This week, the editors at Criticwire asked us what we thought the best film about filmmaking was. I’ve expressed my love for the film I use as my answer pretty recently — in my Atlantic piece about Wally Pfister retiring from cinematography — and welcomed the opportunity to promote it again. Here’s my full response:
This question was probably looking for narrative movies about filmmaking, but whenever I’m asked this question, I give the same answer, and it’s a documentary: Visions of Light. The film, about the history and role of cinematography in filmmaking, was made by a trio of directors — including former Variety and current Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy — in 1992. Though it’s now two decades old and though there have obviously been huge shifts in the ways movies are shot, it hasn’t lost a bit of its beauty and relevance. This is a film that talks about an ostensibly technical function of filmmaking, but treats it as the art that it is. The film offers a base of information on the technical side here, but never gets bogged down in focal lengths and f-stops. On that foundation, the film makes the case for cinematographers as the great visual craftsmen of the cinema. It does so by letting those images speak for themselves, offering up a staggering number of film clips, from the silent era up to the movie’s present, and combining those with interviews with many of the directors of photography responsible for them. It’s essential viewing not just for anyone interested in the history of cinematography, but also just in the history of cinema; I watch it every couple of years, and it serves every time as a reminder of just why I love the medium to begin with.You can check out the rest of the survey responses over at Criticwire.
Tags | Criticwire | survey | cinematography | documentary | 3 notes