Henderson, Brian. “Notes on Set Design and Cinema.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 17-28
In this article Brian Henderson discusses trends in set design and art direction in both classic and modern filmmaking, using films like Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Rules of the Game (1938), Johnny Gituar (1954), and Citizen Kane (1941) to provide examples. Henderson begins by noting that distinctive creators among set designers and production directors have been recognized as auters in their own right, just as directors, writers, and cameramen before them. He discusses Donald Albrecht’s book Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies with respect to his decision to include production still photographs rather then frame enlargements. Henderson asserts that production stills only provide us with a photograph of a set as it were designed and fail to depict a set as it were captured on film. Moreover, he goes on to say that a film set is extremely complex and cannot be captured by a still camera as no single vantage point can contain it in its entirety. Henderson says that such complex sets are often used in conjunction with special effects that create spatial illusions. Often miniature sets are constructed to replace sets, in part or whole, and built to scale or by devices that create composite images such as rear projection, glass shots, traveling mattes, the Shufftan process, or an optical printer. Henderson goes on to talk about the special effects used in Citizen Kane. An interview with Linwood Dunn, who did the optical printing for the film, speaks to the extensive alterations and photographic effect techniques that were utilized during post-production. Henderson also goes on to mention techniques used by Renior, and Hitchcock and concludes by questioning the state of modern set designs with respect to innovative cinematic techniques.
This article pertains to my thesis as it discusses the special effects and post production alterations that were made to Citizen Kane which contribute to the films stylistic innovation. As previously touched upon in Carringer’s article, Welles’s use of deep focus shots is an integral part of the film’s cinematic achievement, and this article details the techniques behind such shots. The interview with Linwood Dunn reveals that special techniques other than advanced hardware were used to achieve the deep-focus shots that Welles desired. For example, the deep focus shot of Susan Alexander’s suicide attempt is actually an in-camera matte shot, and the shot of Kane at the end of Xanadu’s long corridor is actually a composite of three individual photographed elements. By examining the formal cinematic techniques that underlay the films stylistic composition, Kane’s cinematic feat is evermore illuminated.