[Not] filling his frame with faces

William Wellman’s “The Ox-Bow Incident” 1943.
Watched it last night. Been thinking about it all day. I’ve thought about blind justice of course, but mostly I’ve been thinking of medium long shots, oddly framed two shots, studio back lots and sound stages.

And of André Bazin’s response to Sartre’s attack on “Citizen Kane”, and of a 1950’s “Hitchcocko-Hawksian” named J.L. Godard who rejected Bazin’s admiration of Wells’ long shots and deep focus in favor of the choppy, unrealistic “shot reverse shot”. (J.L.G. obviously had a change of heart when he transitioned from film critic to filmmaker.)

(Too bad about the commentary plastered over the image.)


From Film Comment

“Then there’s the question of Wellman’s supposedly “grotesque,” antique style. Along with Chaplin, Wellman was probably the only director of his generation to really appreciate the dramatic value and pictorial possibilities of the medium long-shot. Only when faced with the essentially claustrophobic occurrences of The Ox-Bow Incident(neatly emphasised by the use of tightly-enclosed studio sets-much of the compact punch of the film would be irrevocably gone had Wellman resorted to the easy alternative of shooting it in Monument Valley) – only then would Wellman resort to the convenient option of filling his frame with faces.”

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