“Persol Magnificent Obsessions: 30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film” at the Museum of the Moving Image

North By Northwest - Camera Diagram

A scene from North by Northwest juxtaposed with Alfred Hitchcock’s illuminated camera diagram.

The most inspiring pieces of art are those which the artist’s passion for his or her work is made visible.  In these works, we can feel the artist’s inspiration and vision; yet, we often overlook or forget the painstaking attention to detail which is so necessary to communicating that vision.  For us as viewers, the  beauty of the product often overwhelms the process.

The new exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image was created to remind us of that process – to show us that every frame is meticulously planned.  “Persol Magnificent Obsessions:  30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film” takes a close look at the creation of works by some of the most respected artists in the film industry.  From composer to cinematographer, Hilary Swank to Hitchcock, the exhibition shows us more than just the finished product; we see journals, drawings, color palates, script drafts, and other materials created before and during production.  They make their point without needing much explanation:  these artists will go to almost any length to get every detail right.

Accompanying these objects are clips from the films themselves.  Next to Hitchcock’s continuity sequences for the famed airplane scene in North by Northwest plays the actual scene from the film.  A projector illuminates the corresponding camera on the sequence as it is cut to in the clip.  It immediately becomes clear that Hitchcock had the entire sequence planned out in his mind (and on paper) long before filming ever began.

Each artist in the exhibit is given a similar treatment, giving you a taste for the attention to detail that goes into making a film. Not only will you see these artist’s passion and dedication for their work, but you’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for the intense process behind getting a vision up onto the silver screen.

If you’ve already visited the Museum of the Moving Image, this new exhibit makes it well worth the return trip, and will be on display until August 19th.  If you haven’t, its permanent exhibitions and collections, celebrating everything from film to video games, make this one of New York’s most engaging and culturally relevant museums for today’s image-oriented world.  Admission is free with a valid student CUID through the Arts Initiative’s Passport to New York program.

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