Thursday, June 26, 2008

Details, Details, Details

"God is in the details," the architect Mies van der Rohe said. (Though I prefer the Devil is in the details, but you get the picture- details are important.)

The first class all Flashpoint students take is called Sound, Image, Time & Space (SITSP). I like to call it the "attention to details" class. Last September I co-taught the course with Flashpoint Visual FX chair Perry Harovas. The first thing we did on day one was to play a sound effect of a car driving. We then asked students what they heard. It very quickly went from "a car," to "a car on wet pavement, in the country, evening, microphone at a certain distance away, etc...." To me that is paying attention to details, and in good all art God (the Devil) is in the details.

This brings me to two films I saw recently. No Country for Old Men, the multi-Oscar winner from the Coen brothers, and Jeff Garlin's I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. Forget the subject matter and the themes of the films, the difference in the attention to details was remarkable.

I must preface this by saying that I really like Jeff Garlin. I love him on Curb your Enthusiasm, and I think it was great he made this little movie in Chicago. In May he came to Flashpoint and gave a very inspirational talk. That said, I didn't much like his film and it was mostly because of his lack of attention to details. In short, too many scenes had little or no sound design, not enough extras, and overall it just looked like a thin film. I could go into detail- if you see it, look at the first scene with Sarah Silverman and you will know what I mean- but won't.

No Country... on the other hand was just terrific. Details are everywhere- look at the haircut Javier Bardiem wears. The pop tops on the beer cans, the language spoken, especially by Tommie Lee Jones. Everything is so clearly thought out and executed it is beautiful. Coincidently, John Murray chair of Flashpoint's Recording Arts department just screened it in his Aesthetics of Sound class as an example of how it is done.

I hope Jeff Garlin makes another film and makes it in Chicago. And next time I hope he follows Mies van der Rohe's ( a fellow Chicagoan- he moved here to head up the Illinois Institute of Technology's architecture program and designed many notable buildings here) advice and pays attention to details.



denise said...

not to be trivial, but i thought the sex and the city was severely lacking in sound design. the women were fab, but the film was flat...

Anonymous said...

Eek. I'm a little afraid to show you my film now :)