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« Elsewhere | Main | Some French Illustrators »

August 17, 2006

Real? Fake? Or Real-Fake?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Many of the products in TV ads look so unreal and shiney because ... well, they're unreal. Bottles of dishwashing liquid, cans and jars of many kinds, even the cars in some car ads -- they're fakes, or rather they're virtual thingees that have been constructed with computers. Here's a real-or-fake? quiz page.

* How soon before the people onscreen will be fake -- or hyperreal -- too? Here's a short semi-documentary about how Marlon Brando was revived and made to deliver some new lines for "Superman Returns."

Am I the only person left who doesn't want to inhabit a superbright, poppin', hyperreal, computer-generated universe?



posted by Michael at August 17, 2006


Michael – The computer generated universe is here to stay, and the only question is how it is used creatively.

I wonder whether Brando’s estate was paid for his use in “Superman Returns.” Smart actors will make sure to include a clause about the future use of their image in their contracts.

There are a lot of folk who somehow expect most movies to be naturalistic. This is nonsense. People who complain about CG simply don’t know how much of filmmaking involves trickery.

I don’t know of any rational moviegoer who complains that he or she can’t enjoy “Notorious” or “Casablanca” because the middle shots of characters driving a car use rear projection for the road and background an obviously stationary vehicle is supposedly moving along. Similarly, I don’t know of anyone who seriously complains that the backdrop to a scene is extended and enhanced using a matte painting, or other traditional, totally fake, non-digital tricks.

Had the technology been available, some of the final airport scenes in “Casablanca” might have used CG. Instead, “…they used a sound stage with a small cardboard cutout airplane and forced perspective. To give the illusion that the plane was full-sized, they used little people to portray the crew preparing the plane for take-off.”

“Goldfinger” has always been one of my favorite Bond movies. I was surprised to learn from the DVD release such tidbits as that all the dialog of Auric Goldfinger, one of the most memorable movie villains ever, was dubbed by an actor named Michael Collins. Does this make the movie fake? Also, apparently Sean Connery never set foot in America during the filming since all his “American” scenes were shot at Pinewood Studios in London.

In the film “Irreversible,” the blood on Monica Bellucci’s face, and her rapist’s genitals, seen briefly after the rape, are all digital effects.

By the way, here’s a tidbit about the Bond novel and film that you might enjoy, from IMDB: Fleming “got the name ‘Goldfinger’ from his hatred of Hungarian modernist architect Erno Goldfinger. Among other things Erno Goldfinger designed London's Trellick Tower, built in 1968.”

Posted by: Alec on August 17, 2006 2:56 PM

Came back to say that after this last flurry of accusations over the war photographer who is notorious for adding extra plumes of smoke, the morning Great Falls Tribune had a photo of a raging forest fire -- VERY impressive. There is a note at the bottom admitting that it was a time exposure.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on August 17, 2006 3:43 PM

Alec -- "The computer generated universe is here to stay, and the only question is how it is used creatively." Sigh, it's true. And there's much about it that's great. But I'd like to see more gab about the second part of your sentence, "how it is used creatively." What I find peculiar isn't that trickery abounds -- I like trickery, or often I do. It's the way so many people accept the computerized quality of much commercial work (the ultra-shininess of it, for instance, and the flawlessness of it) as desirable. Eyecatching (and/or ear-catching -- undeniably. But wonderful? Desirable? Better than reality? That's interesting about Goldfinger, tks. I'd wondered if there was a relationship between the architect and the villain!

P. Mary -- It's interesting to watch the ways the press handles the new challenges, isn't it? Generally they seem to be doing their best to be traditionally ethical. A good time to be an intellectual-property lawyer I'd imagine.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 17, 2006 3:50 PM

I notice it on hair shampoo ads. No one's hair "shines" the way these women's hair shines--it's blinding. I guess "truth in advertising" has a pretty limited definition, huh?

Posted by: annette on August 18, 2006 11:05 AM

I guess "truth" generally doesn't mean what it once did!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 18, 2006 12:43 PM

"Generally they seem to be doing their best to be traditionally ethical."

It's just too bad their competence level is so low.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on August 18, 2006 1:27 PM

I guess one could think of a distinction between the kind of effects Alec is talking about and modern CGI effects as that between 'organic' special effects and 'synthetic' effects. I'm reminded of the scene in Cocteau's Orphee where the hero enters the mirror into the underworld. The mirror 'being entered' is clearly a shot of a hand dipping into still water turned through 90 degrees. The recognition of this adds hugely to the poetic power of the shot causing it to act like a metaphor.
Even Harryhausen's 'claymation' stuff has a haunting dimension because it possesess the compelling sensation that we are watching an inert substance come to life. I had this sensation watching this even when I was quite small by which I mean it works on us on a sensual level.
Modern CGI by it's very nature does not allow this kind of metaphor to arise 'organically' from its own process of becoming. Other ways have to be found to make it bear fruits that are unique to it's medium. Mostly, it is used as a cost effective alternative to photographing 'impossible' situations.

Posted by: chris bennett on August 24, 2006 3:11 PM

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