Saturday, October 04, 2008
I used to storyboard for a live-action director named Colin Higgins, and Colin told me to use back shots as frequently as possible, because it's a great way to reveal character. I agree and I used to call for it in animation sometimes, though I probably shouldn't have. Only a few classic animators like Tom McKimson felt comfortable with this angle, and most modern animators probably dread it. Anyway, back shots are what we're talking about here. All these pictures are by Maira Kalman, from her interesting new book, "The Principles of Uncertainty."
The old Pakistani man on the right (above) seems to be suffering from osteoporosis, and from a side view he'd probably appear like a question mark. He still has a great deal of dignity and the clothes look good on him, in fact he's probably the best-dressed person on this page.
The squared shoulder, the half-hidden head, and the gentle, humble and wise position of the arms and hands seem to tell you all you need to know about him. This is an exceptional amount of information, even for a back shot.
The girl in green (above, left) is wearing a light and airy, unpretentious house dress. The hairstyle is neat and practical, the attitude of the body is confident and contented. She's a likable person, all the more because she appreciates the visual impact of wrinkles!
Two people who are worlds apart: The bridesmaid full of anxiety, with the bondage strings in the back (above, left), and the traditional old woman, making her way down the street in a shapeless, widow's dress. You admire the older woman because you know she devoted tens of thousands of hours to bringing up a family.
Osteoporosis (above) again, though a milder case. The jacket is modest but not unfashionable, and the hat is color co-ordinated. High-heeled boots. Maybe this woman used to be an artist. The spindly legs disappearing up into the jacket, come to an odd end at the top where the hips are unexpectedly wide. It creates a mystery, which is a very considerate thing to do for the people who walk behind you.
You see lots of back shots like this (above) in drawings made a hundred years ago. The jacket is tight around the shoulders with gravity pulling down loose fabric in the back. It's the perfect suit for a tall, older man on the go, someone who was used to thinking on his feet and giving orders. The interior volume of the umbrella makes a perfect contrast. He's taking large, manly strides.
Holy mackerel! An interesting dress (above)! It's inappropriate because it's too tight, but that doesn't prevent her from projecting a strong personality. She thinks she looks good in it, and her confidence wins us over; besides, she's probably doing it to impress a guy, and whenever a girl dressed to impress me (before I was married) I was always so flattered that the attempt completely won me over.
I find myself rooting for girls like this, hoping they'll get the get the guy they're after. I always want to know their story. I guess a good film wardrobe designer knows about things like this, how to dress somebody so that we want to know more about them. Everybody should possess some clothes that that subtly suggest a backstory.
Whew! Another strong contrast! The woman on the left (above) is vain, overly fashion-conscious, probably flaky, maybe abuses pills...but, she makes an effort to please, and that makes up for a lot of sins.
The woman on the right (above) is earthy and self-confidant, probably more intelligent than people give her credit for. She's independent, proud that she thinks for herself, maybe not open as open to new ideas as she should be. I always think this is a wrong life strategy. You should never be self-contained. There should always be a part of you that needs other people, and can be hurt by them. People should always be incomplete without other people, regardless of the consequences. But what do I know?