July 31, 2014

Here's an Awesome Coen/Deakins Tribute that Puts Their Collaborations in Perspective

Some things are just meant to go together. Peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, and, of course, the Coen brothers and Roger Deakins. Through the past two decades, the dynamic filmmaking duo and the esteemed cinematographer have collaborated on upwards of 10 feature films, most of which are iconic in their own right. It's safe to say that the Coen/Deakins collaboration train has produced, and continues to produce, some of the finest films of the generation. Like all great things, it can be both fun and educational to look back at the varied work that the legendary team has produced and analyze what makes their work so effective and entertaining. A new retrospective video from Blag Films lets us do just that.

Like the other Deakins retrospective that we shared at the beginning of the month (we really love Deakins here), it's easy to see some trends through his varied work with the Coens.  With that said, the last video that we shared focused heavily on some of the more scenic wides and master shots in his vast filmography, but considering that the Coen brothers deal largely in character drama -- with unique and compelling characters always at the forefront of their films -- the cinematography from Deakins follows suit. While breathtaking wide shots still play a role in some of the Coen/Deakins collaborations (No Country For Old Men and True Grit feature some gorgeous landscape cinematography), the vast majority of the shots in this retrospective focus on character and emotion more than anything else.

We still see some of the trademarks of Deakins' cinematography, such as a masterful use of composition, contrast, and camera movement. However, many of the shots featured in the video are full shots and mediums of characters that still feature a playful use of leading lines and symmetry that always help lead the eye to where it needs to be in the frame. The  camera movements are subtle, yet highly effective in revealing key pieces of story or character information. His use of high contrast visuals and silhouettes, especially in The Man Who Wasn't There, allows the subtext of the film to be portrayed in a way that is both unique and visually stunning. All in all, the Coen brothers and Roger Deakins really are a match made in cinematic heaven.

Tell us about some of your favorite Coen/Deakins collaborations down in the comments!

[via Blag Films]

Your Comment

8 Comments

I must say, Lubezki is a far better cinematographer. I don't know. He just has more of a feeling to his shots. Still love Deakins. He's at least better than that egotistical wannabe, Pfister. But the greatest cinematography will always be Conrad Hall. Deakins has said that Hall was his influence and you can see it.

July 31, 2014 at 10:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Henry

idiotic comment.

August 7, 2014 at 7:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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taboo

Why can't you appreciate all these artist? There all working at the highest level.

August 27, 2015 at 10:50AM

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Tony
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Huuuuuge Deakins / Coen Bros fan here, but when I see these videos I do spare a thought for the storyboard artist.

Do we know for certain the extent to which Deakins is actually deciding on the framing of some of these iconic shots? J. Todd Anderson (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0026824/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr39)was the storyboard artist on Fargo, No Country, True Grit, O Brother, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't there, and The Big Lebowski...

I have no idea as to their design process, but I do wonder if not enough credit goes to the storyboard artist sometimes. Typically DP's are executing shots more so than designing them. Of course things always change on set etc, and of course in reality the DP has to fix things or come up with alternatives fast etc (I know of at least one "silhouette shot" on No Country that was a Deakins decision on set).

Anyway...food for thought / discussion / impassioned bickering etc.

August 1, 2014 at 12:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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fdan

Usually, the director will give Deakins an idea as to what he's trying to convey and a rough shot direction. Such as MS on X, with a reversal. Deakins will then conjure up a lighting plan and will go to the Director to get him to "okay" it. Deakins will also come up with extra pick-up shots on the fly (happened a few times on Prisoners.). The only film that he has stated that they followed a strict storyboard was on "The Village." M. Knight didn't want to deviate from it. Roger has his own site and will answer just about any question.

August 1, 2014 at 6:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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justanobody

Great answer, thanks

August 1, 2014 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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fdan

Doesn't the storyboard artist work with the director and DP/Cinematographer on what a shot in a scene should look like in order for them to be able to draw them?

August 8, 2014 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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oswegodp

Also, Deakins will use the Artemis app on his Iphone to shoot pre-prod stills as to the framing, etc. that he desires.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/artemis-directors-viewfinder/id324917457...

August 1, 2014 at 6:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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justanobody