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Analyzing the Coen Brothers’ Style with EVERY FRAME A PAINTING

Is it possible to have a crush on an entire YouTube channel? Even if that kind of love is forbidden, I still want to shout from the rooftops that I absolutely love Every Frame a Painting by Tony Zhou. We’ve talked about Zhou’s incredible insight on film before with his breakdown of Buster Keaton’s comedy and the animation style – if not philosophy – of Chuck Jones. The level of detail that Zhou pours into his videos is a true sign that when he watches a film it’s getting every shred of attention it deserves.

In his latest installment of Every Frame A Painting, Zhou focuses on the filming style of Joel & Ethan Coen. In particular, their distinct way of filming shots and reverse shots. It’s something that we as an audience don’t always make note of, but it can make all the difference in the way a movie feels and how a story is told. When used properly, the cinematography and direction of a film almost become characters themselves. The Coen Brother’s style of a shot and reverse usually puts the camera inside the space of the characters interacting, thereby putting us deeper into the film. This is pointed out in the video with other examples of shots where the directors place the camera over the shoulders of the actors which, on some level, give us the feeling we’re still watching the film instead of being a part of it.

Zhou’s analysis of what camera placement can do is bound to make you think about every film you’ve ever seen and make you wonder if it played a part in whether or not you enjoyed it. What comes to mind recently is how I feel about the way The Revenant was filmed. Alejandro Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki‘s beautiful film employed a similar style at times but with the added touch of placing the camera angles just under the sight-lines of the characters and closer to them than we’re used to. This, in my opinion, made those watching a bit more vulnerable to everything going on. Not only by being uncomfortably in the thick of it with the characters but being below the actors makes us subliminally more submissive.

Every Frame a Painting is a treasure of film critique and it will surely change the way you absorb film. Check out the rest of Zhou’s series on his channel and let us know what you think of the video in the comments!

Image:  Gramercy Pictures

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