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  • After two movies, Chris Colombus declares himself "in total burnout"

  • therefore, it is decided to replace him - the first time out of three this would happen

  • and every director will consider his predecessors' and successors' work with respect and kindliness.

  • For now, let's delve into the bizarre concept that is the young

  • Alfonso Cuarón.

  • When he came onto Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban project,

  • he had already directed two adaptations of great literary classics in the USA, and two more personal movies in Mexico.

  • He had achieved a little success, but had never worked on a project that serious.

  • But unlike Columbus who can easily do the yesman,

  • Cuarón has a very established visual style that will give a very different *feeling* to the movie

  • For a long time, I saw that as a problem, but in the end, I think that, in that symbolic of the character's entrance in adolescence and maturity,

  • his choices do make sense.

  • Cuarón's previous movie was Y tu mamá también, a road movie about two teenagers, which Rowling liked,

  • and confirmed Cuarón as a good choice to tackle this evolution of the characters.

  • And, sort of like a teenager, the movie makes its revolution in the visual transposition of the books.

  • The style goes from being noble and distinguished...

  • To a little more informal and messy.

  • Thankfully the magical painters are Realists, can you imagine if one of them was to play Picasso ?

  • *vomiting sounds*

  • "Kill me..."

  • A change which, in my opinion, symbolises this idea,

  • is that the actors now have the right to personnalise their clothes a little, and to be a little more ungroomed.

  • And that is exactly the term I would use to describe Cuarón's direction : ungroomed.

  • Almost all of the movie is shot with a Steadycam or a crane, and mostly uses short focal lenghts,

  • which reduces the shaking and gives this nonchalant and wide camera, typical of this director's movies.

  • This instantly adds more dimension to the universe, which until then seemed really cramped in the frame.

  • Additionnaly, he applies a blue filter on the frame, and chooses to clip the blacks,

  • which gives a peculiar texture, dark and smooth at the same time,

  • in total opposition with the rather natural, sometimes brightful colors of Colombus's movies.

  • He also allows himself what his predecessor has never did: a few digressions.

  • Before Lupin's class, for instance, he allows himself a somewhat elaborated effect, just for kicks

  • and reunites in one frame the shot and reversed shot, when the camera shows the mirror,

  • and enter the reflection in one uninterrupted movement.

  • That doesn't particularly mean anything in the movie, it's just for style.

  • Still being a little ungroomed, he sneaks in a few little jokes,

  • like when he starts the shot a little bit too early to pick Harry up at the inn

  • and catches the housekeeper gag before he appears in the frame,

  • or when Hermione grabs Harry by the collar, and the camera has time to go from the hand to his face

  • before it disappears from the frame, carried away by the branch.

  • The treatment of time is totally surrealistic, just to make a little visual gag.

  • You have to understand I have a problem with Cuarón : he does brilliant things, but always in the same way.

  • And it bores me. As it does with Tim Burton.

  • That's why I still scoff a little, but I approve all the directing choices that I just listed,

  • and I do not say "ungroomed" to be pejorative.

  • What I mean by that is that it's sort of like an overactive teenager, overflowing with energy, starting to take magnitude,

  • and sometimes having trouble keeping focus,

  • as with the illustration shots of the seasons passing on the Whomping Willow or with the Dementors.

  • Special care is given to the ellipses to ensure that they will go unnoticed.

  • Closing iris, playing with the movie's cliped black, or even making a transition with a visual effect like the rain.

  • The idea is to give the feeling that the movie never stops,

  • wich reinforces the effect of Harry and Hermione's going back in time in the third act.

  • And to get over with this "teenager" aspect, in the introduction,

  • it creates a tiny mismatch with the movie's universe just so it can say that, literally,

  • Harry is playing with his wand under the blanket!

  • Which can be filed in the same category as the nut-cracking butler.

  • But let's get back to serious matter : Cuaron's directing allows him to finally

  • direct in a slightly more elaborated way than "filming the character who's speaking".

  • When Arthur Weasley decides to talk to Harry about Sirius Black, the scene happens in a long take.

  • At first, the characters are in the light and have room in the frame.

  • Then when Arthur brings up the subject, they are in half-light.

  • Gradually, the poster of Black invades the frame like it does Harry's mind.

  • When Arthur tells him he probably is his target,

  • both characters are totally in the shadow and the frame is way more narrowed around them.

  • This kind of progressively composed shots can be found several times,

  • the long take being Alfonso's little indulgence, focused on Harry's point of vue,

  • and the camera is free to move around to show the action rather than making multiple cuts.

  • Note that each director tried to retain their predecessor's work,

  • even if it is difficult to see what's left of Colombus in Cuarón's work.

  • Hints of it can be found in the newcomer's use of ghosts to make the world of Hogwart feel alive,

  • the camera sometimes holding on their act for a few seconds, before going back to the character.

  • That said, I have two problems with his work, aside from the repetition I always feel with his style.

  • So OK, maybe J.K.Rowling declared that she loved the dre-heads, and thought they blended perfectly in her universe,

  • I have no problems with that, there were even dre-heads in the black magic store in the second movie.

  • That's not the problem. The problem is to make them

  • THESE FUCKING COMIC RELIEFS!

  • I'm sure there was no way to exploit the driver and the inspector for a humorous scene!

  • You had to add a miniature Eddie Murphy with dreadlocks!

  • If at least there was only one, but no, they come back further in, still very useful!

  • This is all the more infuriating that he's just wasting time, during which he could explaine the Animagi and the names in the Marauder's map,

  • something the plot is very much lacking, and would have been of great service to the following movies.

  • And finally, Cuarón's chaotic style creates images that are really astride between genius and bad taste,

  • like this half-CGI dolly zoom which ends up having very thick grain because of the digital zoom and all the filters.

  • All this leading up to this werewolf that looks like the bastard child of Gollum and the Tex Avery wolf,

  • not exactly the best design in the franchise.

  • Luckily, they are in the same movie as the Dementors.

  • For in spite of every mistake the movie makes, it does have everything that was missing from both Columbus movies.

  • Finally, the students do other things besides exposition,

  • finally, the director realizes he's making a movie in a school,

  • and that children, even well-behaved British children,

  • are living human beings who can't keep talking exclusively about crucial plot points.

  • This is the first movie where a sensation of group develops elsewhere than with the Weasley's,

  • and where friendships flourish. We even have our first clue of the relationship between Ron and Hermione.

  • And that's important because the rest of the story makes it essential to know the interactions between the characters and their environment.

  • By the way, here's a funny little detail: since choices had to be made to put the story on to the screen,

  • every two movies comes a more relaxed one, which intensely focuses on the relationships between characters.

  • Getting back to the environments, this is where the Harry Potter movies started to film their sets.

  • Switching to short focal lenghts and broad shots constantly surounds our characters with the set,

  • rather than having them on a big, sort of abstract blurry backdrop.

  • It gives more scope, more grandeur, and really makes the magic of this world stick out.

  • Incidentally, note that some sets have been modified, such as the Whomping Willow being moved,

  • and the mountains around Hogwarts finally looking like a natural habitat, rather than a golf course.

  • New actors join the cast to embody the new characters, but not only.

  • Richard Harris, who had been chosen to embody Albus Dumbledore, passed away in October 2002.

  • He is replaced with Michael Gambon from here onwards,

  • and I can't help being glad about it.

  • That came out wrong...

  • I mean first, it lucky that it happened right when the universe gets revamped,

  • but also, I never liked Richard Harris's performance.

  • I mean, he looked the part of the old wizard, but not the old and powerful wizard.

  • Rather the old wizard who will soon get his spells wrong when his Alzheimer kicks in next summer.

  • Can you imagine Richard Harris, with his slow gait and his slippers, fighting Voldemort?

  • This echoes my criticism about Columbus's adaptation being sort of "retro",

  • embracing the cultural imagery of wizards rather than reinventing it.

  • Harris is the fairy tale Dumbledore.

  • Gambon is the Dumbledore of legends.

  • We also meet Professor Trelawney, inevitably awesome, since she is played by Emma Thompson,

  • and also David Thewlis as Remus Lupin,

  • but above all else, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black.

  • I know many people make fun of him being typecasted in villain roles for a while,

  • and say that since he realized that worked The Dark Knight's James Gordon worked well,

  • he's now only does good guys. I rather think this turning point in his career is in Harry Potter.

  • In the incarnation of a character who is accused by everyone of being a madman and a psychotic killer,

  • and is revealed to be one of the most beloved characters in the saga.

  • He can therefore play several ranges of acting: the mad killer he is believed to be,

  • the madness of a man who spent 13 years in Azkaban, and the nice godfather who wants to live with his nephew.

  • Let's mention the music for a bit: John Williams is back, with his themes still slightly hidden behind the action they underline.

  • That said, the director's unusual style makes him vary in his own style,

  • for instance, by choosing more uncommon instruments, and much more modern and memorable jazzy rythms.

  • Cuarón wanted to sneak more music and songs in the story,

  • which results in this fucking pointless choir.

  • But now, let's get real!

  • Alfonso Cuarón gives way to Mike Newell for the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,

  • a record-breaking episode with landscapers for this is the one where the hair stylist decided it was

  • BUSHES FOR EVERYONE!

  • The fourth Harry Potter story is very dear to me because, since I can't do anything like everybody,

  • I was never hooked by the first book, and it was only when I read Goblet of Fire that I got into it,

  • bought the two books I had missed, and ended up importing the last one in English.

  • This is also the point when I embraced the film saga.

  • Mike Newell, however, is another surprising choice, in that his career doesn't exactly announce a director of magical blockbusters.

  • Granted, he did direct two movies about the supernatural,

  • The Awakening, his second movie based on a classic Mummy story,

  • and Into the West, about an Irish legend,

  • but he is best known for his adaptations of great British literature,

  • and most of all for Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

  • OK, so they actually took anyone who had already worked on a British literature adaptation.

  • That's the only thing the 4 guys have in common, whatever the budget.

  • And thanks for that!

  • Yeah, this saga probably wouldn't have turned out as great if the producer had gone the safe route and only hired the "appropriate" people.

  • The proof being that the guy who seemed logical made two very basic movies, with little to no personality.

  • Which this one has.

  • The first great thing that stroke me about this film is the lighting.

  • It rarely leaves a mark on me, but here, Newell and his director of photography

  • manage to make it look both realistic and magical.

  • Just this stunning shot backlighted buy the dawn, both gray and drab, yellow and warm

  • leaves me speechless in contemplation.

  • The nights are especially well lighted,

  • and I'm specifically thinking of the Riddle cemetary scene.

  • Everything is perfectly visible: we can feel how directional the sources of lights are, yet with very soft shadows,

  • except the one on the ground caused by the Moonlight.

  • Beautiful work.

  • And at last, there's real directing.

  • In my opinion, telling a story is just the basics of the directing job.

  • You really start to practice it when you start expressing things visually, rather than explaining them.

  • It's about time to start doing so, for were're getting into the bulkiest books, and choices had to be made.

  • As I stated before with the previous movie, skipping over the explanation of the Animagi when it was called for

  • completely ruined Rita Skeeter's potential in the movie.

  • She is now reduced to making a few interviews that seem to have no point except to annoy Hermione.

  • But speaking of Hermione, let's talk about the House Elves.

  • Think about everything that would come into play in representing this subplot:

  • the number of CGI Elves to model, the unnumerable FX sequences that Dobby would add,

  • the badges to animate, the sets to create, one more week of probabbly very expensive shooting

  • all of this so that the Elves can ask Hermione to leave them alone at the end!

  • Are you surprised it was taken out?!

  • Don't you think they already wasted too much money to erase the actors' teenage acne as it is?

  • To keep the logic, Dobby, who had to give Harry the Gillyweed

  • was replaced with Neville, since including the Elf meant explaining that he worked at Hogwarts.

  • He could not come out of nowhere with the plant, that would have been phoned-in

  • and if he was to be introduced in other scenes, the runtime and budget would skyrocket.

  • You have to understand that it was the first time they were confronted with such a need to condense.

  • The people in charge long thought that they should split the book in half, which they ended up not doing, but it was a close call.

  • Instead, they pruned away everything that wasn't essential.

  • Notice for example that the introduction at the Dursley's has been done away with for the first time,

  • so that they could start the movie with a build-up of Voldemort's return.

  • Also, while the Quidditch Tournament has been retained, because it's the first look we have of the wizard's daily life,

  • the match itself was cut after we were given enough to feed our imagination.

  • The ghosts are completely gone from Hogwarts from this movie onwards,

  • starting the progress towards a more adult world.

  • The time of spirits making a fool of themselves at each meal is gone, now people will die!

  • I mean, until then, the germ-fearing sissy,

  • the python who would rather split his nose rather than use his teeth, and the anorexic breath tester were fine and dandy,

  • but here, the ending is a 14 year-old teen being tortured and mutilated by a group of adults!

  • And the return, with the Cedric scene it absolutely horrible!

  • Magical world, my ass! This is ghastly!

  • Speaking of magic, adults, teenagers and my ass,

  • this is the episode where our heroes have gone far enough into their teen years for their hormones to start driving.

  • This is the beginning of love stories, and the movie focuses a lot on that in the scenes about the Yule Ball.

  • I'm not saying that just because this is the first movie with an innuendo,

  • which besides requires the audience to understand it on their own,

  • but because it's also the first film in the franchise, until Cormac in the sixth,

  • to feature a sex-obsessed character.

  • And yet so many things were pure at the time...

  • David Tennant hadn't become Doctor Who yet...

  • Robert Pattinson hadn't become Edward from Twilight yet...

  • Note that the movie also adds character-developing scenes,

  • like McGonagall's dance lesson, shot for the price of the record-player,

  • because the actors were already there, and because it happens in the empty refectory set,

  • and also the great scene where Ron and Harry try to get a date for the Ball, and get reprimented by Snape.

  • Very British scenes, in a slightly uptight humor, that work very well,

  • written by none other than Mike Newell, and not Steve Kloves, the saga scriptwriter.

  • So, how does that Mike Newell-guy do?

  • Well, I say he does very well!

  • Once again, the new director tries to keep his predecessor's work within his own.

  • The opening is the perfect exemple of that: we have a long take with very elaborated camera movement, Alfonso Cuarón-style.

  • Starting from the ground, the camera films the statue, which reveals the title when it speeds up to the sky,

  • before falling back on a landscape with the very noble and calm movements of Chris Columbus.

  • He uses the same darkened blacks as in the Prisoner of Azkaban for the Voldemort dream sequences.

  • He gives the saga its first broad circular shots, and a more spectacular aspect that was missing from the previous movie, which was more intimistic.

  • But, as I said before, there's alot to cram in, and for it to work,

  • some things have to be told visually.

  • For example, how does one simplify the Crouch subplot,

  • without having to shoot extra-scenes, or making it boring by only explaining it verbally?

  • Synecdoches are so cool!

  • When I explained it for the first time, I mentioned the example of M.

  • While the killer's face can't be seen, he can be identified by his whistle.