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December 1997, Week 1


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Darragh Barnett <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 25 Nov 1997 13:38:57 -0800
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Last night I watched the John Carpenter film, "Assault on Precinct 13" and
have an observation/question about what happens when "the lights go out".
The beginning of this film (not the opening sequence) is shot in what
appears to be a late afternoon, high cloudy day in Los Angeles.  So we start
off with subdued outdoor lighting.  As time progresses the outdoor light
continues to dim at a subtle rate.
Then we move into the precinct building.  A poorly lit to start with indoor
set, but effective to the mood required of a "dead" police station.  Time
continues to pass until dusk overcomes the sunlight outside.  This
concurrently reestablishes the fact that the lighting inside is low-wattage
with light bulbs made in the 50's or something.  Overall the darkening of
light has matched the darkening of the main characters moods.
Then it happens.  The power is cut from the outside of the electricity in
the house.  And my gut sank, thinking, oh no, am I going to have to sit
through the rest of the movie squinting to make what is going on?  And
within two minutes or so I found that the answer was NO.  Somehow, and I
can't tell from this first viewing how he did it, it was not difficult to
view the characters in the dark  Like some kind of inner glow of the
characters desire to live was being mimicked by the technical lighting on
the set.  (Mind you, I didn't think this when I watched the film, it came to
me today.)  Also made me think that if this is the subtle work of a
mastermind director, then WOW.  (Leonard Maltin rates this film ***1/2)
Any like or contrary thoughts out there?
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.