Friday, October 27, 2017

Lessons of Misfortune

By Henkel and Hooper.

I revert back to the Texas Chain Saw script itself to make clear that, from the beginning, the cinema held a pedagogic function for these two young creatives.  This is extremely rare for the mainstream cinema, at least in so pure a form.  It was a mode that was lost since the days of Hawks, Ray, Curtiz, Borzage, Henry King, Vidor, Wyler, Tourneur (Renoir, Ozu).

Studies in Focus, 2 - 'Funhouse' Edition

This is another post I had drafted the days leading up to Hooper's passing. 

In an online environment in which often untruths are circulated, I find it important to spread information that can be corroborated.  Funhouse was Hooper's first anamorphic widescreen film.  That is, outside of The Dark, which he did shoot for, though in the Funhouse commentary he feels obliged to forget about completely.  He'd go around with his mental viewfinder since he was a teenager.  He knew how to compose widescreen images.

He worked with Andrew Laszlo, choosing him after seeing the colors in The Warriors.

The most touching moment in any movie, ever, for me, might be Amy's reaction to the "tar man" bum in one of the film's earliest scenes.  The Trash Lady does not pick up the wadded up paper towel Amy throws to the ground (but she picks up, essentially, a symbolic substitute in another wadded up piece of paper).

"I was attracted to cinema of the fantastic.  Though I liked all films."

Hooper is a better filmmaker than we deserve.  Have I entered my "angry" phase of Hooper proselytizing?

Moderator on the Funhouse commentary, Tim Sullivan: "Your location is a character." Hooper: "Yes."

Focus becomes a matter of shading.  It is not the explicit delineating of foreground and background, or the accommodating of foreground-to-background (or vice versa) movement, but yet another example of the camera thinking resolutely about its field of vision and scope of perception.  The camera's subtle decision-making is emphasized, leaving narrative or psychological motivation for the point of focus behind.  The camera is merely trying to synthesize the relationship between characters to other characters, to the environment/backdrop/location, not simply a two-plane focus pull or a following of action.  Hooper's camera is always caught in deep thought, for it aims for a full integration of image elements, best to capture reality via a holistic idea of perception.

The focus here is literally passed off from Liz to the old Derelict.  It stays on him, pulling focus on his closing distance, then is frozen where he stands once Buzz and Amy force him away, the man becoming a fuzzy blur as he retreats; the focal point where he once stood now stands empty, outside of Amy and Buzz who remain most in its range.

There are at least five planes of focus in this shot.  The capturing of action is not the point, but the handing off of the focus from characters to characters to surrounding environments.

Another hand-off, subtly coming to its decisions in image-intake: Buzz is in focus in foreground, but as he exits, it switches over to Amy, still far back, almost immobile, skipping the two persons in the interim approaching the camera.

Focus goes from a middle plane to a foreground plane, then returns to the middle plane, in following the chosen character, Buzz, even as the character of Richie creates a third, foreground layer and is deliberately left unattended to.  Short of commanding a deep, Wellesian focal range and lensing, Hooper still plays with matters of the immediate story, the characters, and their actions through use of focus along extended, longer-length takes.  Here, Buzz's activeness is deeply contrasted to everyone else's passiveness. 

Focus and the cinematic eye remains something ineffable in Hooper's work.  It mocks us and our subjectivity, making us an image of our environment, a smudge on the index of the filmic world, a moral depiction of our existence as one of easily modifiable layers, among which to choose.