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Oswald Morris and Deakins...


Jonathan Bowerbank
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I was watching an interview with Roger Deakins where he mentioned the work of Oswald "Ozzie" Morris as one of his key influences, and how "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" was one of the films he watched before filming "The Man Who Wasn't There". I was quite unfamiliar with Morris' work, so I decided to rent a couple of his films this past week. The aforementioned film and one of his color films "Equus".

 

Both films star Richard Burton at his best and both feature such gorgeous cinematography. The styles of lighting vary so much from these two films, I was surprised. "The Spy..." is a great British noir espionage film. Not so high contrast as most noir films are, but some very impressive camera moves, compositions and motivated lighting in an era of studio films.

 

In "Equus" Morris painted his scenes with much broader strokes, and it was in this movie where I saw the most influence in Deakins' own work. Various scenes with natural sources (the teenager's room at the hospital, the stables, etc.) such as a window providing gorgeous and soft sidelighting and some great exterior scenes that while watching them wouldn't seem too special, but the contrast of the scenes, considering the weather, was a lesson in negative fill and really making available light work for you. There's no doubt some arcs were thrown in to help, but it all seemed quite natural.

 

Deakins mentioned that all of "Ozzie's" work is just gorgeous, and I got a sense that Deakins is always aspiring to be at that level with each film he works on.

 

I'm currently awaiting the next film shot by Morris to arrive from Netflix :)

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Guest Tim Partridge

Remember that Deakins was taught by Morris at the National Film and TV School. Another teacher was Dick Bush, and I think on Bush shot films like NATTY GANN (made at the same time as Deakins feature work was taking off) you can see great similarities in the work. This is particularly true regarding the beautiful available light location photography.

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Also remember that Rogers background is documentary film where most of the time you just have to use available light .

 

also, the fact that Deakins is hands-on and does most of the operating , though he has regular operators like Clint Dougherty and Kyle Rudolph ! rajkumar

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Compare his movies for J.Huston, 'Moulin Rouge' and 'Moby Dick'.

 

D.Mullen mentioned elsewhere the O.Morris started using spacelights in the 60s.

But if he wasn't using spacelights for the overcast days on the Pequod in 'Moby Dick' and the storm and shipwreck in 'The Guns of Navarone', he must have been using something that evolved into them.

 

The sea scenes in 'The Key' are quite impressive, contrasty B/W and odd CinemaScope angles.

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