Magazine article American Cinematographer

SPIKE LEE Twists and Turns OLDBOY into Something New

Magazine article American Cinematographer

SPIKE LEE Twists and Turns OLDBOY into Something New

Article excerpt

In choosing to recreate Oldboy for Western audiences. Spike Lee made a bold move. The original movie, based on a Japanese graphic novel, won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and earned a passionate fan base. Lee completely reimagined the story, casting Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, a man who is released after 20 years of solitary confinement with no explanation. Thirsty for vengeance, he discovers that he has only five days to uncover his tormenters. The cast also includes Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson.

Oldboy was filmed in a variety of atmospheric locations in New Orleans, Louisiana. The mostly local camera crew was led by Sean Bobbitt, BSC. The Texas-born cinematographer has been on a roll, with The Place Beyond the Pines, 12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger among his recent credits. The latter three of those movies were done with director Steve McQueen. All were shot on film.

For Oldboy, Lee and Bobbitt decided to use a variety of film formats to visually distinguish the different threads of the story, including 2-perf and 3-perf 35mm as well as Super 16. The majority of the film was shot in 2-perf 35mm, which uses less vertical negative area per frame, resulting in a 50 percent savings in raw stock and processing costs compared to standard 4-perf, and facilitating longer takes and fewer magazine changes. The budget was reportedly under $1 million.

"From day one, Spike wanted to shoot film," says Bobbitt. "I think this project lent itself to film because in a way, it's a classic, and because the original was done on film. There were some concerns around budget, so I suggested 2-perf because of the cost savings. We shot some tests, and Spike agreed."

"I'm old school," says Lee. "Film is right for some projects, and this was one of them."

¿r v The movie begins in 1983 and moves forward to present time, in m which the character is released. "We wanted to differentiate, but we didn't want todo it all within! the Dl," Bobbitt explains. "We . shot Super 16 and graded it to look like reversal. We found that we could get a very good match for the reversal look using Dl techniques, and it seemed like an interesting way to start the film. We also shot some Super 8 material for flashbacks. For that, we used Spike's own modified CANON Super 8 camera." Additionally, some surveillance camera footage and television playback material was captured using electronic formats.

The lenses were primarily COOKE S5s. The aspect ratio was a widescreen 2.40:1. The film stocks included KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219, which Bobbitt pushed a stop for nighttime exteriors, and KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 for day interiors. For day exteriors in the hot Louisiana sun, Bobbitt chose KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203.

"That 50 daylight stock is absolutely astounding," says Bobbitt. "I love everything about it, especially its cleanliness. Even in 2-perf, it's so grain-free. I love grain, but in some situations, it's not as useful. With the 50 daylight, you get a truly exceptional image.

"From the creative point of view, it's nicer to actually manufacture those looks from the beginning," he adds. "Just by choosing the different stocks, we can make a very subtle visual statement. To me, that is the most important advantage in shooting film."

For efficiency's sake, Bobbitt usually shot with two cameras at once. …

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