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Freddie Francis has died


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 06:41 PM

This was just reported on the CML by Mike Southon, BSC. No details.

A great loss.

A decade ago when I was in London, I got to see a b&w thriller ("Nightmare", 1964, shot by John Wilcox) directed by Francis shown at a South Bank (Museum of the Moving Image) cinema, with Francis there to answer questions. It was a fun evening and the movie looked great.

Personal note:

I remember when "Dune" came out, I thought about asking a female co-worker to see it with me, but too shy to ask for a date, I merely mentioned that I was seeing it with some friends and she might like to turn up. Well she did turn up.. but by then the movie was sold out and we went in without her. Then I asked her to see "The Elephant Man" at a revival house (the Nuart Theater) but when she showed up with her male roommate, I assumed she was dating this guy (he turned out to be a gay friend). So I asked her to go out on a "real" date to see a movie, which turned out to be sold out when we arrived. So we crossed the street and saw this low-budget action movie called "The Terminator" and enjoyed it.

I'm amazed she eventually married me. Anyway, all of this is to say that the name "Freddie Francis" conjures up all of these memories from the early 1980's.

After seeing "Dune" and reading about the invention of the Lightflex (originally Colorflex) for "Young Winston", I built a small version of one for my Super-8 camera, but it was too inconvenient to use.
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#2 Matthew Buick

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 06:58 PM

:( :( :( :( :(
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 08:20 PM

Ahhh. That's real sad.

I cannot convey how much Elephant Man changed me. It's one of the best movies ever made and beautifully shot. In fact, if I ever had to become a teacher, I'd force the kids to watch Elephant Man - it's one of the most emphatic and human films I've seen. And that's much owed to Freddie's fantastic Victorian moody London. My favorite shot in the whole movie is the slow diagonal track in to a CU on Athony Hopkins face as a single tear rolls down his cheek when he first sees the Elephant Man. Magic stuff.

French Lieutenant's Woman, Cape Fear, The Straight Story - all great stuff.

RIP
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#4 Tim Partridge

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 04:52 PM

The last Brit to win an Oscar for cinematography (not counting Jack Cardiff's lifetime award).

I think Freddie Francis is a personal favourite for many. It's almost cliche to associate the word "evocative" with his black and white work on SONS AND LOVERS, THE INNOCENTS and THE ELEPHANT MAN. It always impressed me that aside from when Gilbert Taylor did it, Francis was about the only DP who could hardlight a set in both b/w and colour, only a single tidy shadow in sight. I saw ELEPHANT MAN projected some time ago and that is something that really impressed. Just enough contrast without being flashy.

The Hammer/Amicus movies Francis directed were a mixed bag though generally guilty pleasures. TALES FROM THE CRYPT is a lot of fun, but generally these were pretty flat visually and had barely anything going on inside. Nowhere near the insight you'd get from even the worst of the movies he lit.

David Lynch always seemed quite tearfully sentimental in his appreciation of Mr. Francis. It's always lovely hearing the story of how he flipped a coin to decide whether Christopher Challis or Freddie Francis would get to shoot THE ELEPHANT MAN. When the coin favoured Challis, Lynch and his line producer looked at each other and said "Nah, it's got to be Freddie"! A younger Lynch obviously had a soft spot for complex characters in front of and behind the camera, as both a frustrated genre director and a master of anamorphic black and white. To think that when Mr. Francis was eighty two years old, there he was with a much older Lynch, photographing the equally touching journey of THE STRAIGHT STORY in 1999.

Freddie Francis, long before George Lucas (and our own David Mullen) also shot one of if not the first HD feature. Bob Hoskin's RAINBOW might not have been particularly wonderful as a movie, but brave no less that a cinematographer in his seventies would give the new technology a go. Let us also not forget his work with Gerry Turpin and the Lightflex process in the 80s (as David had mentioned earlier).

I got to meet Mr. Francis five years ago at a seminar he was giving (with Jack Cardiff). He told us how he would put opague material into his matte box to isolate images on THE INNOCENTS as well as continuing to be very public on how he had the last laugh when director Ed Zwick called him "old fashioned" while photographing GLORY. Of course, Francis was one of the few cinematographers to have won a cinematography Oscar for both colour and black and white productions.

A real master of cinematography, and those images will remain touching forever.
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#5 Tim Partridge

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 04:52 PM

double post
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#6 Matthew Buick

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 05:25 PM

I cannot convey how much Elephant Man changed me. It's one of the best movies ever made and beautifully shot. In fact, if I ever had to become a teacher, I'd force the kids to watch Elephant Man - it's one of the most emphatic and human films I've seen. And that's much owed to Freddie's fantastic Victorian moody London. My favorite shot in the whole movie is the slow diagonal track in to a CU on Athony Hopkins face as a single tear rolls down his cheek when he first sees the Elephant Man. Magic stuff.


I watched that one. You're right, it is very movng, it's one of the few movies that actually had me in tears, and I'm not at all afraid to admit that fact. :(

I didn't know he shot it, it was really beautiful.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 05:32 PM

Grabbed some shots from "The Elephant Man":

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 05:44 PM

As a complete side note - how do you add images into your post like that, David? Whenever I try that I get this little thumbnail image with a frame around it saying: click here. And when you do, it enlarges. I'd like to do it your way, rather.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 07:43 PM

When posting, I click on the IMAGE icon which uses a [ img ] bracket. The photos are on my website and I resized them in Photoshop to be about the right size for the forum page (basically I reduce them to about 85% of their original size -- actually in this case, 85% of the horizontal, 80% of the vertical to get rid of the 16x9 squeeze).

I actually don't know how you guys do it the other way, the click-on attachment thingee. Do you hit the "insert link" icon instead of the "insert image" icon? Or is it because my photos are not oversized?
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#10 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 12:52 PM

The Hammer/Amicus movies Francis directed were a mixed bag though generally guilty pleasures. TALES FROM THE CRYPT is a lot of fun, but generally these were pretty flat visually and had barely anything going on inside. Nowhere near the insight you'd get from even the worst of the movies he lit.


Try 'The Creeping Flesh'.
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#11 Tony Brown

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:15 AM

I did some work on Jigsaw Man with Freddie. he used that awful front flare system that Arri bought.... it never worked properly and was a real pain...... what was it called?? Lightflex?

A gentleman.

I knew his wife better, Pamela Mann Francis, nice lady.

My condolences.
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#12 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 05:49 PM

The Lightflex, yes - think he shot Dune with it. Later turned into the Varicon.

I've used it a couple of times and I really like it. Granted, it's a bit cumbersome for fast moving cameras, but if you're on a dolly in a studio it works fine. What I particularly like is that you can color the light and dial in a tone into the shadows. In camera and visible to the eye. And it beats the guesswork with flashing in my book.
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#13 Lance Flores

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 08:45 PM

The French Lieutenant's Woman particularly the jetty scene haunts my memory . . . an indelible mark he left upon the art . . . his craft . . . his profession. One can little more of life. He did well.
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