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DJANGO UNCHAINED - Anamorphic is Tarantino's preference - how DP Robert Richardson shot masterpiece 'spaghetti southern'

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#1
Andrew Reid

Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:41 PM

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Django Unchained - Tarantino, Richardson

Image credits and further reading: Django Unchained / Robert Richardson at The American Cinematographer Magazine ~ Django Unchained echoes spaghetti westerns at Kodak camera and television

Learn the ropes and unholster your gun - The EOSHD Anamorphic Shooter's Guide

I honestly can't remember the last time I was so gripped by a mainstream piece of cinema. For the first half I had a permanent grin etched on my face for at least an hour, and for the second half I was on the edge of the seat with the kind of tension and sheer terror that you rarely see with the pacing of most mainstream movies - Ridley Scott did it with Alien and Tarantino's completely mastered it here. The first act is like the journey of a roller coaster up the tracks and then for the 2nd half it comes rocketing down and you're terrified.

Django Unchained is a towering achievement - and here's how it was shot.


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#2
FilmMan

Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:58 PM

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Good article.   Still need to go see this movie.  Thanks for posting.



#3
Caleb Genheimer

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:17 PM

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Go see it. It is amazing. The beauty of the anamorphic made me cry a little. just knowing that there's still a filmmaker out there who loves shooting film and anamorphic makes me so happy.



#4
Andrew Reid

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:37 PM

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There's plenty of them out there Caleb and this is by no means a full list!

  • Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained)
  • Christopher Nolan (Inception, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige Memento)
  • Paul T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love)
  • Wes Craven (Scream, Nightmare On Elm Street)
  • Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge)

Not forgetting the legendary anamorphic work of Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker, Mirror) of course.

 

Anamorphic is still the standard for film.

 

That the Alexa is the only camera to shoot 4:3 for a true Cinemascope aspect ratio with 2x anamorphic is utterly absurd.

 

The camera manufacturers need to drop 16:9 sensors for cinema production. It isn't a cinema standard, never has and never will be.

 

Here's a piece on anamorphic production on Arri's website http://www.arri.com/...production.html

 

Although the resolution benefit is less with digital than on film, it is the whole look that has captured me, it is spellbinding. I like the very wide 3.55:1 you get from a 2x lens on 16:9 actually but recently I have taken to taping up the left and right of my screen to give me composition in 4:3, then I crop that in post and do the 2x squeeze to produce 2.39:1. I'll upload some of these projects in the coming weeks.


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#5
mmills

Posted 28 February 2013 - 09:53 PM

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While remaining aspect ratio agnostic, here are some superlative examples of anamorphic cinematography that deserve to be seen by appreciative eyes:

 

"The Round-up" (1966) dir. Miklos Jancso; dop. Tamas Somlo

"Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) dir. Alain Resnais; dop. Sacha Vierny

"Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) dir. David Lean; dop. Freddie Young

"The Saragossa Manuscript" (1964) dir. Wojciech Has; dop. Mieczyslaw Jahoda

"Europa" (1991) dir. Lars von Trier; dop. Henning Bendtsen

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)  dir. Stanley Kubrick; dop. Geoffrey Unsworth

"The Lion In Winter" (1968) dir. Anthony Harvey; dop. Douglas Slocombe

 

As for Andrei Tarkovsky, I should point out only two of his seven features were shot in anamorphic, those being "Andrei Rublev" (1966) and "Solaris" (1973) (both photographed by Vadim Yusov). The rest were 1:1.66 and 1:1.37.



#6
AaronChicago

Posted 28 February 2013 - 09:58 PM

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I have to agree with you here. Django was my favorite film of 2012. Argo was great too, but I wanted to see Django 2 or 3 times.



#7
Dr. John R. Brinkley

Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:51 AM

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Of all the details they mention, I like the stocking over the lens choice. Very old hollywood. I've thought about trying this for digital video to see if it softens the image in an interesting way.



#8
Matias Gonua

Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:27 AM

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I've been reading the blog for a long time and love it. All the information is always very professional and is very helpful. Despite that, I have just logged in.

I have a question about the B-roll video. At 10:40 two men holding a black screen run behind the cameraman. Can anybody tell me what  is that for? I'm really curious, I've seen it in other behind the scenes videos but never found out what it was.

Thank you.



#9
Kasper Mols

Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:09 AM

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I've been reading the blog for a long time and love it. All the information is always very professional and is very helpful. Despite that, I have just logged in.

I have a question about the B-roll video. At 10:40 two men holding a black screen run behind the cameraman. Can anybody tell me what  is that for? I'm really curious, I've seen it in other behind the scenes videos but never found out what it was.

Thank you.

I can imagine that is done to avoid direct sunlight, or prevent reflections of the full crew to be visible in the shot?


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#10
Axel

Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:49 AM

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While remaining aspect ratio agnostic, here are some superlative examples of anamorphic cinematography that deserve to be seen by appreciative eyes:

 

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)  dir. Stanley Kubrick; dop. Geoffrey Unsworth

(---)

 

As for Andrei Tarkovsky, I should point out only two of his seven features were shot in anamorphic, those being "Andrei Rublev" (1966) and "Solaris" (1973) (both photographed by Vadim Yusov). The rest were 1:1.66 and 1:1.37.

 

2001 was shot exclusively on 65mm, non-anamorphic, AR 1:2,20

 

As for the other films on Andrews list, I don't like to check every single one on imdb, but I happen to have read about Magnolia, beeing shot for only about 30% anamorphically, The Master was 65mm again. Most of the original spaghetti westerns were not shot in cinemascope either. A very famous scope film is Apocalypse Now, and you see it in every take!

 

I think people mix up cinemascope as it used to be projected in the cinemas, where it was always anamorphotic, and the way the films were shot.

 

However, I agree that for dramatic purposes 1:2,4 is very often* (*depending on the story. Take a look at the Spielberg filmography, most films are 17:9, american widescreen, allowing for a faster pace in terms of narration) the best AR. If Andrew liked to see more real 4:3 sensors that don't sacrifice resolution, I would also vote for special lenses that don't require to put another glass in front, because working that way is for masochists. My 2 cents.

 

EDIT: Funny that Dr. Schultz was a dentist from Düsseldorf, my hometown.


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#11
markm

Posted 01 March 2013 - 09:21 AM

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Why is Django unchained a masterpiece? If its anything like the disappointing inglourious basterds then tarantinos extreme violence and the tension build up promise of it will be as inconsequential.

 

Tarrantinos work had shock value to pull us all up to accept extreme violence on the big screen and to accept the cool characters that go with it. For example Clint eastwood John Wayne movies we all knew were fantasy However Tarrantino movies make it real.

 

Any society is conditioned and taught by its values for example Romans had amphitheatres Aztecs took the living heart from their victims and cannibals taught each other to eat human flesh.

What is tarrantino teaching us and what effect does it have on our society? Our kids and does anyone care? I was once against censorship now to see the sick and twisted stuff that would be perfect viewing for a serial killer I am now in no doubt society needs to have censorship to protect our values and way of life.

 

I watched SAW 5 on TV at 10pm and watched a woman being sawn in half. There will have been many kids watching that.

 

Sorry what Tarantino does is not create masterpieces he badly uses ideas already done and adds sickening realistic violence to it in a way that glorifies and horrifies with an audience now getting used to this new level. As humans we all wonder how we would react to extreme violence and want to learn. Short of going to Iran and participating in war crimes you can now watch a tarrantino movie and get an education in how to be a sick psycho.



#12
Axel

Posted 01 March 2013 - 09:52 AM

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@markm

If someone watches SAW 5 and goes and saws a woman in half, did watching the film cause this? The whole SAW series was a big success, are all the fans sickos? Obviously there is something wrong with human nature, but who is to blame? You want to go back to Pleasantville? Had there been less violence in the 50s, when censorship only allowed victims to die without bleeding? Is the goal of cinema to show the bright side of life? Is violence in fiction a modern phenomenon? What about Homer? The bible? Shakespeare?


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#13
markm

Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:45 AM

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Axel

 

Are we talking about fictional films are the right to show Hyper real violence that is just plain sick.

 

For a ten year old watching a woman being sawn in half on TV is most likely going to have an emotional impact on many kids that age.

 

The reason that the army mostly consists of 18 year olds is because at that age their ability to seperate fact from fiction is impaired. Thats why you get young drivers tear around the streets causing mayhem and why teenagers take risks an adult wouldnt dream of doing. Childrens minds are extremely susceptible to this stuff and they seek it out.

 

You and I can watch a Tarrantino film and seperate out reality. Because I can do that personally I find that level of violence distasteful. However I like the old spaghetti westerns Some films can work well with hyper violence as they press home the grim reality of violence.

 

However start seting extreme violence to trendy music and cool looks with the bad guys winning and show this to kids and have the critics call it a masterpiece then you have something I not only strongly disagree with but where kids wanted to play John Wayne now want to play Tarrantino characters.

 

Bruce Lee was violent and a whole generation turned to karate schools and for the most part were taught a good philophosy.

In SAW 5 A kid is shown how to get even in an awful graphic way that takes away any responsibility from the perp in fact the perp is now the hero with cool looks and hip style who without batting an eyelid murders on masse.

 

I wonder how that might effect kids? Well I'll tell you from my years of experience and personal experience IN A VERY BAD WAY INDEED.



#14
Axel

Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:20 PM

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There certainly can be no debate that children should not see SAW or the like (personally, I detest SAW). Also they should be educated better. Some get a very good education by their parents, but 99% don't. They learn hypocrisy, consumerism, conformity. I did not yet make up my mind of whether I find Tarantino to be a master or just a cool poser. But what he did in Inglorious Basterds was cinema at it's best (as a survivor of the Holocaust put it: 'I wished it had been this way'), and Django Unchained certainly made a statement. I think it's not fair to put the stylized, comic violence of these films on the same level as the rude brutality of SAW. 

 

Tarantino is well-educated in cinema history. To all the violence in fiction the old concept of catharsis can be applied. Anyone who was not being lied to in childhood and learned about the dark impulses that can only be controlled by not denying them, will be able to see the difference between fascination for gore and horror and an invitation to actually commit such crimes. And for the real-life killers, they may copy a scene from a movie, but to suggest that the movie made them commit it, is just their lame excuse. And I think it would be naive to believe that.


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#15
markm

Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:30 PM

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Axel

 

Kids upbringing is a whole other debate.

 

Inglourious basterds was also shown ON TV where children can watch.

 

So lets separate this into how I feel.

 

Tarrantino films should not be accessible by those under 18.

2) Tarrantino is not a Master at what he does by a long way. Inglourious basterds did not have amazing acting although Chris Waltz came out as the best actor.

I watched the film because I thought it was going to be a take on spaghetti westerns which it wasn't. The best scene was the opening where Tarrantino built the tension up quite well and he let the girl live which was obviously his big mistake as this later leads to his downfall. Okay Brad Pitt was the Jewish (Wish we'd done it this way) Hero Who came across as a nice good old American Jewish boy who dished out justice as a severerly deranged war criminal would. So a sort of highly wishful thinking film for jews who can never forgive Nazis. The Brad pitt hero was the same as say Sadam Hussein who was rumoured to put victims in mincing machines or his son rumoured to use a drill to kill people.

It has in the past been tradditional for the good guy to kill people who had to be stopped and do it as a neccesary evil quickly. However Tarrantino has decided the hero should be a bad guy who kills and maims people with torture in the most sadistic way his mind can conjure up. This used to work well with if it was the bad guy who did this and then got his comeuppance but Tarrantinos films lose any moral compass or right and wrong and replace it with so called real world reality which is also a lie and aimed squarely at those who have no real understanding of violence but like to think they are one of the boys. We used to live in an age where people saw dressing smartly proved you worked hard and your way up and had pride. We now live in a world where robbing stealing mugging is a good way to get those things and idiots that are proud of it.

Tarrantino might say he is only refelcting back what the world really is. I say he is defining the evilness into hero status. Stories must always have a moral compass Must always show good triumphing in some way and must never allow bad behaviour to become role models.

 

Clint Eastwood played a pscho gunslinger who killed the bad guys and got the gold. Morriconne added a great score that made it all cool. Tarrantino tried to rip those off and turn the clint character into a torturer / sadist nutjob and then add cool music and even doesnt use those essential ingredients that say made the man with no name very well at all. But well enough to attract people with wannabe violent attitudes to it. In doing so he redifines the hero status of mad max into mental max with torturer war crime status.

 

Filmmaking shapes culture and society to some degree there is no doubt about that. Tarrantino has exploited one of the last areas to explore precisely because it is sick. Sick films contribute to a sick society to some extent I'm afraid.


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#16
Bioskop.Inc

Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:36 PM

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Is Tarantino a master? Well he certainly is post-modern (if we're still allowed to use this term) in his use of historical film pastiche - he carefully stitches together elements, whether they be stylistic or narrative in nature, culled from the film archives to make a new whole. Now some people say that he is simply a great copier of other people's work (Reservoir Dogs & Kill Bill being great examples - the former uses City on Fire as a template & the later is an amalgamation of numerous asian martial arts movies) & others claim his brilliance for homage.

 

Is he an original, progressive filmmaker? Probably not, since he isn't breaking new ground, but is constantly looking backwards to the past. Now, this isn't a bad thing & is his greatest achievement, since he educates his audience in the importance of film history & has helped a lot of people [re]discover films that would've either disappeared without a trace, or simply remained undiscovered.

Where would Asian action films, such as John Woo's, be without him? Would their stylised 'ballets of death' have ever become as mainstream as quickly or at all? Hard to tell, but he sure helped!

On another point he introduced me to the magnificent films of Wong Kar-Wai - who IMO is a true modern Master.

 

Is Tarantino in the same league as say Orsen Welles, who at 25 made Citizen Kane, which has nearly every single type of camera shot used in modern cinema. But he certainly is a master at the niche he has made for himself within the confines of American cinema.

 

On a quick note, he isn't subverting the 'Hero', he readily applies the 'Anti-Hero' as his main protagonist & this characterisation is a whole lot older in narrative story telling than Tarantino's application of it.

 

And does 'Art Imitate Life' or does 'Life Imitate Art'? I'll leave that up to you.

 

As far as the violence debate is concerned, this is very tricky ground since researchers simply can't sit a bunch of kids down & let them watch grotesque horror films or explicit acts of violence. These films aren't meant for children (this doesn't mean that they don't watch them) & research does point to the fact that they can have a lasting effect, but there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it will turn them into mindless killers. Sociopathic personalities are said to be 'genetically based but typically has environmental factors, such as family relations, that trigger its onset'.

 

Having written a PhD on Horror films, the one thing that becomes painfully obvious is that researchers can only determine the effect of such material after the fact & the inquest/research goes on, but there is still no clear cut answer. What we do know is that Fear & Terror are a part of our lives, and that we learn coping mechanisms during childhood to deal with such feelings - parental comfort/explanation/protection & dreams (nightmares) can play a role.

What i would like to say is that making sweeping statements about the effect films have on society is to enter into a minefield & to suggest that society has become more violent as a result is to be completely uniformed about the history of our society. The research that i undertook suggested that the cities that we live in are less violent, than say Victorian times (& they didn't have violent films to watch). I got sidetracked into the Ripper murders & reported violent crime in the Whitechapel district of London - the Ripper murders were by far the worst, but certainly there were some pretty gruesome murders carried out on a daily basis, stuff that would make your stomach churn.

 

Killings, muggings, rape, child molestation/murder & gangs are not new phenomenon, they are as old as the cities we live - fact.

Why are Human Beings so violent/aggressive towards each other? Well that's the eternal unanswered question, isn't it.

To blame cinematic portrayals of violence as the main cause is to be simply naive & uninformed about the history of our society.

The way the mass media try to scare us into believing a supposed truth is just a smoke screen to hide the fact about the true nature of ourselves & the authorities' ineffectual attempts to stem the problem - scape goating is such an easy option. 

 

Sorry for the rant...


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#17
Bruno

Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:47 PM

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Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about.

 

Inglorious Basterds is a masterpiece.

 

Django is not as good but it's still way better than most crap on cinemas at any given time. His films are way over the top and always great fun, while being highly cinematic at the same time, I don't know where you got the idea he's trying to portray realism in any way. His characters are as far from realistic as it gets.

 

The violence in Django, IMO, is spot on, the balance is right where it should be, brutal and unforgiving for slave violence, as it should if you don't wanna glorify it in any way, as you shouldn't, and then funny and lighter for the "standard" cowboy shootouts.

 

If someone masters what he does in any way, that person is Quentin Tarantino.

 

If you watch a violent film and commit violent acts because of it, then you've got a problem mister, I don't think the film is the one to blame. Not at all. Actually, if I watched a film where people are nice to each other all the time, helping old ladies cross the street, etc. I'd probably be more likely to get violent if you ask me!!!



#18
Axel

Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:02 PM

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Tarrantino is not a Master at what he does by a long way. Inglourious basterds did not have amazing acting although Chris Waltz came out as the best actor.

 

I thought the film was big fun with a lot of irony and a lot of Tarantino-typical sillyness. My favorite was the scene, in which Diane Kruger as a (deliberately bad acting) double agent has to satisfy both nazis and rebels, disguised as nazis. Well written. 

 

Stories must always have a moral compass Must always show good triumphing in some way and must never allow bad behaviour to become role models.

 

I think and can prove that the films we discuss here have very strong moral compasses. What you demand, that the 'villain' has to be executed fast, with precision and without any hint of revenge, satisfaction or even pleasure on the hero's side, sounds wrong to me. Either the hero is as unbelievable as many american heroes were, having to be fit for role models for a quite prudish and bigoted society. Or he is a fascist, heroically performing the right dose of 'necessary evil' to keep the streets clean.

 

One moral compass in Django is to make the destruction of the (sometimes still romantically distorted) racism a joyful experience. More a reaction to all the cowardice found in popular culture than sadistic violence.

 

Filmmaking shapes culture and society to some degree there is no doubt about that. Tarrantino has exploited one of the last areas to explore precisely because it is sick. Sick films contribute to a sick society to some extent I'm afraid.

 

If it's sick, what is sound? Films can anticipate social developments (a black president?), but do they 'shape' the society? Films are like dreams. They show irrational currents, they are subversive, emotional, untamed, unchained. If they aren't, they are bad films. Edifying films. Do your dreams shape your life? I don't think so. They can tell you how much of your daily strife is in vain and founded on illusion. If you are tuned to listen.

 

An enlightening comment of Tarantino about historical misrepresentation is on Lincoln. He said, would Lincoln not have been murdered, he would have liked to see the blacks sent back to Africa. This is as provocative a statement as it is probably true. He is post-modern, he is a deconstructivist. 


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#19
mmills

Posted 01 March 2013 - 05:24 PM

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2001 was shot exclusively on 65mm, non-anamorphic, AR 1:2,20

 

Yes, of course you are right, Axel. I didn't make the distinction between photographing in anamorphic versus projecting in anamorphic.



#20
Sean Cunningham

Posted 01 March 2013 - 06:24 PM

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Magnolia, beeing shot for only about 30% anamorphically...

 

The spherical parts of Magnolia would likely be related to its visual effects.  The general, narrative parts of the film were most definitely anamorphic.  

 

Back then ILM was still in the mode of shooting all plates flat that would feature FX and there are a load of FX near the end. 






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