RINA YANG’S 5 FAVOURITE FILMS – TEXT LUKE BATHER
Rina Yang is a cinematographer making waves in the industry right now. Based in London by way of Japan, her name seems to be attached to more and more projects every week. Stylistically she’s something of a photographic chameleon, with each music video, commercial or short film she shoots having a unique visual voice that lends itself perfectly to the subject matter. It’s a subtle style that doesn’t require brash composition, nor does it force you to consider ‘The Cinematographer’ (capital T, capital C). This sort of restraint shows a perfect understanding of what’s necessary to tell a story in line with a Director’s vision, and a great control of the craft.
So how do you gain such an understanding? In part, at least, it comes from deconstructing the work you love and gaining an understanding of it. So we asked Rina to tell us about some films she’s had swirling around in her brain and how they’ve impacted her creatively.
“The Conformist” (1970) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
When I moved to London and somehow fell into going to film school I was exposed to European cinema for the first time. I didn’t really speak English (fun times!) so I experienced a lot of the films just by looking at visuals. When I saw this film, I was mesmerised by the bold composition and the use of shadows. Architecture and production/set design are something I’m into, so I love how Vittorio Straro composes the shots, often quite wide, with striking locations and designs in this film. When you shoot for music videos and other small screen work, people tend to frame things tighter, but it’s always nice to see the context around the characters, and feel the environment they are in.
“Tokyo Story” (1953) directed by Yasujirō Ozu
One could say that Tokyo Story is a slow film, but I love its simplicities and honesty.
It shares a universal feeling that is timeless even after 60 years. Primarily the film is about relations between parents and children, but it is also about our imperfections. Nothing is overly dramatised, and we are there to observe these characters’ ordinary lives. Ozu never forces you to feel a certain way, rather, we experience the emotion in a much more visceral way. The cinematography is as simple as the film itself, and the camera never moves. The use of deep focus and beautiful compositions (often frame within a frame) make every shot look like a painting.
“Let The Right One In” (2008) directed by Tomas Alfredson
It’s the kind of movie that everyone can relate to. Ultimately it’s a love story between two people. I am drawn to less flashy cinematography especially with dramas, and I admire the atmosphere and mood Hoyte Van Hoytema created with his lighting in this film. It feels like we are there with the characters; we can feel what it’s like to be in that cold, bare flat Eli lives in. In terms of the camera work, amongst many beautiful framings and dolly moves, the filmmakers utilise the mix of intimate shots, and in many of the scenes they let the scene play out in one shot from afar. For me this distance gives us more room to imagine, and is a lot more powerful than showing too much/spelling things out. Less is more!
“Chunking Express” (1994) directed by Wong Kar-Wai
I’m a sucker for controlled imperfections and serendipity, and Chunking Express is full of those. Wong Kar Wai created a world that feels real yet somewhat stylised, and unlike In The Mood For Love (which is equally beautiful), this film is rougher around the edges; with uncorrected practical lights, a dusty print, and visceral hand-held camera work by Chris Doyle. He said in an interview; ‘I don’t have a style. I have a response.’ – that pretty much sums up the cinematography of this film – reacting to the characters and living in the moment. Intertwining of stories and transitions between one thing and another are excellent, and the colours and texture in this film are something that’s hard to replicate with digital or modern film stock. It’s got a distinctive, unique look that’s unforgettable.
“My Neighbour Totoro” (1988) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
It’s impossible to choose which Ghibli film is the best one. I grew up watching Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, the list goes on…
Hayao Miyazaki subconsciously taught me about storytelling, empathy and imagination (the sky’s the limit!). I chose My Neighbour Totoro, just because I watched it probably over 100 times as a child (me and my siblings rinsed the VHS copy and my mum had to get a new one..), and I still remember the entire dialogue by heart!