A Survey of Obsessive Craftsmanship in Film


It’s no secret that filmmakers are an obsessive bunch. Just look at Stanley Kubrick, who kept over one thousand boxes filled with photos, clippings, notes, and other items that he referred to. The exhibition Persol Magnificent Obsessions: 30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film at the Museum of the Moving Image — the second in their series of three exhibits — uncovers more stories behind the crafting of ten painstakingly detailed films. One of a kind artifacts, production notes and artwork, costumes, and more are currently on display through August 19 — providing a rarely seen view into the creative processes of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers. If you can’t make it to New York to visit this fascinating show, we’ve got a few items from the exhibit to whet your filmic appetite.

One of the many color charts used to create Todd Haynes’ mid-century drama Far from Heaven is featured in our gallery. The filmmaker used these visual references to set the tone, look, and feel for each scene. The museum is also exhibiting a sketch the director made of Cathy Whitaker — played by Julianne Moore — that inspired him during the screenwriting process. He later sent it to Moore with her copy of the script.

There’s also a behind-the-scenes photo of Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, who was a key member of Rome’s avant-garde improvisational group Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza during the 1960s.

Francis Ford Coppola and production designer Dean Tavoularis created one of the last great sets in Hollywood in the 1980s, before CGI took over. Coppola’s Vegas love story One from the Heart was conceived of through over 500 drawings, and more than 200 carpenters helped bring it to life. In our slideshow, you’ll find an image of one of Tavoularis’ models.

Costume designer Arianne Phillips and her work on W.E. — which tells the love story of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson — is also featured. Phillips extensively researched Edward and Wallis’ costuming, looking for clothes that were actually owned by the couple and other pieces created by famous designers of the time. Several companies — including Cartier — recreated several historic pieces for the film, including the flamingo brooch we’ve shared an original sketch of, which boasts a stunning assortment of rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, with a yellow citrine beak. Cartier also lent modern and antique pieces from their collection.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, Ed Harris’ Pollock, and other works are also spotlighted. Find out more about the obsessions that drove some of cinema’s finest, below.

Image Credit: Catherine Leutenegger / Courtesy of Michel Folco

Amélie (2001) Obsession: Magical Realism Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Production Designer: Aline Bonetto Matte Painter: Michael Sowa Cast: Audrey Tautou

“A page from Michel Folco’s album of anonymous photobooth strips. Folco served as inspiration for the character of Nino in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie.”

Image credit: MGM/Photofest, Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

North by Northwest (1959) Obsession: Crafting the Sequence Director: Alfred Hitchcock Production Designer: Robert Boyle Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint

“Cary Grant (as Roger O. Thornhill) in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959). The exhibition features a detailed drawing by Hitchcock that maps all camera angles for the iconic crop-dusting scene.”

Image credit: Courtesy Todd Haynes/Universal Studios LLC.

Far From Heaven (2002) Obsession: Melodrama Director: Todd Haynes Production Designer: Mark Friedberg Cinematography: Ed Lachman Costume Designer: Sandy Powell Cast: Dennis Haysbert, Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid

“Todd Haynes’ color chart for scene 47 of Far from Heaven with reference image from Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955).”

Image credit: Roberto Massotti

Ennio Morricone Obsession: Avant-garde Soundtracks A Fistful of Dollars (1964) The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966) Director: Sergio Leone Original Score: Ennio Morricone Cast: Clint Eastwood

“Orthophonic Recording Studio, Rome, 1976. The composer Ennio Morricone during the recording for ‘Musica su schemi,’ Cramps Nova Musicha n. 9, with Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza.”

Image credit: Courtesy of American Zoetrope

One from the Heart (1982) Obsession: Lucid Dreams Director: Francis Ford Coppola Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis Cast: Fred Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Nastassja Kinski

“Miniature model of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas that was designed by Dean Tavoularis for Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart.” The museum will be screening the film.

Image credit: Courtesy of Graphic Films/Collection of Museum of the Moving Image

Douglas Trumbull Obsession: Immersive Cinema

“Douglas Trumbull painting a galaxy for Graphic Films’ To the Moon and Beyond, a film for the KEM Exhibit at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, held in Flushing Meadow Park.”

Image credit: Cartier Archives, © Cartier

W.E. (2011) Obsession: Costuming Character Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips Cast: Abbie Cornish, James D’Arcy, Andrea Riseborough

“The original design of the Flamingo clip, designed as a flamingo in characteristic pose, created by Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier in 1940.”

Image credit: Photo by John Chapple/Rex Features (509260b)

Million Dollar Baby (2004) Obsession: Physical Acting Director: Clint Eastwood Technical Advisor, Boxing: Hector Roca Cast: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Lucia Rijker, Hilary Swank

“Boxing trainer Hector Roca and Hilary Swank. Oscar nominated actress Hilary Swank returns to Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, where she trained for the movie, Million Dollar Baby. Former world heavy weight boxing champ Mike Tyson trained at the famous boxing gym as a youngster.”

Image credit: Ink drawing by Ed Harris, courtesy of the artist

Pollock (2000) Obsession: Character Development Director: Ed Harris Production Designer: Mark Friedberg Cast: Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jeffrey Tambor

“Ed Harris created numerous abstract paintings and drawings in preparation for his performance as Jackson Pollock.”

Image credit: Courtesy Recorded Picture Company Limited

The Last Emperor (1987) Obsession: Color Director: Bernardo Bertolucci Cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro Cast: Joan Chen, John Lone, Peter O’Toole

“The ‘yellow Curtain’ scene from The Last Emperor (1987), showing the work of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, from his book Writing with Light, Colors, Elements edited by Aurea Electra.”