Friday, 15 June 2007
THE GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHER-DIRECTOR RELATIONSHIPS
There's a great tradition of directors' frequent collaborations with their trusted cinematographers. I've sampled some of the best long term collaborations which involved at least three films made together. I've chosen each of these for their artistic and cinematic contribution the world of cinema. So I'm not judging these on the length of collaboration but the quality. Please read, and as always send through your comments. Enjoy.
Robert Richardson-Oliver Stone
The Stone-Richardson relationship goes back to Stone’s second film “Salvador”. Richardson collaborated on the Oscar-winning “Platoon” and “Wall Street”. But it wasn’t until “Talk Radio” that Richardson’s style was born. Under the guidance of Stone Richardson developed a hazy-hard lit style, where he frequently used hard light above actors, which blew out parts of the frame. Stone and Richardson would use this technique with virtually all of their films from “Talk Radio” to “U-Turn”. With “The Doors” or “Natural Born Killers” for example this technique complimented the drug-hazed hallucinatory theme of the films. Maybe there was a falling out between the two because Stone and Richardson haven’t worked together since U-Turn. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Stone’s work has been going down hill ever since.
U Turn (1997)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Heaven & Earth (1993)
The Doors (1991)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Talk Radio (1988)
Wall Street (1987)
Freddie Young – David Lean
After filming “Bridge on the River Kwai” with John Hildyard Lean hired veteran Freddie Young to lens his next series of epics. “Lawrence of Arabia” was their first film together. The film won Freddie his first Oscar and the film would go on to become one of the most beloved films of all time. Young and Lean managed to use the wide and desolate desert landscape to their advantage. Shooting in 70mm, they were able to frame a character as a tiny figure against a wide desert background, and still have him big enough on screen for the audience to see. The famous introduction of Omar Sharif into the film is a classic but even more impressive is the raid on Aqaba. As hundreds of camels raid the city, we see the action from a magnificent long pan from above. Young and Lean would get grander and grander with their next two films – “Doctor Zhivago” and “Ryan’s Daughter” both of which net Young two more Oscars as well. Lean would take a long hiatus after “Ryan’s Daughter”, and so their working relationship ended there.
Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Here’s the Aqaba sequence:
Christopher Doyle – Wong Kar Wai
Christopher Doyle is an Aussie who left the country at 18 to travel and immerse himself in all cultures of the world. He landed in China and learned Mandarin and Cantonese. After making “Days of Being Wild”, Wai’s second film, this was clearly the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Doyle and Wai soon developed a unique style of art-street films that would influence many of the cool-slick looks of today. Doyle and Wai would shoot in small cramped apartments, lit with Hong Kong-famous fluorescent and neon lights. Fluorescent light creates a different look on film, and when not colour corrected creates a green-tinted hue. This style has been copped by virtually every ‘slick’ film made since.
In the Mood for Love (2000)
Happy Together (1997)
Fallen Angels (1995)
Ashes of Time (1994)
Chungking Express (1994)
Days of Being Wild (1991)
Beautiful movement and colours from "Fallen Angels":
Janusz Kaminsky – Steven Spielberg
Prior to the 90’s Steven Spielberg had used several DOPs to lens his films – Vilmos Zsigmond, Bill Butler, and William Fraker. Allen Daviau, who made six films with Spielberg, was his preferred collaborator for a long time. But after working with Polish DOP Janusz Kaminsky on “Schindler’s List” in 1993 they’ve been soul mates ever since. They’ve gone on to develop their own style together, specifically the use of the bleech bypass lab technique, handheld camera, and the 45 degree shutter. These techniques were essentially born into mainstream consciousness with “Saving Private Ryan”. Today these tools are readily used by filmmakers to create the effect of “gritty”, and “tough”. It’s also become the mandatory look of war films today.
War of the Worlds (2005)
The Terminal (2004)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Schindler's List (1993)
Gritty battle from SPR:
Vittorio Storaro – Bernardo Bertolucci/Warren Beatty/Coppola
Storaro is arguably the master of colour. He first worked with Bertolucci on the classic “The Conformist”. Storaro loves to use blue, red and yellow to help express mood and emotion from the characters and scenes. The most startling evidence is Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” in which entire sections of the film had themed colours corresponding to the stages of life of Emperor Pu Yi. Warren Beatty became a frequent collaborator after “Reds”, which won both Storaro and Beatty Oscars. Watch “Dick Tracy” though and you’ll see the most extreme example of Storaro’s use of colour. The entire film is bathed in primary colours. Storaro also shot 3 films with Coppola including "Apocalypse Now", "One From the Heart" and "Tucker, A Man and His Dream".
With Bernardo Bertolucci:
Little Buddha (1993)
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
The Last Emperor (1987)
La Luna (1979)
Last Tango in Paris (1973)
Spider’s Strategem (1970)
The Conformist (1970)
With Warren Beatty:
Dick Tracy (1990)
With Francis Coppola:
Tucker: A Man and his Dream (1988)
One From The Heart (1982)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Watch the colours in "Bulworth":
Roger Deakins – Joel & Ethan Coen
The Coen Bros first established a relationship with DOP Barry Sonenfeld who shot their first three films. Once directorial offers came to Barry, the Coens had to find another person to take his place. Roger Deakins stepped up to the plate for 1991’s “Barton Fink” and the rest is history. Roger Deakins is now a revered master who gets calls from Ron Howard, Sam Mendes and Norman Jewison. One of the most significant contributions of their collaboration is the use of DI (digital intermediate) instead of the traditional process of negative cutting. “O Brother Where Art Thou” was one of the first high profile films to use DI and its colour correction tools to manipulate the image in ways never before imagined. Deakins was able to turn “O Brother” from the traditionally unfiltered shot film into the dustbowl-era sepia toned look entirely in post-production. He did the same by turning colour film into beautiful B&W in “The Man Who Wasn’t There”.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Ladykillers (2004)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Barton Fink (1991)
This is some colour manipulation "O Brother Where Art Thou?"
Robby Muller/Anthony Dot Mantle – Lars Von Trier
I’ve included these two cinematographers who work separately but are both responsible for Lars Von Trier’s most influential works. The Dogme ’95 films have had such a profound effect on filmmaking and much of it owed to these two great cinematographers. Robby Muller was already a successful collaborator (ie. Jim Jarmusch’s films), but his work on “Breaking the Waves” changed filmmaking forever. Under the direction of von Trier Muller broke ground with an up close and personal handheld style audiences had never seen before. Dot Mantle shot the Thomas Vinterberg's landmark Dogme film “The Celebration” in 1998. Mantle would help pioneer other classic video dogma features as Danny Boyle's “28 Days Later”, and von Trier's “Dogville”.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Breaking the Waves (1995)
Anthony Dot Mantle:
This is a German dubbed clip from "Breaking the Waves", but who cares:
Gregg Toland – John Ford
Gregg Toland’s legacy film is, no doubt, “Citizen Kane”. But he only made that one film with Orson Welles. It was his work with John Ford that laid the groundwork for “Kane”. Even though Toland was a studio guy who got ‘assigned’ to films he was able to test his ‘deep focus’ style in “The Long Voyage Home”, and “Grapes of Wrath.” It’s interesting to note, before Kane was universally accepted as the greatest Hollywood film ever made, routinely “The Grapes of Wrath” was cited as such. Toland also worked a lot with Howard Hawks and William Wyler, but, other than Welles, it’s his pioneering work with Ford that he is revered for.
The Long Voyage Home (1940)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Some deep focus from "Grapes of Wrath":
Gordon Willis – Woody Allen
Gordon Willis is most famous for shooting “The Godfather Saga.” But those are the only films he did with Coppola. Willis isn’t just about ‘underlighting’. His work in adapting a film’s look to the mood and tone of the material is his greatest strength. This is exemplified by his body of work with Woody Allen. His widescreen B&W work on Allen’s love poem to New York “Manhattan” complements perfectly the architect and history of the great city. And his work on the mockumentary “Zelig” was a seamless manipulation of stock footage and hand scratched shot footage to create fake but utterly believable newsreels from the 1920’s.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)
Stardust Memories (1980)
Annie Hall (1977)
A great scene from "Annie Hall":
Sven Nykvist – Ingmar Bergman
Nykvist and Bergman made 15 films together started with “Virgin Spring” in 1960 and ending with “Fanny and Alexander” in 1982. Their work resulted in a naturalistic style using almost exclusively on location sets, natural light, direct and simple shot compositions. Nykvist’s soft light style of the 70’s gave his films a dreamlike quality to them. This style became the rage in the late 70’s when filmmakers frequently used pro-mist filters to recreate the softness and haze of the Bergman/Nykvist films.
Fanny and Alexander (1982)
From the Life of the Marionettes (1980)
Autumn Sonata (1978)
The Serpent's Egg (1977)
The Magic Flute (1975)
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Cries and Whispers (1973)
The Touch (1971)
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Winter Light (1963)
The Silence (1963)
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
The Virgin Spring (1960)
Minor spoilers in this "Cries and Whispers" clip:
Lucien Ballard – Sam Peckinpah
Lucien Ballard’s work with Sam Peckinpah deserves to be recognized. Ballard was not a master of light and colour, nor was he a technical genius like, say, Roger Deakins. Ballard lensed Peckinpah’s best known films – “Ride the High Country”, “The Wild Bunch”, and “The Getaway”. These films are not pretty to look at but captured the blood and guts dirtiness of Peckinpah’s films. The slo-mo blood ballet scenes in “The Wild Bunch” and “The Getaway” were so far ahead of its time in the late 60’s, early 70’s that, other than “Bonnie and Clyde” no one was doing that style until Ballard and Peckinpah did it. Today their influence is felt all over action films of the 80’s through to today – Walter Hill, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez all have a piece of Lucien Ballard in them.
The Getaway (1973)
Junior Bonner (1972)
Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Ride the High Country (1963)
Some bloody gun battles in "Wild Bunch":
Kazuo Miyagawa - Kenji Mizoguchi
Miyagawa worked with the four great Japanese directors of the 50’s and 60’s including, Kurosawa, Ichikawa and Ozu. But he was most frequently associated with Kenji Mizoguchi and lensed such classics as “Sansho the Baliff”, “Ugetsu” and “The Crucified Woman”. Don’t forget that “Rashomon”, “Floating Weeds” and the “Zatoichi” films are also on his reel. Amazing.
Street of Shame (1956)
The Taira Clan (1955)
Crucified Lovers (1954)
Sansho the Baliff (1954)
The Crucified Woman (1954)
A Geisha (1953)
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
Miss Oyu (1951)
This is “Ugetsu” (potential spoilers):
Sergei Urusevsky – Mikhael Kalatozov
Anyone who knows me knows I continually praise the underappreciated work of Mikhael Kalatozov. His man behind the camera was the great Sergei Urusevsky. Between the two filmmakers they created a series of films known for their innovative and proficient use of the mobile camera. Urusevsky could move his camera virtually anywhere he wanted. Using starkly contrasting B&W and extremely wide lenses, the world of his films were opened up to see everything in the frame. His extremely long takes of “I am Cuba”, “The Cranes Are Flying” and “The Letter That Wasn’t Sent” saw the camera move up and down buildings, into swimming pools, across long stretches of road, up staircases etc. He is a master and I can’t hype him enough.
I am Cuba (1964)
The Letter That Wasn’t Sent (1959)
The Cranes Are Flying (1958)
"I am Cuba":
Michael Chapman/Michael Ballhaus-Martin Scorsese
Marty has had a few great collaborators. The most significant have been Michael Chapman, who shot “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and Michael Ballhaus who shot “After Hours”, “Goodfellas” and “The Departed” and more. Neither of the Michaels exhibit a trademark style or look. Each of them adapted to the look Marty specifically wanted. “Raging Bull” is the flashiest of these films. It’s a technical masterpiece filled with so many memorable shots you can’t keep track. Robert Richardson lensed three Scorsese pictures as well and in those films his signature look showed through beyond the Scorsese style. But the greatness of each of Michael’s films means as much as any other film listed here.
The Departed (2006)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
The Color of Money (1986)
After Hours (1985)
Raging Bull (1980)
Taxi Driver (1976)
One of the beautifully composed shots of all time:
Robert Burks – Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock worked many different cinematographers. But at the height of his career Robert Burks was his go-to guy. Burks first worked with Hitch on “Strangers on a Train”, but it was his colour films that made their work memorable, to name a few “Dial M For Murder”, “Rear Window”, "North By Northwest” and “Vertigo”. Hitchcock’s use of colour in "Vertigo" is their greatest legacy. With colour still in its infancy, Burks and Hitchcock used its hallucinatory qualities to its maximum. Colour became a character in the film. For example, Burks used green to represent Jimmy Stewart’s character’s vertigo and how its effect translated into his burgeoning relationship with Kim Novak’s character.
The Birds (1963)
North By Northwest (1959)
The Wong Man (1956)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The Trouble With Harry (1955)
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Rear Window (1954)
Dial M For Murder (1954)
I Confess (1953)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Grace Kelly’s entrance in “Rear Window”:
John Alcott – Stanley Kubrick
From 1971 to 1980 John Alcott was Kubrick’s go-to guy. Alcott actually started out doing additional photography on “2001: A Space Odyssey” though Geoffrey Unsworth got the credit. His first film in charge of the camera was “A Clockwork Orange.” Though not as impressive technically as “2001” it was the first of Kubrick’s new look which he would stick to for the remainder of his career (except “Eyes Wide Shut”). Alcott used natural light as much as possible, creating a largely flat look. Alcott would win an Academy Award for his use of candle-light cinematography in 1975’s “Barry Lyndon”. “The Shining” carried the same look as “Clockwork”, and though Alcott didn’t shoot “Full Metal Jacket” his influence is still on that film as well.
The Shining (1980)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – additional photography
Alcott's candle-lit interiors:
Raoul Coutard – Jean-Luc Godard/Francois Traffaut
It wouldn’t be a list without acknowledging the New Wave cine-master Raoul Coutard who shot the majority of the great Jean-Luc Godard’s films and several of Francois Truffaut’s. The French New Wave is famous for its on-location locales, minimalist lighting and handheld camera work. Apparently before 1958 he had never handled a motion picture camera. He was a stills photographer who stumbled into shooting film. His first New Wave film was the seminal “Breathless”. Even Coutard would admit his work is unpolished and a little sloppy but it typifies the inventiveness and free form spirit of the New Wave.
Prénom Carmen (1983)
Week End (1967)
La Chinoise (1967)
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967)
Made in U.S.A. (1966)
Pierrot le fou (1965)
A Married Woman (1964)
Band of Outsiders (1964)
Les Carabiniers (1963)
The Little Soldier (1963)
My Life to Live 1962)
A Woman is a Woman (1961)
Watch Karina shake it in “Vivre Sa Vie” (remind you of another famous movie from 1994?):
Gregg Toland - Orson Welles
Ok only one film, but it's "Citizen Kane". Respect.
The New Guard
Here’s a sampling of how this list could be added to in the next ten years
Emmanuel Lubezki – Alfonso Cuaron
Children of Men (2006)
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Great Expectations (1998)
A Little Princess (1995)
Sólo Con Tu Pareja (1991)
Cuaron and Lubezki’s language together includes wideangle lenses and long takes. After “Children of Men” both filmmakers are household names and hot commodities in Hollywood. Lubezki’s already been courted by the likes of Michael Mann, Terrence Malick, and Tim Burton. There’s no doubt this team will be expanding the limits of cinema for years to come.
Harris Savides - Gus Van Zant
The Last Days (2004)
This is the death trilogy which exclusivey used long takes, and in the case of "Elephant", elaborate steadycam shots. Each of these films are immaculately composed and choreographed. Hopefully Van Zant will hired Savides beyond the death trilogy, though for Van Zant's next film, "Paranoid Park", he employed another great DOP, Christopher Doyle.
Robert Elswit – Paul Thomas Anderson
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Anderson’s language includes brilliant steadycam work, long tracking shots, anamorphic flared lenses and brilliant hues of blue and red. “There Will Be Blood” is due out before the end of the year. We will to see if its fits in with their three other films.
Wally Pfister – Christopher Nolan
Four films with completely different looks and visual design. A Pfister film or a Nolan film is not noticeable by look, but the masterful collaboration so far makes these two in the top five of working filmmaker teams today.
The Prestige (2006)
Batman Begins (2005)
Rodrigo Prieto - Alejandro González Iñárritu
21 Grams (2003)
Amores Perros (2000)
Prieto and Inarritu love their grainy, handheld over the shoulder shots. These are the hallmarks of their collaboration. Prieto is big time now after working with Ang Lee, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. I hope they continue to mutually express themselves together in future collaborations.
Matthew Libatique - Darren Aronofsky
The Fountain (2006)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
After only a few films with the director Matthew Libatique and Darren Aronofsky are already revered in cinematographers circles for their innovative and expressive camera. “The Fountain” was a departure by shooting the film entirely in a studio and much of it green screen. But Aronofsky kept it real by refusing to use CG and opting for traditional practical and optical effects which kept Libatique on set and in control of the look of the film.
Robert Yeoman - Wes Anderson
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Yeoman and Anderson’s films are so distinct, one frame of one of their films is immediately distinguishable as their own. They love their wideangle, anamorphic frames, extremely overcranked slo-mo and lush saturated colours. Look for “The Darjeeling Limited” hopefully later this year.