' Cinema Romantico: The Merry Gentleman: Ruminating On A Perfect Shot

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Merry Gentleman: Ruminating On A Perfect Shot


It is one of my favorite shots in all the cinema, and it is so straight-forward. Two people standing in a quiet field watching a Christmas tree burn.

My favorite shots tend to be framed simply, but elegantly, while conveying a whole heap of meaning and/or emotion. This is a skill becoming less prevalent in the era of the steadicam and visual pyrotechnics.

Post Yuletide, Kate, with the assistance of Frank, tosses her formerly ornate Christmas tree next to the garbage bin in a Chicago alley. It reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld line about our love/hate relationship with the Christmas tree, how we go to such lengths to make it appear so extravagant and then once the holidays cease we immediately discard it in the street in the manner of a mob hit. But Kate, bless her soul, is a feeler and, thus, at the sight of this bloodless hit, she assumes a face not so much of guilt as of genuine heartbreak.

Frank registers the look, reclaims the Christmas tree and the next shot is of the evergreen strapped to his car roof so it can be taken to more a suitable, shall we say, burial ground. And that is how we come to find Kate and Frank watching it burn.

One of the traditions of Twelfth Night is removal of the Christmas tree from the home whereupon it is burned. Twelfth Night is the holiday in early January that officially concludes The Twelve Days of Christmas, marking the date in which the Wise Men themselves finally reached the birthplace of one Jesus to pay reverence and deliver gifts. It is a holiday oft-forgotten, rarely mentioned, as if the sped-up modern world no longer possesses enough patience for the Magi to show up at the front door. "The First was rung in and it's the second so toss away that tree so we can just move on to our resolutions and......wait, what were our resolutions again? That is soooooooo twenty-fours ago." And this is why there is something wonderful in these two characters, whether by design or not, sticking it out for the full twelve days and adering to the ritual.

I have been thinking about this shot a lot recently – about once a day, in fact, and this is because every morning when my train rounds the corner between the Southport and Belmont stops it passes an unappealing, litter-strewn roof that, for reasons I will never know, acquired a plastic Nativity scene wise man laying face down, as if discarded by drunk revelers that thieved him from a nearby church. It genuinely breaks my heart every morning. And every morning I imagine pushing the emergency button to stop the train right as we go around that corner and hopping off the rails to the roof and to retrieve the wise man so it can be put to rest properly.

I can only assume that is what Kate Frazier would do.

2 comments:

blahblahblah Toby said...

I too share your affection for this type of shot. Obviously. And in an ideal world it should go without saying that steadicam and pyrotechnics are a visual turn off 90% of the time.

Nick Prigge said...

Those 10% that know how to it right can really make it work. But those that don't......oh, heaven help us.