A Survey of Obsessive Craftsmanship in Film

It’s no secret that filmmakers are an obsessive bunch. Just look at Stanley Kubrick, who kept over one thousand boxes filled with photos, clippings, notes, and other items that he referred to. The exhibition Persol Magnificent Obsessions: 30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film at the Museum of the Moving Image — the second in their series of three exhibits — uncovers more stories behind the crafting of ten painstakingly detailed films. One of a kind artifacts, production notes and artwork, costumes, and more are currently on display through August 19 — providing a rarely seen view into the creative processes of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers. If you can’t make it to New York to visit this fascinating show, we’ve got a few items from the exhibit to whet your filmic appetite.

One of the many color charts used to create Todd Haynes’ mid-century drama Far from Heaven is featured in our gallery. The filmmaker used these visual references to set the tone, look, and feel for each scene. The museum is also exhibiting a sketch the director made of Cathy Whitaker — played by Julianne Moore — that inspired him during the screenwriting process. He later sent it to Moore with her copy of the script.

There’s also a behind-the-scenes photo of Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, who was a key member of Rome’s avant-garde improvisational group Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza during the 1960s.

Francis Ford Coppola and production designer Dean Tavoularis created one of the last great sets in Hollywood in the 1980s, before CGI took over. Coppola’s Vegas love story One from the Heart was conceived of through over 500 drawings, and more than 200 carpenters helped bring it to life. In our slideshow, you’ll find an image of one of Tavoularis’ models.

Costume designer Arianne Phillips and her work on W.E. — which tells the love story of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson — is also featured. Phillips extensively researched Edward and Wallis’ costuming, looking for clothes that were actually owned by the couple and other pieces created by famous designers of the time. Several companies — including Cartier — recreated several historic pieces for the film, including the flamingo brooch we’ve shared an original sketch of, which boasts a stunning assortment of rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, with a yellow citrine beak. Cartier also lent modern and antique pieces from their collection.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, Ed Harris’ Pollock, and other works are also spotlighted. Find out more about the obsessions that drove some of cinema’s finest, below.

Image Credit: Catherine Leutenegger / Courtesy of Michel Folco

Amélie (2001)
Obsession: Magical Realism
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Production Designer: Aline Bonetto
Matte Painter: Michael Sowa
Cast: Audrey Tautou

“A page from Michel Folco’s album of anonymous photobooth strips. Folco served as inspiration for the character of Nino in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie.”