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The Lens Flare in ‘Super 8’

Here’s a fantastic essay by Adam Nayman about the J.J. Abrams’ use of lens flare in Super 8 (via MattZollerSeitz):

Appropriately for something that makes it difficult to look directly at the screen, the meaning of this literally flashy technique can be a little bit tricky to discern. The artificial lens flare is a manufactured defect, a means of approximating the fallibility of human vision even when all or part of what’s being glimpsed by the camera eye has been created in a digital void—making it the perfect aesthetic signature for the CGI era. But Abrams, supposedly, is some kind of throwback analog figure: a commercial entertainer more interested in building his characters than blowing them up. How anyone could seriously make this assertion after seeing this transplanted television-auteur’s choices of feature film material (two mammoth studio franchises) is another good question, but we’ll go with it long enough to point out that the best thing about Super 8 is a scene that directly interrogates its director’s relationship to cinematic spectacle—a scene framed by, you guessed it, a lens flare.

  • Just saw Super 8 last night and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. I won't spoil anything, but suffice it to say that the film's ending culminates in a pileup of what are clearly supposed to be classical Spielbergian moments, and none of them felt earned.

    The film didn't even seem confident in its handling of the most basic of Spielbergian motifs: the father-son relationship. For instance, the first scene of dialogue is two periphery characters having a conversation that has no purpose except to serve as a Greek chorus in regards to Jack an Joe's dynamic.