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Amir Mokri once again..


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 07:19 AM

I've been tooting Amir Mokri's horn since I saw Pacific Heights in the early 90's. I'm amazed he's not more recognised than he is. I don't recall having ever read an interview or an on-set report from any of his films. Very strange, does anybody know why? Anyway, after just having come out of Lord of War, I have to say he's probably turned into my favorite DP. I'm blown away by his use of color and his daring exposures.

Lord of War is easily the best shot and lit film this year. Mokri's hardcore exposure of exteriors is truly inspiring - he exposes for the sky and then just slightly bounces a soft rim on his characters and leaves them in complete underexposure. Very cool, very daring. There's also some absolute exquisite use of color - reds and blues mixed together in a way that could easily have become busy and all wrong in a lesser DP's hands, but here it just looks gorgeous. Not to mention the coolest timelapse sequence ever.

Anybody else seen Lord of War and enjoy the look as much as I did?

Give the man an ASC membership pronto. David, maybe you could recommend him?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 11:04 AM

Give the man an ASC membership pronto. David, maybe you could recommend him?


It's hard to personally vouch for the character of someone I've never met, which is sort of a basic part of writing a letter of recommendation. But I'm sure he must know some people... I wouldn't worry about him.
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#3 Mike Williamson

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 07:52 PM

Thanks for the heads up, Adam. I'll look for the film on DVD, I think I missed it in the theater, didn't hear much about it when it came out.

I really enjoyed Mokri's work on "Bad Boys 2", totally over the top but very beautiful and distinctive, it had an edge you don't see in most action films. Do you have any recommendations for further Mokri viewing?

As a side note, Adam, I think it was one of your posts about Bojan Bazelli that got me started watching his stuff and now he's one of my favorite DP's. Thanks for the heads up on that one, looking forwards to more good stuff!
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 08:29 PM

It's funny because I sort of lump Mokri and Bozelli together, both for stylistic reasons, but also because they were working at similar periods when I noticed their work.

For Mokri, it was his work on "Blue Steel", "Joy Luck Club", and "Pacific Heights" that caught my eye. For Bozelli, it was "Body Snatchers", "Sugar Hill", "Kalifornia". They both were doing Storaro-esque high contrast, single source (soft or hard) lighting at the time.
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#5 Mike Williamson

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 09:03 PM

Thanks for the recommendations, David, I've seen the Bozelli films you mention and they're amazing, my personal favorite would have to be "Kalifornia". I'll start digging into the Mokri films soon...

What do you think are the most important Storaro films for you? Also, what films would you recommend to see how his work has changed over the years? His influence is pervasive when you look for it.

I read a lot about Storaro and Willis being the two most influential people in terms of modern cinematography, but these days I see more Storaro-influenced work being done than anything that resembles Willis' style, I guess Mokri would be an example of that school as well.
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:16 AM

The movies David mentions are pretty much what I'd recommend, too. Yeah, I suppose Mokri and Bojan are quite similar in style. For me Mokri has always been in the vain of brit-style DP's like the ones who came out
to Hollywood in the mid 80's to mid 90's. I'm amazed Tony Scott hasn't worked with Mokri, for instance. They'd be perfect for each other.

Pacific Heights is beautifully shot. It reminds me of the crispness of The Game (or maybe it's just the SF setting?). Hazy, underxeposed whites.

Blue Steel is much more Tony Scott-y in look. Lots of smoke, lots of long lenses and a very slick, commercial look. Tons of night stuff, rain, New York - the works. Gorgeous film.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 02:12 AM

Probably Harris Savides is the DP with the most Willis-esque style today. Sometimes Roger Deakins' work has some of those qualities; same with Darius Khondi (in particular "Seven" and "The Interpreter"). In fact, David Fincher's films in general borrow a lot visually from the 1970's movies shot by Willis.

Storaro has been so heavily influential that his fingerprints are on everything.

In some ways, it's easier to mimic the sort of bold, formal work of Willis or Storaro -- with its strong intellectual structure -- than it is to copy the more varied and complex style of someone like Conrad Hall, who worked much more instinctually on the set. I can sort of figure out why and how Willis or Storaro did what they did just by looking at the shot, but I'm not sure if Hall always knew why he was doing what he was doing, other than it pleased him aesthetically. Not to say that Hall didn't intellectualize his work, just not to the degree of Willis or Storaro.

Of course, Willis and Storaro did not work in a vacuum and were influenced by the work of other DP's, especially the work of Italian, French, and British cinematographers in the 1960's.

Also, don't forget the influence on cinematography caused by British commercial directors of the 1970's moving into features.

A different trend in cinematography -- more abstract, experimental, impressionistic -- perhaps best represented by Robert Richardson and his work with Oliver Stone, is harder to trace. On the one hand, it belongs to some of the visual experiments with diffusion & smoke & color that you see in Geoff Unsworth's or Ozzie Morris' work, but it also has ties to 1960's experimental cinema, and even something like Vilmos Zsigmond's work, in particular the climax to "Close Encounters" (Doug Trumbull should also get some credit there) where it's almost just an abstract light show of color, brightness, sound, etc.

Mike, if you live in Los Angeles, don't miss the week-long screening of "The Conformist" at the Nuart.

Edited by David Mullen, 28 November 2005 - 02:13 AM.

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#8 Mike Williamson

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 02:47 AM

Mike, if you live in Los Angeles, don't miss the week-long screening of "The Conformist" at the Nuart.

I'll be there!

I think you're right, David, in terms of it being easier to work in a Willis or Storaro-mode than a Conrad Hall mode. Being a sort of intellectual person, I relate to their work more consciously than I do someone like Hall. My last two films have tried to emulate Willis and Storaro respectively in terms of how I thought about shooting them. One was about darkness and top light, the other about using big slabs of side light, I'm sure you can figure out which is which.
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#9 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 04:40 AM

Also, don't forget the influence on cinematography caused by British commercial directors of the 1970's moving into features.


Often hugely overlooked. I'd say that modern blockbuster- and Hollywood-filmmaking owes a lot of its look today to the brit-invasion of the late 70's and 80's. Directors like the Scotts, Lyne, Parker and DP's like Biziou, Atherton, Watkin, Vanlint, Goldblatt and many others shaped the way movies look today.
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