Roger Deakins on his Favourite Scenes

When one of the world’s great cinematographers discusses some of his favourite scenes it makes for interesting viewing.

In October 2009 Roger Deakins spoke to Melissa Block of NPR about his work on The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and No Country for Old Men (2007).

First, they discuss a sequence from Frank Darabont’s drama, where Andy Dusfresne (Tim Robbins) gets in to a row with prison guard Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) on the roof of Shawshank Prison.

They discuss the use of a crane shot, how safety cables were removed digitally and the segue to his favourite shot of the film, where Morgan Freeman’s voiceover ‘syncs’ with the movement of the camera. (Click here to see the video)

Then they talk about the scene from the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men where Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) examines a hotel room where Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is hiding in the dark.

A tense sequence, in which light and angles play a key role, they discuss specific shots and how certain decisions were made on the set.

For anyone interested in the cinematic image or how DPs visually construct a scene, it is essential viewing.

Be sure to check out Roger Deakins’ official forum where he regularly answers questions from readers.

> Original NPR story and a longer audio interview with Deakins
> Roger Deakins at the IMDb and Wikipedia
> Official forum

DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Pick: No Country for Old Men

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men is one of the finest films to come out of America in recent years.

Set in West Texas during 1980 and is the story of a hunter named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who comes across on a suitcase full of cash at the scene of a drug deal gone horribly wrong.

Taking the money, he is then relentlessly pursued by a sinister hitman named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who has been hired to retrieve it.

As Moss tries to evade Chigur a local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to keep pace with both men and protect Moss’s wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald).

By their own high standards, the Coen Brothers in recent years had lost their way a little with two mainstream disappointments in The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty.

No Country for Old Men was not only a startling return to form, but scooped the Best Picture Oscar earlier this year and saw them awarded writing and directing honours too.

Often the winner of the Best Picture at the Oscars is a case of the Academy ignoring the better film in favour of one that makes them feel good.

This is perhaps why Chicago triumphed over The Pianist (2002), Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas (1990) and Ordinary People won instead of Raging Bull (1980).

But the last couple of years has seen a different mood at the Academy with The Departed winning Best Picture last year and now this dark tale taking home the gold statuette.

Alongside The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and Barton Fink it stands as one of the Coen’s very best films – if not the their finest.

The performances are outstanding: Brolin is a revelation as Moss, Jones gives a career best performance as Bell and Bardem deservedly won Best Supporting Actor for his chilling portrayal of Chigur – one of modern cinema’s most memorable villains.

Kelly MacDonald and Woody Harrelson also chip in with fine work, whilst regular Coen collaborator Roger Deakins captures the dark, harsh beauty of West Texas with some truly stunning cinematography.

Paramount’s DVD release for the UK is mostly very. The transfer is excellent, capturing the original colours and tones with precision and care.

The extras are solid, if not spectacular, and contain the following featurettes:

  • The Making of No Country For Old Men: This is a making of featurette that runs for about 24 minutes. It contains interviews from the set with the filmmakers and cast and most of it provides a good insight into the production and how certain sequences were put together.
  • Working with The Coens: Although shorter at about 8 mins this section features Bardem, Brolin, Jones, MacDonald and exec producer Robert Graftalk about working with the Coens and their working methods.
  • Diary Of A Country Sheriff: Another short featurette (about 6 mins long) that focuses on the importance of Sheriff Bell, Anton Shigur and the Texan landscape to the movie. The actors and the Coens discuss the importance of these elements to the film.

I’m guessing that a 2-disc edition with more beefed up features may be a possibilty somewhere down the line but for admirers of the film, this is still an essential addition to anyone’s DVD collection.

I spoke to Kelly Macdonald about about the film back in December and you can listen to the interview here:


This is the trailer:

No Country for Old Men is out now on DVD from Paramount.

> Buy the DVD via Amazon UK
> IMDb entry for the film
> Read reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Official site for the film

Awards Season Cinema Interviews Podcast

Interview: Kelly Macdonald on No Country for Old Men

Kelly MacdonaldThe Coen Brothers have returned with No Country for Old Men – an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel and now the most critically acclaimed film of the year.

Set in West Texas it is the story of a hunter named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who stumbles across a suitcase of cash after a drug deal gone wrong.

He is then pursued by a ruthless hitman (Javier Bardem) whilst a local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to keep up with them.

Kelly Macdonald plays Llewelyn’s wife, Carla Jean, who is also forced into hiding whilst her husband is on the run.

I spoke to her recently about the film, how she got cast, what it is like working with the Coens and the performances of her fellow actors in the film.

Listen to the interview here:


To download this as a podcast via iTunes just click the image below:

No Country for Old Men
is out in UK cinemas on Jan 18th

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> Kelly Macdonald at the IMDb
> Official website for No Country for Old Men
> Get local showtimes for your area via Google Movies