The novice's guide to film cinematography, Visions of Light is a brisk primer on what the D.P. of a movie does: Basically, make it look the way it looks. From Birth of a Nation to Citizen Kane to Raging Bull to Eraserhead, this trio of documentary filmmakers leads us through a fascinating (and dazzling) journey of some of the world's most beautiful and most innovatively photographed movies. The focus here is more on technique than on trickery (no mention of the flames held in front of Raging Bull's camera, to give it that hazy look), and that's just fine: This is a film about how the artistry of filmmaking was born and how it developed to where we are today. It's impossible to digest in one review -- more than 100 films are excerpted -- but fascinating to sit through.
A documentary-ish experiment: Give 40 movie directors the world's first movie camera (the Lumiere cinematograph, 1895) and 52 seconds in which to shoot their own mini-film. Some of the directors go all out (David Lynch and some French people I've never heard of)... and some are pathetic, self-ego-massaging wastes of time (particularly Spike Lee, who uses his 52 seconds trying to get his baby to say "Dada"). Also curious is how many directors made movies about making movies (methinks that's all they know any more). But how often can you see 40 films, the making-of story, and an interview with the director, all in an hour and a half? Once in a lifetime is just about enough.