Lily Rose Depp in The Idol
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv ‘The Idol’ Owes More to Robert Altman and Reality TV than ‘Euphoria’

‘The Idol’ Owes More to Robert Altman and Reality TV than ‘Euphoria’

Lily Rose Depp in The Idol

When HBO’s “The Idol” premiered earlier this month, it quickly became clear to fans of series co-creator Sam Levinson’s “Euphoria” that they weren’t going to get a continuation of that show’s stylistic motifs. “The visual language is fundamentally different,” editor Julio C. Perez IV confirmed to IndieWire. The shift in strategy, from a more intentional single-camera methodology derived from the work of Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson to an improvisational multicam approach, was dictated by both artistic and pragmatic factors and had profound implications for Perez’s work as a publisher.

Where ‘Euphoria’ often feels influenced by ’90s masterpieces like ‘Casino’ and ‘Magnolia’ in its elaborately choreographed tracking shots and elegantly crafted compositions, ‘The Idol’ takes its cues from the more relaxed ’70s styles of Hal Ashby and Robert Altman — as well as another influence that might seem surprising coming from a cinephile like Levinson. “Sam locked into a reality TV aesthetic,” Perez said. “He was really interested in how that kind of storytelling is different than a more premeditated and articulated version of cinematic storytelling.”

“The Idol”HBO extension

For Levinson, the language of reality television, in which action appears to be captured on the fly by multiple cameras rather than engineered, provided the appropriate lens through which to view pop star Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) as someone who lives his life in the spotlight. According to Perez, there was also a more practical rationale: Since the entire series was re-shot after an initial version was scrapped, it was essential to capture more footage as quickly as possible. “Sam wouldn’t make the decision just because of that, but he lets you do things in a certain amount of time,” Perez said.

Shooting with two or three cameras instead of the one typically used in “Euphoria,” coupled with the greater degree of improvisation not only in terms of dialogue but also blocking, meant Perez and his collaborators faced a mountain of retakes. “The shooting reports were comparable to documentary work I’ve done in the past,” Perez said. “Sam wasn’t just trying to capture lightning in a bottle, but a lot of little bottles of lightning from one scene to the next. When you take two or three cameras to capture the improvisation and certain discoveries are processed and explored, the footage starts to get bulky.

Luckily, Perez had a few milestones to guide him through each scene. “The core of the show is the tension between Jocelyn and Tedros,” Perez said. “So right there you have an important decision that’s been made from a general or structural point of view.” The trick of the editing was to find the nuances and gradations in the constant shifts of power between the characters, a challenge Perez accepted. “There was a delicate balance in Jocelyn’s every look, every facial expression. We were deeply focused on subtleties that people might miss on first viewing, and there was a lot of modulation of the power dynamics and sexual politics between Jocelyn and Tedros. Could it have gone many different ways? Absolutely.”

The Idol Owes More to Robert Altman and Reality TV | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“The Idol”

The ambiguity of the relationship and the question of how much agency Jocelyn has in any given scene have led to much online debate and controversy relating to the series, but Perez embraces the complexities and shifts in perspective that some viewers have a hard time understanding. “In commercial storytelling, if you do it without tension, you’re dead,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what genre you’re in. If you had a clear and obvious understanding of exactly where Jocelyn is from frame one at the end of episode 5, the show would be dead in the water, just boring. It is carefully constructed to give you the experience of sometimes being around Jocelyn, sometimes hanging out with Tedros.

The number of options available to Perez both in terms of calibrating the relationship and determining which takes to use from hours of footage meant that his early cuts were longer than any other one-hour series he has ever edited. “My first cut of episode 1 was an hour and 45 minutes long,” he said, adding that co-editors Nikola Boyanov, Aaron I. Butler, Julie Cohen and Aleshka Ferrero were all essential in finding a final shape. for the series. “People hear that more footage means more work, but they don’t really understand it. They don’t understand what it means on the field. But it’s a profound difference when you have more off-the-cuff candid shots. So I’m very grateful to (the other editors) for their contributions, their attitude and their blood, sweat and tears. And I’m super proud of what we’ve done as a team.”

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