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The Look of Being Lost: Shallow Focus and Recent Art Cinema

The Look of Being Lost: Shallow Focus and Recent Art Cinema

On IFC.com, I have a new piece, “The Look of Being Lost,” addressing my favorite aesthetic innovation in recent art cinema–the proliferation of extreme shallow focus–or in layman’s terms, lots of blur. Pegged to the release of my favorite film from Cannes 2008, Lucrecia Martel’s “The Headless Woman,” the story picks out other movies and filmmakers with a penchant for the long lens, including American directing duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Brits Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold and Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan. I could have also added young Argentine Turk Alex Dos Santos, whose upcoming release “Unmade Beds” is also shot all hazy, dazed and confused.

An excerpt: “While Hollywood directors, past and present, used the long lens to make glamorous stars pop out from the background, and New Hollywood filmmakers racked focus to dramatically call attention to different parts of the frame, today’s auteurs are bringing those blurry backdrops to the fore. Instead of disregarding what’s not in focus, viewers are forced to reckon with the miasma that lurks behind or envelopes the characters.”

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