PAUSE IT: What do you see? Three young men cast their gazes outward and up in director Jules Dassin’s important Civil Rights era work, Uptight (1968). In doing so, director Dassin draws our attention from foreground to background and then back again to foreground. What are they looking at? Here, Dassin artfully makes use of eye-lines, lens choice, lighting, color, and perhaps most importantly, triangular composition, to make us see what he wishes us to see. Why then is this still frame so captivating? Compositionally speaking, groupings of odd numbers of people and things tend to be more visually arresting to the eye than do even. While even numbers lend themselves towards harmony, odd numbers agitate us. Three or five, or seventeen people in a frame will, in most cases, be more dynamic than their even-numbered counterparts. This is because our brains are naturally wired to want to make sense and to order our surrounding. When there is a lack of unity, we as viewers immediately become curious as to why. We wish to know more. We lean forward in our chairs and sit up and listen, as with this terrific film.
Director: Jules Dassin
Cinematography by Boris Kaufman
Cast: Julian Mayfield, Raymond St. Jacques, Roscoe Lee Browne, Ruby Dee
Available From Olive Films: http://amzn.to/1U5xtGM
February 3, 2017