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The Disappointing Cinematography of TLD


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#1 Blue Eyes

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:39 PM

I find Dalton's first outing as James Bond a brilliant film, and I think it places him quite well into the role of James Bond (though he smiles too damn much for my liking).

On a whole, I find the cinematography by Alec Mills lacklustre at best. It's not the film is dull in terms of its visual quality, but there 99% of the film is just plain and ordinary.

But there is one briefscene, and only one scene, that actually made me pay attention to the cinematography. It's later in the film, when Bond, Kara and the Mujahedeen head towards the Kyber Pass via a half billion dollar drug trade. There is some fantastic lensing at this point, Bond and Kara riding their horses through some smoke, and the use of the sunset behind the Russian and Mujahedeen forces is brilliant.

It was after seeing that segment that I really wondered why Alec Mills made the rest of the films cinematography so damn ordinary.

#2 Xenobia

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:40 PM

Sometimes BE, nature gives you what man can not make.

I think Mills just got lucky in that case.

-- Xenobia

#3 Loomis

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:45 PM

Originally posted by Blue Eyes

But there is one briefscene, and only one scene, that actually made me pay attention to the cinematography. It's later in the film, when Bond, Kara and the Mujahedeen head towards the Kyber Pass via a half billion dollar drug trade. There is some fantastic lensing at this point, Bond and Kara riding their horses through some smoke, and the use of the sunset behind the Russian and Mujahedeen forces is brilliant.


Yes, that's a great moment. I watched TLD over the weekend and was struck by that scene. The visuals take on a real epic quality during the Afghanistan scenes.

But I don't think Mills' work elsewhere in the film is all that bad. The Gibraltar episode is very well-shot, while the Bratislava and England bits are intentionally grey and claustrophobic. After which the lensing opens out a little, becoming a bit less oppressive and more exotic-and-exciting for Austria and Morocco (more sumptuous might be a better way of describing the cinematography), and some of the lighting effects during the amusement park sequence in particular are very clever (distortion of Dalton's face to make him look angry, for instance).

#4 Mister Asterix

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:53 PM

The Koskov escapes scene always stood out as the prettiest shots of The Living Daylights. That scene oozed atmosphere.

I

#5 Tarl_Cabot

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:54 PM

The desert always looks fantastic on film. :cool:

"He smiles too much"? Interesting...I've always heard he was too serious and dour and had no sense of humour...

I think the film looks amazing during the Gibraltar action...I think it's a fine looking film overall...One of my issues with the PB era has been bland, recycled and substituted locations and their appearence. Vietnam and Cuba would have been really interesting too see in a Bond film had they ACTUALLY FILMED there instead of Thailand and Spain, respectively... :)

#6 Loomis

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:58 PM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Mister Asterix

But for the most part the shots on screen seemed duller than they needed to be. I

#7 Jaelle

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 10:30 PM

Originally posted by Blue Eyes
But there is one briefscene, and only one scene, that actually made me pay attention to the cinematography. It's later in the film, when Bond, Kara and the Mujahedeen head towards the Kyber Pass via a half billion dollar drug trade. There is some fantastic lensing at this point, Bond and Kara riding their horses through some smoke, and the use of the sunset behind the Russian and Mujahedeen forces is brilliant.


I love that shot -- what makes it even more memorable is the music supporting it. It's what cinematographers call their "chocolate" shot -- beautiful moment. Since I'm a desert freak, it's a particular favorite.

#8 Genrewriter

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 10:37 PM

I like that shot as well, though it is rather difficult to have desert footage that looks bad. I've seen it done, but there has to be a concerted effort. :)

#9 Kingdom Come

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 06:21 PM

I like Mills' work on TLD - but he's no Alan Hulme. I also like the shot
in the desert, but its too chocolate box a look and no modern cinematographer would use that or go after a shot like that simply because its all 'lenses' it crys out FILTER on camera - cinematographers have nightmares over FILTERS!

Also that FILTER in GoldenEye on the beach!!!!!!! I was AMAZED Campbell let THAT happen.

#10 IndyB007

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 06:56 PM

Don't forget about the use of the foreground miniature of the bridge. That is so nicely shot it completely blends in and you cannot tell the difference.

#11 Loomis

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 06:59 PM

Originally posted by Kingdom Come

I like Mills' work on TLD - but he's no Alan Hulme.  


What's so great about Hume? I think the cinematography of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, OCTOPUSSY and A VIEW TO A KILL is very flat and boring. I much prefer Mills' work on TLD and LICENCE TO KILL.

Originally posted by Kingdom Come

I also like the shot in the desert, but its too chocolate box a look....


You're right, it is incredibly Fry's Turkish Delight.

#12 zencat

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 07:14 PM

I watched this film once with an experienced DP and she was horrified by how over-lit the interiors were throughout the movie. She's right. Look at the airbase jail sequence -- it looks like a TV sitcom set. Not a shadow or shading in sight (and compare it to the Russian jail scene in GE). But I think this was sort of the style of

#13 Kingdom Come

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 07:38 PM

I think not only is Hulme's lighting/composition/colour co-ordination on Octopussy makes it one of the top 4 Bond films, but is one of the best photographed films of the 80s.

#14 Jaelle

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:02 PM

[quote]Originally posted by zencat
I watched this film once with an experienced DP and she was horrified by how over-lit the interiors were throughout the movie. She's right. Look at the airbase jail sequence -- it looks like a TV sitcom set. Not a shadow or shading in sight (and compare it to the Russian jail scene in GE). But I think this was sort of the style of

#15 Qwerty

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:05 PM

I kind of agree with you Blue Eyes, it seems like the 'ordinary' Bond film, and that there aren't huger jump out scenes. Although I am another supporter of the desert scene, the music also helps the scene.

I seem to remember him talking on the LTK audio commentary about how he wanted light and such to evoke certain scenes in the film, I do not remember however if he mentions his work on the TLD commentary.

#16 Kingdom Come

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:10 PM

You don't find the shots in any of the Mummy movies memorable!!!!! Biddles cinematography for the first 2 films is awe-inspiring. The best work a DP has presented to the public in God knows how long. By the way Jaelle the worst place to see a film is, ironically, a cinema. All films when watched in a cinema look as if they ve been photographed by the same DP - remember its a projector - about as stone age a technology as one could find. They look way too soft and grainy. Film are best viewed on a large widescreen t.v. at home on dvd whose picture quality is vastly superior to film that's ran through a projector.

#17 Triton

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:15 PM

Could the fact that Vienna was doubling for Bratislava, Czechslovakia and three airplanes and a collection of building in Morocco doubling for a Russian airbase in Afghanistan explain the "dullness" and "flatness" of the cinematography of The Living Daylights?

#18 Kingdom Come

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:17 PM

Triton, I think most of the interiors were shot back in England in a studio.

#19 Jaelle

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:18 PM

Originally posted by Kingdom Come
You don't find the shots in any of the Mummy movies memorable!!!!! Biddles cinematography for the first 2 films is awe-inspiring. The best work a DP has presented to the public in God knows how long. By the way Jaelle the worst place to see a film is, ironically, a cinema. All films when watched in a cinema look as if they ve been photographed by the same DP - remember its a projector - about as stone age a technology as one could find. They look way too soft and grainy. Film are best viewed on a large widescreen t.v. at home on dvd whose picture quality is vastly superior to film that's ran through a projector.


Whatever. *shrug*

For me, what made those MUMMY shots such a big deal were the sfx---the cgi. It was nice eye-candy but it didn't strike me as anything more than that.

#20 Jaelle

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:22 PM

Oh, and KC, I don't recall going into movie theaters in the 70s and 80s and thinking that all the films I saw were grainy, too dark or washed out.

#21 Loomis

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:39 PM

Originally posted by Kingdom Come

By the way Jaelle the worst place to see a film is, ironically, a cinema. All films when watched in a cinema look as if they ve been photographed by the same DP - remember its a projector - about as stone age a technology as one could find. They look way too soft and grainy. Film are best viewed on a large widescreen t.v. at home on dvd whose picture quality is vastly superior to film that's ran through a projector.


Agreed. I much prefer seeing films at home on DVD (on my large widescreen TV) for that very reason - you just can't beat the picture quality, the colours and the sharpness. It's been a very, very long time since I was ever impressed by any cinema picture. And I frequently patronize the (supposedly) best and most state-of-the-art cinemas in London, and yet the image is always, as you put it, "way too soft and grainy". Half the time it's not even steady!

Another big problem with the look of the modern Bond films (and modern films in general) is that everything of importance is always kept within the "TV safe area", throwing away the scope (pun intended) for composition that's genuinely appropriate for the widescreen frame. Essentially, everyone's shooting in 2.35:1 Panavision but not taking advantage of the format; indeed, most of the time they're trying to "work round" the format (!).

#22 Kingdom Come

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 10:50 PM

That's a good point Loomis re. the framing for 1:85 instead of concentrating on 2:35 - GoldenEye was lambasted in some quarters
in regards to this and justly so.

And J, I didn't say you said that films were grainy, too dark or washed out. It was YOU who said DARK.

#23 Blue Eyes

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 12:46 AM

Originally posted by Loomis
But I don't think Mills' work elsewhere in the film is all that bad. The Gibraltar episode is very well-shot, while the Bratislava and England bits are intentionally grey and claustrophobic. After which the lensing opens out a little, becoming a bit less oppressive and more exotic-and-exciting for Austria and Morocco (more sumptuous might be a better way of describing the cinematography), and some of the lighting effects during the amusement park sequence in particular are very clever (distortion of Dalton's face to make him look angry, for instance).


I shall reconsider these scenes Loomis, I hadn't really noticed anything particularily special with them prior to my comments.

I think dull is my best description for the films visual appeals. There are two few sweeping moments, to few awe inspiring pieces of scenery.

#24 Loomis

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 01:11 AM

Originally posted by Blue Eyes

I shall reconsider these scenes Loomis, I hadn't really noticed anything particularily special with them prior to my comments.


I do think that TLD (perhaps to a greater extent than LTK, which has pretty much the same "look" throughout) changes its style of cinematography/colour palette to suit different locations, moments and moods in the film. Not to as radical or obvious an extent as in DAD, of course, but it's there, I think.

Originally posted by Blue Eyes

I think dull is my best description for the films visual appeals. There are two few sweeping moments, to few awe inspiring pieces of scenery.


Dull? I'm not so sure. Obviously (I know you don't need to be told this) the flashiest or most obviously "arty" or "cinematic" photography isn't always the best or what's called for. As for the scenery, I like it in both films, but I do think that LTK gives us some terrific, exotic locations (especially Sanchez's palatial residence). Granted, LTK seems to take place mostly indoors, but what scenery we do get is nicely-chosen and pleasing to the eye, I think.

#25 SnakeEyes

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 08:55 PM

The only bit that really strikes me as poor in TLD is the cell scene. That really does look 'TV', as someone said earlier.
Kara's appartment also looks a bit drab, but then, I think that adds to the scene.

#26 SeanValen00V

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 10:14 PM

I never had a problem with the look of the TLD, if anything it feels more realistic then fantasy, thus suits Dalton's approach.

#27 BondNumber7

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Posted 09 December 2003 - 11:14 PM

John Glen usually directed films with down to earth looks, or shots with natural appearences. His films have the dullest looks, but that is because the cinematography creates a realistic look. Maybe it's better if Bond films were photographed as if things didn't seem to be real but fantasy like.

#28 Sensualist

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 01:42 AM

Originally posted by Blue Eyes

But there is one brief scene...It's later in the film, when Bond, Kara and the Mujahedeen head towards the Kyber Pass...riding their horses...and the use of the sunset behind the Russian and Mujahedeen forces is brilliant.


Yes, that was the money shot. And John Barry's epic cue to accompany it (appropriately called 'Mujahadeen') is enough to reduce you to tears.

I do, as well, quite love that moment when the OOs dive out of the hercules and glide towards Gibralter at the begining of their training exercise.

High marks, as well, for the depiction of romance via the carriage ride through Vienna ending with the beauty of the waltzing pairs oustide the hotel.

#29 Jaelle

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 10:20 PM

Originally posted by Kingdom Come
And J, I didn't say you said that films were grainy, too dark or washed out. It was YOU who said DARK.


I was unclear in my post. What I meant by saying that I don't recall going into the theater in the 70s and 80s and seeing films dark and washed out was to make a contrast between the way films were photographed then and the way they are today.

You and Loomis both say that films today are better seen on widescreen TV at home, not in the theaters. That proves my point entirely -- why is it that now you go into a movie theater and are forced to watch dark, grainy films when before that was simply not the case?

I think it's ridiculous that today someone has to point out "the best way to see a theatrical film nowadays is to see it at home on a widescreen TV rather than in the theater". That is indeed the reality but it is utterly ludicrous, imo, that that is where films are heading. Imo, theatrical films should be made for the widescreen, cinematic experience in a large theater with great sound. What's the point then? Why not just cancel the difference between theatrical films and TV films? The line between them is now completely blurred. Yeah, that's progress, but I don't have to like it.

Back to my point on Brosnan's films.... I was re-watching that scene in TND when Bond is driving down the highway on a (supposedly) bright sunny day and it certainly doesn't look bright and sunny. Contrast that with the shot of GOLDFINGER and Bond driving on the highway and the bright, sunny lighting is wonderful to see.

#30 Kingdom Come

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 10:29 PM

Jaelle, until recently, films always have been run through a projector - in some theatres today films are shown digitally and will be the norm in time.

A projector NEVER does a film any favours! Films shown through one have ALWAYS been second to how they can be seen on a large screen at home, as dvd or even video - the technology exists to make THE most spectacular quality picture - now compare millions of pounds of technology that accompliches THAT, with an old film projector?




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