Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography
1993, NR, 92 min. Directed by Arnold Glassman, Todd Mccarthy, Stuart Samuels.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 30, 1993
If you can get past that RTF 301 title, what you'll find here is an extremely engrossing meditation on an aspect of most films that few people consciously think of: that is, the directors of photography who create a film's “look.” Genuinely engaging, this is 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated fun, loaded with clips from everything from Lawrence of Arabia to Jaws, and from Do the Right Thing to The Night of the Hunter. This documentary's co-directors have rounded up some of the most important cinematographers in film history and given them a format in which to voice their ideas on the nature of their jobs and how they created these spectacular films. Nestor Almendros -- in his last interview -- discourses on his Days of Heaven, Michael Ballhaus reveals why he used the old film school trick of “zoom in/pull back” in Scorsese's GoodFellas, Michael Chapman comments on his work in both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and David Lynch's right-hand man, Frederick Elmes, reveals how he had to pull the images of Eraserhead out of the director with, at best, difficulty. Twenty-seven DP's are interviewed in all, and their comments are incisive, witty, and utterly interesting. After all, it's not often that the public gets a glimpse into the minds of these amazing men. One qualm I had after it was over was noting that none of Alfred Hitchcock's cinematographers were presented. It would have been nice to hear how Robert Burks shot North by Northwest, but that's a minor quibble at best. Visions... demands to be seen in a darkened theater -- it will hardly play as well on tape -- so catch it while it's here. Majoring in RTF not required.