Cinematography, Cornerhouse May-June 2009

We’ve all left the cinema thinking a film was good, okay, rubbish, whatever, but rarely get around to discussing what makes a film good or bad, which is why I’ve always enjoyed studying film at Cornerhouse.

Cornerhouse courses are a chance to discuss the theory of film and so it could be argued that an eight week Cinematography course was a little out place, because while we attempted to focus on the how film photography has evolved and the effect a cinematographer was aiming through the choice of a particular lens, say, it did require a certain amount of technical knowledge.

In Maggie Hoffgen we had one of Cornerhouse’s best course leaders. She makes for an excellent facilitator and always ensures a high level of debate and idea generation. Unfortunately, she is also one of those technophobes who makes the mistake of thinking an inability to work a DVD player is somehow endearing. This wouldn’t be so bad if the support staff could do this for her, but they are completely useless.

Things were to come to head on the last night with an attempt to show some clips of films made in Cinemascope. It’s not at all complicated. A Cinemascope image is about two-and-third times wider than it is high. Our clips appeared to be projected at Academy format, only one-and-a-third times wider than they were high. It all became a little embarrassing when Maggie asked how we felt the use of Cinemascope affected the film and someone asked if she could project it in that format: she and her assistant appeared stumped. While we laughed about it in the bar, Cornerhouse really should make an effort to get this right.

Cornerhouse courses are best when focussed on a particular film genre – like the excellent Shades of Euro Noir – or the film of a particular nation or era. Anything vaguely technical should be avoided.

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