« Argument clinic | Main | Get thee to a nuttery »

March 20, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Beautiful images, surely. I don't want to pull the discussion away from Almendros, but I'm curious, Glen, what you mean by "digital technology is making such considerations moot for quite a few filmmakers"?

Whatever pros or cons for digital (and I have no interest in being part of that argument, for what it's worth), I don't think the blending of studio and on-screen light sources like in that bottom 'Metro' shot (out of context, it's almost Rockwell-esque, no?) is a question of medium but rather technique. I'm not up for hunting for screen caps, but I want to recall that 'Zodiac' contains some similar warmth effect in some of Mark Ruffalo's home interior scenes.

That said, the shot from 'La Collectionneuse' is certainly not something anyone is achieving on digital anytime soon. Unless you're going for the alien landscapes of a 'Miami Vice,' digital just doesn't do dusk justice, at least that I've seen.


Glenn Kenny

@DVA18—the operative phrase in that sentence is "is making," not "has made." I was thinking, specifically, of Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience," which I saw for the first time the other day, wherein, using the latest iteration of the Red camera, Soderbergh achieves some really lovely effects via multiple sources of onscreen available light, and nothing but. You're right that it's finally a question of technique rather than medium; but I'm saying that the technology is widening the opportunities by which to apply technique.


Thanks for the response, Glenn. I had forgotten about Soderbergh's use of the Red, having not gotten to Che yet, but I remember being excited about his use of the camera in it, based on stills and whatnot. Soderbergh/Andrews as a DP seems to favor something of a high/contrast soft glow look, if that's not too oxymoronical, very different from Almendros even in 35mm.

Relating to "The Girlfriend Experience," how did you like seeing yourself in performance there?


Glenn Kenny

@DVA18, the Red has been improved so much since Soderbergh made "Che" that the difference in "GFE" is palpable. Steven's shooting IS quite different from what Almendros would do—his colors are generally more electric, for one thing—but very beautiful, here and as always.

I thought "GFE" was awfully good overall, and...I didn't hate myself in it. I mean, I DID—the character's appalling—but...you know what I mean. I'll be writing about it a bit more as the release date nears...


Wasn't Almendros starting to lose his sight as early as Days of Heaven (which Haskell Wexler also worked on, by the way)? Supposedly, he had assistants taking stills of the lighting set-ups, which he would then examine closely to make tweaks. I think I read this in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Anyway, an amazing talent.


One of the greatest cinematographers, a stone-cold (or just "stone" as I believe you prefer to say) genius of the seventh - or would it be the sixth, or sixth-and-a-halfth? - art (depends, I guess, on how you group dance/music and painting/sculpture within the seven, but I digress...). Among other things, his work ensures that Rohmer's films can never be considered less "cinematic" than anyone else's, no matter how "talky."

Herman Scobie

Nestor's work on "Life Lessons" helps make it my favorite Scorsese. Too bad the two couldn't have worked together more.

Is it just me, or do reviewers, both print and online, pay less attention to the visual aspects of films than they did 10-15 years ago? Blu-ray reviews excluded.


The Last Metro is magnificent, a truly romantic film. I also loved Almendros' cinematography on The Story of Adele H.


"These days, digital technology is making such considerations moot for quite a few filmmakers."

It's unfortunate that so many would-be filmmakers actually believe this. Found light is sometimes the best light, but definitely not always, and you're certainly never going to achieve effects like the above with found light unless you are AMAZINGLY lucky.

A key irony is that a lot of filmmakers are obsessed with getting that absolutely perfect depth-of-field so only the subject is in focus and everything else is a hazy mess. It's one thing to use that for street scenes you can't control, but every fucking shot?! They always complain that it brings out the subject more. Yeah, well, so does proper framing. Start there.

Rant over. I agree with your more nuanced statement that digital is widening technique. I've been making films on my own for...Jesus, nearly eleven years now, mostly on digital video, a lot of that with found light and consumer lights. The key upside, I've noticed, with professional lighting gear is that you've got a much greater level of control. But you can get amazing results mixing and matching, provided you keep a close eye on color temperature.


I'm coming to this a bit late, but as it happens I was one of a few reporters who got to talk with Robert Benton about "Kramer vs. Kramer" a while back and he is obviously still very much in awe of Almendros. The quote I used, “The sensitivity of his work rivals any DP of the 20th century and he was a great teacher to me" -- he actually restated at least one or two more times at a post-screening Q&A later that night. I didn't quote this, but he actually also credited Almendros, along with producer Stanley Jaffe, of being one of the "authors" of "Kramer."

At the risk of self-pimping, the entire piece I wrote about Benton and "Kramer" is here.


Woops. Just realized this site doesn't accept html. The link I referred to (somewhat shamefacedly) above is below.


Glenn Kenny

No worries, Bob. For what it's worth, I think that Benton is an almost criminally underrated director, and especially as the directly pre-and-post "Kramer" period is concerned.


Nestor Almendros was one of the reasons i got into moviemaking
not only a great artist, but a true gentleman
i was a bit disappointed though when i learned that half of days of heaven was lensed by Haskel Wexler, and Almendros never acknoledged him
anyways, here is a link for a commercial directed by scorsese, cinemtography by Nestor Almendros
more or less at the time they shot a documentary on Giorgio Armani, Made in Milan, that i have never found
the commercial is inspired (almost a copy) of a previous one done by Richard Avedon


Glenn Kenny

@ CH: If Wexler ever felt burned, I don't think he's expressed it as yet. On the commentary for the new DVD of "Days of Heaven," Wexler avows that he didn't work on the film as long as has been said, and that he only ever saw his purpose on the set as finishing up for Almendros, whom he clearly revered.


this is great to know
since i only knew what must be an urban legend about Wexler being upset. Actually the movie Days of Heaven has been very interesting with lots stories about Malick and Almendros. I ask myself wich ones are true.
Anyways, i leave here a very rare interview on spanish TV in 6 parts. It´s in spanish and almost doesn´t speak about his american films. Only about the Jack Nicholson directed movie. He speaks a lot about Rohmer, Truffaut and Barbet Schroeder.



as for the subject on technology
i think the outstanding work of harris savides and Dion Beebe is a good example of how technology aplyed on photography can be marvelous
i think nestor almendros would be specially impressed with harris savides

here is a link for a commercial made by scorsese, savides, ...
the commercial is for a spanish champagne, and starts at minute 3:00

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad