Friday, October 31, 2014

All the Small Details

      You really gotta work your ass off to be a fan of television and not know this scene. I hadn't watched the show until very recently and even I know about the backwards speaking little person, the dancing that played out over the credits. It was an instant cultural landmark. This scene would have jarred minds today. That much can be seen in American Horror Story's runaway success (Even if not as good as Twin Peaks, it displays the same obsession with absurdity and tonal clashing.) But back in 1990, this scene pretty much dropped bricks in every single set of pants sitting in front of an ABC television. So why's it so damn distinctive?
      Part of why it's such a punch is everything came before it. The show has a predilection to using red, you can practically see it somewhere in every scene. Put this scene marks the absolute apex of that hue domination with some absolutely gorgeous and conscious production design. Everything in this scene is red. Everything that isn't red is in some way or another clashing with it, highlighting the red even more. This essentially punches the viewer in the face and demands their attention and, god damn, did they get it.
      Other notable moments. All the shots are perfectly off, static and full of needless headroom. Everyone's just somewhat off kilter in the shot. Then, for the content of the shots. Cooper's aged make up looks really bad but in a very interesting and subversive way. The way the light tinkles on his makeup is kinda creepier than if the make up was any good.
      And finally, the little guy talks backwards. And... It's just so much. I still can't quite wrap my brain around it.
      Overall, I think this scene's a perfect teacher of tonal crafting. You can see how much effort and planning went into crafting this environment and just how much you can get out of pre-planning and environment crafting.

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