‘The Godfather’, ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Son of Saul’, and the philosophy behind cinematography

Posted on October 18, 2018


Read the full article on Firstpost, here: https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/the-godfather-citizen-kane-son-of-saul-and-the-philosophy-behind-cinematography-5400201.html​

One of my favourite anecdotes about cinematography comes from Francis Ford Coppola’s DVD commentary track of The Godfather. He says that they decided to be very “classical” about how the film was going to be shot, the camera always about four-and-a-half feet off the ground. “It never was looking up at anyone or looking down, unless [say] the guy was on the street and you had to look down.” This principle is violated in the scene where Don Corleone is shot after buying oranges (see clip below) — there’s a high-angle shot that shows the Don falling, and the fruit scattering on the street. Gordon Willis, the cinematographer, was upset. He asked Coppola, “Whose point of view is it?” Coppola said, “I don’t know. It’s my point of view.”

Willis was a purist. If the camera showed something, it was through someone’s eyes – and who could be standing by the first-floor window in a nearby building, to justify that particular angle of the Don being shot? It’s a valid approach to cinematography, and every cinematographer has his/her philosophies. Karan Johar – for instance — once told me what he learnt from Ravi K Chandran, that your trolley should move only when your character is moving or his or her thoughts are moving. But finally, it’s the director’s point of view that matters, and if everyone had been a purist like Willis (again, not a bad thing!), we’d never have had some of the low-angle shots in Citizen Kane. For who could have been crouching on the floor between the characters played by Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in order to justify the shot that captures not just the looming men, but also the ceiling above them?

Continued at the link above.

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