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Old 13th April 2011, 11:36 AM
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Default Cinematographers

I was watching a Blu-ray double bill of The African Queen and The French Connection last night when it occurred to me, great directors that John Huston and William Friedkin are, these films would not be the Oscar-winning masterpieces they are without their cinematographers: Jack Cardiff and Owen Roizman, respectively.

Now, both films are extremely different with The African Queen made in 1951 and The French Connection being a much more recent, though now quite old, film, released in 1971. Jack Cardiff is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest cinematographers who ever lived and who, I believe, had a say in the lengthy restoration process that The African Queen underwent. Owen Roizman is not quite as celebrated but his extraordinary work on The French Connection, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Network and The Exorcist made his relatively short career an extremely important one.

Now, back to the two Blu-ray Discs. The African Queen has a quite superlative picture which is a marked step up from the DVD and one which the late Jack Cardiff would no doubt approve. The French Connection, on the other hand, was unusual as the supervision of the colour and contrast aspect of its encoding was not supervised by Owen Roizman, but by William Friedkin. It is a long-standing tradition that the cinematographer/director of photography supervises the visual aspects of a film's release on DVD/BD as they shot the film, supervised the lighting, framing and other elements of the film shoot so know how the film looked at the time and how it should appear when viewed in someone's home.

Whilst The African Queen is faithful to its appearance on DVD, albeit with much greater definition, more vibrant and solid colours and better black levels, The French Connection is a different affair altogether. With William Friedkin overseeing the process, the film's washed out and rather grimy appearance has disappeared, with the HD picture featuring extremely bright colours, all this to the dismay and anger of Owen Roizman who is adamant the film never looked that way and he never intended to film it that way.

Although I have the greatest respect for William Friedkin as a filmmaker, I really feel that he dropped the ball on this film, which won six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director (Owen Roizman lost out to Oswald Morris for Fiddler on the Roof). There has been much debate on these forums about Vittorio Storaro and his creation of the 2.00:1 ratio, which was the way Apocalypse Now has always been shown on DVD and the aspect ratio which Arrow Video's release of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage will be presented.

At the 2011 Oscars, I predicted a win for Roger Deakins to his incredible work on the Coen Brothers’ True Grit but wasn't particularly surprised when he lost out to Wally Pfister for his remarkable photography on Inception.

Anyway, all that being said, which cinematographers’ work do you really like, dislike with a passion and which directors wouldn't be the same wouldn't be the same without a great director of photography?

I'm going to go out on a limb and vote for Lucio Fulci because of the brilliant work by Sergio Salvati, the man who shot such films as The House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, The Black Cat and Zombie Flesh Eaters for Fulci. They clearly had a great working relationship and I don't think Salvati would have been the same without Fulci and Fulci wouldn't have been the same without Salvati. Any other nominations?
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Old 13th April 2011, 12:33 PM
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Sven Nykvist? bergman's chap anyhow, some stunning compositional work
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Old 13th April 2011, 12:56 PM
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sven seconded! his work with bergman is remarkable, especially their use of light, a real amazing partnership between those two.
i think dean cundey is very good, i love his work in john carpenter films. was watching the fog yesterday and it's beautifully shot.
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Old 13th April 2011, 01:07 PM
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If there's enough interest in dissecting Cinematographers (and I suspect Storaro is up for some more!) then we can set up a section for it)
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Old 13th April 2011, 01:10 PM
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As far as cinematography goes my favourite film is Mad Max II. Dean Semler's work is fantastic in it.
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Old 13th April 2011, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhodes View Post
sven seconded! his work with bergman is remarkable, especially their use of light, a real amazing partnership between those two.
i think dean cundey is very good, i love his work in john carpenter films. was watching the fog yesterday and it's beautifully shot.
That partnership between Ingmar Bergman and his 'right-hand man' was remarkable -- if Bergman was the brains behind his films, Gunnar Fischer was certainly the eyes. That shot In The Seventh Seal of the people doing the dance of death on the clifftop is one of the greatest in cinema history.

Good call on Dean Cundy and his collaborations with John Carpenter which are not quite up there with Bergman and Fischer, but they did make some films with brilliant imagery and atmosphere.
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Old 13th April 2011, 03:36 PM
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ah yes, gunner was great also, but i think sven was even greater. just look at what he and bergman achieved in the faith trilogy, persona, or what i like to call 'the island trilogy' (shame, passion and hour of the wolf). as great as gunner fischer and bergman were together i think sven nykvist and bergman were an even better match. it was something more subtle and warm and emotive in comparison to fischer's starker more gothic contrasts.
if i remember correctly, sven was filling in for gunner due to illness, and bergman liked sven so much that he worked with him exclusively from there on after. poor old gunner fischer must have been kicking himself for getting ill.

and yes dean cundy probably doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath but i think he's quite a big part of what makes those earlier carpenter films so good. he seems quite influenced by the italian masters also, as i suppose most horror film makers were back then.
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Old 13th April 2011, 03:41 PM
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ps. almar i think that's a great idea for this to have it's own section, cinematographers are really the great unsung heroes of cinema, rarely being discussed in comparison to say directors, so it would be great to get some dialogue going amongst the knowledgeable folks on these forums.
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Old 13th April 2011, 11:02 PM
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Dean Cundy? Amazing cinematographer!
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Old 14th April 2011, 01:23 AM
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Tonino Delli Colli must get special mention for his work as cinematographer for the great Sergio Leone. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America are all stunningly photographed thanks to Tonino. He also worked as cinematographer on Salo, which whilst it's a film I dislike, I have to admit that it's stunningly filmed. And, to add some exploitation credentials, his wife, Alexandra Delli Colli, starred in films such as Zombie Holocaust and The New York Ripper.
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