“A cinematographer is a visual psychiatrist – moving an audience through a movie … making them think the way you want them to think, painting pictures in the dark”- Gordon Willis
This quote pretty much sums up the power of cinematography; as it lends a certain texture and fabric to the entire filmmaking process. While the storytelling style is intrinsically important; the cinematic journey is more enhanced and enjoyable because of the variant lights and distinct camera angles. Divergent tones uplift the mood and enrich the experience, transforming them into memorable moments. Join us, as our authors talk about their favorite cinematographic choices, in terms of design and costumes!
Krishna Naidu’s Favorites
The first show that comes to my mind when we are talking about cinematography choices is obviously Winter Begonia. Starring two veteran actors in main lead roles, this magnum opus manifests in the Republican era. As such, the sets and costumes are hugely resplendent from those turbulent times. Director Hui Kai Dong’s productions are well known to have extravagant sets, and Winter Begonia wasn’t an exception. Huang Xiao Ming’s Cheng Feng Tai lives a rich lifestyle; his costumes reflect his social stature. Feng Tai owns a Princely mansion and the lavish tones set a precedent for his expensive choices. The camerawork is brilliant and you can’t help but enjoy the exuberance and be enthralled. Yin Zheng’s Shang Xi Rui plays the role of Consort Yang. His costumes are delicately woven with expensive stones; the opera theaters where he performs are equally extravagant. The best part about this show was the attention to minute details; it really enhanced the overall experience. The grandeur of the sets coupled with the unhindered romance between the main leads made this show a worthwhile experience.
While this show cannot be applauded for its abysmal CGI effects or sets that were painfully low budget; The Untamed must be celebrated for its clever usage of varied landscapes and sleek camera angles that betray our main lead couple’s chemistry. So, while the sets might leave you heavily disappointed, the cinematographer must be praised for making the most of the bare minimum. Designer Chen Tongxu has also done a fabulous job in depicting the different sects via their costumes. While cooler tones were used for Gusu Lan sect to highlight their icy demeanor and strictness; warmer tones were used for the Yunmeng Jiang sect to portray their cheerful attitude. The contrast makes the differences between our lead couple more viable and yet interesting!
Under The Skin
The recently concluded crime thriller “Under The Skin” was hugely commended because of the brilliant chemistry between the main leads. The impressive cinematography coupled with the mesmerizing music truly elevated the experience to another level. The overall aesthetics of this drama were mind blowing; subtle changes in the tones that shifted with each case reflected the character’s struggles and mindset. The color grading is different for each case and it either leaves you stunned or shocked. It’s been so long since I enjoyed the camerawork in a show, so Under The Skin was a pleasant surprise. The costumes were kept casual, and they were on par with the character’s appearance.
Couple of Mirrors
While this sismance was hugely underrated and failed to make its mark (it could be attributed to the abysmal storytelling); China Huanyu Entertainment spared no efforts in replicating the Republican era’s costumes and sets. Zhang Nan’s You Yi is ethereal-elegantly dressed and strikingly beautiful. Her mansion, expensive lifestyle and demeanor represent her feminist values and modernism. Sun Yi Han’s Yan Wei on the other hand, has a rustic clothing sense that was a subtle dig at her assassin role. The storyline was regressive, but I did enjoy the camerawork and close angle shots of the sets that were unbelievably lavish and posh!
Enchanté The Series
While there is nothing innovative about this romcom, Enchanté scores high on having an impressive cinematography. The lavish university where major portions of the show have been shot will leave you awestruck. The wide camera angle shots that betray our main lead’s chemistry and closeness are a nice touch; because Book Kasidet and Force Jiratchapong make a charming couple. The warm tones set the mood for most of their romantic interactions, and the darker tones depict their yearnings. It’s a faint yet nice touch, which portrays the sharp contrast between our main character’s and their blossoming relationship.
You’re My Sky
You’re My Sky might be one of the few college romances that left me speechless. While the storytelling is impressive, the most fascinating part of this show is the intelligent camerawork. Following into the footsteps of I Told The Sunset About You, You’re My Sky makes a clever usage of warm tones to project its main characters’ struggles and turmoil; close camera shots are mostly used to capture their vulnerability or passionate encounters. The build up of emotions is intriguing, and the detailing is praiseworthy.
It’s a shorter list this time.
I’m not sure whether I’m the right person to comment on this because I’m pretty much lacking in knowledge that involves cinematography and film-making in general. Hopefully, that’ll make this Sunday feature less frustrating to read because it’s shorter than most of my other lists (laughs in self-deprecation again).
Semantic Error (2022)
I think this is one of the most well-produced KBLs to date. It felt like the manhwa had come to life right before my eyes. The colour palette was reproduced perfectly, with the reds and purples in their close shots bringing out the original sensuality of the manhwa. The smallest details were replicated well in the live-action adaptation so that the various changes that were required to fit a longer manhwa into an 8-episode long series didn’t take away from the familiarity of the original.
You’re My Sky (2021)
There are two reasons as to why this is on my list—the first one being the improvement in production (especially when it came to decisions concerning unnecessary slow-motion shots) and the other one being the use of warmer tones that just make the scenes pop, it’s so pleasing to the eye. The series was not on my radar when it was released but the production quality was certainly why I thought it’d be good to give it a shot (a decision I don’t regret one bit).
Guo Jing Ming’s Painted Skin and Wuliang (2020)
The aesthetics of these two movies are out of this world—it isn’t too surprising that Guo Jing Ming won the short film contest (“Everybody Standby”) in 2020 with these two movies. From the settings and the beautiful shots to the seamless and well-produced scenes involving martial arts, these short films take cinematography to another level. I found myself immersed in these films because of how beautiful everything was. I don’t think I’ve ever found any other media in the wuxia genre so breathtaking.
This section exists solely because I really don’t have much to say about a lot of my choices so I’d rather just mention them than go around in circles trying to figure out what to say (plus, quite a few of these have already mentioned by others:
Not Me (2021) for being one of the best things that ever happened—in terms of production, plot, and representation; ITSAY and IPYTM for having some of the most stunning visuals—the production value of this franchise is certainly one of the highest out there; Word of Honor (2021) with its brilliantly beautiful sets. Also, a huge shoutout to Nguyen Tran Trung Quan x Denis Dang music videos for being so aesthetically pleasing.
We will be back next week with the finale edition of this feature. So till then, keep watching this space as we bring you more updates from the Asian BL World!