Cinematographer as Director

When you see the first (and only, so far) film directed by Steven Spielberg's favorite cinematographer of recent years, you are going to expect a beautiful picture. And is it ever. Each shot is carefully designed to show off at least a few of the tricks of cinematopgrapher's toolbox. The film itself would make an excellent teaching tool for anyone interested in such arts.

But pretty doesn't make a movie. What else do we have? There's acting, quite a bit of it, from Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, Philip Baker Hall and more, mostly being moody or scared or furtive. There's a story too, having mainly to do with exorcisms and the devil and what's written on birth certificates. It moves slowly. An ambitious sitcom could cover the material in half an hour - WARNING: minor spoilers ahead...

WINONA: We must find that priest guy, he's our best chance.

PRIEST GUY: Oh, don't worry about it. Everything will be fine. The Devil's in Bermuda this time of year.

WINONA: You must be possessed. (she whacks him with a cross)

[laugh track]

ENTER: the Exorcism Squad, they trip over each other as they stumble in. They square dance around PRIEST GUY, who wilts and collapses. PRIEST GUY opens his eyes and motions WINONA and BEN over.

PRIEST GUY: The father. His real father. You must find him.

WINONA and BEN exchange an urgent look.

They find UNCLE JAMES.

BEN: Dad?


[laugh track]

BEN: She was your sister.

UNCLE JAMES: We were a close family.

[laugh track]

...Anyway - don't watch this if you have any adrenaline in your system. If you can stick through it, you might be as amused with all the subtleties as the filmmakers were. I was going to give this a 5, making it a toss up, for which watching pretty scenes might decide it for someone, but there is more substance than I thought, but not a lot.

And the ending is one of those that will make you think about it for a while. Was it a good ending? Was there any other way to end it, given what the film has been all about so far?

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