La Vida Leica!

Leica M3 stars in 2015 motion picture: Life
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Author:  James Lehrer [ Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Leica M3 stars in 2015 motion picture: Life

As a fan of Magnum photographers, the "golden age" of photojournalism, James Dean, and - of course - Leica, the 2015 motion picture "Life" was a must see. Released in the US on December 4, the 111-minute film stars Robert Pattinson as Magnum photographer Dennis Stock, Dane DeHaan as James Dean, and Ben Kingsley as studio magnate Jack Warner. Luke Davies script follows Stock from his first contact with Dean at a Chateau Marmont casting party for "Rebel Without a Cause" through his photography of Dean in Times Square and in Dean's home town in rural Indiana. Stock sensed (as did others) that Dean was a new force in acting, projecting a sense of authenticity and power that would have a major influence on filmmaking and youth culture in general. Stock set himself the goal of having his photographs be the first major photo reportage on Dean, and convinced Magnum to pursue it as a self-assignment, and try to sell it to Life magazine.

The film takes an intensely close look at both Stock and Dean as they gradually get to know one another, as well as some of the private and personal difficulties besetting both men at that critical, intersecting point in their lives. Their working relationship was difficult, but the iconic photographs which emerged and were seen world-wide before Dean's death in September 1955 played a significant role in putting both men on a fast-track to fame.

A real treat for Leica fans is the way the director, Anton Corbijn, pays close attention to the actual process of photography. Just as Dean represented a new power in acting, the Leica M3 facilitated a dynamic new approach to photojournalism which Stock exploited perfectly (the Leica M3 with its bayonet mount, rapid-wind lever, and combined viewfinder/rangefinder with bright line frames had just been introduced in 1954). It is so interesting to see him in a crowd of red-carpet photographers, his two compact M3s in a sea of huge Speed-Graphics. Throughout the film, we see Stock using his silver-finish M3s, both of which appear to be fitted with 50mm collapsible Elmars or Summicrons, shooting both with flash bulbs and available-light. At one point we see Stock's young son examining his light meter, which looks to me like a Weston Master II. Further realism is provided in the scenes between Stock and Magnum's legendary picture editor, John G. Morris (played by Joel Edgerton). The scene in which Morris excoriates Stock for bringing in proof sheets which amounted to hardly more than casual snapshots or banal publicity pictures was particularly memorable.

My (figurative) hat is off to Corbijn and Pattinson for taking such care to allow us to experience so fully part of photojournalistic history being made. The film treats Leica very well, but it is - of course - about so much more. I greatly enjoyed the film, which is available on video on demand.

Author:  jedorme [ Fri Dec 18, 2015 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Leica M3 stars in 2015 motion picture: Life

James - I just read this review of this film & as a new LVL member, must thank you very much for doing so. It was a fascinating read & thoroughly done; now I must find a way to see this movie. When you say available on video on demand, do you know if this might be applicable to that provided by Verizon over their FiOS high speed internet & TV network, to which we subsribe? I see that you have also been very busy doing multiple book & event reviews as well. I don't know exactly how you got press-ganged into the job, but I would say they got just the right man for doing it. Happy Holidays.

Author:  James Lehrer [ Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Leica M3 stars in 2015 motion picture: Life

Welcome, Jedorme, and thanks. I didn't get press-ganged; I enjoy the Leica community here on LVL, as you will. Also, sharing my thoughts on books, movies, exhibitions and presentations enhances my own appreciation of them.

I'm sorry I can't answer your question about Verizon's network. We get television over Time Warner Cable, and the movie is currently available on Time Warner On Demand (pay-per-view). As a Verizon subscriber, you should have access to a listing of available films on-line or though your TV set-up.

Author:  jedorme [ Sat Dec 19, 2015 1:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Leica M3 stars in 2015 motion picture: Life

James - Thanks much for the welcome & I am really enjoying my brief to now experience with the amount of coverage provided the many Leica topics taken up on the LVL forum. I now visit it daily & observe you are a steady contributor. And glad to hear that this is all being done in the spirit of volunteerism, but I suspected as much. I will also look into trying to find this video on the Verizon on demand network & appreciate your response to my inquiry about it.

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