Monday, April 07, 2008

Visions of Light (1992)

(Image from Wikipedia)

Visions of Light (1992)

Cinematography is one of those interesting aspects of cinema that doesn't get a lot of attention (it's probably up there with editing) despite being significant to the art of filmmaking. I'll readily confess that my knowledge of cinematography is at the level of pretentious dilettante; I think I know good cinematography even if I can't fully explain why I think it's good. 'Visions of Light' is a documentary that seeks to enlighten its viewers about the key role that lighting and cameras play in cinematic storytelling. It does this by interviewing various current (i.e. 1990s) cinematographers and charting the evolution of the artform from the early part of the 20th century onwards. There are clips galore from various films that are presented as examples of great cinematography, with the interviewees often waxing lyrical about the great films and artists.

It's a pretty good documentary, and is perhaps revelatory for those who don't have even the foggiest notion that camera and lighting and shot composition are important visual elements in a film. Unfortunately, as a fan of film it doesn't really tell me much that I wasn't already aware of to some extent, and it winds up being more of a 'best of' clips reel. Except for a few occasions, it merely reiterates similar generic points about good lighting and shows a few clips. It doesn't often delve into WHY that lighting is great, or how it serves to tell the story. In many ways, it's a tease that keeps the secrets of the artform close to its chest. Which is disappointing. Still, as a summary of the history of cinematography, it's informative and holds your interest. I just wish it had more to offer.

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