Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From "Chez Kimball," an unfinished piece (2012) about The Unspeakable Act:

"Excess" might seem like a funny word to describe Dan Sallitt. In 26 years, he's directed only four features, none of which are very long; his previous film, All the Ships at Sea (2004), clocks in at just a little over an hour, and The Unspeakable Act runs a modest and efficient hour-and-a-half. His eccentric style—seemingly grounded, like the work of many cinephile-directors, in a wholly personal set of theories about camera movement, editing, and performance—is pretty much the definition of "pared-down": a largely static camera, even lighting, back-to-basics shot / reverse shot set-ups, minimal music.

The ironic—and striking—side-effect of this simplified filmmaking ethos is excess. Shots runs long, their duration emphasized by the lack of camera movement. The evenness of the lighting, combined with the depth-of-field (while most digital low-budget productions are shot on trendy DSLRs, The Unspeakable Act is lensed on the unfashionable, deep-focus-friendly Sony PMW-F3), means that every shot contains countless in-focus background details to draw away the eye. Sallitt's "open" framing style—which usually places actors in the middle third of the frame—creates an excess of space around the subject.