Have Your Say: Name The Film With The Best Visual Compositions

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Name The Film With The Best Visual Compositions
Yesterday we got to see the trailer for Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, and it was sheer cinematography porn by camera-and-lighting wizard Roger Deakins. I expect much from Villeneuve and crew, but even if it turns out that they spectacularly failed, the film will at least LOOK insanely pretty. The whole trailer plays like a collection of images from an exposition rather than an advert telling a story.

Just look at the screenshot above. The use of colors, where everything is on the image, the light, the dark, the smoke, the different layers. Where is your eye drawn to, and where does it wander afterwards? That's visual composition. And in Blade Runner 2049 (like in its predecessor), it is obviously an area of attention.

Of course this is not something which has been recently invented in movies. It's actually older than cinema itself, and has been around since people started painting in caves. But there is definitely an extra dimension in doing this with a moving image, and a craft. Some shots still look interesting even after you've already seen them hundreds of times.

So our question of the week is: what films have the best (or most beautiful) examples of these visual compositions? HAVE YOUR SAY!

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BartattackMay 9, 2017 11:14 AM

The Fall directed by Tarsem Singh. Not only Beautifull...but also a very good movie overall.

bricriu .May 9, 2017 11:15 AM

Ran & Aguirre: Wrath of God would be my personal faves.

KurtMay 9, 2017 11:17 AM

Much of Deakins' work has this. His stunning work on Skyfall, Prisoners, Jarhead, 1984 ---> but I will absolutely go to bat for A SERIOUS MAN which as some deeply, subtly powerful compositions to understand character and situation, and who is in control and who isn't.

KurtMay 9, 2017 11:17 AM

Also. LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD is a non-stop marvel of composition.

KurtMay 9, 2017 11:20 AM

Also, for the sheer beauty, King Hu's A TOUCH OF ZEN is a treasure trove of compositional grace notes

KurtMay 9, 2017 11:22 AM

The first 2 episodes of Netflix's HOUSE OF CARDS is a master class of architecture as character, from David Fincher. The show loses it as other directors take over, but oh, my are those first two eps wonderful in terms of studious composition.

Oscar LuisMay 9, 2017 12:31 PM

You The Living

UilickMcGeeMay 9, 2017 12:56 PM

Beyond the Black Rainbow was a visual powerhouse for me.

Andrew GregoryMay 9, 2017 1:43 PM

The Hidden Fortress (1958) - Akira Kurosawa's first widescreen compositions and he nails it.

FinnfangfoomMay 9, 2017 1:46 PM

Wong Kar-wei's In The Mood For Love. And Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

FinnfangfoomMay 9, 2017 1:55 PM

And Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter, of course.

FinnfangfoomMay 9, 2017 1:59 PM

One of the most underrated and unjustly unseen movies. I was shocked to read all those lukewarm and indifferent reviews upon it's release.

KurtMay 9, 2017 3:25 PM

Subtle, but Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men secretly tells its story through its every tightening composition.

KurtMay 9, 2017 3:51 PM

Good THE FALL discussion here: http://filmjunk.com/2010/06...

Unflinching_EyeMay 9, 2017 3:51 PM


arturoMay 9, 2017 4:13 PM

Only God Forgives, The Tree Of Life, Dark City, The Grandmaster, Se7en.

rustdogMay 9, 2017 4:15 PM

Excalibur, Aguirre the Wrath of God, Boogie Nights, The Element of Crime, Dead Man, Paris, TX, My Own Private Idaho...

rustdogMay 9, 2017 4:17 PM

Completely agree. Also the best soundtrack in years. Will we ever get a follow up?

FinnfangfoomMay 9, 2017 4:19 PM

Thanks. I'll look into it!

UilickMcGeeMay 9, 2017 4:39 PM

Hope so, but it's getting less likely. It's been nearly seven years.
Like Shane Carruth or Eddie Alcazar, it won't happen until he's ready.
Which may be never.

Ard VijnMay 9, 2017 5:22 PM

What a magnificent collection these titles make already.

FreedomFathomMay 9, 2017 9:56 PM

I totally agree with you on Touch of Zen. The Criterion Blu-Ray takes the masterpiece to a new level. I would add to this list Once Upon a Time in the West.

One-EyeMay 9, 2017 10:43 PM

To go back to Ridley Scott, the final shot of THE DUELISTS is breathtaking.

Mr Tough GuyMay 10, 2017 2:51 AM

Surprised nobody has mentioned Zhang Yimou's Hero yet, beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle, and Colour coordinated, just gorgeous all the way through

kidlazarusMay 10, 2017 5:10 AM

2001, Barry Lyndon, Oldboy, M, the Third Man, Citizen Kane, City of God, Lawrence of Arabia, Ran, There Will be Blood, Thin Red Line, A Tale of Two Sisters...

dustin changMay 10, 2017 6:00 AM

The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover or any Greenaway film will do

dustin changMay 10, 2017 6:14 AM

Last Year at Marienbad
Colossal Youth
Wings of Desire
Institute Benjamenta
Millenium Mambo

dustin changMay 10, 2017 7:00 AM


dustin changMay 10, 2017 7:50 AM

Rumble Fish
Road to Perdition
Play Time
Songs from the Second Floor (and the rest of Roy Andersson's 'Human' Trilogy basically)

mondayrobotMay 10, 2017 8:26 AM

Almost anything by Kurosawa, with 7 samurai, Ran, The bad sleep well, Sanjuro, Red Beard... standing out. Ok, anything by Kurosawa
John Boorman's Point Blank has some incredible compositions
De Palma's Mission Impossible
Citizen Kane

GuyMay 10, 2017 8:30 AM

Anything from South Korea: A Bittersweet Life, Memory of Murder, the Wailing, etc.

FinnfangfoomMay 10, 2017 2:08 PM

Another piece of cinema I have a weak spot for; Gattaca. A film overflowing with aesthetic beauty.

Ard VijnMay 10, 2017 7:56 PM

Yep, HERO is a major contender.

Ard VijnMay 10, 2017 7:57 PM


Bryant LowMay 11, 2017 12:05 AM

Off the top of my head: Dean Cundey's strikingly elegant work for John Carpenter's THE FOG. Oh, and Eugene Schufftan's absolutely stunning cinematography for Robert Rossen's THE HUSTLER.

rantingsw3deMay 12, 2017 7:12 AM

Kurosawa is the master. His compositions flow into each other so seamlessly and always for a reason.

cjohnstonMay 18, 2017 2:20 PM

your first there is a (personally) awesome vibe-d film i came across some months prior.. ...Good one indeed.

cjohnstonMay 18, 2017 2:23 PM

..another "when Hades freezes over" project left hopelessly drifting around in purgatory.
..i am also reminded of Dredd and RocknRolla...

cjohnstonMay 18, 2017 2:26 PM

The Duelist (Duelyant), The Congress, Dead Man Down, Mr. Nobody, The Lure, Cloud Atlas, Burning Man ......

....r a couple others that (i don't think) had been articulated..

UilickMcGeeMay 18, 2017 3:43 PM

Dredd's going ahead as a series now apparently. Netflix I think.

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:17 AM

i second Dark City and Se7en. amazing.

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:19 AM

doubling up on Tarsem, I also really loved "The Cell"

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:33 AM

ohhh. yes. Dead Man. Need to see Excalibur again. Also Emerald Forest.

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:44 AM

surprised no mention yet of the films of Del Toro. in particular Pan"s Labyrinth and Devil's Backbone (though even his American films can be striking if not downright gorgeous at times)
Also Santa Sangre by Jodorowsky ... Sin City and 300, while being very close to the source material, very pretty to look at. Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. Fellini's 8 1/2. more recently Snowpiercer and Mad Max: Fury Road and Gravity and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Apocalypse Now. Gilliam's Brazil. Lynch's Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. Ridley's first Alien movie too.

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:47 AM

I think I would be remiss for not mentioning musicals Alan Parkers's "Pink Floyd the Wall" and Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge"

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 1:59 AM

keep thinking of others. Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Coppola version. Stalker. Amelie. The City of Lost Children. Avatar. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Apocalypto.

God of JoyMay 19, 2017 2:01 AM

Mirrormask. (that's it, I'm done, really)

D_userMay 19, 2017 11:12 AM

Best isn't what I'm going for, what I'm thinking is when this comes first upfront for the viewer. Filmmakers who live by this:
1. Wes Anderson
2. Akira Kurosawa
3. Alfred Hitchcock
4. Joon Ho Bong
5. Park Chan Wook
6. Even Yasuziro Ozu
7. Well, silent cinema, naturally. I'll go for the expected as I'm not familiar with that era and time. So Buster Keaton , Charlie Chaplin I'd say were very strong visualists.

Film that is in in my head now:
I remember this French film : How to be a gangster. 2004 5?.. Shot in B and W it was arresting visually with minimal dialogues.

cjohnstonMay 22, 2017 5:07 PM

yeah. ...i HAD heard that...... ..is it animated "though". .???
..seems like i heard it was - i'd LOVE to be told that's rubbish..
Personally - i don't much find a whole lot of animated fare out there that has any amount of Kick to it.. ....hence the parenthetical's above..
and -- While i'd LOVE to see a project like that hit a whole in one from a high-rise while blindfolded like Dredd did; ....if they are not able to ink K. Urban and Thirlby for their (initial) respective roles i fear the project might be headed toward quicksand...