Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Well, we might as well begin with some of the movies on telly this Christmas. In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Gwynneth Paltrow plays avid reporter, Polly Perkins. The camera plays such a central part in the movie that it even features on the poster:

Now, the more observant of you will notice that this camera looks like no camera that's ever been manufactured. A mirror image of it will, however, reveal an Argus C3:

Why this camera? Well, one can only speculate. But, on one level, choosing a post-WWII camera to star in a WWII movie helps highlight the alternate reality that this film attempts to depict.

Moreover, since this movie made much of its digital/retro "look" which relied heavily on blurry backgrounds, the fact that Perkins never focuses her camera suggests that she's got the focusing ring set onto the hyperfocal distance, so, with the aperture stopped down, everything in her images will be sharp.

The juxtaposition of Perkin's sharp images and the movie's own digitized, glowy out-of-focusness, designed to look retro and "old", becomes one of the ways in which the movie gets to simultaneously draw attention to - and critique - the success of its own artifice.

Meanwhile, Perkin's constantly articulated preoccupation with how many exposures she has left (shown by the pretend counter that sits squarely next to the real counter in the movie) invites the audience to think of the movie as a series of frames, thereby reinforcing the above.

Very clever.


Welcome to "Cameras at the Cinema"! Here's the premise:

Whenever poets write about songs, sirens or minstrels, they're normally writing about themselves and how they'd like their own work to be perceived.

Whenever novelists have characters perform any kind of extended writing (diary; letter; book) it is, again, usually some kind of reflection on their own work as writers

Similarly, then, every time a cinematographer features a camera in their film, it's a visual clue; an invitation to the cimema-going audience to reflect upon their work as cinematographers.

All clear? Then let us begin...