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Oedipus the King: Why it wasn't a success


Oedipus the King: Appreciating the work of a cameraman
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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So we would proceed with the shooting and Philip said, now this and now that, and now that, and now we're here. I said, 'But Philip, you've crossed the line'. He said, 'Oh well, never mind'. I said, 'Well, we better have a... there are ways of tackling this problem. Well known ways. We can't just sort of say, never mind'. So that was a little bit of a problem from time to time. But the number of times where I've seen these enormous discussions with people going round the back of the sets and drawing little diagrams on the flats where... for instance, a classic example is where you have a table with four people round it, in the middle you have a vase of flowers, and you sooner or later you get to a position, and say, well, should the vase of flowers be on the left or should it be on the right, and they can never agree about that. But the important thing about crossing the line is you shouldn't do it unwittingly. You should be aware of... This is a... this is a convention and it's a convention which has a reason behind it. Which is regularly broken by people like Ozu, particularly Ozu in Japan.

Whenever I discuss this with students, the problem of the line, why the line is there, why you shouldn't cross it, how to cross it if you need to cross it, and then I point to Ozu. I said, if you see any picture by Ozu, you'll find that people are always looking... if there's two people in a room and they're having a conversation, both of them are always looking somewhere close to the camera, but usually on the same side'. And at first you, kind of, say... something a bit funny going on, and then, of course, you accept it. Because there's two people in the room, there's nobody else there and they're talking to each other, so obviously they're talking to each other. But in the West and generally speaking, we have this convention and it needs to be followed, and there are ways of dealing with it. But you shouldn't... you shouldn't cross it unwittingly.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Japan, Oedipus the King

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008