Kevin Kehrwald

Catch Lights

In black and white movies, the actors have no pupils, only dim shark's eyes, unless the cameraman places a tiny light, or an open flame, called a catch light, very near the lens so the light reflects off the eye and gives it a center. In Notorious, when Cary Grant looks at Ingrid Bergman and slowly slips the tips of his fingers behind the little hairs on the back of her neck and caresses her cheek with his thumb, you can see, if you look very closely, the reflection in her eyes begin to brighten and flicker in excitement. It's likely the little flicker was unplanned, that the anonymous person holding the light in front of the lens was leaning into the scene with anticipation. And when you notice that, the shimmering blaze from nowhere, it's then you realize Cary Grant does more than just seduce the woman he loves. He seduces the room.

Close-ups and Slow Motion

In the movies, if we get a shot of a man looking at his watch, the following shot will be a close-up of the watch itself. The watch, now grown the size of the man, seems perfectly proportional despite its distortion. But take the second hand ticking on the watch and put it in slow motion and you'll instantly see some trickery going on. We will accept as real the exaggeration of space but not the elongation of time. Thus, great close-ups are extolled (Garbo's face!), while great slow motion sequences are parodied (try watching the athletes in Chariots of Fire running on the beach without smiling a little now). Only the movie camera captures the ephemeral in motion, but call too much attention to the fleeting and we dismiss the revelation as unreal. Slow motion doesn't hold up over time.