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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.