Movie Article

Queasy Does It

Why are directors so hooked on handheld cameras? Lisa Schwarzbaum investigates the latest trend

Matt Damon | STILL SUPREME? ''Bourne'' joins the handheld bandwagon
Image credit: The Bourne Supremacy: Jasin Boland
STILL SUPREME? ''Bourne'' joins the handheld bandwagon

Why are directors so hooked on handheld cameras?

Why are directors so hooked on handheld cameras? We just saw ''The Bourne Supremacy,'' which people liked, but we're feeling a bit carsick. --Peggy McHugh
I'm guessing that in most cases, vertigo isn't the intended reaction, but you're right -- many filmmakers are smitten these days with the artfully messy aesthetic of handheld camera work. And we can look to the combination of modern, lightweight technology and edgy sensibility for an explanation why. There's something immediate, intimate, personal, and just plain zippy conveyed by a scene shot by hand -- think of the tour de force nightclub scene in Michael Mann's ''Collateral'' -- and something newsy and tough, too, as if we're there on the case. (''Bourne'' director Paul Greengrass shot his fact-based political nail-biter ''Bloody Sunday'' as a nerve-racking docudrama.) The handheld look suggests a liberated, nonfiction-style indifference to looking composed and ''pretty.'' And as such, it's an easy way to indie up even the glossiest studio production.

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Originally posted Aug 20, 2004 Published in issue #779-780 Aug 20, 2004 Order article reprints