For Issue 45 we asked Australian Film Director Ben Briand to school us on cinematography and has listed his top eight films based on the all-important script. Ben’s latest short film Blood Pulls a Gun has garnered worldwide acclaim since premiering at SXSW last year and was an official selection at the BFI London film festival.
“Script. Script. Script! That’s how films get financed. The perfect script. Tight. Every perfect word screwed down. No stone left unturned. It’s a contract between the filmmaker and the money men. “THIS is what you are going to make and we all agree on that right?!” But this catch 22 starts to squeeze out the actual making of the film. It minimises that magical thing that happens when you take the kernel of an idea and begin exploring it with an aesthetic that you can feel but can’t yet articulate. Having a confident but loose idea and picking up a camera is a beautiful experience. The genre that I want to list here are films where the photography drove a major part of the narrative because it simply captured all that needed to be said. Here is a list of films where imagery had a profound effect on me. The texture of these films penetrated my subconscious and the dialogue was simply icing on the cake.” – Ben Briand
This film is a beautiful nightmare. Perhaps the most beautiful nightmare ever committed to film. The vague, orange haze floats over my viewing experience as we descend into the heart of darkness. Martin Sheen takes us on a search for a man operating without any societal restraints in the Vietnam jungle and the dreamlike quality of the photography seduces me every time. The lush green of the jungle is perfectly pitted against the sweltering sepia tones of sweat and sunsets. I am on that boat.
Berlin. The Seventies. Heroin. David Bowie. This film struck me as Bill Henson in motion. The pain and joy of youth are stolen so beautifully in this film. I say stolen because that is how it feels. Not captured. Stolen. Christiane, F has a feeling of authenticity whilst remaining stylish, a tough combination to achieve. If you have wondered where so many of your favourite Wrangler and Lee campaigns got their aesthetic from then look no further.
This film was directed by Wim Wenders in 1984 and artfully shot by Robby Muller. It unconsciously became the basis for so many images that have flooded our culture ever since. With its saturated fluoro light gas station aesthetic and romantic intentions it’s safe to say even if you haven’t seen the film you have seen it in other forms. All those curated Instagram accounts by fashion conscious, road trip lovin’ twenty-something-year-olds bow down before this film. True beauty radiates from the soul of these images. That is the cause of its true staying power.
Not a film. A man. A man who has shot the majority of the most heart wrenching and jaw-dropping images in the last few decades. His images are rich, dusty and dreamlike. And best of all, he’s not flashy. He is like that naturally beautiful girl at the party who you fall in love with because she is cool, happy to hang out and is not trying to impress anyone. He shot No Country For Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James. Released in 2009 both films are set against a backdrop of the American west yet both possess a vastly different in aesthetic. I will pretty much watch anything this man shoots.
Come to Daddy – Aphex Twin
It says I have to list films, but I’m putting a music video in here. The tone and palette of this video affected me more in six minutes than most films do in two hours. When I first saw it I didn’t know where to look or how to erase the images from my memory. Nope. They are always there. Cool blue images with small children and grotesque faces. It was like cinema from another part of my brain. A very dark and uneven place I didn’t know was there.
I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot narrative in black and white a few times and it’s hard. Really hard. I love colour too much. I love what it does to our emotions and aesthetic sensibilities. So I constantly take my hat off the legends that only had contrast and tone in their toolkit to affect their audience. And Psycho affected the hell out of me. The backlit shadow of cross-dressing Norman Bates raising a gleaming, long knife right before thrusting down into the stomach of Janet Leigh is never leaving this scared 13-year-old boy. The face was hidden in shadow but the knife was hot and bright as hell. Such craft.
This film is already about a dream. So I am kind of cheating. But the imagery lingers in the mind as though they were your own memories from a trauma that took place long, long ago. The camera moves are precise but not cold. The takes are long but not annoyingly self-conscious. Andrei Tarkovsky is obviously the man. But this film firmly plants him in the legend category.
I’m not much of a sci-fi kind of guy but this film is beautiful. The collision of man-made and nature is at the crux of its beauty as rain and golden sunsets wash over malfunctioning technology. 2001: A Space Odyssey was stark and controlled. Star Wars was campy and awesome. But Blade Runner seems like the origin of poetic postmodernism in futuristic settings. I saw this film recently and had no idea that it had defined so much of what I try and achieve in parts of my commercial work. The layering of glass and neon lights create all kinds of refractions. Light textures bounce around the lens in a way that feels very rich and painterly. In a weird way, I would say that many French perfume commercials have Blade Runner to thank for their aesthetic. Bonjour.