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Such a great and inspiring photographer.

I saw an exhibition with some of his pictures, some time ago, in London, at the Photographer’s Gallery. Pictures of ordinary things, mundane scenes of his life and places, things that could pass inadvertently to anyone else but him. The proof that you don’t really need fancy trips to remote and exotic places to find beauty. ¬†Good weekend everyone! ūüôā

Interesting bits of an interview to this famous photographer:

If you want to know more about him, I recommend watching the documentary film “McCullin”. I saw it a few months ago on BBC. It is amazing what this person has seen and lived. Most of us would have ended completely mad. Here is a review of this film¬†from The Guardian. ¬†And this post explains a lot more about his photography. Is interesting how he has moved from “war photographer”, a term he doesn’t like at all, to only make pictures of UK landscapes. It might sound like his very own personal way of retirement but still working on his passion.

I started watching this film yesterday. Every time a conversation about films with great photography begins, this film is mentioned. I Like a lot Stanley Kubrick films. One of the things that make his films stand out is precisely the photography. And this one is a masterpiece. Although to be honest, I find it a bit boring. Its three hours long, and I still have to find a remaining spare hour to finish it. But as I say, it is mostly enjoyable even if you just stare at your TV screen for the sake of the pictures.

The exterior shots usually have a dramatic skies and great compositions. The light is wonderful. Interior shots are of another kind altogether. Kubrick was really involved in technical aspects of the design of special lenses for getting the result he wanted. He didn’t use any kind of fill light, just the available light on the rooms. The candle lit shots just look amazing. Considering that the film was shot in the 70’s, that is a great achievement.

I might finish watching this film tonight…


I knew about¬†this¬†documentary ages ago, but never found the moment to watch it. It was released in 1992, and the name¬†Baraka¬†has a religious meaning in it. I enjoyed it a lot. You’ll need to be in a contemplative mood for really finding the¬†beauty¬†of this, if not, it can just be a boring sequence of videos. It shows views of different¬†places¬†in the world, life styles and cultures. You might even find some¬†interesting¬†meanings, maybe¬†very personal ones, depending on your mood while watching the film. Photography is great. The use of time-lapse photography, now so fashionable, is amazing. And the music fits perfectly. Now I need to watch the second part, called Samsara. Good weekend!

You know what they say about wishes. This film goes even further. These wishes can kill you. Stalker is a Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkowsky in 1979. In some remote place there is an area, called the Zone, where weird things happened a few years ago. That area now is kept by military forces, and only a few people dare to enter there. They must be lead by a stalker, a kind of hunter that knows how to avoid getting killed in the path to the wish granting device that lies in the centre of the Zone. In this film, a writer and a scientist use the services of a stalker for trying to get what they most wish.

The film is based on a novel called Roadside picnic.¬†I¬†haven’t¬†read this novel, I just watched the film¬†some time ago. In the novel, they describe how some alien waste was left in specific spots on earth, like the waste people can leave in a picnic area. Those wastes are strange devices with some very unique properties. Some of them are lethal while others seem¬†innocuous. Only¬†specialised¬†stalkers are able to go there and find these¬†artefacts. The most important one is the wish machine, that grants wishes to whoever comes close. That comes with a twist. Two persons need to reach the device. The first one gets eaten by a thing called ¬†“Meat Grinder” and meanwhile the second one gets a bit of time to reach the “Golden sphere” where wishes are granted. As you can see, its not easy. Other devices improve your health, or transform everything into a mucus, or¬†just¬†make a loud noise, without any apparent danger. The book goes into details with all these things and their effects. Stalkers at the same time, are exposed to all sort of contamination and side effects.¬†They use bolts or metallic parts attached to their¬†clothes to detect how the gravity in certain areas behave, because it is know that gravity and light act weird in¬†dangerous¬†places. It is also¬†known¬†that their¬†children¬†are born with horrible¬†deformations.

The film takes only some of these themes and in 160 minutes tells the story of these three characters trying to find their way to the Zone. During their trip, they talk about the place,¬†what they expect of it, what are their plans after their¬†wishes¬†are granted. The romantic vision of the writer versus the pragmatism of the scientist brings some interesting dialogues.¬†When they get closer to the place, things change a bit and a few interesting plot twists happen. Some important questions arise, like,¬†what’s¬†exactly a wish? And how a machine or device knows what we wish? What if a hidden, possibly malicious wish, is chosen instead? Is that device a judge that could punish instead of reward us, possibly with death?

It is a very slow film. I already said that about the same director’s film version of Solaris. It is his trademark, it seems. Stalker has some shots of¬†almost¬†4 minutes where nothing happens, or not even a word¬†is said. I remember that I¬†watched this film in parts, along a few days, and a friend of mine asked me if I had¬†paused¬†the video,¬†because¬†nothing appeared to change in the screen.¬†It¬†wasn’t¬†paused,¬†characters¬†were talking, and I was just amazed by the photography. Almost hypnotized. There are shots¬†in sepia colours. Other shots in¬†gorgeous¬†colour¬†when they are in the Zone. Great light in interiors. Carefully chosen compositions for those¬†almost¬†static shots… It’s visually¬†unforgettable.

I need to read the original novel, at some point. Meanwhile, here you have¬†a link where you can watch the entire film. I’d rather grab a DVD version¬†to really¬†appreciate¬†its photography. Also, you will need¬†coffee,¬†tea, whatever wakes you up, and 160 minutes of your life without distractions.

There is also a game loosely based in some of this ideas. It happens in¬†Chernobyl, a proper¬†Russian¬†Zone,¬†and things like weird artefacts and the wish machine make an¬†appearance, I’ve heard. I¬†haven’t¬†played this one¬†though.

When I first saw the trailer of Solaris, I thought that it could be a good science fiction film. I love Science fiction. There is something¬†that¬†I have always enjoyed about science fiction, since I was a child and I saw Forbidden Planet or ¬†War of the Worlds or¬†Starwars! Films that almost everyone who likes science ficition¬†have seen at some moment in their life. To me there are¬†different¬†levels on this genre. It can be a ¬†“We now¬†have spaceships” film, or it can be a more profound thing that makes you wonder “What do I just have seen?”. 2001: A Space Odyssey¬†falls in this category, while Starwars belongs to the other one.

As I said, when I saw that Solaris trailer, I found it interesting because of that “what is this exactly?” feeling. I did a bit of research and I found the ¬†Stanislaw Lem novel on which the film is based. Also, I heard about the original¬†Russian¬†film, directed by Tarkovsky. So,¬†expectations¬†about this new¬†version were high.

The novel is really interesting. A hundred or so years ago, in a not so distant future, a kind of planet with weird properties has been discovered. People on earth have no clue about what makes that planet behave so weird. Its been decades since the discovery of the¬†planet¬† and the book goes into details about all the studies which have been carried, trying to understand that strange place. Its been so long and the knowledge about it so big that there are even philosophical and religious movements described in the book based on the findings of years of¬†observations. It is not only that the planet is inhabited, but the planet itself is the only living being.¬†During decades missions have been there to explore, and the last one, has sent a help message. Someone goes¬†there to see what happens, and then is when everything gets even weirder. I won’t go into detail, but basically,¬†this¬†planet has the ability to read the deeper parts of the human mind and use that knowledge to try to¬†communicate with humans, somehow. Efforts in trying to understand this phenomena span for decades without result¬† That’s where this novel really got me interested. In most science fiction films or novels, it seems really easy for two different species to¬†communicate¬†and become friends, or the¬†opposite case,¬†engage in a terrible war because some other reason. Here it is not like that. Humans¬†are just ants and the planet Solaris¬†completely¬†interferes with the mind of these people in the space station, making them¬†believe¬†that things long time kept in their minds are there in the station, with them, as visitors.

Then I watched the film, the “new” version directed by¬†Steven Soderbergh. I had not guts to watch the Russian one, and more learning what Stanislaw Lem thought about it:

I have fundamental reservations to this adaptation. First of all I would have liked to see the planet Solaris which the director unfortunately denied me as the film was to be a cinematically subdued work. And secondly ‚ÄĒ as I told Tarkovsky during one of our quarrels ‚ÄĒ he didn’t make Solaris at all, he made Crime and Punishment.

via¬†Lem about the Tarkovsky’s adaptation.

One thing I really enjoyed, and I still do, is the Cliff¬†Martinez¬†soundtrack. Really atmospheric and great for closing your eyes and try to relax. This¬†doesn’t¬†mean that I¬†didn’t¬†enjoyed the film. I find it deeply moving and full of meanings and interpretations. Of course, you can say that it only focuses on the love story¬†between¬†Dr. Kelvin and Rheya. That’s what Lem said about this adaptation:

Summing up, as “Solaris”‘ author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images.¬† This is why the book was entitled “Solaris” and not Love in Outer Space.

via The Solaris Station РPage 2.

It’s also true that most of the themes found in the book are missing. All those “solaristic” researches and philosophy are gone. Descriptions of the planet and other nice details are gone. There are some hints of that scattered in the film, for telling that yes, there is a weird planet somewhere that we¬†don’t¬†understand and nothing more.¬†It is a more a psychological drama than a science¬†fiction¬†film. The things that happened between Dr. Kelvin and¬†Rheya are quite dramatic. Themes like not feeling ready for paternity, tragic loss of loved ones, grief, which are common in any adult relationship,¬†are mixed here with the weird effect that planet Solaris has on humans.¬†One thing I found really disturbing is the lucid dream like feeling of the film.¬†At the¬†beginning, when Dr. Kelvin arrives to the station, he is asked about his sleep habits. One wonders if what really is happening is that everybody has¬†hallucinations¬†because of sleep deprivation. But then, things get more complicated with the presence of the visitors, that seem to react and feel in the same way as their original copies, people long time dead or very far away. They show a disturbing self-awareness. They¬†resuscitate if they are killed. Dr. Kelvin tries hard not to get emotionally¬†engaged¬†with the new Rheya, but that proves to be and impossible task, until the end. And ending quite different from the novel one, a bit confusing maybe, that leaves you thinking “what do I have just seen”,¬† for a while…

I recently watched “Anton Corbijn Inside Out” documentary. I found it particularly fascinating. For sure you have seen some of his famous photographs. If you ever have had an album from Joy division, U2, Rem, Nirvana, or Depeche mode, to name only a few, you have seen one.¬†They are usually high contrast black and white, and in some cases with cross processed film colours. Portraits of famous bands, with dramatic backgrounds.

In this documentary he talks about why he photographs music bands, and how that helped him to overcome his¬†difficulties¬†to relate to people. How his relationship with his family made him like he is now. Some aspects of his photography are discussed also, like the use of old film cameras to this date and his innate ability to see compositional aspects in an image, a thing that normal people learning about photography like me will struggle forever… ūüôā The documentary¬†goes¬†quite intimate, and at some point it looks almost like a filmed therapy session. There are some nice parts where people who has been photographed by him praise his job in some or another way. And the guy seems incredibly humble.

After watching this, I decided to have a look at his latest film, “The American”. He was the director. Critics have called this one an “anti Bond” film. People was expecting ¬†a more action packed kind of film, and it is not. It’s rather¬†introspective.

Here, the Metacritic reviews score for “The American”, and here is¬†interview with him.