Last night I ventured out to see XMEN: FIRST CLASS. It’s a big, big world. Its cast? Many arrived by way of much smaller worlds. As I watched, it struck me: What artist gets to participate in such completely different modes of making other than the film actor, who, if lucky and smart, goes from Hollywood to Indiewood or vice versa? A musician may be the closest – from orchestra to a more edgy or experimental gig? But an orchestra ain’t Hollywood. A new media artist who moonlights at Microsoft or Google? Nope, not art. Maybe XMEN isn’t art either – but the actor brings the same set of tools to the table when approaching something like XMEN or a teeny tiny film, in order to make his or her… art. Two of the XMEN stars are recent graduates of indie hits. Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) starred in the Sundance film WINTER’S BONE, wherein she brought nuance and grace to her role as Dee. Michael Fassbender has the bigger role in this big world, though, as the tortured Magnito. Fassbender recently starred as a duplicitous and ethically-challenged player-bloke in Andrea Arnold’s coming of age story FISH TANK, and he brought a great sense of humanity to his Rochester in Cary Fukunaga’s excellent JANE EYRE. He’s also listed on imdb as one of the stars of Jim Jarmusch’s next film. How must it be to coexist in these worlds?
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.