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Chronicle of a Camera

Chronicle of a Camera: The Arriflex 35 in North America, 1945-1972

Norris Pope
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 202
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  • Book Info
    Chronicle of a Camera
    Book Description:

    This volume provides a history of the most consequential 35mm motion picture camera introduced in North America in the quarter century following the Second World War: the Arriflex 35. It traces the North American history of this camera from 1945 through 1972--when the first lightweight, self-blimped 35mm cameras became available.

    Chronicle of a Cameraemphasizes theatrical film production, documenting the Arriflex's increasingly important role in expanding the range of production choices, styles, and even content of American motion pictures in this period. The book's exploration culminates most strikingly in examples found in feature films dating from the 1960s and early 1970s, including a number of films associated with what came to be known as the "Hollywood New Wave." The author shows that the Arriflex prompted important innovation in three key areas: it greatly facilitated and encouraged location shooting; it gave cinematographers new options for intensifying visual style and content; and it stimulated low-budget and independent production. Films in which the Arriflex played an absolutely central role includeBullitt, The French Connection, and, most significantly,Easy Rider. Using an Arriflex for car-mounted shots, hand-held shots, and zoom-lens shots led to greater cinematic realism and personal expression.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-928-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Norris Pope
  4. A Note on Terms
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION: A Thirteen-Pound Wonder
    (pp. 3-13)

    The Arriflex 35 was the most consequential 35mm motion picture camera introduced in North America during the quarter century following the Second World War—and it also became, for filmmakers working outside the studio establishment, the most hip.¹ Unveiled by the German firm Arnold & Richter at the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1937, the Arriflex was a lightweight, highly portable, reflex camera—the first commercially manufactured motion picture camera designed with a rotating-mirror reflex shutter (the basis for all modern reflex motion picture cameras), and thus the first professional motion picture camera to allow a cinematographer to see, while filming,...

  6. Chapter 2 ADVANTAGES OF PORTABILITY: The Early Postwar Years
    (pp. 14-25)

    The unveiling of the Arriflex 35 at the 1937 Leipzig Trade Fair does not appear to have had any detectable impact on North American cinematographers or cinematography. During World War II, however, the camera’s international reputation grew as a result of the high-quality wartime and combat footage taken with it by German cameramen. According to the Canadian cinematographer Osmond Borradaile, the Arriflex was “the envy of Allied cameramen throughout the War.”¹ Indeed, after the camera had become increasingly familiar to Allied cameramen and camera technicians—as German cameramen and their equipment fell into Allied hands—the U.S. military commissioned an...

  7. Chapter 3 INCREASING USEFULNESS: The Fifties
    (pp. 26-39)

    During a European trip he took sometime around 1950, Richard Moore, later an important cinematographer and one of the founders of Panavision, managed to meet August Arnold, co-founder of Arnold & Richter. Describing himself as a Hollywood cameraman (but without explaining that he had worked only in 16mm), Moore said that he wanted to represent Arriflex in America. The upshot was that he served for a brief period as Arriflex’s representative in seven western states, an endeavor into which he brought his USC film-school friend Conrad Hall. As Moore later recalled,

    I told Conrad about the camera after I got...

  8. Chapter 4 TECHNICAL INNOVATION: The Fifties and Sixties
    (pp. 40-51)

    Arnold and Richter’s pioneering design remained largely intact throughout the entire production run of the Arriflex 35, up through the manufacture of the final Arriflex IIC in 1979—a remarkable testimony to the strengths of the original conception and engineering of the camera. Additional technical development continued, however, improving the camera’s performance and also flexibility. This chapter will focus on these developments, beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the ’60s.

    In February 1954, Kling Photo Corporation ran a two-page advertisement inAmerican Cinematographerheralding the new Arriflex Model IIA, which Arnold and Richter had started producing in the previous...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter 5 A SECONDARY CAMERA OF CHOICE: The Sixties and Early Seventies
    (pp. 52-67)

    By the start of the 1960s, the Hollywood studio system was in increasing disarray, more independent films were being shot, drive-ins were attracting ever larger audiences for low-budget and niche-market films, and television remained in need of compelling dramatic series that could be produced rapidly for weekly broadcast. Although Mitchell cameras remained the standard for Hollywood production (especially the BNC for sound work), the circumstances were ripe for an increased role for the Arriflex as a lightweight reflex camera that could provide, as an Arriflex advertisement in theJournal of the SMPTEput it in the middle of the decade,...

  11. Chapter 6 SHOOTING LOW-BUDGET FEATURES: The Sixties and Early Seventies
    (pp. 68-88)

    “Y’all a bunch of communists and we know what you’re doin’. You’re trying to start a revolution. . . . Get outta town or go to jail.” This was not film dialogue but what Roger Corman remembered the sheriff of East Prairie, Missouri, telling him and his film crew when they attempted to shoot a scene in a schoolyard there. Corman was directingThe Intruder(1962), a film about racial bigotry in the South, which he was shooting—amidst growing local suspicion and hostility—in the nearby town of Sikeston, Missouri.¹ Having substituted another schoolyard for close-ups, Corman concluded at...

  12. Chapter 7 MAINSTREAM SUCCESSES: The Sixties and Early Seventies
    (pp. 89-98)

    Although most Arriflex use as a principal camera for shooting dramatic features occurred on low-budget films, this was not invariably so. This chapter will accordingly examine Arriflex use as a principal camera on various mainstream projects. In this area, television led the way with the popular seriesI Spy, starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which ran on NBC from 1965 through 1967. A fundamental premise of the series was that it would be shot on location in such faraway places as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mexico City, Rome, and Morocco. After an initial unhappy experience trying to rent suitable equipment...

  13. Chapter 8 CONCLUSION: Master Shot
    (pp. 99-112)

    John Boorman’s taut thrillerDeliverance(1972) was made shortly before the North American release of the 35mm Arriflex BL. Shot by Vilmos Zsigmond in a remote region of the Appalachian Mountains, mostly along whitewater stretches of the Chattooga River, the film took an approach to its subject matter that required many very difficult shots on, in, and around the edges of the rapidly moving river. According to Wally Worsley, a veteran production supervisor who worked on the film, Zsigmond “made it sound as if most of the footage could be shot hand-held, out of a few suitcases. To hear him...

  14. Appendix: Foreign Influences: The Arriflex 35 Overseas
    (pp. 113-122)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 123-156)
  16. Photo Credits
    (pp. 157-158)
  17. Index
    (pp. 159-168)