Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Cinematographers of 2010

Too exhausted to do write-ups of these (except for #1), but I do have a ranked list with honorable mentions. I run this blog by myself and thus cannot crank out as many lists as the multi-person staffs of other film websites.

10. Matthew Libatique – “Black Swan” and “Iron Man 2”

9. Danny Cohen - “The King’s Speech”

8. Robert Richardson – “Shutter Island”

7. Robby Ryan – “Fish Tank”

6. Yves Cape – “White Material”

5. Roger Deakins – “True Grit”

4. Michael McDonagh – “Winter’s Bone”

3. Matyas Erdely – “Tender Son – The Frankenstein Project”

2. Eric Gautier – “Wild Grass”

1. Luca Bigazzi – “Certified Copy”

Please don’t be the one to point out this film is released in 2011 in the United States; I’m well aware of that. Even if you’re a stickler, I think you can agree with me that Bigazzi deserves a moment of glory (even though he has “This Must Be the Place” in the future), as next year will be crowded with Lubezki on Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and whoever is shooting McQueen’s “Shame.”

There are many things to savor: the prodigious roving shots; the composition during the wedding photography scene which has a seat in the foreground and, through the door, off a mirror, the main characters having their picture taken; the close-ups (fitting for a film by Abbas); the framing at the end; the tones. Bigazzi lays out the imagery for Kiarostami’s vision to come together.

Honorable Mentions:

Jeff Cronenweth (“The Social Network”)

Yorick Le Saux (“I Am Love”)

Edward Lachman (“Life During Wartime”)

Martin Ruhe (“The American”)

Adam Arkapaw (“Animal Kingdom”)

Laurent Brunet (“A Screaming Man”)

Yaron Orbach (“Please Give”)

Morten Soborg (“Valhalla Rising”)


Stephanie said...

I would like to learn more about what comprises great cinemotography, styles of camera work, etc. Can you recommend any good resources?

Nick Duval said...

I've never actually read any books on the subject, but I can tell you the important things about it if you'd like.

Most cinematographers either keep the camera static (still) and try not to call attention to the filmmaking OR use handheld or body-mounted cameras, or other things to create camerawork that calls attention to itself.

A very important part of (mostly) arthouse cinematography is composition. This is how the person sets up the shot (which you may know from photography). Most good compositions are either simple or multilayered (you can frame details in different parts of the shot than where the main action is happening). These quality compositions are referred to as being "well-composed."

The lens and color is also significant. Desaturation, ultrasaturation, green textures, etc. It really sets the mood of the film.

Also: tones and textures are very important. Luca Bigazzi with CERTIFIED utilized the jaggedness and smoothness Italian buildings as well as the fabrics of Juliette Binoche's dress.

Here are some films that you may want to check out:

Children of Men: many, many long takes and a bravura showcase. Plus, it's Emmanuel Lubezki.

The Tree of Life: a film also shot by Lubezki by the master Terrence Malick (anything by him, including THE THIN RED LINE, THE NEW WORLD, and most prominently, DAYS OF HEAVEN). It's coming out later this year in theaters, but you can watch the trailer. Everything there is extraordinary.

Of course, Certified Copy when it comes out in theaters in the spring is very valuable.

If you can see BLACK SWAN, Matthew Libatique does a remarkable job of setting up his shots.

The Dardennes Brothers are considered very influential in terms of their "follow-shot" technique - THE SON is the biggest example of this. A little hard to watch, but it gives you something.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES has a sequence that lasts upwards of 5 minutes that is unbelievable and considered a benchmark. (It involves a soccer stadium.) I think that scene isolated is available online.

Although I haven't seen the whole movie, the black and white camerawork of WINGS OF DESIRE is worth a look.

Some cinematographers worth checking out are: Haskell Wexler, Sven Nykvist (who did a lot of Bergman's films), Robert Richardson, Vittorio Staoro (APOCALYPSE NOW is a must), Conrad Hall, Roger Deakins (watch THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES as well as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), Robert Elswit (PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE as well as the hated-by-me THERE WILL BE BLOOD which many love).

Hope this helped.

Stephanie said...

This is great! Thank you, Nick. I copied this to re-read later. It helps that you gave a few specific examples.