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Thread: Great Cinematographers

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    Default Great Cinematographers

    I thought about this thread when I was discussing Karl Struss and the film 'Sunrise'. These artists of the camera (and lighting) made glorious contributions to the art of cinema. It's just not always about the acting, the script and the direction. If a film looks good it came imbue the quotidian with real art; conversely a very good narrative can sink like a stone if the images don't look good. Think static cameras and 'theatrical' films like "Quo Vadis"; the colour was good but the camera just didn't move much. Of course, this can be the director's fault too. It was Shirley Jones, in a documentary about the making of "Carousel", who said that director Henry King didn't understand how to utilize the large screen and, as a consequence, the film doesn't look as good as it might otherwise. The mise-en-scene worked but the camera didn't really do much with it!!

    I'll start this thread with Gregg Toland; in my opinion, amongst the very greatest cinematographers ever. He's certainly my number one. Many of you will be familiar with Gregg Toland. Sadly he died much too young; at only 44 years old. Incalculable tragedy.

    There's the inimitable Toland chiaroscuro; his very best include "The Grapes of Wrath", "Wuthering Heights", "Ball of Fire", "Citizen Kane" and "The Best Years of Our Lives". He was a monochrome artist, who bathed his scenes in "Best Years..." in a rich, velvety hew of shadows and light - creating depth and complexity to the quintessential suburban American home and its familiar characters. He let the image tell the story behind the characters and director Wyler was able to bring them to life with his characteristic elan and tight control.

    Look at this glorious scene and its masterful 3-key lighting: try to image this scene with all the lights on - without dimension or depth - to gain an understanding of Toland's aesthetic.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lJ_SS5wFRo

    I found another one (the complete film is on the internet, which is unusual). Here Al Stephenson's homecoming is bathed in light. Look at 19:25 through to 20:52. Toland was a poet!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y3mMYKajgY

    Gregg Toland was a war correspondent who also saw action with John Ford. He was a hero of Howard Hawks who named his youngest child in Gregg Toland's honour.

    He was a great cinematographer who went on to influence cinema for decades. One such is Roger Deakins, who has worked in monochrome with the Coen Brothers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC9MkHzTnRg
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-17-2020 at 08:37.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Toland was great, and for me was the star of Citizen Kane. Welles admitted later that he secretly gave him advice on camera placement and lighting, so that the young Welles wouldn't be embarrassed in front of the crew, so he seems a real nice guy also.

    My pick is Victtorio Storaro. The Conformist looks like no other film I've ever seen. It's often described as dream-like, but I feel it's more realistic as I would see those places in real life, or at least get that same impression. Also his work on Apocalypse Now. Now that feels dream-like (or nightmarish).

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

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    Senior Member Jacck's Avatar
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    yes, cinematography is important. I like photography so I know how important is composition, lighting etc. And BW photography or BW movies are very different from color movies. It is a play with shadows and light. Personally, I am not that good at recognizing who is a good actor and who isnt, but I do appreciate good shots. That is why I like to watch some artistic movies purely for the cinematographic pleasure. A recent example of a cinematographically great movies is for example La Grande Belezza (The Great Beauty).

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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    some of my favorites:

    Jack Cardiff
    the guy behind the gorgeous technicolor of many works of Powell and Pressburger, and also Albert Lewin. Movies like Red Shoes, A matter of life and death and Pandora are a pleasure for the eyes.

    Stanley Cortez - Night of the hunter, the magnificent Ambersons, Shock corridor
    Haskell Wexler - In the heat of the night
    Carlo Di Palma - Red Desert
    James Wong Howe - Seconds
    Giulio Albonico - Dead of summer
    Sergei Urusevsky and Alexander Calzetti - Soy Cuba (one of the most visually astonishing movies ever made)
    Freddie Francis - The innocents
    Alexsei Rodionov - Come and see
    Gerry Turpin - Seance on a wet afternoon
    Last edited by norman bates; Nov-17-2020 at 13:29.
    What time is the next swan?

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    Thumbs up

    Monochrome photography is also my preference. Most of my favorite films are from the early 1960s and late 1950s, anyway, when there were 50/50 color/black-and-white film productions.

    Eugen Schüfftan: LILITH, THE HUSTLER, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, etc.

    Gabriel Figueroa: THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA + the Mexican films by Luis Buñuel

    Douglas Slocombe: THE SERVANT, FREUD, THE L-SHAPED ROOM, etc.

    Gilbert Taylor: REPULSION, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, YIELD TO THE NIGHT, etc.

    Sacha Vierny: HYPOTHESIS OF THE STOLEN PAINTING, LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, etc.

    Gianni Di Venanzo: HANDS OVER THE CITY, EVA, THE ECLIPSE, etc.

    Sven Nykvist: LOVING COUPLES + films of Ingmar Bergman

    plus the work that Conrad Hall had done in THE OUTER LIMITS:



    "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" + "The Forms of Things Unknown"




    ... regarding color cinematography, I love some of work that Hungarian Gábor Pogány did in Europe (mostly Italian co-productions) such as 10:30 P.M. SUMMER, DOCTOR FAUSTUS, BLUEBEARD, etc.

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    Whoever did "Spring Forward" was a master cinematographer. The sound design is incredible too

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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    some of my favorites:

    Jack Cardiff
    the guy behind the gorgeous technicolor of many works of Powell and Pressburger, and also Albert Lewin. Movies like Red Shoes, A matter of life and death and Pandora are a pleasure for the eyes.

    Stanley Cortez - Night of the hunter, the magnificent Ambersons, Shock corridor
    Haskell Wexler - In the heat of the night
    Carlo Di Palma - Red Desert
    James Wong Howe - Seconds
    Giulio Albonico - Dead of summer
    Sergei Urusevsky and Alexander Calzetti - Soy Cuba (one of the most visually astonishing movies ever made)
    Freddie Francis - The innocents
    Alexsei Rodionov - Come and see
    Gerry Turpin - Seance on a wet afternoon
    I was going to discuss James Wong Howe shortly. I just watched 'Hud' again recently and it looks superb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    Monochrome photography is also my preference. Most of my favorite films are from the early 1960s and late 1950s, anyway, when there were 50/50 color/black-and-white film productions.

    Eugen Schüfftan: LILITH, THE HUSTLER, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, etc.

    Gabriel Figueroa: THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA + the Mexican films by Luis Buñuel

    Douglas Slocombe: THE SERVANT, FREUD, THE L-SHAPED ROOM, etc.

    Gilbert Taylor: REPULSION, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, YIELD TO THE NIGHT, etc.

    Sacha Vierny: HYPOTHESIS OF THE STOLEN PAINTING, LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, etc.

    Gianni Di Venanzo: HANDS OVER THE CITY, EVA, THE ECLIPSE, etc.

    Sven Nykvist: LOVING COUPLES + films of Ingmar Bergman

    plus the work that Conrad Hall had done in THE OUTER LIMITS:



    "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" + "The Forms of Things Unknown"




    ... regarding color cinematography, I love some of work that Hungarian Gábor Pogány did in Europe (mostly Italian co-productions) such as 10:30 P.M. SUMMER, DOCTOR FAUSTUS, BLUEBEARD, etc.
    These are amazing screen shots!! Actually, I've generally preferred monochrome film because of its inherent artistic properties.

    Of course, there are splendid colour films - example, the saturated colours and filters (Ok, that's also film stock) of Leon Shamroy for "South Pacific". Absolutely gorgeous.
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-17-2020 at 19:50.

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    There's 'the prince of darkness', Gordon Willis:



    I found this about "the Prince of Darkness"; discussing "The Godfather"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbchmWS5jIU
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-18-2020 at 06:22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Toland was great, and for me was the star of Citizen Kane. Welles admitted later that he secretly gave him advice on camera placement and lighting, so that the young Welles wouldn't be embarrassed in front of the crew, so he seems a real nice guy also.

    My pick is Victtorio Storaro. The Conformist looks like no other film I've ever seen. It's often described as dream-like, but I feel it's more realistic as I would see those places in real life, or at least get that same impression. Also his work on Apocalypse Now. Now that feels dream-like (or nightmarish).

    I think this cinematographer has also worked with Woody Allen. Anyway, you might be interested in this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_q56OALYLU

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    James Wong Howe: innovative cinematographer, sometimes known as "low-key Howe" for his noir innovations of lighting and shade. He photographed some very memorable films in both colour and monochrome and he started his career in silent films. Howe died in 1976 and would have been there to witness some huge changes in film stocks, cameras and aspect ratios. The wider the screen the bigger the challenge for the cinematographer, not to mention negotiating those huge, unwieldy mechanisms before anamorphic lenses became available.

    Notice how in "Picnic" James Wong Howe can fill the large screen: the director Joshua Logan had come straight from Broadway and wasn't a cinema director. This is an absolutely wonderful film; intimate relationships on a big screen. This dancing sequence sees the camera following the rhythm - and, of course, this is also attributable to editing:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_th...HlyR7&index=28

    (Kim Novak drops the beat when she's establishing the rhythm, but the scene works very well - with longer takes providing non-disruptive information.) The camera seems to glide effortlessly with them.

    Here's an image from "Hud", in monochrome of course. The Texan landscape is rendered unforgiving in this picture; arid, unpopulated and vast. The film is essentially a 'four-hander', set in this backdrop - much like "Giant" from a few years earlier, though this was in colour. I love these films where setting provides an additional 'character' which is ruthless and whose characters are at its mercy, or recipients of its bounty.



    I'm certain the Bogdanovich film "The Last Picture Show" was influenced by Wong and his aesthetic.
    Last edited by Christabel; Nov-18-2020 at 01:41.

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    "Miss Kubelik, I absolutely adore you!!"

    "Shut up and deal".

    Joseph LaShelle: "The Apartment"


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    I came across this tube video recently. It talks about some of my favourites as well along some mentioned here already:


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    I wonder if, in great cinematography, you are meant to feel it and experience it, but not really think about who did it or how it was done.

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    @erki!! Thanks so much for that terrific link!! Can't wait to watch it.

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