form analysis and criticism is one of my favorite pastimes. Breaking down director's and DP's visual choices and how the enhances the script and story is a great exercise. There is no better way to get into the heads and minds of directors and DPs. Analyzing their choices and coming up first with the "why" and not necessarily the "how" and applying the same formal constructs to my own film making has been extremely helpful for me. Among other things, it gives me a visual language and vocabulary that I use to communicate in my own work and with other filmmakers. After I've answered the question "why" the filmmaker has made this choice, I then move onto whether or not I thought this was a good or appropriate choice to make, which really all comes down to my own personal tastes and preferences (this is what shapes my visual style, voice, and own choices). I usually log away my answers to these formal questions somewhere deep in my brain, but now through the power of blogging I hope to start to write down some of my ideas and share them with the world. I am by no means a master of film form analysis. If there was a film school class that was only film form analysis I would have taken it 9 times.
Another great thing about this is that it is cheap. All you need is a DVD or streaming service, a brain, and the movie's script.
Films are inherently constructed of visuals. Sound design is incredibly important, but is also a "cheap thrill." Just watch a few horror movies and see if they are scary with the sound off. Some will be, some won't depending on the quality of the visuals. If you find a scene that really gripped you or blew your mind, try watching it with the sound off. It will help you focus in on the visual constructs and why they work.
Performances are secondary in formal analysis: Great performances make or break a film. They are incredibly important. They often work in tandem with great visuals. Try to break apart the visuals and then determine if they enhanced or brought down the performances. Roger Deakins is a master of this.
The Visual Story by Bruce Block
This was probably my favorite book on Cinematography that I ever read in Film School. If you read just one book, read this one and absorb it.
This book is not "very deep" and is more of a coffee table book than anything else, but it has a lot of great examples of script to screen visual translations. If anything, just watch the great examples from the book and and come up with your own conclusions
Every Frame a Painting
For the visual type (who reads books anyways) Tony Zhou's great Vimeo series "Every Frame a Painting" give you NPR quality voice recording and awesome analysis of film form. You may have seen his work frequently posted on NoFilmSchool
(a great website by the way). Every video thus far has been enlightening and he has great insights and great taste to boot.
I will use examples and knowledge from these books and others to deep dive through some of my favorite films and try to crack the visual code of these films.
P.S.: Sorry for the intro post, I realize this doesn't really contain any content, but when I start to break down films hopefully we can learn some things together!