Unlike the videos available at popular user-driven sites such as YouTube and Metacafe, the content found within Vimeo often comes across as more artsy and less motivated by the whims of popular culture. There are niches of videos that include art projects and short films; often, gems appear that break down concepts for laymen into easily-digestible pieces. One such gem is the channel created by Tony Zhou.
In his series of videos called Every Frame a Painting, Zhou picks apart the directing styles of some well-known, and some less well-known, directors that include the likes of David Fincher and Michael Bay. Each video focuses on a particular concept or style of directing.
His latest work is called David Fincher – And the Other Way is Wrong. In it, Zhou narrates atop a series of changing film clips — all Fincher films. Zhou quotes Fincher as saying, “They know you can do anything, so the question is, ‘What don’t you do?’ not, ‘What do you do?'” Then Zhou proceeds to show his audience what Fincher doesn’t do.
Fincher refrains from handheld camera usage, allowing the audience to feel like cameras are operated by humans, using a large number of closeups in each of his films, and from using any “unmotivated camera moves,” as Zhou puts it. It is precisely the omniscience and deliberate nature of the camera that defines Fincher’s work. That is something that this writer, at least, did not discern before Zhou had said it.
Call it a lack of awareness on the viewer’s part or just great directing on the part of Fincher — the insight Zhou provides offers something to his own viewers that can make the movies he describes all the deeper and more meaningful.
This is even the case with films that Zhou doesn’t enjoy. That short list, as his collection suggests, boils down basically to Michael Bay movies. Readers here may have heard of the term “Bayhem” — referring to the mayhem for which Bay’s movies are known. Zhou asserts that Bay’s style of directing is important to dissect in order to discern meaning beyond the surface-level analysis of Bayhem. There is more than just a lot of elements on screen.
Bayhem, Zhou says, includes explosions, quick camera movements, sharp scene cuts, and lots of layers, such as in the opening credits of Bad Boys where, simultaneously, there is a Porsche 911 coming toward the screen, alone, on an interstate; a commercial airliner flying across the screen; and lampposts that stretch through the shot to provide scale for the two moving objects. This is all shot on a telephoto lens — which can compress the perceived space in an image and make all those elements appear closer together than they really are.
Zhou points out that Bay’s style is essentially “3000 dynamic shots, and no static ones.” The underpinnings of the Bad Boys credits — multiple objects on screen and compressed shots — flow through every scene Bay creates. As a result, viewers experience rapid movement and a sense of fullness, but they are left without any sense of subtlety. From Zhou’s point of view, the lack of subtlety is a limitation; for his own audience, awareness of that limitation is the insight he provides.
These types of clear explanations happen time and time again — through analysis of films from Martin Scorsese, Edgar Wright, and Satoshi Kon. He also pulls apart The Imposter, Wolf Children, and Mother, directed respectively by Bart Layton, Mamoru Hosoda, and Bong Joon-ho; delves into body movements of Robin Williams; narrates a quick look at texting in film; and even releases a couple short expositions of his own. His Every Frame a Painting series only gets better with time. Undoubtedly, further episodes will add to that trend.