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This list acknowledges the director's truthfulness in portraying facial language, or Close-ups
Dreyer's film about persecution and martyrdom struck such a chord as being one of the most influential film from the 1920's. One of the first films that shown the trail of Joan of Arc, done with almost sparse formalism. The film was almost entirely composed of close-up shots of Joan's face, showing her fear not for death, but the pain of death, and her devotion to god. The emotions were so real in this film you could almost feel the tears. It was said that dreyer didn't use make up on the actress to give her facial expressions more realism.
Powell and Pressburger were known for tying in locations, and the emotional dimension of his characters into a whole, never have they done it so successively as in Black Narcissus. Four Nuns are tested to the limits of faith, when they are assigned to a remote castle in the Himalayan mountains. Deborah Kerr as Sister Cloda is one of the films protagonist that is made to feel the most emotional conflict with the castle, and its seducing winds. Her face is watchful and devious in a way seeing the transitions of her fellow sisters succumbing to their inner desires for life outside the convent, especially Kathleen Byron as sister Ruth who so devilishly places on make up during her dénouement of her sisterhood, sitting only three feet from Cloda, while cloda clutches her cross like the edge of a cliff, both facial expressions contrast with desperation, desire, and sexual repression.
Bergman is known for showing the truth of ourselves in mirrors, in Scenes he has done it with faces. Surrounding the disintegrating marriage of couple, they are forced at face point to confess their truth and strength. The intimacy of Sven Nykvist with its almost space less background, forces us to center ourselves in the front seat with the couples facial reactions. The film is like a documentary, and plays like a science experiment, with the couple being interview for a magazine on a piece about "The Perfect Family" this is the start of the viewers submission to the emotions in deep close ups. Focusing on where our true emotions come out, our faces. Leaving us is the seat of perfection and illusion.
For Godard, this would be his last excursion in the "genre" films he has done in the early 60's. This display of a woman detective trying to find the whereabouts of her missing husband in a chaotic and mish- mashed world of Godard's playfulness, for literature, politics, and self-flagellation. Anna Karina plays the detective. In this case Godard's longing and fascination can be said in these close ups of Karina (who separated from Godard years earlier.). Who Godard felt he had portrayed some truth of his personal life through Karina's facial presence.
What can I say about Cassavettes? I really should think of all his films when Faces comes to mind. During the early 60's Warhol, Downey Sr, and may others came to realize the auteur innovations of cinema, none greater than Cassavetes films. Faces says it all, his humanism in his close ups shows us the most absurd things that love makes us do, whether it's a joke, or being serious. Much like Bergman's Scenes from A Marriage, it focuses on the crumbling marriage and what lengths one will go to keep his youth afloat. It's worth a watch. Loved it!
As well all know emotion is essential in cinema. Sam Fuller is the quintessential master of it. This harrowing and brutal story of a prostitute's change of direction hits right at the gut. A city prostitute tries to find change when she re-locates to a small town, where she encounters love,sexual innuendos ,and her own fears that place her in a difficult position. Told with stark honesty, and an opening shot to prove. (Constance Towers is boxed in a med close-up where she is striking a pimp that screwed her over, as she is striking him, the pimps eyes is the camera's point of view, so it looks like shes hitting us, and this was the first shot in the film, wow.) Fuller expressed that in a world of truth there are also lies we all wish to remain hidden. This film is a real loaded gun!
Being a fan of Fuller's this caught me by surprise. This is another Fuller engaged masterpiece. Kristy McNichol plays a young actress who runs downa dog, only to terrifyingly discovers it a "white" dog. A dog trained to kill blacks. She goes to any attempts to recondition the dog. She instills the help of a dark skinned trainer played by Paul Winfield to bring the dog back to normal. Fuller's tales of racism in america has never reached a more terror peak, with close ups of the dogs snarling jaws, and foaming mouth. One of the most engaging scene takes place in the domed style animal cage between the trainer and the dog showing Fullers most sacred elements battling it out in a roman style fight. A daring portal of the loss sanity, and the awareness that man is both creator and destroyer.
In this painterly depiction of death at our door. Bergman conjures a tale of two sisters who come to the aid of their dying sister, Agnes. Told from Agnes' point of view, we see her in close ups in her bed tormented in agony from the pain, as do we see with the sisters battle there emotions in hallucinatory close ups and struggling for longing of one another's affection. Bergman takes us on a nightmare like journey through ominous closed doors, to the center of our souls.
A docu-fiction rendition between fantasy, reality, idealization, and personal identification runs into tight shots in Kiraostami's study of a man claiming to be the famous director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, looking to film a families daily lives, only to become found out. The line between truth and lies is severed in these close ups of the impersonator. Believing his lies for passion instead of deception is a brilliant empathetic turn. Kiraostami's film is a humanistic look into the love for film itself.
A exploration of recollection, romance and emotional entrapment comes in the form of two individuals on a afternoon together. Juliet Binoche plays a reporter set out on a interview with a semi-famous author played by William Shimell. As the day progresses, the footing on reality and truth begin sway. With the film's close ups that seem more mysterious than intimate, kiraostami's question of the perspective of life and art are replayed in the lives of two strangers who might not be strangers at all, but following a path that is all to absurd as it is familiar.
No one can combine espionage and eroticism so sharp as Fuller's hot blooded yarn of Skip McCoy, a Canon (pick pocket)who fingers the wrong purse mistakingly steals a photo strip containing a secret government project. The opening says it all in claustrophobic and innuendo close ups of McCoy and his victim exchanging glances, as skip stealthy fishes through her purse. Fuller's use of these shots are revolutionary in depicting the truth at all levels, whether it's, lies, death, fear, greed, insanity, violence, or sex. Fuller always searchs for the emotional truth in his close ups, this has to be a gem in his ultimate depiction of political and social horror in a American nightmare. It's pure cinema.
Eccentric, energetic, explosive, existential, and all out entertaining. Another 'E' mentioned would be 'Eye' because you're going to be using it often in this brilliant display of the famous monologist Spalding Gray's adventurously animated retrospection of a odd eye condition he contracted, procrastinating the operation, he goes on a desperate search for another way for a cure. Soderbergh captures the minds eye with comical precision that hasn't been seen since his cubist calamity 'Schizopolis'. The most interesting is the tight close ups on Greys face are the most relatable moments that pull us literally into his outlandish story, whether its candy colors describing his meeting with his offbeat optometrist, or the plums of smoke from a spiritual steambox in Minneapolis, we are let personally into grays world, at the same time forced to use our imagination. Solderbergh give us a personal view into the science, religion, doubt, paranoia, logical, and illogicality of a man who we can't shake our eyes from, as this is also a creative homage to the art of the theater experiance of Spalding's dazzling chaos. One last thing, stay until the end for the best close up.
When you think of cinema verite, you can can't help to mention The Maysles brothers. Their alluring and engaging fiction-like documentary of the last bible salesman takes you into the daily lives of of four individual salesmen slyly looking to succeed on making quota on a newly illustrated bible. The film centers around Paul Brennan, a fatigued and desperate character who has seen it all. The close ups of his veined hands and his sullen facial expressions shows not really the age of the man, but his experience in this business that as he says 'is on the fritz' that literally paints a image of Paul's lost faith, doubt, and self-pity.The camera puts us in a intimate advantage to not Judge this man, but to understand what it is to see everything before it collapses. The Maysels shot an essential piece of history as well as a heart breaking truthful view of personal struggle to succeed in a all knowing American future.