These movies look great, but they look great in much the same way. High-def video is a tool so recently made available to independent filmmakers and documentarians that few have yet figured out how to manipulate it in ways that are perceptively distinctive. (Surprisingly, one of the few filmmakers to do so is Louis C.K., who’s had months of working with the RED on Louie to tinker with its lenses and depth-of-field possibilities.) As appealing as the HD image may be, too many of the indie films I’ve seen lately come off the screen with the same glossy, digital sheen about them. Watch enough of them, and that gloss starts to read like plasticity.
What’s more, should films like the Detroit-is-burning documentary Burn or its Sundance cousin Detropia, look as beautiful as they do? Both chronicle the crumbling of America’s fastest-shrinking city. It’s not an attractive story, but in both cases it’s presented in a visual style that’s downright glistening. I don’t mean to unfairly single out those films, which are both powerful and thought provoking, or their excellent cinematography, which is (presumably) working off an organizing principle of seeking out the beauty in decay. But there have been several films on this year’s festival circuit where the gleaming imagery feels at odds with the down-and-dirty subject matter. And for the many, many formula coming-of-age dramas and romantic comedies whose low(ish) budgets serve as the sole signifier of “independence,” the sleekness of their photography only serves to further blur the already foggy buffer between offbeat and mainstream.
Read more. [Image: Detroitopia]
April 26, 2012
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