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Thread: Great Cinematographers

  1. #16
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    Thanks so much for that terrific link!! Can't wait to watch it.
    Yes, it made me to revisit many films I had not watched for years and discovering some new germs in the same time. You welcome!

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    I love good cinematography, but I've never really delved into that world enough to retain the names of most of the "Great Cinematographers".

    But the films of Hitchcock have always impressed me, partly due to the cinematography, especially the films he made after the mid-30s (starting with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)) and those after he moved to Hollywood (starting with Rebecca).

    So that would be Bernard Knowles for most of the last English-made films, but once he settled in Hollywood in 1941, his cinematographers would come and go. Even when he was able to function as his own Producer for his films (1945), the cinematography was still a revolver door, until 1951 when Robert Burks worked with Hitch on Strangers On a Train. They worked together on some of Hitch's most notable films: Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, and The Birds. They worked together exclusively (except for Psycho) until 1964s Marnie.

    Marnie was actually quite the pivot for Hitchcock, as it would also be his last film with long time collaborators Bernard Hermann, and editor George Tomasini (who passed away after the film was completed).

    Hitchcock only made four more films after that, each with different cinemtographers, composers, and editors.

    FUN FACT: The score for Hitchcock's last film, the 1976 comedy thriller Family Plot, was composed by John Williams, fresh off his success with Jaws.

    So, I'd say Bernard Knowles and Robert Burks
    Last edited by pianozach; Nov-18-2020 at 18:41.

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  5. #18
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    I'd like to bring up cinematographer Jaques Tati. He has made just handful of films. These considered comedies and are hilariously funny indeed however specially two go way deeper than make you laugh:
    Mon Oncle (My Uncle) 1958 that illustrates the absurdity of emerging industrial/futuristic society and fighting to survive centuries old ways of living.
    Playtime 1967 that is beautiful collage of modern environment of bureaucracy, human alienation, sterile space. The human interactions as messy and uncontrollable are compressed into small pockets that are allowed to exist in specially designed clean-space. However that gets often challenged and ruined by non complying individuals. Visually absolutely marvellous.
    Last edited by erki; Nov-18-2020 at 19:48.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    I love good cinematography, but I've never really delved into that world enough to retain the names of most of the "Great Cinematographers".

    But the films of Hitchcock have always impressed me, partly due to the cinematography, especially the films he made after the mid-30s (starting with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)) and those after he moved to Hollywood (starting with Rebecca).

    So that would be Bernard Knowles for most of the last English-made films, but once he settled in Hollywood in 1941, his cinematographers would come and go. Even when he was able to function as his own Producer for his films (1945), the cinematography was still a revolver door, until 1951 when Robert Burks worked with Hitch on Strangers On a Train. They worked together on some of Hitch's most notable films: Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, and The Birds. They worked together exclusively (except for Psycho) until 1964s Marnie.

    Marnie was actually quite the pivot for Hitchcock, as it would also be his last film with long time collaborators Bernard Hermann, and editor George Tomasini (who passed away after the film was completed).

    Hitchcock only made four more films after that, each with different cinemtographers, composers, and editors.

    FUN FACT: The score for Hitchcock's last film, the 1976 comedy thriller Family Plot, was composed by John Williams, fresh off his success with Jaws.

    So, I'd say Bernard Knowles and Robert Burks
    Robert Burks was killed in a house fire and that's why Hitchcock had an alternative. He was devastated by the loss of Burks and, later, poorly understood the role of Bernard Herrmann in the success of his films. In sacking Herrmann over "Torn Curtain" it was pretty much downhill for Hitchcock after that!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by erki View Post
    I'd like to bring up cinematographer Jaques Tati. He has made just handful of films. These considered comedies and are hilariously funny indeed however specially two go way deeper than make you laugh:
    Mon Oncle (My Uncle) 1958 that illustrates the absurdity of emerging industrial/futuristic society and fighting to survive centuries old ways of living.
    Playtime 1967 that is beautiful collage of modern environment of bureaucracy, human alienation, sterile space. The human interactions as messy and uncontrollable are compressed into small pockets that are allowed to exist in specially designed clean-space. However that gets often challenged and ruined by non complying individuals. Visually absolutely marvellous.
    Tati did not do his own cinematography. You are mainly speaking about mise-in-scene here which, I agree, are quite original. However, I've never found his films in the least amusing. I guess I've got no sense of humour!!

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    British cinematograher Jack Cardiff. Two films of his are significant for their lighting/cinematography. Here is the first, "The Red Shoes" - absolutely gorgeous production design (Heckroth) and superb mobile/canted framing and lighting. If you watch this ballet from the film you'll notice some prolonged shots where the camera is following Shearer; here Cardiff uses the stage spot light to keep his focus on the dancer. When you move your frame to such an extent in a single take this makes lighting extremely difficult, nigh impossible, since set-ups are usually made for specific shots; ergo, the spot light. Clever. And the spot isn't always there, which reveals the specific lighting for the shot compositions. In the second half of the ballet, where it becomes more frenetic and psychological, super-impositions are used (these, of course, occur during editing and in the laboratory). A film of the highest level of artistry:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktv3-1JTspc

    This is the second, "Black Narcissus"; in some ways a risible and improbable film, but it looks wonderful, thanks largely to production design and Cardiff. Here are some interesting comments on the film, which qualifies as 'cinema art':

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SZNO74B5y0

    And here is a documentary - in separate parts on U-Tube - with Cardiff talking about the film: he discusses lighting and the three-strip Technicolor process.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqRmV9OMxo0

    It should be noted that both of these films still technically conform to what is known as "classical Hollywood narrative film". In this aesthetic, the camera almost never draws attention to itself - never removes audiences from the concerns of the narrative. All is at the service of the illusion of film; its verisimilitude. The important caveat is that, in the instance of these two Powell and Pressburger films, they are inherently artistic, creative and often surreal. Ergo, artistry forms part of the narrative itself and is front and centre of the experience rather than subservient to it.
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-20-2020 at 22:14.

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  11. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christabel View Post
    British cinematograher Jack Cardiff. Two films of his are significant for their lighting/cinematography. Here is the first, "The Red Shoes" - absolutely gorgeous production design (Heckroth) and superb mobile/canted framing and lighting. If you watch this ballet from the film you'll notice some prolonged shots where the camera is following Shearer; here Cardiff uses the stage spot light to keep his focus on the dancer. When you move your frame to such an extent in a single take this makes lighting extremely difficult, nigh impossible, since set-ups are usually made for specific shots; ergo, the spot light. Clever. And the spot isn't always there, which reveals the specific lighting for the shot compositions. In the second half of the ballet, where it becomes more frenetic and psychological, super-impositions are used (these, of course, occur during editing and in the laboratory). A film of the highest level of artistry:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktv3-1JTspc

    This is the second, "Black Narcissus"; in some ways a risible and improbable film, but it looks wonderful, thanks largely to production design and Cardiff. Here are some interesting comments on the film, which qualifies as 'cinema art':

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SZNO74B5y0

    And here is a documentary - in separate parts on U-Tube - with Cardiff talking about the film:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqRmV9OMxo0

    It should be noted that both of these films still technically conform to what is known as "classical Hollywood narrative film". In this aesthetic, the camera almost never draws attention to itself - never removes audiences from the concerns of the narrative. All is at the service of the illusion of film; its verisimilitude. The important caveat is that, in the instance of these two Powell and Pressburger films, they are inherently artistic, creative and often surreal. Ergo, artistry forms part of the narrative itself and is front and centre of the experience rather than subservient to it.
    I think that at least A matter of life and death and Pandora are as beautiful as the two mentioned.

    900full-pandora-and-the-flying-dutchman-screenshot.jpg
    protectedimage.jpg



    but in general his work is a joy for the eyes
    Last edited by norman bates; Nov-20-2020 at 22:21.
    What time is the next swan?

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    Absolutely agree!! There was something very special about Technicolor, which is mentioned in one of those links I provided. That Technicolor "Process 4" system yielded some astonishing hues. The story of colour film is compelling and it speaks of really sophisticated cameras and processes. The main problem with those Process 3 and 4 systems was the size of the magazines/blimps - which carried up to 3 reels of films simultaneously. Today those films have been restored with remarkable results. But, in general, camera manufacturers worked with those systems, enabling them; eg. Mitchell cameras. (We used Mitchell 16mm when making documentary films for television in the 1970s; we had high-speed (variable speed) cameras - for slow motion - and, of course, standard speed.)

    People think that the cinematographer's job is to set the lighting, turn on the camera and shoot. Directors like Hitchcock had pre-planned shooting scripts and storyboards but others did not and the discretion of the DP was important. A cinematographer has to have a comprehensive knowledge of films stocks, processes, filters and lenses when making decisions about the shooting of a film. This is a very complicated business and, in fact, Technicolor used its own specialist technicians/art directors (eg. Natalie Kalmus) in helping to make these films work!!

    Here are filters used by Leon Shamroy for "South Pacific": one of his considerations would have been 'how do I keep the colour dimensions vivid but filtered?"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXgmQDFhPjo

    It's a fascinating topic and I became interested in film stock and cinematography when I worked as Continuity in documentary films for TV. (Some of those cinematographers went on to major careers, eg. John Seale, "The English Patient". Without naming any names - a few of them were absolute pigs!! I did not personally work with Seale.)

    (I forget to mention that every DP has a small army of assistants from 'camera operator', 'focus puller' etc. Like screenwriting, it can be a team effort as well.)
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-21-2020 at 00:44.

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  14. #24
    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christabel View Post
    Absolutely agree!! There was something very special about Technicolor, which is mentioned in one of those links I provided. That Technicolor "Process 4" system yielded some astonishing hues. The story of colour film is compelling and it speaks of really sophisticated cameras and processes. The main problem with those Process 3 and 4 systems was the size of the magazines/blimps - which carried up to 3 reels of films simultaneously. Today those films have been restored with remarkable results. But, in general, camera manufacturers worked with those systems, enabling them; eg. Mitchell cameras. (We used Mitchell 16mm when making documentary films for television in the 1970s; we had high-speed (variable speed) cameras - for slow motion - and, of course, standard speed.)

    People think that the cinematographer's job is to set the lighting, turn on the camera and shoot. Directors like Hitchcock had pre-planned shooting scripts and storyboards but others did not and the discretion of the DP was important. A cinematographer has to have a comprehensive knowledge of films stocks, processes, filters and lenses when making decisions about the shooting of a film. This is a very complicated business and, in fact, Technicolor used its own specialist technicians/art directors (eg. Natalie Kalmus) in helping to make these films work!!

    Here are filters used by Leon Shamroy for "South Pacific": one of his considerations would have been 'how do I keep the colour dimensions vivid but filtered?"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXgmQDFhPjo

    It's a fascinating topic and I became interested in film stock and cinematography when I worked as Continuity in documentary films for TV. (Some of those cinematographers went on to major careers, eg. John Seale, "The English Patient". Without naming any names - a few of them were absolute pigs!! I did not personally work with Seale.)

    (I forget to mention that every DP has a small army of assistants from 'camera operator', 'focus puller' etc. Like screenwriting, it can be a team effort as well.)
    South Pacific. Man, THAT was a failed experiment in cinematography. I mean, angles and shots and framing were all excellent, but that oddball tinting was sure a risk that didn't really pay off as they'd have liked.

    I appreciate that risk. I think I'd prefer a version without the weird optical effects.

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    I don't know to what extent that 'mystical' element via filters was called for by director Joshua Logan - who was essentially a Broadway director. (He also directed "Picnic", "Bus Stop", "Sayonara" and one or two others.) But I think Leon Shamroy was an exceptionally good cinematographer and he made a 'stagy' story like "South Pacific" look pretty grand on the wide screen. There's an awful lot of space to fill too, when you think about it. Of all the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals committed to film I think "South Pacific" is the least successful - primarily because it's inherently a theatre piece sans the dancing set pieces of the other works - and because the score is so eclectic. I didn't know if I was watching vaudeville ("Honey Bun"), romance ("Younger than Springtime"), social commentary ("You've got to be taught") or operetta ("Some Enchanted Evening"). Shamroy also worked on "The King and I".

    But Leon Shamroy raised the film over and above those doubts with his incredible images. He let the actors shine on a visually splendid canvas.

    This is another of his earlier achievements: I'm thinking this is maybe from the days of Process 3 Technicolor. This film is regarded as a 'color noir' (using the American spelling). It's soapy, but it sure looks good!! He won an oscar for his work on "Leave Her to Heaven".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xR6p5HcfCpc

    Another good discussion to have is about aspect ratios themselves, but that might become a bit esoteric!!
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-21-2020 at 21:32.

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    Just a few: Karl Freund, John Alton, James Wong Howe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EnescuCvartet View Post
    Just a few: Karl Freund, John Alton, James Wong Howe.
    Karl Freund; another one I was going to write about!! The poor man ended his career photographing 'I Love Lucy'! What television did to many of those great artists of cinema. Ray Rennahan was DP on "Laramie" and he worked on a huge number of TV shows. Here he is with Robert Fuller from "Laramie":



    Some of his films included "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Duel in the Sun", "Arrowhead", "Whispering Smith". He worked with Ernest Haller on "Gone With the Wind" too, along with an uncredited Lee Garmes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christabel View Post
    Karl Freund; another one I was going to write about!! The poor man ended his career photographing 'I Love Lucy'! What television did to many of those great artists of cinema. Ray Rennahan was DP on "Laramie" and he worked on a huge number of TV shows. Here he is with Robert Fuller from "Laramie":



    Some of his films included "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Duel in the Sun", "Arrowhead", "Whispering Smith". He worked with Ernest Haller on "Gone With the Wind" too, along with an uncredited Lee Garmes.
    I'll bet he was happy to have an easy and steady gig like that after years of hard work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    I'll bet he was happy to have an easy and steady gig like that after years of hard work.
    You'd think so, but the 1950s and 60s were all TV - those two decades were just packed with TV shows, including "Wagon Train". The hard work would still have been there; I just don't think this work for TV had the lasting credibility and artistry attached to major films.

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    John Alcott is at or near the top for me. Barry Lyndon is amazing! All shot in natural light. Love the nature scenes, where they look like 18th century paintings. He also did 2001 and Clockwork Orange with Kubrick.

    3xmKw9OSbUrg7GCyhvpMuAXLjRh.jpg
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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