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TCM Presents AFI's Master Class: The Art of Collaboration
Robert Zemeckis and Don Burgess TV Show Review

AFI's Master Class: The Art of Collaboration - Robert Zemeckis and Don Burgess
Episode Details

Original Airdate: January 14, 2013 / Time: 8:00 PM Eastern / Channel: TCM

Running Time: 52 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Subjects: Robert Zemeckis, Don Burgess

Cinematographer Don Burgess and director Robert Zemeckis have a chat about their films and the films that inspired them in the newest episode "AFI's Master Class: The Art of Collaboration."

On Monday night (8 p.m. ET), Turner Classic Movies premieres the third installment of "TCM Presents AFI's Master Class: The Art of Collaboration", their slowly unfolding series of conversations between major filmmaking partnerships. After an episode devoted to Steven Spielberg and John Williams and one on David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg, this one's subject of Robert Zemeckis and Don Burgess does not boast as much clout or star power. But Zemeckis is one of the most accomplished directors working today and his return to live-action filmmaking with Flight,
after a period of prolonged fascination with 3D motion capture animation, is cause for excitement. You may not recognize his name, but you've seen Burgess' work. He has been Zemeckis' regular cinematographer since 1994 Best Picture Oscar winner Forrest Gump and has shot a number of important films away from the director, including Spider-Man, Enchanted, and The Muppets.

Themselves tastefully framed, the two men sit in comfy armchairs in front of a small audience of AFI Fellows studying filmmaking at the AFI Conservatory. They take turns showing clips and commenting on them, spending about five minutes on each film excerpt. They begin with films that have influenced them: Burgess selects Lawrence of Arabia and The French Connection, while Zemeckis singles out Carnal Knowledge and The Godfather. After that, they move to their own creations, choosing scenes that have meaning to them, both in terms of technical challenges and dramatic significance. For this portion, they select sequences from Forrest Gump, Contact, What Lies Beneath, and current Oscar nominee for Original Screenplay and Lead Actor, Flight.

"Carnal Knowledge" (starring Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel) is the most obscure film excerpted as an influence on cinematographer Don Burgess. "Flight" (featuring Tamara Tunie and Denzel Washington) is the latest Zemeckis/Burgess collaboration to warrant a clip and discussion.

The two men have warm memories about these films worthy of public admiration. That, teamed with taut editing, allows the episode to overcome the potential awkwardness of its design, without someone like James Lipton or Charlie Rose to facilitate. Being TCM, all scenes, of course, appear uncensored, in their original aspect ratios, and are presentable (and presumably will look even better in HD broadcast than they did on my DVD screener).

The resemblances to "Inside the Actor's Studio" continue, as in the final fifteen minutes, Zemeckis and Burgess field technical questions from the students on various aspects of filmmaking. Their answers are spiced up with clips pertaining to bits from their films they mention.

All in all, it's an enjoyable hour for those who like not only watching movies but studying and dissecting them as well. As with the Actor's Studio, your pre-existing interest in the guests will certainly factor into what you get out of it.

Related Reviews:
Directed by Robert Zemeckis: Forrest Gump Beowulf A Christmas Carol
Cinematography by Don Burgess: The Muppets Priest Enchanted Eight Below Spider-Man

Related Announcement: Flight (coming to DVD and Blu-ray on February 5)

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Reviewed January 13, 2013.

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