contrast monochrome film stock normally used for soundtracks) works perfectly. Set in a stark and bright concrete jungle yet with great moments during nightfall, Aim’s visual concept is solid throughout and it’s hard for me to imagine this film in color.

Vinz (played by Vincent Cassel) shows off his new find...contrast anyone?

Vinz (played by Vincent Cassel) shows off his new find...contrast anyone?

His use of sweeping long takes (choreographed to the tee) that captures a yet gritty realism, predates Cuarón and his boy Lubeski’s reign (most notably Y tu mamá también and Children of Men) of the painstaking style. I personally loved the use of long takes and found them to be quite a useful tool throughout the story. It supplied the illusion that the characters freely moved about the space while the events unfolded uninterupted (using cuts).

My favorite shot: When the DJ, “Cut Killer”, blares his scratching session out of is apartment for all to hear outside. The camera begins to float out of the apartment and slowly move within the corridors of the streets as if following Cut Killer’s acoustics.

The execution of the shot is not the best because the camera is never “smoothly” gliding through the air, but rather knocking around as if duct taped on the base of a chopper. However, it’s the shot that stuck with me the most and despite its shortcomings in delivery, it’s concept was simply beautiful…I have a heart for low budget.

All in all, I will watch this movie over and over again and I think I will find a new gem to praise every time. So, go see this Criterion Collection member and lets hope Kassovitz doesn’t end with Babylon A.D.

3.5 out of 4 stars


The Dark Knight and Wally: No Love From Oscar

•February 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

by: Brent Barbano

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So, every year I try to guess who will be coming home with an Oscar for the Academy Awards. 17/24. That was my score this year. Yes I’m bragging because it really isn’t that bad. Had it been a quiz I would’ve scored a 71%… Anyways, some mishaps in the often overlooked categories such as Best Doc. Short Subject, Foreign Language film and a last minute switch to Mikey Rourke from Sean Penn kept me from getting a solid B. But for the second year in a row, I was wrong when it came to Cinematography (last year I picked Assassination of Jesse James and I stand by it). I chose The Dark Knight, and for good reason. It was a no brainer and I pretty much had my decision made before I dished out the $13.50 at the Arclight to go see the best movie of the year…another topic but yes.

Wally Pfister and Chris Nolan Director of Photography Wally Pfister A.S.C. (left) sits with Director Chris Nolan (right) and the Imax MSM 9802…weighing in at 65 lbs.

First off, I thought Slumdog Millionaire was shot beautifully…colors, movements and locations. So, not a bad movie to take home the title. However, Dark Knight did something never done before. It broke the traditional grounds of 35mm (standard in mostly all big budget features) and shot a good chunk of the feature on Imax’s whopping 65mm format. This was unheard of at the time when Wally Pfister A.S.C., DP of Dark Knight, and Director Chris Nolan came up with the scheme.

Pivotal action sequences and scenes were solely dedicated to the enlarged format and the outcome was nothing but gorgeous, saturated footage with amazing clarity never seen before in a traditional Hollywood flick. “There was no visible grain, and we could see every detail in the darkest shadows with truly rich black tones and extraordinary contrast,” Pfister says.


Above: You can clearly see the difference in size between the two formats. Imax film image area is ten times larger.

The scenes in which Imax technology was used were widely praised. The clarity and dynamic range of contrast was something many, including I, had never seen before. The new venture was a success and soon enough there was already enough buzz to assume Pfister would be nominated, yet again. Sure enough, he was.

Back story, and tech specs aside, my point is this: when someone decides to take such a risk (artistically as well as financially) as Nolan and Pfister did on The Dark Knight, they need the recognition they deserve. This was an unprecedented feat for all of cinema that is now becoming a popular trend.

Steve Jablonsky, the DP for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, immediately jumped on the bandwagon and shot the summer hit in Imax (70 million in Imax box office alone for Dark Knight did some of the convincing). Shane Hurlbut, the DP from Terminator Salvation (Yes the one who Christian Bale called “a nice guy”) strongly considered using the Imax technology to shoot the robotic sequel. They decided on 35mm but will be bumping up to Imax for theatrical release as well.

It may have been the saving grace for film…which was slowly being pushed out the door by digital video and all it’s inflexibility. But this was a milestone for cinema and especially for Cinematography. This standard now leaves viewers with the opportunity to watch films in some of the best visual quality today’s technology has to offer…

…rant start now…

It has changed the way we will watch and perceive movies as a visual experience alone. Marketing for theatrical releases will change, ticket sales will change…This is the beginning of  something big and to not award Pfister and his team an Oscar for such an accomplishment is more than a slap in the face, it’s the mere ignorance of focusing on the “now” and “what’s hot”, ahem “Slumdog”, not what will be history.


This is like not awarding Alexander Fleming the Nobel Prize for his discovery of Penicillin (this limb is small and bending fast but hear me out). During WWII, Penicillin reversed the affect of infections, thus severely lessening the death toll due to combat-related injuries. Domestically, it evolved the medical and health industry and became a major component in medical advancements and studies up to today.

I see this type of affect on an industry as the same kind of affect the Imax standard will become on Hollywood. Sure, it’s not the discovery of color film, or motion pictures for that matter. But I see this step, in this industry, as one of those milestones.

These are my last thoughts:

In an age where film was “dying” and digital video was emerging as the new and cheaper technology, Nolan and Pfister saved film and introduced an antibiotic to video. More importantly, this will change the way we experience movies in years to come. Furthermore, Nolan and Pfister are rumored to be shooting their next Batman sequel in Imax, yet again. But this time, the entire movie will be shot in the format. Lucky for us. Unfortunately, by then, Imax will have become a standard and the Academy will overlook Pfister once again for some Indy flick that makes them feel cultured for adoring.

And as for picking the Oscar winners, maybe I should listen to what others have told me in the past: go with your head, not your heart. I usually do, but I was hoping that maybe the Academy would recognize what I saw.

All in all, when the Slumdog buzz has settled, I hope people begin to realize where the real risks were taken and the roads paved. If only those who matter could look at the bigger picture…literally!

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