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5 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Fair enough, though there are also fake anamorphic flares in ‘Panic Room’ in the SOS scene.

I feel like ‘Zodiac’ is a continuation of the toppy soft-lit ‘Panic Room’ look rather than the more classical big backlight + wet-down + soft key look of ‘The Game.’ But in ‘Panic Room’ the film negative still feels rich and colors in the shadows still have depth and saturation. The digital ‘negative’ feels thin in a lot of Fincher films, like there’s not much color information there. I think the snowy landscape and high contrast interiors of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ and sunny New Orleans location of ‘Benjamin Button’ helps to balance that somewhat. But when you have large office windows on location that you have to balance to, I feel like maybe they had to underexpose more than they would have for color negative, leading to a thinner look. Of course pretty much everything except for the exteriors in ‘Panic Room’ were shot on stage where they could control the light levels. 

Apparently, Savides was not a fan of the Viper camera. Lowry Digital did a de-noise pass on the whole film and I believe they added film grain on top. 
 

I think location has a lot to do with it - a lot of the later films/projects like ‘Gone Girl’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Mindhunter’ take place in a much more ‘ordinary’ world than many of the older films. I guess I prefer the more fantastical worlds of the grimy, rain-soaked streets of ‘Se7en’ or the cold, glossy mansions of ‘The Game’ and ‘Panic Room.’ 
 

Robert Rodriguez shot his own films before ‘Desperado,’ but I do think his middle period movies when he was working with Guillermo Navarro and Enrique Chediak still look the best to me. 

The thing is, directors like Fincher, Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Bay, and PT Anderson are very accomplished cinematographers (even if they won’t claim the title) that probably could have had great DP careers if they didn’t take up directing. So it’s not odd that they would shoot their own projects (I don’t think Bay has yet). But I do think some quality gets lost without the dynamic tension of collaboration with a strong DP like Darius Khondji, Harris Savides, John Schwartzman (or Gordon Willis) who is going to insist on putting their stamp on a project. At least, that’s my take on it.

I need to rewatch the Game and Panic Room.

It was actually the Zodiac director's commentary of all places where I was impressed by Fincher praising his collaborators, Savides in particular, rather than getting into technical specifics as I expected him to... maybe I have something else in mind and am projecting.

I might just be a film nut. It's only Zodiac and Collateral (and really oddball stuff that doesn't look traditionally "good" like Adult Swim or Speed Racer) that I thought looked better for being shot on digital. But I also can't imagine Bay or Fincher going back to film, so I dunno.

I think Social Network underwent a Lowry denoising, too. I thought it was a stylistic thing, but I suppose the style wouldn't warrant it if the camera were clean enough on its own. Never even seen a Viper, I have no idea.

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Looked great to me, and fairly high in contrast in a number of scenes. It's not ALL high-contrast, there are natural variations.

Having worked with Fincher on FIGHT CLUB, everything he does is fastidious and calculated.    G

Interesting that you assume that they tried, and failed. And that neither Fincher nor Messerschmidt has any knowledge of historical lighting techniques. It seems highly unlikely that a filmmaker

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I thought the movie looked fantastic and I think the opening credits easily set up how this was going to be an homage to "Citizen Kane" (and films made at the same time like it) while immediately being a modern interpretation of the same thing.  The whole movie had references to films made at that time all the way to the way the movie was edited. Of course the "film reel change marks" (if that's what they're called) were super noticeable, but it didn't matter in my opinion. I was sucked into this movie, probably in every way David Fincher intended a person like me be sucked into this movie.

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Yeah, I definitely think Mank is spectacular, and think a sizable portion of this thread is kinda absurd. He's no saint and doesn't need a  *** removed by admin ***  or some cinephile to defend his honor, he's handled many of these criticisms far more articulately and in more detail than I can. But call it my two cents and leave it at that. I'm a celluloid freak too, and yes - its one step off from *totally* fooling me. I can tell its digital B/W being made to look like film. But come on. The staging is terrific, inspiring, and borderline intimidating. The lightings gorgeous. I bet too if his name wasn't on it, and Netflix released specs saying it was shot on B/W stock, plenty of people will be fooled. Doesn't look plastic at all to me. Yeah, personally, I might dig more of Pawel's aesthetic on Cold War, or Alfonso's on Roma - since those used digital B/W to achieve a look film B/W could never get. But that's Coke vs. Pepsi. For the story? For the way he works? Makes perfect sense.

Plus, its a passion project for him. Now, if I was Fincher (and I'm sure as hell not) I'd probably have done a filmout, and **(obscenity removed)**ed up the image a hell of a lot more. But the idea that he's gone all George Lucas, I think thats unfair. I don't understand that at all. If anything, I feel he's still one of the only guys really pushing the advantages of digital to their limits, treating it as its own tool with its own advantages and disadvantages, rather than using digital as a lazier version of the classic film workflow everyone grew up doing.

Frankly, people bitch about his movies when they come out, but then they keep on standing the test of time. Purists may cry out, but I'm a young guy, my friends are all young, not all of them cinephiles, either - and every year, his work gets watched more and more. Not his old stuff. His new stuff. Zodiac. Mindhunter (despite the low viewership) Nobody I know gets excited to rewatch the swedish Dragon Tattoo (as dope as it is) they watch his. Gone Girl has aged like fine wine, especially with #metoo, and seriously - The Social Network is far and away the most influential film among my peers, at least thats been released during my lifetime. Yeah he's got his own way of doing things, but he not steeping himself deeper in laziness. He's not leaving the camera running forever and not paying attention. He's not so inattentive that he has to call Coppola to come direct the actors for him. (*cough* George *cough*) If anything, he's mining more and more nuance out of his actors than any other big time american director. I don't care how many complaints I've heard about that multiple takes approach. At a certain point, sure - you either have it or you don't. But the results to me speak for themselves. And time's opinions way more important than that of cinephiles like you and me. Time's been kind to him. He's clearly doing something right.

His way of working seems more like if Michael Haneke or Mike Nichols embraced digital and CG, than James Cameron, getting lost in CGI over story. All those takes are for mining nuance, and it shows. That dinner scene was incredibly difficult tonally. So was the intro with Marion Davis, even more so. It makes even more sense to me than Kubrick wearing down Shelley Duvall or taking an eternity to rebuild New York City for Eyes Wide Shut (a movie and filmmaker I adore, btw) The Social Network's 100 take scene is the scene everyone I know talks about the most. Seems more the opposite, like he's perfecting his own workflow to achieve something total. I'd argue he's cleverly avoided the trap Zemeckis fell into in the mid-2000s. Early Zemeckis was using CG in an invisible or diegetic way - enhancing the story. It's substantial the amount of VFX fincher does, but seriously - nobody who isn't pixel peeping or looking for it ever notices. I've seen Mank with two audiences now, one cinephile, one ordinary old conservative type moviegoers. Neither of them noticed it. Call it subjective, sure - everyones entitled to their opinion - and no craftsman is a craftsman if they haven't been heavily criticized at least once.

I for one, however, am simple. And I can't wait for Netflix to write him another blank check. 

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So just finished watching. 

I rather enjoyed the film actually. I think some of my complaints were in the first reel mostly. As the film goes on, it does get better. Oldman did a great job and honestly most of the technical aspects that threw me off, kinda went away when the story got more interesting. I honestly don't know much about that particular story and my research didn't bring up many issues with the movie. It had everything I was looking for in a movie and it was fun studying and learning more about the people after the fact. I bet most audiences don't know anything about the story either. 

Fincher's dad wrote the script and he wanted to make it years ago in the late 90's. At the time however, studios weren't too interested in black and white movies and he refused to make it in color. I'm almost glad he waited because Oldman did such a great job, I can't imagine anyone else in that role. Seems like Netflix was willing to take the risk and I'm happy they did.

One of the articles I read said they spent a week on one dialog scene, shooting over 200 takes to not only get the coverage, but also the performance properly. That's Stanley Kubrick territory and honestly, did those 200 takes really make the film any better? The cast was plenty talented enough, so where was the disconnect? 

In terms of the "filmic" elements, like the added film grain, dirt and even the reel changes, it was a cute gimmick. The film still looked squeaky clean and for sure not shot on film. I did not care for the audio treatment they made, it was a mistake. It was hard to hear the dialog in some places, especially with the whitty dialog overlapping in some cases. The added reverb effect on the center channel (dialog) was a bit over kill and I would have rather them done something more realistic, no films from that vintage have magic reverb. The added noise, crackles and pops was cool, but again, didn't quite fit. The film looked too polished. 

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10 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Perhaps you can elaborate on where they went wrong.

If it were my movie, I would have lit it like a studio film from the time period, not like a modern digital film. Not saying what they captured was bad, just saying it looked like a modern movie. Lots of back and side lighting, characters faces in shadow, lack of a well defined key etc. These tricks are what modern filmmakers use. So to make a very modern movie, using all modern cinema language and then make it look old by turning it black and white, slapping some film grain on it and saying "ok it's old",  was kind of insulting. 

Erik did a great job tho and that's what tears me a part. Some of it worked nicely, but quite a bit was overwhelmingly fake and plastic looking, especially exteriors at the ranch. Clearly all of those backgrounds were VFX and it showed horribly. All those added lens flares as well, kinda not really important guys. The big ark lights were blasting, but they weren't bright, get out of here. And again, "life in the shadows" with your leading man was just not something done in that time period. 

10 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Which particular "real" black and white are you referring to?

Watch Lighthouse and try to compare any of what you see in that, to what you saw in Mank. 

Black and white negative has a character all of its own. Not a difficult look to re-create digitally. However, you have to shoot in a more classical style, especially with lighting. With stark contrast that goes down to actual black, none of this modern HDR nonsense, with raised black levels. 

10 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Though as you say, you haven't yet seen it.

I just did, my comments haven't changed outside of the fact, I actually enjoyed the final result of what I saw. 

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2 hours ago, Soren James said:

I bet too if his name wasn't on it, and Netflix released specs saying it was shot on B/W stock, plenty of people will be fooled. Doesn't look plastic at all to me.

Since my wife made that observation, I can tell you that you lost your bet. She was walking past while I was watching and briefly stopped. She asked me why the images looked so weird and not like a black and white movie (her words). When I told her it was David Fincher's latest film, she shrugged because she doesn't know who David Fincher is. An honest observation by someone who couldn't care less.

I love movies but am not a "cinephile". I've seen some of Fincher's films, liked some of them and that's it, really. I didn't know that Fincher was prone to doing endless takes, I only found out while reading about it when I googled 'Mank'.  There are many reasons why some directors do this but I suspect it never ends in picking take 123 because it was finally the performance and composition they were looking for. Maybe it makes them feel safe, especially if it is a passion project.

Anyway, the OP's question was about what people thought about the look of it. While it is wonderfully lit, it does have a plastic feel to it. To my eyes anyway.

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4 hours ago, Soren James said:

doesn't need a buttboy

Soren, assuming that you’re using this term in the way it’s usually meant, you should know that homophobic slurs, like other abusive language, are not tolerated here.

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Black and white negative has a character all of its own. Not a difficult look to re-create digitally. However, you have to shoot in a more classical style, especially with lighting. 

Interesting that you assume that they tried, and failed. And that neither Fincher nor Messerschmidt has any knowledge of historical lighting techniques.

It seems highly unlikely that a filmmaker as talented and fastidious as David Fincher would release a film looking anything but exactly as he wanted it.

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Absolutely Stuart. 

A little info on Erik's process on the film:

"The original cinematographer for “Citizen Kane,” Gregg Toland, “is incredibly influential,” said Messerschmidt. “Obviously we looked at ‘Citizen Kane’ and looked at his work.”

“Mank” pays homage to his signature techniques – “deep focus, relatively low camera angles, limited focal length,” said Messerschmidt. “We limited ourselves to just a few lenses.”

At the same time, he said, the filming needed to serve the story rather than draw attention to itself.

“We wanted people to get really sucked into the time period, to really feel like they were there and not get distracted too much by the photography but to feel like they were watching a movie of the period and help them connect to the story in that way.”

Borrowing from Toland’s now famous shots, which reveal whole worlds in the background, was key.

“‘Citizen Kane’ was shot at very deep F-stops for deep focus. We aimed to do the same for most of the film. I shot in anywhere between an 8 and an 11 the entire movie, for the most part.” But Welles’ classic aside, Messerschmidt added, “David and I felt black and white just looks better that way anyway. That’s referential of early black and white still photography – Ansel Adams…we wanted the film to have that feel for sure.”

To achieve the look with modern cameras was not as simple as some might expect.

“We did lots of testing,” he added, trying out lenses, color grading techniques and “figuring out what the right recipe was for that.”

Messerschmidt ended up shooting on a Red 8K Helium monochrome sensor camera, which the company put together just for “Mank.”

“We did test color cameras – we considered it as an option in the very beginning. We shot a series of tests. It took all of 30 seconds, I think, for us to decide, ‘No, we wanted to shoot black and white for black and white. It just looks so much better for us and what we were going for.”

The range of looks in black and white film is more vast than many realize, Messerschmidt pointed out, noting that even film noir classics weren’t necessarily definitive.

 

Messerschmidt added that a busy production schedule in Africa forced him to launch into “Mank” with less prep time than he would have liked, but he still managed to put together a look book for the team to go over that contained everything from fine art work to street photography – “just inspirational images – it wasn’t anything specific.”

Fincher’s feedback on the looks was crucial. “He’s so reflexive when you ask him questions,” Messerschmidt said. “You get an immediate answer. Immediately he’s like ‘This works. I don’t want to do this.’ ”

When he arrived in L.A., Messerschmidt’s first stop was Burt’s office to look over his plans for the sets. “A lot of the decisions cinematographers are confronted with are kind of practical considerations – what we have to accomplish, where physics limits us. Where we can put the camera, where we can put lighting equipment.”

Already in synch and working on a unified vision, he said, “Mank” was off to the races.

“We didn’t really storyboard much – but I think that’s because of the way we work and communicate. We’re not doing these elaborate action sequences. It’s for the most part pretty straightforward.”

 

"I think that what we ended up with was a little bit of a mix of style and technique and that was not by accident, it was by intent. Part of it is the recollection of what black-and-white films are and what they think they should be. To some degree, filmmakers fall into that trap as well, categorizing what style to embrace. It’s a little bit like trying to figure out what style of color photography to embrace when you’re making a color film. But unfortunately, because of the way we view black-and-white films as these things of historical record, we automatically assume that oh, okay, they’re making a black-and-white film, so either it’s a noir film, or it’s a 1930s glamour film, or it’s a Jean-Luc Godard black-and-white handheld film. In reality, with all of those movies, their technique was developed through an artistic process, and other movies around there that influenced it—we all make movies based on the influences we look at.
 
In the specific case of Mank, we made a strong effort to know that we’re making a film in black-and-white of a specific era, and to try to make choices that were based on the story and scene that we were shooting in the moment, with the context of the greater film. The reason I’m articulating it this way is because I don’t think of Mank as a noir film, for example, or a ’30s glamour film, although it probably has more in common with that than it does with noir. There are elements of noir when we thought it appropriate to go there and lean into those visuals. The hope is that people get sucked into it and believe that yes, this movie tumbled out of a film vault at MGM and people feel it. But of course there are lighting techniques in it that are relatively modern, and there are some that are classical from the period. My hope is never that people would ever be fooled that they’re seeing a movie that was made in 1935, but that they feel immersed enough in the experience to forget that they’re watching a movie in 2020."
 
 
Fincher's films looking plasticky I've never heard before though?
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4 minutes ago, Manu Delpech said:

Fincher's films looking plasticky I've never heard before though?

Who said Fincher's films? I was referring to Mank only. And what can I say, plastic is the word that I use to describe it. If you do not see it that way, good for you. Another word that comes close is 'creamy', maybe that doesn't offend as much?

 

9 minutes ago, Manu Delpech said:

but to feel like they were watching a movie of the period and help them connect to the story in that way

It didn't do it for me but I'm glad to hear it worked for others.

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7 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Interesting that you assume that they tried, and failed. And that neither Fincher nor Messerschmidt has any knowledge of historical lighting techniques.

It seems highly unlikely that a filmmaker as talented and fastidious as David Fincher would release a film looking anything but exactly as he wanted it.

Having worked with Fincher on FIGHT CLUB, everything he does is fastidious and calculated. 
 

G

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18 minutes ago, Gregory Irwin said:

Having worked with Fincher on FIGHT CLUB, everything he does is fastidious and calculated. 
 

G

You can tell. It's not chaotic, random, shoot-it-to-death-and-find-it-in-the-edit stuff. 

What does interest me is how some of that incredibly precise operating is done. Yes, operating can be precise, but some of it appears to absolutely padlock a feature in the scene to a single pixel position on the frame. He's started doing it more and more recently, although it's evident as early as something like Seven. I get the impression that some of it may be shot a bit wide, then tracked and reframed in post. There's a YouTube video out there somewhere discussing it where it's demonstrated that yes, you can operate like that, but good grief you'd end up doing a lot of ta...

...oh, right.

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22 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I get the impression that some of it may be shot a bit wide, then tracked and reframed in post.

He has apparently been shooting 8K but framing for a 6K extraction for some time now, in order to do just that.

2020-12-04.-notebook-mubi-curating-reali

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9 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Interesting that you assume that they tried, and failed. And that neither Fincher nor Messerschmidt has any knowledge of historical lighting techniques.

I mean this quote says it all:

"But of course there are lighting techniques in it that are relatively modern, and there are some that are classical from the period. My hope is never that people would ever be fooled that they’re seeing a movie that was made in 1935, but that they feel immersed enough in the experience to forget that they’re watching a movie in 2020."

Yea it's a "modern" movie for sure. 

9 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

It seems highly unlikely that a filmmaker as talented and fastidious as David Fincher would release a film looking anything but exactly as he wanted it.

Yea, Fincher lives in the shadows, does he know anything else? 

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14 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Yea it's a "modern" movie for sure. 

Well then, given that it is a "modern" movie, and is a mix of styles rather than a straight imitation, it's rather churlish to criticize it for not being something it was never intended to be.

14 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Fincher lives in the shadows, does he know anything else? 

I don't think you should make assumptions about the breadth of Fincher's ability by judging his choice of subject matter. Unless you enjoy being "random internet man with opinion".

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58 minutes ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Well then, given that it is a "modern" movie, and is a mix of styles rather than a straight imitation, it's rather churlish to criticize it for not being something it was never intended to be.

Pfft, whatever. 

58 minutes ago, Stuart Brereton said:

I don't think you should make assumptions about the breadth of Fincher's ability by judging his choice of subject matter. Unless you enjoy being "random internet man with opinion".

I guess you've never seen his other movies. Ok then. 

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2 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

He has apparently been shooting 8K but framing for a 6K extraction for some time now, in order to do just that.

Oh, right, there y'go.

It's not like most of us couldn't do something like that these days. Even an Ursa Mini 4.6K has the 0.6 spare.

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15 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I guess you've never seen his other movies. Ok then. 

I've seen pretty much all his movies, but I don't believe that the fact that he chooses dark, dramatic material means that he is incapable of anything else. 

You're very quick to criticize other filmmakers whose talent and achievements far outstrip your own.

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15 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Oh, right, there y'go.

It's not like most of us couldn't do something like that these days. Even an Ursa Mini 4.6K has the 0.6 spare.

It helps that the Helium sensor is significantly bigger than s35, so even cropped to 6K, they are still getting a good area. In the case of Mank, the slightly smaller sensor area obviously helps a little with the deep focus look.

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I couldn't sit through the movie to be honest. It relies too much on gimmicks and style than substance it seemed like - from the fades to sound to silly cue marks. I am sorry but it did not look like film to me at all but rather felt like digital with make it black and white filter that people use for their Instagram pictures - or "Insta" as cool kids call it - applied. The tonality seemed off to me but it is my opinion of course. It is fine that it looks digital as everyone has a different brush stroke of preference. I have tried to watch it twice - looking past the irritating gimmicks - but failed both times. I will attempt again in a few minutes, but at this point, it is out of I have to at least finish it rather than having expectations. It just didn't work for me as a movie, but hey, maybe the 3rd attempt, I may see something that i hadn't before so I still choose to keep an open mind. The cinematography was good in terms of lighting and composition though. Some of the camera moves felt mechanical with rather ultra precision. But, these are just my opinions of course.

Edited by Giray Izcan
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Also, I do understand and acknowledge that the style of the movie is elaborate and not suggesting Mr. Fincher messed up or missed details by any means. 

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I just finished watching the movie. I must say, despite the photography being good, I did not care much for the gimmicks. I enjoyed the movie itself though, political inner workings of old Hollywood is quite intriguing. I am glad I kept an open mind and watched the movie entirely.

Edited by Giray Izcan
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@Uli Meyer Others were mentioning the plasticity (?) so to speak. Though as much as I love Fincher's digital work, I do miss the Seven days with that grit. 

About Fincher's preference for darker material, Benjamin Button is a very beautiful and touching film. And yes, there's a coldness to many of his films, he's very cerebral and that's just the way he is, and that's okay. 

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22 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

I don’t get the “plasticy” comments — that usually describes something clean, shiny, and hard — not something soft and grainy.

🙂

mankplastic.jpg

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