Paul Thomas Anderson has praised fellow director Barry Jenkins for his use of close-up shots in his films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. According to IndieWire, the two filmmakers recently appeared on an episode of the DGA podcast The Director’s Cut.
Anderson, the man behind cult classics such as Magnolia, There Will Be Blood and The Master, equated Jenkins with his hero Jonathan Demme for his mastery of this crucial element of filmmaking.
“I’m very jealous of your close-ups. There’s a long line of people who have really tried to do Jonathan Demme close-ups and I try all the time, but I have to say, you got it right better than anybody,” he told Jenkins.
“I’m like how is he doing that? I’ve tried so hard. I suppose it has to do with the right faces, but it has to do a little more than that,” he added.
The Moonlight director was taken aback by Anderson’s praise for his directing skills. “Let the record show that Paul Thomas Anderson is jealous of my close-ups! I’m done,” Jenkins quipped. The director said he looks for “faces that are open, that will invite the audience in” and searches for an appropriate moment to film a close-up.
“I don’t plan them. Every now and then there’s a moment. Acting is an intellectual thing, so there’s always a distance between the actor and the character. Sometimes on set, I’ll just find or feel this moment where the actor and the character, the distance shrinks There is no distance between them. What the audience is seeing if they are looking directly at them is their soul,” Jenkins said.
“It sounds like bullsh*t, but there’s just this moment where the actor, everything just peels away. I tell the actor to just look right into the camera, and usually, there is no dialogue. When you introduce dialogue the intellect kicks back in. There’s always a moment, especially in these last two films, where the audience has to look directly into the eyes of the character in order to really feel what they’re feeling,” he added.