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Film directors who think like stills photographers
Old 07-23-2018   #1
peterm1
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Film directors who think like stills photographers

I am a bit of a film buff and have lots of DVDs of films I have bought over the years. (Too many in fact - how the heck to store them accessably is the problem!)

Like many film buffs I have become interested in foreign movies (well, there are only so many crappy Hollywood comic book based movies one can watch in his life and have any hope of not reverting to the mental age of a 13 year old boy). I recently stumbled on the work of a Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu. Ozu started as a cinematographer in the silent era when cameras were very static (almost no camera movement, no panning and even very few tracking shots) and he carried this style through out his life - even with more modern cameras. As a result he developed a style of camera work very, very like a stills photographer. He shot almost exclusively with a 50mm lens incidentally to keep it "real".

Here is a nice video on him and you will see immediately how so many of his shots look like stills. In fact this is a theme of the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ra0xEQ8yaU

And another video on how he interspersed his movies with little scenes that often seemed just to have the purpose of making it contemplative and to set the movie in a time and place. You can readily see how many of these are composed as a stills shot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhQwFxhiVQs

As I posted in the comments section of the first video, at 0.57 seconds into that video, for example, there is a scene with a woman and man in the mid range eating from bowls and in the background a child. He has aligned them diagonally with their bodies broadly describing a line from top left to bottom right and they are framed by the door of the home and the dark interior of the home - all of which add visual interest. It is pretty much exactly how I would aspire to compose the shot if I had a choice. And the same goes for the shot that precedes it at about 0.52 seconds - two people on a seawall fishing framed by the rockwall below them and the two verticals of the lighthouse and the electricity pole. Ozu, unlike almost any other director was about composition of the shot - aiming for beauty. Just like a stills photographer.

I thought I would share these videos (and some others may find Ozu's work interesting though his movies are very quiet and some would say boring though I love them when I am in the right frame of mind - quiet, contemplative etc) but I also thought I would ask - is there anyone else who directs and shoots more or less like this? Ideas?

Kubrik a little, perhaps???



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Old 07-23-2018   #2
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Interesting!

I have found myself evolving from stills to film/cine.

It feels fresh and new after over a decade focused on the still camera culture.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-23-2018   #3
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Yasujirō Ozu’s 1953 movie “Tokyo Story” is the most wonderfully depressing movie I have ever watched - a true masterpiece.

All the best,
Mike
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Old 07-23-2018   #4
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Andrei Tarkovsky for sure to me.


Quentin Tarantino, at least talked about it:
https://youtu.be/BON9Ksn1PqI?t=52s
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Old 07-23-2018   #5
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....Kurosawa!
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Old 07-23-2018   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B-9 View Post
Interesting!

I have found myself evolving from stills to film/cine.

It feels fresh and new after over a decade focused on the still camera culture.

Thanks for sharing.
Me too. Nice to hear this on this board as I sort of figured I was alone. I am still in the study phase with regard to the cinematography. I will have to explore the TS original post topic before I can comment. I have been putting the still camera on a tripod and pretending I am filming lately. Also been buying and watching tons of dvds, movies and television stuff, basically watching what the camera and lighting is doing instead of the stories so much.
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Old 07-23-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarama View Post
Me too. Nice to hear this on this board as I sort of figured I was alone. I am still in the study phase with regard to the cinematography. I will have to explore the TS original post topic before I can comment. I have been putting the still camera on a tripod and pretending I am filming lately. Also been buying and watching tons of dvds, movies and television stuff, basically watching what the camera and lighting is doing instead of the stories so much.
I guess I am beginning to explore this too. Its become easier in the past few years with excellent digital video functionality built into what would otherwise be conventional stills cameras.
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Old 07-23-2018   #8
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Bernardo Bertolucci immediately comes to mind for me. While that one horrible scene in Last Tango and his treatment of Maria Schneider has brought damnation to this film, it remains (IMHO) visually stunning. And sensually beautiful with the soundtrack and the way it is all choreographed. The Francis Bacon tableau that inspired the director that introduce the film set a stage for "still style" in the cinematography.

Michelangelo Antonioni is another director who obviously treasures the still image. Blow-Up of course centers around a photographic moment, but The Passenger stands out for me as a study in visual stillness for cinema that informs the way the actors behave on screen as subjects for the visual set.
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Old 07-23-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john_s View Post
....Kurosawa!
Like most I came to Japanese cinema through Kurosawa and now have probably 10 DVDs of his movies. I think there are certainly similarities but I find him much less quiet and still as Ozu. Ozu seems to just dwell on moments for the heck of it. But having said this Kurosawa can compose with the best of them - I am thinking of the battle scene in the middle of Ran. WOW! is all I can say. Just Wow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7wvb7HRPTo
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Old 07-23-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yokosuka_Mike View Post
Yasujirō Ozu’s 1953 movie “Tokyo Story” is the most wonderfully depressing movie I have ever watched - a true masterpiece.

All the best,
Mike
Yes a masterpiece.

Tokyo Story is an acquired taste but I love it and have it on DVD. I struggled the first time I watched it as nothing happens but I persisted as I like movies with lots of character development and dialogue and ended up believing it to be one of the most finely crafted movies made. (Some critics rate it THE best movie ever made. Though I think this is a long stretch of the bow it certainly rewards persistence).

Also an Autumn Afternoon. Unfortunately DVDs of his movies are a bit hard to find and quite expensive to buy even on eBay.
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Old 07-23-2018   #11
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Ozu -- yes. But I'd argue this is true of many Japanese directors from that era. Here are some others:

1. Chris Marker. His claim to fame film, La Jetee, is a short science fiction film made up of nothing but still black and white photos.

2. Sam Peckinpah -- watch The Wild Bunch. I've thought it almost too static and composed, every scene looking like a photo shoot. Still a great flick.

3. Although not directed by him, The Fifth Cord is a 60's Italian "giallo" (means "yellow" -- an Italian 60's-70's thriller/mystery subgenre that's way varied and way fun to explore) and early work by Vittorio Storaro and his best work in my opinion. Amazing "still photo-like" compositions.

4, Kubrick falls into this category, I'd ague.

5. Much of 60's Jean-Luc Godard, especially Alphaville (required viewing)

La Jette is public domain. Mandatory viewing, link below... The Fifth Cord is often up on YouTube. Also mandatory viewing for its breathtaking composition and lighting -- a true tour de force.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLfXCkFQtXw
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Old 07-23-2018   #12
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Several John Ford "westerns" come to mind.

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Old 07-23-2018   #13
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Wim Wenders comes to my mind.
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Old 07-23-2018   #14
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I don't know who the directors were, but two films that come to mind are The Godfather and the 2011 film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In both of them, every scene seems like a beautifully composed still image.
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Old 07-23-2018   #15
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Can't beat La Jetee. It was made from stills. It is short, however.
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Old 07-23-2018   #16
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Stanley Kubrick is my idea of a director that shot films like a photographer because he started out as one. He always had that eye for framing a composition. Barry Lyndon is one of the most beautifully photographed movies I have ever seen (disclaimer: it is also one of the most slow moving movies around).

When he was starting out to make 2001 A Space Odyssey on 70mm film, he had some opening shots in his head that he wanted to start the movie with, so he sent 3 teams of large format photographers to Africa for several weeks to shoot sunsets and sunrises. They went to different locations and shot them on color transparencies. Each day they got maybe 1 minute of shooting time. When they brought the developed slides to Kubrick, he had no way to project large format slides so he had to make a projector, including the huge condensers that sometimes got so hot they melted the slides.

Once he had that working, he had to find a way to project the landscapes in back of the actors, and none of the backdrops were able to reflect enough light for the camera. So he found some sort of space age mylar that was highly reflective and stretched that out for the 80 feet required for the background. The camera was now able to capture the projected images, but it also showed the seams where the long pieces of mylar were joined. This was resolved by having his crew tear the background into small irregular shapes and then glue it all back together. Now the camera lens didn't pick up the seams.

The whole movie was a series of new and difficult technical problems that Kubrick managed to successfully solve. 2001 is a masterpiece of film making (and yes, it moves very slowly, is often confusing and overly long, and it's a little boring at times. You can't have everything!).

In the second link, you see Kubrick capturing himself in the mirror taking the shot with a Leica Barnack camera and what appears to be a 50 Elmar.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/gal...hs-of-new-york

https://www.boredpanda.com/vintage-p...mpaign=organic
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Old 07-23-2018   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc View Post
Wim Wenders comes to my mind.
Funny you should say this but Wim Wenders went to Japan back in (I think) 1985 to make a documentary about Yasujirō Ozu - who I featured in my opening post. It was called "Tokyo Ga". I came across it when it was included as a bonus feature in the DVD I bought of "Tokyo Story.

It is a pretty safe bet that Wenders is a big time fan of Ozu. And no doubt sought to emulate him in some ways. (Though I am not myself particularly familiar with Wender's work......yet......I suppose its a new line of obsession for me......:^)

Incidentally I wonder how much Ozu was influenced by Zen. It certainly seems to reflect in his work. Also his gravestone in or near Tokyo does not even have his name on it. Just the character "Mu" - nothingness.

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Old 07-23-2018   #18
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Just Mu on the gravestone. I love it. That's about as Zen as it gets.

I also loved Jules Dassin's gorgeously shot Night and The City, a 1950 film noir with Richard Widmark in the starring role. Most of the movie was shot at night, and the cinematography is just something else. You can watch it for free on the link below, but it's worth the $2.99 to rent it on youtube because the picture quality is much better.

https://www2.putlockerr.is/11772-wat...putlocker.html
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Old 07-23-2018   #19
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Adding on to the previous recommendations of movies with little or no camera movements:

Tom DiCillo - Stranger than Paradise
Christian Berger - Cache
Roy Andersson's films
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Old 07-23-2018   #20
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Of today's Hollywood directors Wes Anderson comes to mind.
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Old 07-23-2018   #21
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+1 on Wim Wenders.

Jim Jarmusch definitely.
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Old 07-23-2018   #22
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Ozu`s Tokyo mono gatari (Tokyo stories) has become one of my favorite films. In this film it is interesting how the camera takes almost all scenes from a low position.



Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
Funny you should say this but Wim Wenders went to Japan back in (I think) 1985 to make a documentary about Yasujirō Ozu - who I featured in my opening post. It was called "Tokyo Ga". I came across it when it was included as a bonus feature in the DVD I bought of "Tokyo Story.

It is a pretty safe bet that Wenders is a big time fan of Ozu. And no doubt sought to emulate him in some ways. (Though I am not myself particularly familiar with Wender's work......yet......I suppose its a new line of obsession for me......:^)

Incidentally I wonder how much Ozu was influenced by Zen. It certainly seems to reflect in his work. Also his gravestone in or near Tokyo does not even have his name on it. Just the character "Mu" - nothingness.

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Old 07-23-2018   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc View Post
Ozu`s Tokyo mono gatari (Tokyo stories) has become one of my favorite films. In this film it is interesting how the camera takes almost all scenes from a low position.
The low angle shot (as if seated on a tatami) and the consistent use of the 50mm lens are distinctive in Ozu's oeuvre. For what it's worth, I love Tokyo Story too.

Directors who cut their teeth in the silent era had a keen sense of visual exposition because that was the only means available at the time. Dialogue intertitles interrupted the flow of the movie and were perceived as cumbersome and inelegant. This general perception persisted with that generation even after dialogue became an integral part of the script. For example, directors like Ozu, Hitchcock, and Ford retained the "silent era" directing touch, manifested with a framing style that often resembles photography. I think they also gave a valuable lesson to later generations of directors, i.e. that the art of photography is a crucial element in the mix that makes a movie.

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Old 07-23-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telenous View Post
The low angle shot (as if seated on a tatami) and the consistent use of the 50mm lens are distinctive in Ozu's oeuvre. For what it's worth, I love Tokyo Story too.

Directors who cut their teeth in the silent era had a keen sense of visual exposition because that was the only means available at the time. Dialogue intertitles interrupted the flow of the movie and were perceived as cumbersome and inelegant. This general perception persisted with that generation even after dialogue became an integral part of the script. For example, directors like Ozu, Hitchcock, and Ford retained the "silent era" directing touch, manifested with a framing style that often resembles photography. I think they also gave a valuable lesson to later generations of directors, i.e. that the art of photography is a crucial element in the mix that makes a movie.

.
I too have the distinct impression that Ozu's use of static cameras was a device that carried over from his silent film days - old silent film cameras were big, cumbersome and tended to be used exactly as Ozu did even after it was strictly no longer necessary for him to do so from a technical stand point.

I also have the impression he was intensely conservative - when talkies came along he did not want to change from making silent films. This tends to back up the idea that he simply carried his style of film making over and kept doing what he was good at. When people asked him why he kept making the same kinds of movies and, what's more in the same way, he compared himself to a tofu maker. A tofu maker does not innovate. Once he has a formula that works for him, he keeps doing the same thing over and over and over.

The low angle shot he used seemed to be designed to put the camera at eye level of characters seated on tatami. Ozu often (almost always in fact) broke the 180 degree rule as film makers call it by pointing the camera directly at a character interacting with another character as if they were talking directly to the audience. This would not have worked if his camera were not at eye level. It also has the effect, intended or otherwise, of somehow making the film more authentically Japanese - or at least giving it a very Japanese feel due to the seating position and the low camera level. It has been said that Ozu told stories intended for Japanese, while Kurosawa, for example, made films for the world. That comes across from their techniques.

The thing that gets me are his "hallway scenes", something he used in almost every movie if not actually in every movie. Some of these absolutely remind me of Hitchcock - there is a directly analogous scene in Rear Window if I recall correctly.

https://vimeo.com/55956937
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Old 07-24-2018   #25
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Astonishing that no-one has mentioned Eisenstein yet.

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Old 07-24-2018   #26
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Pretty much any director worth his salt composes the frame some very obvious and some less furthermore some genres lend themselves to still photographic composition while others e.g. dialogue heavy comedies less so. Some of the framing especially in Hollywood is the result of the director of photographies work. Spielberg is very good at framing, Sergio Leone etc... Wong kar Wai and the list goes on and on. There's a cinematography book by Andrew Lazlo, ASC titled every Frame a Rembrandt well worth the read imo. Regarding framing pretty much the modern master is Roman Polanski Rosemary`s baby is a fantastic example of superb framing, the Ninth Gate is another good example. Also don't forget Bernardo Bertolluci superb Framing and in most of his films you could take pretty much any frame from his movies and hang it on your wall.
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Old 07-24-2018   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc View Post
Wim Wenders comes to my mind.

Yes.
He is also an excellent photographer. And he loves using silver-halide film both for his movies and his photography.

Cheers, Jan
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Old 07-24-2018   #28
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Quote:
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Yes.
He is also an excellent photographer. And he loves using silver-halide film both for his movies and his photography.

Cheers, Jan

Have to disagree with you these days, as stated in many of his interviews, he prefers digital for his movies and analogue film for his stills. Still a great director and his long time collaborator Robby Müller died a few weeks ago. He did choose great dps who shared his vision. I think it's funny that we always talk about the directors but completely miss the dp who is often just as important to the framing as the director. Orson Welles knew this and credited his DPs accordingly
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Old 07-24-2018   #29
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Have to disagree with you these days, as stated in many of his interviews, he prefers digital for his movies and analogue film for his stills.
That is new to me. Do you have link to a current interview?
Thanks.

Cheers, Jan
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Old 07-24-2018   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HHPhoto View Post
That is new to me. Do you have link to a current interview?
Thanks.

Cheers, Jan

An interview from 2015 in the Telegraphy https://www.telegraph.co.uk/photogra...phy-interview/ "“I embrace digital technology in my films, but I’m a conservative photographer.."
The Filmmaker's View: Wim Wenders – Analog vs. digital


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLWk6w8mQhQ


Also pretty much all of his movies of the last few year were shot with digital cine cameras. Wim Wenders is funny in that regard he is an extreme proponent of analogue photography and only does analogue photography but on the other hand he embraces the "Freedom" he's gotten with digital cinematography. His 3D dancing film (Pina 2011) wouldn't have been posssible without digital cine cameras.
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Old 07-24-2018   #31
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I'll throw Kogonada into the ring--Columbus was filled with images I would kill to have taken.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_(2017_film)













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Old 07-24-2018   #32
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Lynne Ramsay was a photographer before becoming a filmmaker. Heavily inspired by Nan Goldin.

Kubrick had been shooting for Life since he was a teenager and was friends with a lot of New York photographers of that period, like Arbus, whom he later quoted in The Shining. Despite his famous mirror selfie, I don't think he shot that frequently with Leicas. He shot medium format and, later, the Nikon F3.

William Klein, Spike Jonze...

Mark Romanek references photography all the time. '99 Problems' (http://www.anonymouscontent.com/work...z-99-problems/) is like street photography in motion.

I think Ozu was a painter, not a photographer, in his spare time. I don't really see still photography as an influence. He was also a graphic designer. Look up the books he designed to write his scripts in, they're great. Antonioni, previously mentioned, was an architect, like Ridley Scott and Hitchcock -- as good a place to start as photography, apparently.



Wes Anderson sort of has a connection to Avedon. Owen Wilson's mother is Laura Wilson, Richard Avedon's longtime assistant. You'll notice in The Royal Tenenbaums references to In the American West. I don't know if thinks like a photographer...
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Old 07-24-2018   #33
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Sergei Eisenstein would be my vote on directors that think like still photographers.
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Old 07-24-2018   #34
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Also, I disagree that the silent era was more static. Have you seen Ozu's earliest work? He occasionally uses a dolly. It's strange, feels awkward. It just seems wrong. They're genre films, too. I can't recommend them, but it's interesting to see how his style developed.
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Old 07-24-2018   #35
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Grapes of Wrath (1939) looks like a series of FSA photographs. Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate is another still photographic film.
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Old 07-24-2018   #36
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Nearly forgot Days of Heaven or pretty much any Terence Malick movie.
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Old 07-24-2018   #37
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not a director, but chris doyle is quite a cameraman ...

for example:
days of being wild
in the mood for love
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Old 07-24-2018   #38
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In hateful8 definitly Tarantino. The movie is almost boring because of its lack of motion and dialogues. As far as i know they shot the movie on anslogue film with vintage anamorphic lenses.

And Anton Corbijn - but he is rather a photographer than Director.


And I second Pawlikowski - he has a new movie "cold war " in b&w but haven't Seen it yet.
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Old 07-24-2018   #39
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Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer fit in the list, IMO...

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Old 07-24-2018   #40
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Filmmakers whose approach is similar to Ozu's (though not necessarily inspired by or interested in still photography): Roy Andersson




Aki Kaurismaki



Jacques Tati:



Ruben Ostlund:
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