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building pyrotechnics

July 1, 2013


From Benjamin

Fireworks on screen are usually a step behind magic tricks in their failure to convey the excitement or mystery of their live subjects. But if, this Thursday, you can’t make it to a local display, turn the lights down and tune in to the openings of
Woody Allen’s Manhattan [1979] or Barry Levinson’s Avalon [1990] to inspire your sense of awe and allegiance to the sentiments of  America’s birthday.

For Manhattan, legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis  managed to render all the explosive beauty you could want of fireworks even while shooting in silvery black & white. Accompanied by Gershwin’s heroic “An American in Paris”, the New York City skyline is shown in its most romantic and, surprising for such a singular urban phenomenon, its most
American form – big, built and bursting with energy.

With his Oscar-nominated cinematography for Avalon, Allen Daviau’s steeply raked, skyward view of an early 20th century immigrant’s first 4th of July celebration, paced with Randy Newman’s twinkling, tremulous, string-driven
score, expresses all the hope, pride & anticipation that this national holiday is meant to embody.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Independence Day on film.

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