On Anton Corbijn’s “The American”

The first Leica I ever saw in use was when Anton Corbijn took photos of Gang of Four for a piece I wrote on them in the Soho Weekly News.  I remember him from those days as a tall, quiet presence who made full use of the non-threatening size of a Leica M — what would it have been? an M3? this was 1980, I think — to take these spontaneous, intimate fully realized photos of the band. Nothing staged or artificial, though those qualities would later creep in when he took album cover photos of U2 and the like.  (Not a criticism; that’s the different nature of an album cover versus photojournalism.)

The photo of Gang of Four that ran in the Soho News piece I wrote showed them isolated against a crowd walking up 5th Avenue from the old WEA offices where the interview took place — a perfect example, though I didn’t know it at the time, not having yet been rebitten by my teenage photography bug, of bokeh, the Japanese word for selective focus, the image a mix of what is perfectly in focus, and the rest somewhat blurred. (See the post directly below this one.)

What brings this to mind is having seen last night The American, Anton’s thriller starring George Clooney.  It is a fairly ridiculous film, but as a work of visual art by a photographer now given use of a movie camera, it is brilliant. Orson Welles once said something to the effect that making a film gives a director the chance to play with the best toy train kit ever, and Corbijn makes full use of his opportunity to bring something visually wondrous to the screen. Some of the images from the small Italian city Clooney finds himself in could have been framed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, another Leica photographer. The landscapes are framed with a still-photographer’s eye.  A magnificent visual experience, even if the plot is silly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: