The Caine Mutiny is a splendid film unless it’s compared to Tunes of Glory. All of the ethical and interpersonal goods are delivered in the latter without the tedious building of a case against Captain Queeg, and the spectacularly complex, subtle performances of Guinnes and Mills are complemented by the skills and grace of a subtle director whose interest in the infinite shades of character-gray between black and white is admirably adult and invisibly breathtaking. In the course of Ronald Neame’s 2003 interview, his distaste for the current fashion of frenetic manipulation in camera operation is made explict and sharply-but-gently contrasted with the frame of mind in which he arose:
- The camera should be written, managed and handled as though it didn’t exist.
- Fastidiously smooth pans that stop before the editor cuts.
- Long, unbroken takes of events that unfold in a given scene from the least-possible number of points of view.
- Dialogue delivered clearly over spare music that never intrudes upon, muddles or confuses the audience’ apprehension of every single word spoken by performers whose obligation and gift and duty is to enthrall the attention of the viewer in stories that are too deeply layered and too complex for words alone.
Neame expressed his belief that the current trends in camera operation, editing and sound mixing will eventually be reversed in the elevation of cinematic technique to create great work in a cohesive and collaborative manner that works to the perceptual and comprehensive advantage of the audience, unlike the priorities of the current fashion. He also said that the current trend toward freneticism in visual storytelling began with television’s insistence that the viewer IS the camera. With that last parallel I’m forced to disagree because the camera has always represented an epistemoligical nonentity. I think the current trend favors the absurd, confusing nonentity. I hope he’s right, that fashions change, and that the light at the end of this long tunnel isn’t a camera aimed in the wrong direction, vainly attempting to find the action behind the scense, offstage; reality tv as the ultimate blunder in the struggle between art and commerce. Ignore the skilled, professional actors — watch the producers/distributors pick the pockets of the numbskulls in the theater/studio audience. Neame also produced Lean’s Oliver Twist. A tiny joke.