View Full Version : Do Cinematographers have a "prime" like musicians?
05-04-2008, 05:55 PM
It always fascinates me that songwriters like Paul McCartney or bands like Led Zeppelin can churn out hit after hit after hit in the 60s or 70s, and then go dry for 20 or 30 years after that. What happened?
Or look at directors. Coppola, for example.
Are cinematographers like this? Take for example John Toll or Vittorio Storaro. In his prime, Toll owned the 90s, with Legends of the Fall, Braveheart and The Thin Red Line. Storaro was a cinematography God in the 70s with films like The Conformist and Apocalypse Now.
I'm not saying that their recent movies are crap; I'm just saying that they haven't recaptured that golry from their primes.
Then again, with writers, for example, even a great novelist like Hemingway can score a huge hit late in life, like Old Man and the Sea.
Are cinematographers subject to these types of ups and downs?
05-04-2008, 06:16 PM
Tommy very interesting question.
Since every action has a purpose and function within a mental filter when an aim is achieved very often the action will also shift though the activity may remain the same...
So before and after:
#1.Robert Plant has a blank page in front of him he fills it in order to change the world.
#2.Robert Plant has a blank page in front of him he fills it in order to fullfill his contract with his label.
#3.Robert Plant has a blank page in front of him he fills it in order to get laid.
Now once they play the Garden things change he no longer needs to do anything to get laid. He doesnt care about saving the world or if he does maybe his reason has shifted, maybe he feels dirty having money, maybe he wants to prove he is still a real human being, maybe he wants some good Karma for next time around.
The circumstances have altered and so must everything else within that context. How can you produce the same thing when the conditions have changed so radically?
Also if the actual act of creating for an audience has the filter of success & failure attached to it it can very well be a case of manifest destiny where the trauma of childhood is repeated but on another scale...That feeling of not being good enough is a quite common syndrome creative people constatntly have to deal with. Having to do something to feel comfortable with yourself instead of just being who you are. Never being enough or having enough. Its a horrible cycle to be trapped in.
Its also awful judging others based upon their credentials rather than who they are as human beings. How much money or how big a dick you have or how bright you are is in my opinion worth zero if there isnt a value system attatched to it. I am not talking about good and bad in a moral sence I mean being human. Empathy, fair play, loyalty, sacrifice.
I am rambling. Its late.
David Mullen ASC
05-04-2008, 06:30 PM
Every artist has peaks and valleys creatively and career-wise. The rare ones do top-notch work throughout their life -- that's something of a miracle. For one thing, people change over time.
I remember one reviewer of Truffaut's last movie, "Confidentially Yours", that talked about this problem where so many people wished Truffaut would make movies like he did when he was a young director, but that it wasn't possible -- Truffaut "grew up" and his interests and concerns as an older man wasn't the same as when he was a younger man. It's just that people enjoyed the younger Truffaut more than the older Truffaut.
Some people do have a concentrated period of true genius. For John Ford, it was when he had "Stagecoach", "Young Mister Lincoln", "Drums Along the Mohawk" and "Grapes of Wrath" all come out in theaters within a 12-month period. Hitchcock's 1950's movies are amazing, that he could make "Vertigo" then "North by Northwest" and then "Psycho" one after the other. Kurosawa's work from the 1950's to mid 1960's was incredible -- and that's a pretty long span to be doing so many great movies.
Bob Fosse (and this was a guy who won an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy all in the same year for directing three different projects) once said that most directors would give their right arm to just make one great movie, a "2001" or a "8 1/2". I agree with him -- for most of us, one "The Conformist" in a lifetime would be enough, so it's silly to complain that some artist isn't churning out one groundbreaker after another. It's not really fair.
And some artists don't seem to fade with time -- "Road to Perdition" is one of Conrad Hall's greatest works, and it was his last film as a DP, shot when he was 75 years old.
But there does seem to be, for most people, a peak period when someone is firing on all cylinders and has the physical energy to push through a lot of great work and all the stars are aligned for them to get the opportunity to show the world what they can do. Just that for some, it may happen when they are in their 20's, for another person, when they are in their 50's.
And sometimes all that happens is that over time, an artist's work just gets less universal, it doesn't necessarily get less "good", it just satisfies the artist in a more personal level but doesn't translate into appeal on a large scale.
05-04-2008, 06:38 PM
DogDay, a really great post. I agree with you about how motivations might change. It's a good and valid insight. In a sense, you are saying that these artists start to lose the challenge and the motivation for their art?
05-04-2008, 06:41 PM
Oh David, good point. I have to agree about "Road to Perdition" and Conrad Hall. That is similar to Hemingway's "Old Man the Sea."
Actually, Conrad Hall was a master all the way through. No matter how old he was in years, it seems like he was taken from us too soon!
05-04-2008, 06:52 PM
No I am saying that before you were an artist you were a child. Things happen to you. Your view of the yourself and the world change. The first thing you create are the conclusions you draw.
When you become an adult you compensate by doing things to make sure certain things never happen again and that you never wind up in the positions you had previeously experienced. But inadvertantly by always having a relationship present informing your choices you manage to bring about those traumatic situations even though nothing from the past is actually there except the ghosts that you give form to.
This saga of crisis either through losing "It" or self destructing is common among artists yet still an exception not the rule. This result this twist of circumstance has to fullfill some sort of psycological purpose.
There is always both the concious and the subconcious motive. I personaly am of the belief and point of view that what ever the end result is is what you or whoever we would look closer at is really trying to achieve.
I think what David says is valid yet covering the issue from another stand point.
There is in all natural things cycles of activity and rest or dormancy. Sometimes it wakes up again sometimes it turns into something else and sometimes it simply is over.
But if as David says when relating this to how we regard this phenomenon is taken as something negative well then there you have the proof of the pudding in that it is actually serving another purpose. But if its taken in stride as no big deal it comes when it comes that is not my concern my concern is to continue working through this phaze then it belongs to another catagory of behavior and can be considered in my opinion as the nature of the artistic process of birth-death, activity-passivity, consuming-releasing, etc etc etc.
David Mullen ASC
05-04-2008, 07:02 PM
Like I said, sometimes artists evolve into doing work that is not necessarily less "good", just less in sync with the greater public's interests and tastes -- it becomes more insular and more limited in its appeal.
My point is that there is, on the one hand, the work itself, and on the other hand, the moment in time and the cultural consciousness when the work appears -- so the same work appearing in another time and place may not seem as seminal or important. And there is also the issue of opportunity and distribution -- the greatest cinematographer of 1968 may have been Joe Blow who no one has ever heard of, who never got a big movie that was widely seen.
There is also an aspect of some cinematic, or any, art that benefits from youthful energy -- Truffaut once wrote about the drives of a younger artist are sometimes not the most "pure": the desire to show-off one's talent, to impress people and get laid, get famous, get rich... yet the work is worthwhile anyway despite the immature motives. And later works by the (now) more mature artist, with more complex interests, may not be devoid of those impulses and become more subtle, less bravura, and therefore less impressive to some. I think Truffaut was talking about Orson Welles when he wrote that, that "Citizen Kane" was clearly the work of a young man with an excess of talent trying to show-off, but that it was still a worthwhile movie, that the motivations are less important than the final work. A lot of first movies by great but young directors show an excess of talent, a need to show the world what they can do, and it's not necessarily a bad thing to see it happen, to have those movies.
05-04-2008, 07:03 PM
in the last emperor perhaps bertolucci can be seen as talking about that in the last scene, when somebody who was once a great ruler, is now content being a gardener