If James Baldwin Made Films: How DP James Laxton Translated the Bold Imagery of ‘Beale Street’

IndieWire | 1/9/2019 | Staff
Click For Photo: https://www.indiewire.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/If-Beale-Stret-Could-Talk-e1547072832397.png

There has never been a movie that looks and feels quite like “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Whereas most films about love are designed to make you desire two characters, kept apart by narrative conflict, to come together; director Barry Jenkins invites his audience into the expansive feeling of love. Jenkins attributes the uniqueness of his film to the fact there has never been a feature-film adaptation in English of author James Baldwin before.

“I think one of the really beautiful things about adapting this work from the page to the screen is intellectually, as you read it, Baldwin can describe how that love feels,” said Jenkins. “The way Baldwin writes, you’ll look at a paragraph and there’s no periods in it. It’s just this running collection of moods and thoughts and feelings, that feel like these waves cascading across one another.”

Grammar - Baldwin - Mastery - Jenkins - Process

To find and fine-tune the precise visual grammar of Baldwin’s mastery Jenkins followed a process that served him so well with his previous Oscar-winner. One of the keys to “Moonlight” transcending the limitations of its $1.5 million budget – trading docu-realism for crafted visual poetry of the highest level – was the years the director and his close friend and collaborator, cinematographer James Laxton, spent creating the visual language of their eventual Oscar-winner.

Cinematographer James Laxton and actor Regina King on the set of “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Luxury - Conversations - Months - Years - Laxton

“It’s an incredible luxury in that these are conversations that sort out over months, sometimes years” said Laxton. “For example, we may reference aspects of a certain photographer and having those ideas sink in for a couple weeks. Coming back to having a drink or a dinner with Barry a month or two later, and thinking like, ‘You know that conversation we had back in May, now that’s taking on a new meaning...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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