In our third week of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project we started to tackle the first exercise, filming our ‘Lumiere minutes’.
In preparation for the class, I had gone out to film my own Lumiere Minutes (which you can see here), and in particular I had tried to focus on examples which showed;
• the importance of CHANGE within the shot (rather than filming something that stayed the same for the whole minue)
• the importance of depth within the shot (a dynamic interplay of foreground and background)
• that Lumiere minutes did not have to be wide shots, and sometimes what was out of frame was just as interesting as what was in frame (we talked about this, in terms of onscreen and offscreen space)
• the way that sound and picture could act in counterpoint to each other
• and finally, that Lumiere minutes could – if well enough thought-out and prepared -convey a sense of emotion, or tell a story.
We also talked about the possibility of using the Lumiere minutes to express ‘dialect’ in cinema. We talked about how the neorealist movement (of which Andre Bazin was such a champion) represented, for filmmakers like Rosselini, the entry of ‘dialect’ into cinema. We talked about how the Lumiere minutes, within the international framework of the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project were an opportunity to voice our own ‘dialects’ in film form – to find moments of our lives that speak of the places, people, stories that are significant for us. Some thoughts from the discussion that we had about the relevance of ‘dialect’ cinema to the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project can be found here.
We watched through my examples, alongside some of the early films of the Lumiere brothers, and some of the films shot by the other Scottish film tutors.
In particular, I showed everyone Yasmin’s Lumiere minute, which creates a visual story with light – a darkened scene is briefly illuminated by the sparks of a welder. We talked about how space in cinema is created with light (cinematography), and how light can be a powerful tool in creating visual narrative.
Everyone then set out to track down their own Lumiere minutes. In doing so, we all found that capturing a small, self-contained, ‘authentic’ slice of life wasn’t the easiest thing to do under pressure! Nevertheless, the group came up with some great results, some of which you can see below…
Jasmin’s lumiere minute challenges the traditional maxim about working with ‘animals and children’ by capturing (in close up, no less!) a minute in the life of a Broughton pigeon! What is truly wonderful about Jasmin’s film is the surprise reveal, about half way through of a second participant in the action! In the class we talked about the power of reveals in cinema, and Jasmin’s film does that wonderfully, echoing a history of visual gags (the most recent of which I saw in House of Cards last night…)
Eilidh’s Lumiere minute captures a cacophony of noise and activity, at a Friday afternoon band practice. The cacophony is also visual – there are so many characters, so many activities, so many places for the eye to go. Eilidh’s film has a a subtle sense of narrative/development in that, as things go on, the chaos seems to cohere into a more focussed rendition of a song! I was particularly impressed by how Eilidh managed to capture the moment without making her participants selfconcious, the mark of a skilled documentary maker! One of the greatest issues I have encountered in my classes across the Cinema Cent Ans de Jeunesse project has been people looking at the camera, so Eilidh did well in avoiding that, to give us a fascinating perspective on the chaos of teenage life!
Samantha’s Lumiere minute – shot out of school at the Transgression skate park – uses camera placement to maximum effect. Samantha locates the camera in such a manner that the movement of the skaters creates an intensely dynamic interplay of foreground and background, onscreen and offscreen. I particularly like the way the skaters disappear offscreen into the dip, the speed with which people move from extreme background to extreme foreground, and the moments when skaters tear round the lip of the ramp in the foreground of the shot.
Joanna’s Lumiere minute is a slice of skilled observational documentary, and places two different actions in counterpoint, in diadic composition in the two halves of the frame. There is the movement of the cleaner, from the background, to intimate foreground of the shot, and then back to the background. Meanwhile, Joanna’s frame allows us to eavesdrop on an amusing conversation between a young boy and the receptionist about the school’s cultural program.
Cara and David’s Lumiere Minute is wonderfully dynamic but breaks the rules slightly in that the line between observation and staged participation becomes somewhat blurred! Nonetheless, it makes great use of background and foreground, onscreen and offscreen action to create an extremely dynamic frame. Particularly, the way that the action starts in the background, and then moves to the foreground is very exciting for the viewer. Mark Cousins has written a great piece in Sight and Sound on the importance of what he calls the ‘Z-axis’, the axis of foreground to background, and how that can be used to thrilling affect, particularly in horror movies when things that only the audience can see creep slowly in from the background…
Lauren and Gemma’s Lumiere minute shows us how careful we need to be not to draw attention to ourselves, when the presence of the camera is quite overtly called attention to in the last few moments! Nonetheless, Lauren and Gemma chose a great frame, (with a nice sense of depth and diagonals) and which has a nice sense of onscreen/offscreen action, through which we can get a sense of what life is like in Broughton High School on a Friday afternoon . I like the way the children file through the frame, and the core focus upon the cleaner working her way down the stairs.
Finally, Mr Cairns captures a wonderful wee vignette of a goose at Broughton pond in his own contribution to the Lumiere minutes. The centre of an elegantly composed frame, I love the way that Mr Cairns captures a development from motion to stasis; the moment when the goose reacts to offscreen passers by and freezes…