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KUBRICK’s LOVE for lens

Yukihiro ISHIKAWA / HOTSHOT EXECUTIVE EDITOR

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I saw some digitally remastered Stanley KUBRICK’movies: “A Clockwork Orange,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and several other masterpieces. Although his last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut,” was shot about 30 years ago, it still appears new thanks to the images’ enduring beauty. One of the biggest reasons is it was shot using film, but I found more than that when considering the recent camera and lens market.

By the way, the Stanley KUBRICK Retrospective and Exhibition has been touring in the world since 2004. We introduced the exhibition in of HOTSHOT#05. It launched in Frankfurt and has started touring each country around the world. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come to Japan yet, so I visited the retrospective and exhibition at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) by chance in 2013. Because of the abundance of information, I couldn’t see everything during that visit. So I visited twice.

All of KUBRICK’s movies were on display, including his unreleased ones, and the BTS of each movie was so interesting. The next stop for the exhibition is the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona in Spain from October 24, 2018. So if you like his movies and have the chance to go to Barcelona, I strongly recommend going to the exhibition.
Let’s get back on track. I want to talk about the Carl Zeiss Planer 50mm f/0.7, which is on display at the exhibition. As many of you may know, this lens was used in “Barry Lyndon.” Inspired by the paintings of the 18th century, which was the era for the movie’s setting, KUBRICK decided to shoot using only natural light (candlelight). After looking for a lens that would make this possible, he found the f/0.7 that Carl Zeiss made for NASA to shoot the moon’s surface. He got it and gave its shutter and aperture blades a makeover in order to mount it to the MitchelI film camera.
Even with a bright lens like the f/0.7, an open aperture was required, especially in dark areas. In addition, the small depth of field made precise focusing tricky. At that time, there was no excellent AF or focus peaking like we have today. He directed his actors to move only horizontally, but it was not that easy.

The camera crews set up a TV camera next to the actors, and drew vertical lines on the monitor so they would know where the focus was during shooting. KUBRICK found the f/0.7, but in order to use it effectively, the various ideas on set were necessary for shooting.
The large format cinema camera is the latest technological trend. The number of lenses for this camera is increasing, so the movie market is prepared to meet this demand with new creations. But if you only want to use the large format, you would feel frustrated because the depth of field is shallow like the f/0.7, and it’s hard to focus on a moving subject. So, I really am interested in how the camera/lens will be used, and what new movies will be coming out as a result.