A Report From An Overcast Magic Hour In NYC

Last evening, 7:30, heading to a tour a friend gave a museum group of her art collection, I was momentarily freaked out by the light.
At first, I figured it’s how streetlights turn on before it gets dark, but no. The sky was mottled, completely overcast, a bright, diffused, grey>>faint plum lightbox. It was that post-sundown interlude cinematographers call magic hour, except you never hear about “cloudy magic hour.” For some reason, the light was cold, and every streetscape detail had a hardcut crispness.
Then, I turned into my Korean deli, of the narrow middle-of-the-block variety, and was freaked out again. Was it the contrast with the strange outside light? Something wasn’t right. So I asked, and, sure enough, they’d packed the ceiling with new fixtures, all filled with full-spectrum fluorescent tubes. $20 each, the owner proudly boasted. It was like shopping in a Gursky photo. I walked back out–with enhanced calcium absorption powers, apparently–into the separate-but-equally intense twilight.
[Read an ASC‘s interview with Thin Red Line DP John Toll. “Because this is a Terrence Malick film, a lot people will just assume that we sat around waiting for magic hour, but we simply didn’t have the luxury of doing that… We had a 180-page script…Yes, there are magic-hour shots in the film, but only because we had to shoot until it got dark!]