We recently saw four documentaries about film. There were common threads intertwining these films on film and I was glad we saw them in close proximity which highlighted their connections. I recommend watching these as a set, but each one of these stands on its own.
Side by Side, 2012, written and directed by Christopher Kenneally looks at photochemical and digital film: history, cost, quality, the impact the choice has both on creation of the film and on the viewers’ experience and touched on preservation. It was interesting to hear views of those “born” into the digital world of filmmaking having then had the opportunity to work with photochemical film as well as those from a “celluloid” background on working digital. Cinematographers, directors and actors talk about preferences, pros, cons for various effects and there is discussion on 3-D. Eye-opener for me was that there are already some digital archives that are not actually preserved as the technology to view the format is outdated and has been “chucked” and no one stored a viewer with the data. I have to agree with David Lynch that no matter what technology you use, you have to tell a good story. Among those interviewed: Vilmos Zsigmond influential award winning cinematographer, subject of another documentary in this list and also interviewed in “Light…”, and Vittorio Storaro, award winning cinematographer interviewed in another documentary from this list.
Two in the Wave, 2010 written by Antoine de Baecque, directed by Emmanuel Laurent looks at the friendship, work and influence of two premier “French New Wave” directors Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Each of their first films–well, I marvel that they were first efforts: Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, 1959 and Godard’s Breathless, 1961–are still influential and ultimately re-watchable. It was a treat to see clips from these and other films from these two directors set in the context of the politics of the time and a little sad to see the ultimate breakdown of their friendship. This generated a list of a few of their films we’ve yet to see.
No Subtitles Necessary: Lászlo & Vilmos (2008) written and directed by James Chressanthis. A loving look at two truly great cinematographers, László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond, their amazing history, friendship and their worldwide impact on cinema.
László and Vilmos had filmed scenes of the Hungarian Revolution and in 1956 managed to smuggle it out of the country without being caught by the Soviets. It was this film that helped graphically bring what was going on there to the eyes of the world. Once in America, penniless, these two make their way to and mark on Hollywood. A really great story and through film clips and interviews you see why directors and actors alike wanted to work with them. Vilmos? You might recognize these: The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deliverance, to name a few, but check him out, he’s still working, pre-production on a movie for 2014. László? How about Paper Moon, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces. Natural light, vivid color, taking a bus trip across America to learn America, cobbling together mounts to give a real passenger’s view from a car…I could easily watch this one again.
Light Keeps Me Company, 2000 co-written and directed by Carl-Gustav Nykvist about his father Sven Nykvist whom some consider to be the most influential cinematographer. What comes to mind when I think of his work is simplicity, truth, naturalness, beauty and love and understanding of light, its meaning and feel. I love this quote from Nykvist “Light is with you – you do not have to feel you are alone.” This film illustrates that aside from his craftsmanship and artistry with the camera, directors, actors, everyone on a film crew loved working on a project with him. He created an atmosphere of calm and trust on the set everyone valued. If someone was reluctant to take part in a particular film project, learning Nykvist was behind the camera was often a deciding factor to join. Sven Nykvist and director Ingmar Bergman taught the world how to do facial close-ups. In addition to working with Bergman on a number of projects Nykvist has worked with the likes of Woody Allen, Louis Malle, Nora Ephron, Bob Fosse, Philip Kaufman and Lasse Hallström to name a few.