i'm using captures from the square version, because i find that version to have better composition. welles always used the entire screen to compose his framing, and in some scenes in the lbx version it's obvious nothing was masked in the viewfinder when it was framed. look at the scene when the drunk quinlan comes in the hotel room and strangles grandi, in the lbx version, susan lying across the bottom of the screen is lost. if this isn't a clue, nothing is.
PB: How do you decide where you’re going to put the camera?
OW: I don’t make a conscious decision—I know instantly where it goes. There’s never a moment of doubt. And I never use a viewfinder any more.
PB: You look through the camera when it’s set up?
OW: No. I place my hand where the camera goes and that’s it. It never moves — I know exactly where it’s going to be.
PB: But don’t you then look at the set-up?
OW: Then. And that’s where it should be, and I’m right. For my money. I don’t fish for it—or very seldom, only when I’m in real trouble. And then the fishing leads me nowhere and it’s better if I go home or go to another scene. Because if I’m fishing it means I don’t know, something’s wrong.
PB: It’s really instinctive rather than—
OW: Oh, it always is. I think I share with Hitchcock the ability to say what lens goes in the camera and where it stands without consulting a finder or looking through the camera. He does that, too, I believe.
PB: He sometimes draws a little sketch for the cameraman.
OW: Oh, I don’t do that. I just walk over and say, “There it is.” I may be dead wrong, but I’m so certain that nothing can shake it. It’s the only thing I’m certain of. I’m never certain of a performance—my own or the other actors’—or the script or anything. I’m ready to change, move anything. But to me it seems there’s only one place in the world the camera can be, and the decision usually comes immediately. If it doesn’t come immediately, it’s because I have no idea about the scene, or I’m wrong about the scene to begin with. It’s a good sign, a kind of litmus paper for me. If I start to fish, something is wrong.
PB: Then it must be inconceivable to you, the idea of covering a scene from many different angles, as many directors do.
OW: That’s right. Inconceivable. I don’t know what they’re fishing around for—they don’t know what they’re doing in the scene. Though I think the absolutely solid camera sense is not a sign of a great director. It’s just something you have or you don’t have. I think you can be a very great director and have only a very vague notion of what the camera does at all. I happen to think I have total mastery of the camera. That may be just megalomania, but I’m absolutely certain of that area. And everything else is doubtful to me. I never consult the operator or anything. There it is.
PB: Was it that way on Kane, too?
PB: Right away?
OW: Right away.
PB: It’s instinctive.
OW: Yes, kind of instinctive, if you will—an arrogance that I have about where it’s going to be seen from.
PB: I know it’s difficult to dissect the creative process—
OW: Well, it’s not even creative, because it is an instinctive thing, like a question of pitch for a singer. Where the camera goes. If you’re absolutely sure, you may be wrong but at least it’s one thing you can hang on to. Because I’m filled with doubts all the time about a movie: that the whole tone is wrong, that the level of it is wrong, that all the text, the performances, the emphasis, what they say, what it should be about—I’m constantly reaching and fishing and hoping and trying and improvising and changing. But the one thing I’m rocklike about is where it’s seen from, by what lens and so on. That to me doesn’t seem to be open to discussion. And it’s something I must be grateful for: even if I’m wrong, I don’t have that worry. But I always find scenes in a movie—I did in Kane and I have ever since—that I don’t know how to photograph, and it’s always because I haven’t really conceived of it fully enough.
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