C. S. Tashiro’s Pretty Pictures: Production Design and the History Film isn’t really about production design – at least not like some of the other texts I’ve reviewed here. While the term “production design” clearly features in the title, and the monograph features rich formal analysis of the design of several historical films (see below), the book seems to be more about mise-en-scène analysis than about the practice of designing films. Its visual analysis attends to cinematography – including framing, lighting, and issues of perspective – costume design, and performance in addition to production design.
However, this isn’t to say that the text isn’t rich with a visual analysis that students of production design will benefit from. Tashiro’s writing is at its best when it draws inferences from his subject’s mise-en-scène about viewer expectation and satisfaction. He’s particularly strong in differentiating between design in European and Hollywood production, even if some of the conclusions he draws somewhat predictably valorize European art film design sensibilities.Continue reading