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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  • D_user

    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.

    Takeshi Kitano as well.

  • God of Joy

    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 Joy

    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 Joy

    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 Joy

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

  • Bryant Low

    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.

  • Finnfangfoom

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

  • Guy

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

  • mondayrobot

    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
    North by north west, Vertigo

  • rantingsw3de

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

  • dustin chang

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

  • dustin chang

    Ida

  • dustin chang

    L'eclisse
    Amacord
    Conformist
    Maborosi
    Last Year at Marienbad
    Colossal Youth
    Wings of Desire
    Institute Benjamenta
    Millenium Mambo
    Mirror
    ...

  • dustin chang

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

  • cjohnston

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

  • Ard Vijn

    Definitely!

  • kidlazarus

    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, Vital and Snake of June...

  • Mr Tough Guy

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

  • Ard Vijn

    Yep, HERO is a major contender.

  • One-Eye

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

  • Ard Vijn

    What a magnificent collection these titles make already.

  • cjohnston

    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..

  • rustdog

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

  • God of Joy

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

  • arturo

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

  • God of Joy

    i second Dark City and Se7en. amazing.

  • 2001; BLADE RUNNER; SUSPIRIA; THE THING; UNDER THE SKIN; DUKE OF BURGUNDY; SICARIO; HIGH RISE

  • Kurt

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

  • Finnfangfoom

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

  • Finnfangfoom

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

  • Andrew Gregory

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

  • $100861248

    Beyond the Black Rainbow was a visual powerhouse for me.

  • rustdog

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

  • $100861248

    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.

  • cjohnston

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

  • $100861248

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

  • cjohnston

    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 i'm also more than willing and able to admit that that is just a personal thing, too.....
    ~
    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... ..not to mention underwhelming disappointment..

  • Oscar Luis

    You The Living

  • Kurt

    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.

  • Kurt

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

  • FreedomFathom

    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.

  • Kurt

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

  • Kurt

    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.

  • bricriu .

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

  • Bartattack

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

  • God of Joy

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

  • Finnfangfoom

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

  • Kurt

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

  • Finnfangfoom

    Thanks. I'll look into it!

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