In Praise of Lewis Gilbert: Composition in James Bond

Skyfall good 3

The image above is from the movie Skyfall and it is damn lovely. Skyfall in general is a damn fine film. It is my second favorite James Bond film, and while featuring a nigh-nonsensical plot, it also happens to have one of the best Bond villains, an excellent look into the emotional core of Bond himself, and some of the best action scenes of any film, period. But I want to focus on that damn lovely shot — or should I say shots, because Skyfall is filled with fantastic compositions and exquisite lighting. It is no surprise that Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins landed himself an Oscar nomination for the film. Continue reading

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A SASY digression: The omnipresent spectre of James Bond

Bond, James Bond

Hi all, this is J. We’re going to be doing something a little unusual with a few posts over the coming days that dig into a series of films that are decidedly not on the Sight & Sound 250 Greatest Films of All Time list: the canon of James Bond. Although perhaps I shouldn’t have said “we” — this one is all me, because if Daniel Craig ain’t in it, S. ain’t watching it.

I’m guessing it was around 1990, although I can’t be certain on this. It would have not been long after we got cable television for the first time, and I was plunked in front of a television with a screen little bigger than that of the laptop upon which I am typing. Bouncing from channel to channel I landed upon a bizarre scene of two men stalking each other through a psychedelic funhouse while a little person sprung traps and pranks to liven an already deadly game. It was the opening scene to The Man with the Golden Gun, and 11-year-old me was in. Continue reading

SASY Chat – 1927: The Year That Sound Broke

SASY Chat 1927

Men of the Year. In this yammer, we discuss the relative merits of the three films on the Sight & Sound list from 1927 — a key year in cinema. From the left, George O’Brien in Sunrise (#5), Rudolph Klein-Rogge in Metropolis (#36), and Albert Dieudonné in Napoleon (#144).

In October 1927 Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer, the first sound movie to reach a wide audience, and a new era of moviedom was born. The sound revolution didn’t immediately kill the silent film, but the writing was on the wall (or as The Jazz Singer put it, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”). In some ways, 1927 then represents the crest of the silent movie wave, at least when one looks at the silent films selected for Sight & Sound Top 250 list. There are three films on the list from 1927 — Sunrise, Metropolis, and Napoleon — three incredibly ambitious but starkly dissimilar productions. When sound first came to the movies, films in many ways took a step backward to accommodate the new technology. Bound to the microphone, actors had to perform their parts much like they were on a theater stage, so cameras were fixed in place, sets were simplified, and outdoor shooting was a nightmare (heck, if an actor wanted to read a map or a newspaper it had to be wet so the rustling wouldn’t torment the microphone). These problems would take a number of years to be overcome, but before sound, directors like F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, and Abel Gance were able to let their imaginations (and their cameras) run wild. And 1927 appears to be the last year that these filmmakers were given carte blanche to do as they please. But above all, the two of us lowly bloggers have opinions that diverge very sharply from the critics when it comes to these three 1927 films, so we figured it was worth considering them all together in a second yammer. Continue reading