Saturday, May 26, 2012

Leonard Retel Helmrich

“His camera glides through spaces in a way that just seems impossible,” said the documentarian Robb Moss, a film lecturer at Harvard. “Sometimes you stop looking at the movie and look at the shot. But I think it’s delightful. It may be distracting, but I’m all for it.”

To Mr. Helmrich, whose trilogy will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art beginning Thursday (with a Sept. 28 showing of “Position Among the Stars” on HBO2), his innovations — like the SteadyWing, a camera mount with handlebars, and the placing of a camera on a bamboo pole (to get that trestle scene) — arise out of a philosophy that he calls single-shot cinema.

“It happened when I stopped thinking in shots, and started thinking in camera movement,” the Dutch-born director said via Skype from a film festival in South Korea. “I don’t want to make the camera movements in anticipation of the editing. I want to make the editing in celebration of the camera movements. I want to have complete freedom in how I move the camera. When you start thinking that way, you come up with shots that are never done before. And shots that can only be done with equipment that doesn’t yet exist.”

Like a tripod made from floor dusters. Or a bamboo “crane” with which he shoots the painters on the roof of a mosque. Both of those were devised on the fly when he found himself in unusual shooting situations. “He has this remarkable ability to see the world with a camera,” said Mr. Moss, who asked Mr. Helmrich to shoot “Nuclear Underground,” a coming documentary, “and then to build this equipment out of basic household items and make shots you’ve never seen before.”


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