Bright Star

JANE EYRE and shooting the classics

JANE EYRE and shooting the classics

I loved Cary Fukunaga’s recent take on the classic JANE EYRE. (He’s pictured above with his Director of Photography Adriano Goldman.) And in addition to the deft direction, Moira Buffini’s adaptation is searingly concise and dramatic – it never feels like a stuffed-to-the-gills adaptation. But what I really want to talk about here is the cinematography, which is revelatory. The last two ‘classic’ films I’ve seen, this and Jane Campion’s BRIGHT STAR (not classic literature but based on Andrew Motion’s biography of John Keats) have both blown me away in terms of visual approach. (See my post from fall ’10 on BRIGHT STAR here.) Both eschew traditional coverage and framing in service of something more dynamic – a fluid, organic camera approach that plays mightily with depth of field, creative frames, and in short, ways of seeing. (Or, the DP and crew are not just there to document or illuminate the actors. The camera absolutely dances with performance – enhancing, contrasting, participating, rejecting — story.) The effect? Something that feels more modern, more present, more emotionally important – it’s not homework, it’s art.

Geeking on the center of the frame

Geeking on the center of the frame

Like my colleague Lisa, who wrote recently on this subject, I too saw Jane Campion’s BRIGHT STAR. What innovation … Campion truly takes luscious to a new level. One element far more subtle than butterflies and tree tops, though, that I noticed right away and has been on my mind since, is how Campion twists traditional portraiture and cinematography composition by using the center of the frame. The center of the frame? Who cares! Well, to some geeks out there, including me, it’s absolutely notable.

A BRIGHT STAR is back: Jane Campion

A BRIGHT STAR is back: Jane Campion

I confess that I’m a long term fan of film director/writer Jane Campion. Her work has staying power for me – everything from her short films PEEL and A GIRL’S OWN STORY, and their stylized but penetrating look at relationships, to her later more sophisticated and moving THE PIANO. However her last film IN THE CUT was disappointing. I say this reluctantly because I deeply appreciate how headlong and with what boldness Campion throws herself into every project, so when one of these experiments fail, I don’t take any pleasure in it. I just want to see her move on. And now that it’s been six years since that Meg Ryan debacle, I was a little concerned. Would she make another film and how would she get it financed in today’s climate? Would she have to compromise with a big name star who was just not quite right? Thus it’s with relief and pleasure that I saw BRIGHT STAR at its preview this week.