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Chris Doyle


David Mullen ASC
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John Mathieson was kind enough to and came to talk to us once. What I found very interesting was that with 'Love is the Devil', from what I remember him saying, he and the director knew that they wanted to 'mess with the frame' (...can't remember if those were his exact words!) but didn't necessarily know exactly 'what' all the time.

 

From what I could tell filming was a very organic process. This sounds very similar to the way Chris Doyle works with WKW. I find this very interesting, obviously these were 'low' budget films, but I always thought that DPs should plan everything to the last detail, whereas this was definitely not the case for these films. Many DPs seem to work this way - intuitively. However, I suppose you need to be very experienced and really know your stuff to be able to work this way and still make beautiful shots.

 

My teacher also doesn't like to overplan, especially by storyboarding, because he feels they limit your creativity and stop you from really 'looking' at your location and the scene you are about to shoot.

 

Interestingly, John Mathieson and Chris Doyle are friends and try to meet up at Camerimage in Poland if they are free.

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Dear fellas,

Yeah yeah, free speech and all that... I was kidding! It was just an ironic sentence. Haven?t you noticed the smiley? Really, I was being ironic over all this Chris Doyle super hype we are living on. That?s it. I love him, I think he?s great, and best of all, he have guts. I?m just a little bit tired of all those who want to be him, who wants to get a light like his. It happens always when there is a new top#1 and all the mediocre wannabe him. And I?m not saying Tom wanted to be like Doyle or so? I was just trying to raise the level of discussion away from blowjob worship. Ups!, I did it again, sorry? Yes, 2048 is wonderfully composed. No complaint about it.

Tom, check these out to be also considered examples of superior composed films. Some old films but very modern at the same time, which is the best I can say about them. Let?s see if Doyle films pass the time test:

 

Samurai Rebellion, The Hidden fortress, The Ox-Bow incident, Nicholas & Alexandra,

The Double life of Veronique, Old Boy, The Train?

 

As you know framing is not only about to put character in one extreme side of the frame or so? One example of great composition including characters and space is Nicholas & Alexandra, or Samurai Rebellion. They are not only beautiful, but also very informative about the characters thinking or attitude. Those guys never forgot the physiological substance of frame plus story. Awesome.

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I don't think he is overrated at all, but he definitely is not part of the mainstream either technically or stylistically.

 

He's a bit of a punk rocker or beat poet or jazz musician, etc. which is what makes his work exciting when he's coupled with interesting material. He's not a stylist, per se, so hiring him to shoot a boring conventional movie doesn't mean it ends up looking like "In the Mood for Love" -- he doesn't apply a personal style over everything like gravy. He's at his best when he's working with material that suits his way of seeing and thinking.

 

I think this is a generational thing, the people you admire.

 

Last week, I had to meet-n-greet some film students at the ASC Clubhouse and we got into a lively discussion about favorite works of cinematography. A number of students cited "Moulin Rouge!" as their all-time favorite film for cinematography, and a couple of ASC members were a bit skeptical (though they like Don McAlpine's work in general) -- they felt it was so over-edited that you never got a sense of the cinematography. And when one ASC member said that "The Godfather" films were his favorite for cinematography, one student said "ugh, that's my parents' favorite movie -- I'm sick of watching it!"

 

My feeling is that one's cherished movies tend to be the ones you saw at a critical moment in your life, usually when you are a teenager or starting college, when you start seeing movies as something you'd like to be a part of.

 

So just as now I'm part of that generation that most reveres the cinematographers of the 1970's/80's like Gordon Willis, Vittorio Storaro, Conrad Hall, etc. (and personal favorites like Geoffrey Unsworth because I loved "Superman" as a teenager), the twenty-somethings that love the 1990's/2000's cinematographers the most, people like Chris Doyle, Emmanuel Lubezki, Robert Richardson, Darius Khondji, etc. are going to have to deal with the next generation in the coming decade who will deride some of their choices as being old-fashioned or saying "I don't get it", whatever.

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Now that we have drifted almost entirely off topic... :)

 

The fact that many students mentioned "Moulin Rouge" is not so much of a generational, thing, I think, as it is people getting cinematography and art direction and costumes all mixed up. You all have heard this theory from me before, but I think very often people confuse great costumes and set designs with "Best Cinematography."

 

As for Doyle slumming in these mainstream pictures, yeah it sucks, but it doesn't take away from his accomplishments. In the Mood for Love is generally considered one of the top ten or twenty alltime cinematography masterpieces. It is often mentioned in the same breath as Days of Heaven, The Godfather, Barry Lyndon, and Lawrence of Arabia, so it's kind of silly to say that "Doyle sucks" or he is the most "most overrated." Gimme a break!

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David,

I partly agree with you about the generational gap. But a student who reasons such a stupid comment (parent?s favorite flick) should go back to school. I mean, something is wrong when that?s the only reason to argue. There is also wrong when a major number of students/young wannabe chooses Moulin Rouge as one of their favorites. Again, they need to see and discover lots of other films. And, most important, someone should introduce to them.

 

For that generational reason I should reject Willis, Almendros, Bartkowiak, Zsigmond, Nikvist or, getting worse, guys like Cortez, Hoch, Alton, Metty, and so on, because they represent the old school. I think art should be considered in other terms. Students, and school staff, should care more about their heritage. You can identify yourself with contemporary figures in sports or even music if you are a MTV brat, but you can?t deal the same way with cinematography if you want to be a cinematographer. After all, that?s why we are so vulnerable in front of the all kind of hypes. No matter what, I wannabe the new Chris Doyle?

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I just wouldnt put Chris Doyle and Emmanuel Lubezki in the same class i do understand what your saying and really hope its not an age thing , Doyle is 2 years older than me ! .

 

Why not? "In the mood for love" and "Hero" by Doyle rival or surpass the best Luzbeki movie, in their different styles. This is such a bizantine discusion anyway, trying to debate whether Doyle is a great cinematographer or not and then comparing him to other personal favorites.

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It's a bit like saying that Ravi Shankar isn't in the same league as Izak Perlman, or John Coltrane isn't in the same league as Aaron Copland, sort of apples and oranges -- Doyle and Lubezki have different types of talents. Doyle has more of a punk rock or modern jazz attitude that is perfect for certain types of projects, particularly urban tales. He is rough around the edges, by choice. Lubezki would not be as well-suited as Doyle was for a movie like "Fallen Angels" or "Happy Together", though he certainly could do a type of naturalistic documentary style when it is appropriate, but I think Doyle is second to none when it comes to portraying urban night life, especially that of Hong Kong. He's not afraid of being unrefined.

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It's a bit like saying that Ravi Shankar isn't in the same league as Izak Perlman, or John Coltrane isn't in the same league as Aaron Copland, sort of apples and oranges -- Doyle and Lubezki have different types of talents. Doyle has more of a punk rock or modern jazz attitude that is perfect for certain types of projects, particularly urban tales. He is rough around the edges, by choice. Lubezki would not be as well-suited as Doyle was for a movie like "Fallen Angels" or "Happy Together", though he certainly could do a type of naturalistic documentary style when it is appropriate, but I think Doyle is second to none when it comes to portraying urban night life, especially that of Hong Kong. He's not afraid of being unrefined.

 

I understand and agree. But I sense some disdain in John's posts as to Doyle not being "worthy" of being called a great cinematographer. As if it was a personal afront that he has, deservedly or not, gotten so much attention.

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I'm sure we would all make a different list of who were the greatest cinematographers currently working, with our own reasons. None of us should expect each other's lists to match.

 

However, I think when someone names a particular cinematographer as being a personal favorite, whose work has touched that person, inspired that person, etc. who are we to argue even if we didn't have the same experience? I don't want to get into the game of knocking other people's personal heroes down a notch. It would be more productive to promote your own personal heroes.

 

If a lot of people have been inspired by Doyle's collaborations with Wong Kar Wai, it's nothing to be dismissed.

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Yes, sometimes this "so and so" is better than "so and so" angle sounds like 5 year olds talking about Action Man or something which in my opinion undermines cinematography.I

I thought the purpose of this part of the forum was to talk about the work of different cinematographers and not to banter like a bunch of teeny boppers. Prompt.

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It's a bit like saying that Ravi Shankar isn't in the same league as Izak Perlman, or John Coltrane isn't in the same league as Aaron Copland, sort of apples and oranges -- Doyle and Lubezki have different types of talents. Doyle has more of a punk rock or modern jazz attitude that is perfect for certain types of projects, particularly urban tales. He is rough around the edges, by choice. Lubezki would not be as well-suited as Doyle was for a movie like "Fallen Angels" or "Happy Together", though he certainly could do a type of naturalistic documentary style when it is appropriate, but I think Doyle is second to none when it comes to portraying urban night life, especially that of Hong Kong. He's not afraid of being unrefined.

 

dave, maybe i'm not qualified here, as i have watched only 'rabbit proof fence'. however, i loved doyle's raw-earth camera work in that. but after reading this interesting thread and imbibing the various impressions floaring around , let me chip in my own two cents: chris doyle as an artistic original reminds me of trilok gurtu, the maverick indian percussionist and the incredible crocodile man from down under , the late steve irvin ! rajkumar

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Lol at the Irwin comparison.

 

kpv rajkumar, I highly recommend that you check out In the Mood for Love or some of Doyle and WKW's other collabos.

 

roger that, tom ! i'll soon be going the whole nine yards on all of his stuff, ( even love his freaked out hair-do !) including 'in the mood for love' and all of his wkw works and not forgeting his work with kaige on 'temptress moon', ( ha ! now i remember falling in love with gong li on time cover years ago !) ! thanks-a-thousand-feet-mag ! rajkumar

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his appearence shocked me quite a bit at this years camerimage

he was talking to students opening with a sentence like: "film schools are only good for your sexlife, but how would i know? i never went!"

and he got huge minus points from me for making really poor and sexist comments about how every whore likes her job but in the end it doesent change anything about the fact that some of his films actually got me into cinematography in the first place.

and once the people came over his rockstarish appearence and got him talking it was really refreshing to hear about his truly instinct driven work and how he preceives what he sees. i remember that the meeting was videotaped and i think that it will appear at some point on the internet.

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Hey David, Tom, everybody,

 

I caught this Chris Doyle + Wong Kar-wai music video on YouTube.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZKeSNZhm18...feature=related

 

If anyone knows where to buy a high quality copy, please let me know.

 

I think it was Werner Herzog who has a quote saying that a filmmaker can't help but reveal their soul through their work even if they try to disguise it. I really appreciate Chris's work, I find it mind opening and grounding.

 

Ian Bloom

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  • 3 weeks later...
I don't think he is overrated at all, but he definitely is not part of the mainstream either technically or stylistically.

 

 

I think this is a generational thing, the people you admire.

 

Last week, I had to meet-n-greet some film students at the ASC Clubhouse and we got into a lively discussion about favorite works of cinematography. A number of students

 

So just as now I'm part of that generation that most reveres the cinematographers of the 1970's/80's like Gordon Willis, Vittorio Storaro, Conrad Hall, etc. (and personal favorites like Geoffrey Unsworth because I loved "Superman" as a teenager), the twenty-somethings that love the 1990's/2000's cinematographers the most, people like Chris Doyle, Emmanuel Lubezki, Robert Richardson, Darius Khondji, etc. are going to have to deal with the next generation in the coming decade who will deride some of their choices as being old-fashioned or saying "I don't get it", whatever.

 

 

True, those are the names that students of mine who are in their twenties most often mention.

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