The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Dark Knight Rises
DVD Playback
The Big Heat
Somethings Gonna
ASC Close-Up
Somethings Gonna Live (2010)
1.78:1 (enhanced for widescreen televisions)
Dolby Digital 2.0
Docurama Films, $29.95

Early on in Daniel Raim’s delightful, touching documentary Something’s Gonna Live, legendary cinematographer and director Haskell Wexler, ASC, makes the observation that gives the film its title: “If you’re gonna spend your time doing the best you can doing shit, then why do it?” he asks. “If you’re gonna spend your time giving to future generations some of the benefits of your knowledge, maybe that’s a way of having a legacy. . .so that something’s gonna live.” It’s a simple idea, but one that is explored with depth, wit and poignancy in the 78 minutes that follow Wexler’s quote.

Wexler is one of six master filmmakers profiled in Something’s Gonna Live; he is also, along with Raim and Guido Verweyen, one of the movie’s three directors of photography. The other five craftsman whose work and career Raim documents are production designers Robert Boyle (North by Northwest, Fiddler on the Roof), Henry Bumstead (To Kill a Mockingbird, Flags of Our Fathers) and Albert Nozaki (The War of the Worlds, The Ten Commandments); storyboard artist Harold Michelson (The Graduate, Star Trek) and cinematographer Conrad Hall, ASC (In Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Among these six gentlemen are 25 Oscar nominations and eight wins, not to mention dozens of films that stand as great works of art and entertainment.

By interviewing his subjects toward the ends of their careers and lives — a moving final sequence reveals that only Wexler is still alive — Raim has created an invaluable document for filmmakers, students and fans. The film is deceptively casual as it begins with a trip to Paramount Studios, where Raim follows old pals Boyle, Bumstead and Nozaki as they tour their old workplace and reminisce. Raim uses the tour as a starting point to look at each man’s work and background, integrating interviews, film clips and archival footage and designs with the footage of the Paramount visit. What begins as an affectionate look at three friends slowly transforms into a lesson in the history of film as an art and a business, and Raim makes the shift so subtly viewer barely realize it has happened.

The juxtaposition of scholarship with anecdotes and camaraderie continues as Raim brings more filmmakers into the narrative, beginning with Michelson and moving on to Wexler and Hall. As connections among the men’s careers are revealed (Boyle and Bumstead both worked with Hitchcock; Michelson collaborated with Boyle on The Birds; Boyle partnered with Wexler on The Thomas Crown Affair and Hall on In Cold Blood, etc.), their passion for the work they have done becomes obvious and infectious. It is hard to imagine any filmmaker failing to be inspired by the conversations Raim records.

At the time of the interviews, all of the subjects are in their 80s and 90s, yet their enthusiasm is undiluted. Hall speaks of his dream that a renaissance in film art is yet to come; Bumstead is shown gleefully working on Flags of our Fathers from a wheelchair, and all six men talk eloquently about their idealistic hopes for their own work and their appreciation of that of their peers. The result is that Wexler’s assertion “something’s gonna live” from his films and those of Boyle, Bumstead, Nozaki, Michelson and Hall is not only proven by Raim’s documentary, but also descriptive of it — for Something’s Gonna Live is a portrait of six masters that will have value as long as there are people who care about the cinema and art in general.   

The feature presentation alone is indispensable, but the DVD of Something’s Gonna Live also contains a wonderful selection of bonus features, including 16 minutes of deleted scenes that provide additional insights and anecdotes from Wexler, Boyle and Bumstead. There are also a 20-minute audio interview with Wexler, a six-minute conversation between Boyle and Hall and a 23-minute lecture from Boyle’s master class at the American Film Institute. Best of all, the DVD includes Raim’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Man on Lincoln’s Nose (2001), a superb 40-minute look at Boyle’s life and career, also shot by Wexler, Verweyen and Raim. Like Something’s Gonna Live, the Oscar-nominated documentary is a celebration of great filmmaking by great filmmakers, and it is a gift and inspiration to anyone who loves the movies.  

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