Every Frame a Painting Explains the Filmmaking Techniques of Martin Scorsese, Jackie Chan, and Even Michael Bay

How does Mar­tin Scors­ese deliv­er dra­mat­ic moments with such impact? Why do Jack­ie Chan’s kicks and punch­es, even those per­formed in ser­vice of jokes, land with such impact? And why do Michael Bay movies, despite their near-fetishis­tic inclu­sion of things crash­ing into oth­er things, seem to lack any kind of impact at all (apart from that on audi­ence adren­a­line and box office num­bers)? Ques­tions like these keep cinephiles, film­mak­ers, and cinephilic film­mak­ers up at night, and they also appar­ent­ly dri­ve edi­tor and video essay­ist Tony Zhou to make his series Every Frame a Paint­ing. At the top of the post, you can watch his analy­sis of Scors­ese’s use of silence; below, of how Jack­ie Chan does action com­e­dy; and at the bot­tom, how Michael Bay crafts his unique brand of cin­e­mat­ic “Bay­hem.”

Michael Bay, you might incred­u­lous­ly ask — the guy who direct­ed the Trans­form­ers movies? Indeed. But as Zhou puts it, “Even if you dis­like him (as I do), Bay has some­thing valu­able to teach us about visu­al per­cep­tion.” His video essays aim to learn from all films, draw­ing lessons from those that suc­ceed at every lev­el (as some say sev­er­al of Scors­ese’s do) to those that exem­pli­fy a kind of high­ly spe­cial­ized mas­tery (as Jack­ie Chan’s best sure­ly do), to those that fail at even their own aims (as Jack­ie Chan’s Amer­i­can pro­duc­tions tend to do), to those that aggres­sive­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly pur­sue ques­tion­able aes­thet­ic ends (as, well… per­haps you can guess).

Hav­ing watched these three videos and thus come to under­stand what sit­u­a­tions bring on a Scors­esean silence, why Hong Kong mon­ey allows Jack­ie Chan to per­fect­ly kick a bad guy down a stair­case, and which tra­di­tions Michael Bay exag­ger­ates to achieve his brand of visu­al max­i­mal­ism, you’ll want to move on to Zhou’s oth­er analy­ses, which break down the tech­niques of direc­tors like Edgar Wright, David Finch­er, and Steven Spiel­berg. Evi­dent­ly a fan of both East Asian cin­e­ma and ani­ma­tion, he also looks hard at what work­ing out­side live real­i­ty allows Japan­ese direc­tor Satoshi Kon to do, and what super­star Kore­an film­mak­er Bong Joon-ho gets out of tele­pho­to pro­file shots in Moth­er. “There’s actu­al­ly a lot of great videos on the inter­net ana­lyz­ing movie con­tent or themes,” he says in the lat­ter essay, “but I think we’re miss­ing stuff about the actu­al form — you know, the pic­tures and the sound.” Every Frame a Paint­ing shows us exact­ly what we’re miss­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sig­na­ture Shots from the Films of Stan­ley Kubrick: One-Point Per­spec­tive

Chaos Cin­e­ma: A Break­down of How 21st-Cen­tu­ry Action Films Became Inco­her­ent

Watch 7 New Video Essays on Wes Anderson’s Films: Rush­more, The Roy­al Tenen­baums & More

The Per­fect Sym­me­try of Wes Anderson’s Movies

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Luc Prevost says:

    Hi Tony !

    Your com­ment about Bay­hem reminds me of a com­ment made by Eric Von Stro­heim) who plays a film direc­tor :

    « I could make every moment of the pic­ture a strong one but then nobody would appre­ci­ate it…»

    (I’m para­phras­ing…)

    Great work by the way.

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