Neville Brand’s eye


Frame still from Kansas City Confidential

Look at the pinpoint focus in this shot from the 1952 movie Kansas City Confidential. An over ripe crime melodrama, it features some of the most startling closeups I’ve seen.

The tough guy actor Neville Brand is staring down his opponent while Lee van Cleef looks on. What’s unique is that cinematographer George E. Diskant has focussed on only one of Brand’s eyes, while the near and far is out of focus. It was a fairly low budget movie so probably there was no time or equipment to get more depth-of-field. He has focussed on the better lit short side of the face, intensifying the cold stare.

Screen actors have to act from their marks, a point in space which the camera has been focussed on. With depth-of-field of about one inch, Brand must have had good body control and steady nerves. Cinema is about faces.