George Fenton rehearses the score for Deep Blue
waystone recently recommended the television series Planet Earth to me, mentioning how impressive she found the music. Having recently heard Fenton's spectacular score for Deep Blue, which was a similar project for the same people, I checked out some of the sound samples. I ended up ordering a few Fenton scores, including The Company of Wolves.
It is really difficult to explain this, but if you've work at a record store, you can sort of develop a relationship with albums you're interested in but that you've never heard. The Company of Wolves is one of those. We had it in the store since we opened; it eventually got sent back to the warehouse after the store scaled down all its sections (the beginning of the end was really in 2000). I knew the score by reputation only, and while anybody can tell stories of a CD that was on the shelf that they always considered getting and never did, if you worked at a record store, you lived with them, seeing the discs day in and day out.
The thing is, I knew the disc was there all those years when finally I decided to spring for it along with a few other Fenton discs from MovieMusic.com used section (The Long Walk Home and Anna and the King qualified me for $1 shipping; Planet Earth came from Amazon used section), and now I finally have it and have listened to it. Quite good, indeed, but my victory is oddly tempered by a completely superficial detail... the music is new to me, but as I said, I've known this album primarily by its distinctive cover. The disc we had at the store was the That's Entertainment Records (TER) edition, which looked like this, and the edition I recieved was the Jackal/Southern Cross (JAY) reissue, on which the cover art has been reframed. The back looks almost identical, but I don't feel that the cover looks as good. This has no bearing whatsoever on the music itself, and should be irrelevant. But it just doesn't feel like it's the same album.
As I mentioned in my entry for Redwoods, I recently caught up to Time After Time and enjoyed it very much. I decided to watch it with the commentary last night. I have to admit that I was very surprised that Nicholas Meyer keeps pointing out insert shots that he feels he should have done, or close-ups he now thinks would have improved the film... especially considering that I felt that the stately pacing of the film - which often eschews editing unless absolutely necessary - was one of its most refreshing features when I was watching it.
One scene in particular he points out, in which Stevenson (David Warner) enters the bank where Amy (Mary Steenburgen) works, realizes that she must have been responsible for his run-in with Wells (Malcolm McDowell); in a chilling moment, reads the name of her character off the sign on her desk at the bank in which she works. Meyer mentions that he should have put a shot of the sign there... but I don't see why. It is perfectly clear what he is doing in the scene, and instead of wasting the visual space with an unnecessary shot that would only emphasize what the audience already knows, the film is instead concentrates on Warner, which is where the attention in the scene ought to be, no?
It really makes me wonder whether or not cinematic storytelling has regressed that much. I am the first to say that any general trend will be misused by the majority of filmmakers, and quick cutting is one of these trends. Some filmmakers will make an active editing scheme make their films very interesting. I accept that and even enjoy it when it is done properly. I think, however, that Meyer may actually be manifesting the attitude that seems to have permeated cinema of late: when in doubt, cut. While I don't think that cutting is a bad thing at all, I feel the same way about it as I do about a lot of other aspects of cinema, or storytelling in general... don't go out of your way to do something if there's a way of doing it simpler.
Now, "simpler" doesn't always translate into "easier;" long takes are hard for everybody involved in a shoot. They are very complicated, actors have to remember more lines and blocking, the crew has more cues to act on, and movement has to be coordinated in such a way as so to avoid detection from the camera. However, a single shot can often do much more than a series of shots; for example, a camera moving through a group of people can establish their geography to one another in a way that is much more easily understood by the viewer than what one can do so through montage. You can even break up that longer shot with another shot if needed, but why do it if you don't have to?
People talk about the prevalance of quick cutting as being something that caters to a lower attention span audience - and by all means, younger persons growing up with a media saturated with this editing technique do seem to be developing much shorter attention spans - but I'm not exactly certain if the cause may have had more to do with filmmakers perhaps not trusting their audiences.
Maybe I'm wrong... and it is also possible that perhaps I may have been right once, but years of the influence of John Woo films and Jerry Bruckheimer productions have caused audiences to rely entirely on montage to keep their attention... but as I say, there was no difficulty understanding exactly what was going on during that scene in Time After Time, and I am hard-pressed to imagine how the insert shot would have really helped the scene. The scene wasn't broken, it doesn't need to be fixed.