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Top 10 Films to Watch for Cinematographers

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Eraserhead (USA)

The Color of Pomegranates / Sayat Nova (Armenia)

Beauty and the beast (France)

Persona (Sweeden)

Nosferatu (Germany)Inauguration of the pleasure dome (USA)

Stalker (Russia)Prosperos Books (UK)

The Holy Mountain (UK/Spain?)

The cabinet of Dr Caligari (Germany)

 

Add to the bolded ones Blade Runner (my number 1, no contest), Children of Men, The Machinist, No Country for Old Men, and Old Boy, and you get my top 10.

 

"Pi" is close to the 10th one, I'm a sucker for grainy-as-hell, low-budget films.

Edited by Nicolas Courdouan

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I can't think of ten off the top of my head, but here are a couple that haven't been mentioned yet.

 

Firstly, I'm going to go with Crank 2: High Voltage. Neveldine and Taylor have a distinctive shooting style, and whilst it's not a beautifully lit or whatever, it's interesting what they do. And I'm looking forward to seeing what they're going to do with Ghost Rider when it opens next month. Their DP on both of these is Brandon Trost.

 

Below is a haunted house story set on a WW2 submarine. I saw it at a screening at Pinewood, along with a talk by Ian Wilson on how he shot it. (One stop over-exposed, and then printed down during processing.)

 

And lastly I'm going to say "Drive". Look at the way that characters are lit, and the more morally compromised they are the more they're in shadow.

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I can't think of ten off the top of my head, but here are a couple that haven't been mentioned yet.

 

Firstly, I'm going to go with Crank 2: High Voltage. Neveldine and Taylor have a distinctive shooting style, and whilst it's not a beautifully lit or whatever, it's interesting what they do. And I'm looking forward to seeing what they're going to do with Ghost Rider when it opens next month. Their DP on both of these is Brandon Trost.

 

Below is a haunted house story set on a WW2 submarine. I saw it at a screening at Pinewood, along with a talk by Ian Wilson on how he shot it. (One stop over-exposed, and then printed down during processing.)

 

And lastly I'm going to say "Drive". Look at the way that characters are lit, and the more morally compromised they are the more they're in shadow.

 

Saw Drive for the second time, and noticed the shadow play. Nicely done. The driving sequences were nicely lit (ie. more real) too - reminded me of my favourite driving sequence ever in Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. I have to say though that a lot of the cinematography choices I perceived more as direction. Loved the breathing Scorpion jacket, Ryan Gosling moving slowly out of frame after his first "kill". Great film overall. Too bad it wasn't shot on film lol.

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The Shining. Just the way the focal length brings you into and out of so many scenes, as well as Jack's slow mental decay.

Triumph of the Will. The opening arial shot as well as the buried camera shot. The framing as well as tight shots on german citizens are remarkably well done.

 

As well, if not only for one scene, Nightmare on Elm street. The ridiculously careful lighting of the shot of freddy coming through the wall gives me chills.

 

 

I totally agree with the others stated, especially Apocalypse Now with its use of warm and wonderful colour tones and such meticulous lighting. (Particularly all the scenes with Marlin Brando's gigantic forehead playing hide and seek with shafts of light.)

 

And Blade Runner is just rad beyond words. The opening master shot is just... wow.

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I agree with much of the listings, Freya's especially! :P

 

Ok here's some from the top of my head (or more so from glancing over at the DVD rack) they're musts in my eyes, I would say so myself. Not many classics mind but definitely worth a watch.

 

Film - Production Country - Cinematographer

 

Days of Heaven - USA - Nestor Alemandros A.S.C. & Haskell Wexler A.S.C.

Ballast - USA - Lol Crawley

La Haine - France - Pierre Aim

Kundun - Mainly filmed in Morocco - Roger Deakins A.S.C/B.S.C.

Hanna - Finland/Germany - Alwin Kuchler B.S.C.

Werkmeister Harmonies - Hungary - This has like 5 Cinematographers so just watch it ;)

Three Colours Red, Blue, White - France/Poland - Piotr Sobocinski, Slawomir Idziak, Edward Klosinski

Barry Lyndon - UK - John Alcott

Andrei Rublev - Russia - Vadim Yusov

Ivans Childhood - Set in Germany - Vadim Yusov

Martha Marley May Marlene - USA - Jody Lee Lipes

Cries and Whispers - Sweden - Sven Nykvist

Biutiful - Spain - Rodrigo Prieto

Import/Export - Ukraine/Austria - Edward Lachman A.S.C/Wolfgang Thaler

 

Also Channel 4's (UK) Red Riding: In the year of Our Lord. Three Episodes, 3 DP's, 3 Directors, 3 Styles. Very Good.

 

Episode one: 1974 - UK - Rob Hardy B.S.C.

Episode two: 1980 - UK - Igor Martinovic

Episode three: 1983 - UK - David Higgs B.S.C.

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Titles from everywhere get ignored because it's just a thread about what pops into peoples head. I think international films are making a good showing.

 

Certainly Germanys doing fantastic with Nosferatu, M, Faust, Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Sunrise.

 

The UK is even doing surprisingly well with Prosperos Books, Lawrence of Arabia, Peeping Tom, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Man of Aran! (I'm shocked)

 

...and theres lots of other international films too! I'm just surprised nobody has mentioned any Christopher Doyle films yet!

 

love

 

Freya

1.Dead Man

2.Living in Oblivion

3. Still Walking

4.Eternity and a Day

5.In the Mood for Love

6.Elephant

7.Stranger Than Paradise

8.Nights of Cabiria

9.To Live

0.Persona

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Road to Perdition is at the top of my list. I thought the Lord of the Rings series shot by Andrew Lesnie was right up there as well. Casablanca. It's tough to dispute anybody's picks. I completely agree with the Public Enemies comment.

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Road to Perdition is at the top of my list. I thought the Lord of the Rings series shot by Andrew Lesnie was right up there as well. Casablanca. It's tough to dispute anybody's picks. I completely agree with the Public Enemies comment.

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Road to Perdition is at the top of my list. I thought the Lord of the Rings series shot by Andrew Lesnie was right up there as well. Casablanca. It's tough to dispute anybody's picks. I completely agree with the Public Enemies comment.

 

Do you like Road to Perdition twice as much ;) hehe

 

It's unbelievably shot!!

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The Taking Of Pelham 123

Solaris

Ivan's Childhood

Contempt

Pans Labrynth

The City Of Lost Children

Children Of Men

Blade Runner

Stalker

The Conversation

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Guest Patrick Nuse

Surprised I did not see Magnolia listed.

 

Magnolia

Blade Runner

The Professional or Leon

Donnie Darko

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Garden State

Inception

The Dark Knight

The Girl With a Pearl Earing

Apocalypse Now

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This is a great thread. I have some personal favorites for one reason or another.

 

1. Gomorrah

2. Amelie

3. Seven

4. Mean Streets

5. Reservoir Dogs

6. Requiem for a Dream

7. Shawshank Redemption

8. The French Connection

9. Serpico

10.The Professional

11.The Shining

12.Shutter Island

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I am by no means a cinematographer, but I think the most essential films a cinematographer must see are those that can evoke life and feeling to the eyes. When one looks upon the silver screen we primarily connect with the people who are living and breathing before us, the mise en scene or what have you is merely a template of the scene, and enhances the sensibilities of the watcher.

 

Therefore, I must consider Sven Nykvist as the most important cinematographer of our time. My list is as follows:

 

1. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)

 

2. The Third Man (Carol Reed)

 

3. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)

 

4. Grapes Of Wrath (John Ford)

 

5. Cat People (Jacque Torneur)

 

6. The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg)

 

7. Ben Hur (William Wyler)

 

8. Night Of The Hunter (Charles Laughton)

 

9. Nights Of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)

 

10. Any William Wyler film to show you how to become disciplined and efficient with your shots: Jezebel, Roman Holiday, Little Foxes, etc.

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1.Dead Man

2.Living in Oblivion

3. Still Walking

4.Eternity and a Day

5.In the Mood for Love

6.Elephant

7.Stranger Than Paradise

8.Nights of Cabiria

9.To Live

0.Persona

 

 

In relation to Elephant, I watched Gerry today, I would say this is also a must in relation to Van Sant and Harris Savides' Craftsmanship, Did I mention "Last Days" in my list? Can't remember. :unsure:

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In no particular order:

1) Road to Perdition

2) Seven

3) American Beauty

4) Brazil

5) Children of Men

6) Assassination of Jesse James

7) Requiem for a Dream

8) No Country for Old Men

9) Inception

10) There Will Be Blood

 

I'm not all too familiar with international cinematographers, so pardon my list for being very American and Hollywood. I like what I like, regardless of location or time period.

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Here are some of my personal favorites (in no particular order). Some might seem like odd choices, but these are often films that I refer too and use as an influence.

 

Jurassic Park: Dean Cundey is my all time favorite DP and I consider this to be his greatest work (with Roger Rabbit a close second). Makes great use of the 1.85:1 frame, with fantastic compositions (my favorite being Muldoon standing with the shotgun and Laura Dern next to him), great use of Cundey's characteristic fill light from underneath and camera moves and blocking so well thought out that they become invisible. The cinematography in this film is in many ways invisible, which is why I think it's so great: It never gets in the way of the story. Some films are made to beautiful while some are stories told through a camera. This is one of the greatest examples of the latter.

The Empire Strikes Back: Peter Suschitzky does a marvelous job here, from the scenes on Hoth, with huge soft sources to the low key finale on Cloud City with great use of smoke, shadows and warm light. Not only the best Star Wars film, but the best looking one too.

The Godfather I & II: Whenever I need a character to look mysterious, having questionable morals or show that it's a dingy, low lit locale, I often specify "Godfahter-eyes". Willis use of shadowed eyes is of course just one part of the puzzle, the other being his use of underexposure (for example when Michael is overlooking the lake in II, as a silhouette is just beautiful) and the amazing brown-red colors.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Kubrick is a great visionary director and all his films deliver great cinematography. The one I enjoy the most is 2001, which is just a feast for the eyes (and ears).

Blade Runner: Jordan Cronenweth created something few people can: A movie that's almost black and white and at the same time filled with color. It's a deeply layered movie, with strong use of contrasts, almost in a black & white sense, but with splashes of color and neon creating an atmosphere that wraps it all up.

Apocalypse Now: While I can have split opinions on Storaro as a person, I can not say anything else but that he is a true mastermind as a cinematographer. Apocalypse Now has some sequences (to me the bridge attack and Playboy show) where I just drop in awe. To see this film in it's original 2.39:1 aspect ratio on Blu-Ray really brought the point home, as the extra frame really proved what I've been missing during these years.

True Grit: For me it was either The Shawshank Redemption or this and in the end, I think True Grit is Deakins best work (so far). He captures the rough, hard nature of the west in a way that's very natural, but still with great style.

Inception: Of course, Pfister beat Deakins to the Oscar last year and while one can argue which one deserved it the most, it was not undeserved. Pfister is a master of creating dynamic cinematography, going between a steady tripod shot to a handheld shot, just when it's needed. And the environmental shots in this film are truly epic.

Drive: Newton Thomas Sigel really proved to me what the Alexa was capable of with Drive. Even with the less need for lights, it shows that you still need to light for character. And boy does he. His faces are in some cases almost perfectly split between light and shadow, here taking out the duality of each character. Funnily enough, there is almost no handheld in this film, but the camera is almost always on a dolly or jib, always being able to move around and follow the action.

Touch of Evil: While Kane is amazing, Touch of Evil was one I found more interesting. Kane made great use of depth of field, but it was almost too much. Touch of Evil is scaled back and very raw, especially for an older film in some scenes, but makes great use of wide-angle. And of course, there's the opening crane shot, where one falls in love with the rest of the film.

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I forgot one film, even though that's 11, but what the heck!

L.A. Confidential: Dante Spinotti did magnificent work on this film and I prefer it to his work in Heat, as I find it more refined. He gets the feeling of sunny California of the 50s, but without it feeling old. It also has the most beautiful zoom ever seen, when Exley and Bud White face down with each other on the street.

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I would suggest staying away from effects laden films if you or just starting out. Lighting is what you want to learn first. IF you want to get into effects by all means have at it. CGI just won't help you learn photography. One of my favorite movies to watch for lighting and cinematography is The Crossing Guard that Vilmos Zsigmond shot. This was a very low budget movie shot by a master. He had to light in the simplest possible manner to get this film made. You can see he had to use his wits and experience to light fast with minimal manpower.

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Some of my picks:

 

B&W:

 

The Fugitive (1947) - Gabriel Figueroa

The Night of the Hunter (1955) - Stanley Cortez

The Trial (1962) - Edmond Richard

Winter Light (1963) - Ulla Ryghe

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) - Denys N. Coop

 

Colour:

 

The French Connection (1971) - Owen Roizman

Fat City (1972) - Conrad L. Hall

Road to Perdition (2002) - Conrad L. Hall

Capote (2005) - Adam Kimmel

War of the Worlds (2005) - Janusz Kaminski

Revanche (2008) - Martin Gschlacht

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My "must-watch" list would be over a hundred titles probably, but these are a few color movies I find myself going back to again and again to look at the cinematography:

 

Black Narcissus

Moulin Rouge (the 1950's version)

JFK

Snow Falling on Cedars

Cabaret

Superman: The Movie

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Alien

Blade Runner

Apocalypse Now

Godfather II

Excalibur

Lawrence of Arabia

Seven

McCabe & Mrs.Miller

 

This is just off the top of my head, I actually tried to not think too hard and just type what came to mind...

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I must add David Watkin " The Charge of the Light Brigade " Help" {Bad film} but fantastic lighting . " Catch 22" " The Devils " "The Three Musketeers "

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