How many times have you watched a film that was beautifully shot yet left you empty as a drum at its conclusion? Conversely, you’ve no doubt seen many that were photographically sloppy yet have retained their emotional power years after the fact.
Director James Cameron addressed this dichotomy in The Toronto Star, April 27, 2018:
“I don’t think you can just impress people with images. It’s always in a context of the narrative and the characters. Do you care? Do you feel physically present and involved? And then from there, now show me the magic. You can’t just dazzle with a bunch of spectacular shots.”
It would do us all well to think of this from time to time. Beside cutting away the nonsense and getting to the real point of what we do, it implies a certain humility. And I don’t know of any cinematographer – Oscar winner or hack – who wouldn’t benefit from a little bit of that!