A belated Happy Birthday to Paul Thomas Anderson from all of us here at TPM. Your films have taken us back to the neon light 1970’s, porn savvy 1980s (Boogie Nights). Some areas are sun drenched, baby boomers needing guidance world delivered in cinematic perfection thanks to Cinematographer Robert Elswit. In a new 7 minute video essay from Wolfcrow we get a chance to to examine and appreciate the work of Elswit….
Robert Elswit certainly has an unique visual aesthetic and hopefully this video will help you understand that style.His career started away back in 1980s when he worked as a visual-effects photographer making several made for TV films. Like any great career we all have to start somewhere for most of us it’s the bottom which as we know is sometimes is the best place. We learn from those within the industry with great experience and Elswit has become one of the most distinguished DPs of his generation. PTA has an tendency to keep the camera constantly moving which gives the actors room to improvise but from an DP’s perspective it’s no easy task .
Elswit has adapted to work with the director , using recurring methods as the narrator points out “3/4 lighting style with a top hair light on the opposite side” aka ‘Hollywood Light’, “Lighting is the only metaphor that works in film,”. In an interview with Sundance “You have all these elements you deal with in organizing images: color, lines, volume, etc. all in two-dimensional space. In representational art…it’s about where the light is coming from, how light falls on the objects, and how it tells you what is going on. It’s the one visual metaphor and going back to the ideas of this whole tradition, it tells you about the gaining of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and transcendence.”
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