beauty where you find it

Andrew Sullivan calls it ‘a visual poem.’

It’s a short meditation on coming up out of the subway to the world above. Three points follow.

It traffics in the cliche of “when you least expect it, the world surprises you with beauty and grace.” It’s the same stuff you find in commercials for anti-depressants, right down to the music.

So why does this work?

First, the editing. The music is very repetitive, very familiar, but the authors make a subtle change about two-thirds of the way through – cutting on the beat for two notes – that adds emphasis.

Second, another bit of emphasis – a dissolve to what is supposed to suggest blinding sunshine. The screen whites out, and then comes back.

Finally, and most important, the camera doesn’t dwell on anything, but doesn’t turn away either. My favorite shot is the one where the elevator rises, the door opens and a man is standing in the opening to a store. He’s not exactly staring back at the camera; it’s more like the camera caught him looking out.

Work like this reminds me of my hero Atget – a perfect observer. It’s as simple and mysterious as you can imagine, though fortunately you don’t have to.


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