Our theme of the month, R&R, continues with Ski School (1991).
PAUSE IT: What do you see? A skier flies down a snowy mountain course, spraying ice and slush in the direction of the camera. Thrumming with the rock guitar riffs of the film’s climactic race, the scene is both visceral and beautifully captured. So much so that it may come as a surprise to learn that this still was taken not from an instructional video or a Olympic event, but rather from director Damian Lee’s juvenile bro-comedy Ski School. What is perhaps, at first, easily dismissed as a silly movie about ski dudes and their party animal antics, Ski School takes on added cinematic dimensions when seen in light of its excellent slow-motion and stunt photography. Slow-motion photography, along with its counterpart fast-motion photography, are cinematic techniques which have been with us since the early days of cinema. While fast-motion photography (sometimes known as undercranking) has found use in slapstick comedies where it can elicit laughter by causing normal movements to appear awkward or foreign, slow-motion photography has traditionally been utilized to have the opposite effect. While fast-motion distances the viewer from the subject, slow-motion pulls us in, heightening the dramatic action and causing us to more closely identify with what we are viewing. Often used to emphasize the minutia of a certain action or emotion, what slow-motion does is allows the viewer to experience time differently than we might otherwise. By manipulating the frame rate at which a film is photographed, a cinematographer can alter the way in which we perceive the ongoings of a story. Since the silent era, cameras have been standardized to shoot at a rate of 24 frames per second (24fps). When shooting slow-motion, however, a camera will be set to record the action at a higher frame rate. In other words, having more frames per second extends an action while having less shortens it. When put to its best use, as it is in Ski School, an audience can be shocked or wowed into a feeling of great emotional impact.
Ski School (1991)
Director: Damian Lee
Cast: Dean Cameron, Tom Bresnahan, Patrick Labyorteaux
Cinematography by: Curtis Petersen
Available from Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
July 12, 2017