History does not move in a straight line, nor does art. Just because our technology is better, doesn’t necessarily make our cinematography better. If you only look at American cinema you get the impression that cinematography has progressively become more colorful, more dynamic and more creative. This is an illusion created by the changing culture of Hollywood. In the 1967 Soviet mega-epic WAR AND PEACE, you can find cinematography that’s staggeringly modern. Eight years before the invention of the Steadicam Sergei Bondarchuk was putting his camera ops on rollerskates and having them dance with his actors. He used helicopters and early technocranes to get jaw-dropping aerial shots. And decades before bokeh was embraced as a desirable stylistic tool, he was boldly painting with it. Tens of thousands of extras were used for the battle scenes. This five-hour multi-part Russian language film is truly a spectacle. And yet, few Americans have seen it. Why watch the Russian version when you can watch the BBC miniseries? Many will think this. But when you choose the modern versions over the originals you get modern artistic sensibilities. Can twenty-first-century Millenial brits capture the spirit of Tsarist Russia better than the Russians themselves? Is shakycam actually more “realistic” than Bondarchuk’s dazzling dolly shots? We are also living in a highly revisionist cultural moment in the west. And due to this, I believe now is one of the worst times for the making of historical films. Real figures are being gender-swapped (The Aeronauts) and race-swapped (Mary Queen of Scotts) just to pander to political correctness. Only by taking the past for what it was, can we learn from it. There is real cinematic genius to be found in obscure places. There is also sometimes greater truth to be found there as well.