Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Picture Design: Part One - Edward Hopper

A game I sometimes play when I watch movies is to try to name what artists are called to mind by the design of the motion picture, by it’s setting in time, it's palette, it’s mood and general sense of place. Recently while watching My One and Only I was reminded of the artwork of Edward Hopper.

The elements shown in the trailer below from My One and Only that strongly remind me of Hopper are the interior lighting, the green golds and reds against darks and pale blue, the geometric elements provided by the lighting and the architecture - especially the way windows are used, as well as the way the actors are placed within the scene in relationship to the background and to each other, and the oblique lines of sight - looking out of frame and away from each other that emphasizes their separateness or sense of isolation.

Hopper's influence on motion picture design is well known. During a Hopper Exhibit at the Tate Modern, filmmaker Todd Haynes, whose own film, Far From Heaven draws from Hopper, pulled together a showing of films referencing Hopper's influence specifically. Here is the list of the films shown:

Far From Heaven and Safe (Haynes)
The Tarnished Angels (Sirk)
Chinese Roulette (Fassbinder)
Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock)
Blue Velvet (Lynch)
Badlands (Malick)
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton)
Grand Opera (Benning)
Giant (Stevens)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan)
News From Home (Akerman)
films of Joseph Cornell

This article from Errata, Celluloid Hopper, goes into this in depth as well as mentioning a film or two that were not a part of the exhibit.


Cynthia Friedlob said...

Excellent! I'm a huge fan of Hopper. Thanks for your observations and the links. Ah, to see that exhibit in London . . .

Kathryn Hansen said...

wow...really interesting!

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks Cynthia and Kathryn.

Huge fan here too. I wonder if traveling art exhbits have fans that follow from city to city?

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Good idea! Instead of "Dead Heads" we could be "Hop Heads!" No... wait a minute ...

Leslie Hawes said...

I like your posts about artists influence on movie cinematography.
Makes me wonder how many people not familiar with the artists works respond positively to the movie images without knowing exactly why?

Katherine Kean said...

Thank you Leslie. I wonder that too. A cultural reference to art in a movie is such a quick way to establish an emotional framework for characters and drama.

Javier Rodríguez. Sevilla, Spain said...

Javier Rodríguez. School of Architecture. Sevilla (Spain)

Very interesting text. If you don´t mind, I would like to add another film with references to Hopper: "Pennies from Heaven", the great musical by Herbert Ross

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks Javier - of course - especially the diner scene that looks just like Night Hawks for a moment. Thanks for adding that!

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