Hard Eight (1996) – Psychology and Proximity


Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights; Magnolia; Punch-Drunk Love; There Will Be Blood; The Master). Starring Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty; The Talented Mr. Ripley; Magnolia; The Truman Show; 50/50), John C. Reilly (The Hours; Step Brothers; We Need to Talk About Kevin; The Aviator; Gangs of New York), Gwyneth Paltrow (Seven; Sliding Doors; Shakespeare in Love; The Talented Mr. Ripley; The Royal Tenenbaums; Iron Man; The Avengers), and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction; Django Unchained; Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith; Jackie Brown; The Incredibles).

A quick post about (surprise!) cinematography and psychological intensity. First, watch this scene between Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) and Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) as they sit and chat. It lasts from 30:46 – 33:57 (the video is the entire film).

You’ll notice, first of all, that PTA starts the scene with three close-in establishing shots. Sound familiar? Check out a previous post of mine on the subject in the context of PTA’s Boogie Nights:

Establishing shots:

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Second, notice that when the conversation intensifies, the back-and-forth shots change.

Here are the 1-shots of Sydney and Clementine before Clementine asks about more personal subjects, i.e. Sydney’s family and John:

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When Clementine gets more personal, the camera swings in to make the shots dirty (over-the-shoulder). In a single shot, the camera swings from here:

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You can see the head of Sydney in the foreground. Here is the reverse shot of Sydney:

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Sydney and Clementine intrude on the other’s frame, creating a sense of psychological connection and intimacy between the two of them. Suddenly, more is at stake emotionally, and intensity is reflected by this new system of framing. Sydney and Clementine are now together in each shot – they are now more physically and mentally connected.

#PaulThomasAnderson #JohnCReilly #GwynethPaltrow #hardeight #1996 #academyawards #PhilipBakerHall #SamuelLJackson #cigarettesandcoffee #thriller #crime #oscars #RobertElswit #PhilipSeymourHoffman