I like Japanese food. I read once that one of its main tenants is to highlight a food’s natural texture and flavor in it’s most pure form. If a dish is to feature mushrooms, then it’s flavor must be unmistakably mushroom; all seasonings and garnishes must work to accentuate and compliment the mushroom.
I don’t know if anonymous Vimeo user kogonada is Japanese or not (British maybe?), but kogonada has done for film what Japan did for the mushroom. In the following four “supercut” video essays, kogonada boils down Stanley Kubrick, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes Anderson into their cinematic essence.
While the video essays are a work of art in their own right, they open up and explore the habits of these four directors in a way that leaves you pondering their choices.
Stanley Kubrick – One-Point Perspective
Kubrick knew his audience…almost too well. The man is renowned for his obsessive fixation on the psychological effects his films had on his audience. Some complain that story took a back seat to Kubrick’s mind-games, but you cannot argue with the man’s legacy.
Among his audience manipulating tools was the use of One-Point perspective, or shots that seemed to be aimed straight on the action. Usually a filmmaker sets the camera off to the side a bit, as if the audience is passively observing a scene unfold.
One-Point perspective has an unsettling effect, something you can’t put your finger on, and Kubrick was well aware of that. For some great insights on the subject, read the comments on this video’s vimeo page.
Darren Aronofsky – Sound
Aronofsky’s visceral and gritty films pry at the heart of humanity and it’s motivations. At least I think they do. I still have no idea what The Fountain was all about. And Requiem for a Dream? What has been seen cannot be unseen…
One of Aranofsky’s trademarks is to skip through the processes of eating breakfast and doing heroin in disjointed montages accompanied by clear, isolated sounds. They remind me of all the odd snapshot memories I have of mundane things: the crack of opening a coke can, the click of a pen, the sliding sound my key makes as I slide it into my deadbolt.
For me at least, it seems Aronofsky has found a sneaky way of bringing me into the world of his characters by way of my perceptual memory. I think. I need to watch The Fountain again.
Quentin Tarantino – Shots from Below
Pulp Fiction? Yup. Reservoir Dogs? Yup. Kill Bill vols. I and II? Yup and yup. Tarantino’s films often feature characters fighting it out for power and dominance.
What better way to visually portray that idea than to place the camera on the ground, as if we, the audience, are the bloodied victim looking up at our aggressor? We see Tarantino’s characters towering over us, like the powerful and dangerous people that they are. We are minuscule ants, who identify fearfully with the poor schlep that has crossed their path.
Wes Anderson – Shots from Above
Anderson’s intimate character-driven stories take us into the fascinating lives of deep-sea explorers, recently divorced fathers, and anthropomorphic foxes. I think intimate is the operative word too. Anderson has a way of making us feel the agony of a washed up tennis player, and the joy of a grandfather.
Similar to Kubrick’s One-Point perspective shots, Anderson employs these sort of odd top-down perspective shots, as if you are standing directly above the action (perhaps in place of the characters) looking down. Do Anderson’s classic top-down shots from above bring us into that world in a way that a traditional film’s shots couldn’t?
Who is your favorite director, why? What are their tell-tale traits?