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The career of Gilbert Taylor BSC

Gilbert Taylor

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#1 Freya Black

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 12:50 PM

At a charity shop recently I picked up a copy of Macbeth with utter surprise as I wasn't aware that such a version of Macbeth existed, and I was easily parted with my £1 to check it out.

 

It turned out to be £1 very well spent as not only is the soundtrack by the third ear band but the cinematography is some of the most amazing ever seen. I was recently watching "The ninth Gate" which almost seems to be influenced by this version of Macbeth and while Darius Khondji's work is great in "The Ninth Gate" it is as if it is nothing compared to the work of Gil Taylor in Macbeth.

 

Now Gil Taylor also shot Dr Strangelove, Repulsion, Frenzy, The Omen and Star Wars! Not to even mention a lot of very well known British films that are fast becoming lost in time (along with most British movies).

 

The thing that really puzzles me is that after shooting Star Wars the mans career seems to take a complete nose dive. It's possibly his last note worthy film. How could such a thing happen? I've often noted when people say bad things about Star Wars that the one thing the film definitely had was atmosphere, and that mostly comes down to the cinematography and set design. So the question is "what happened to Gilbert Taylor?!" Did he just make poor choices of films to work on after that? I mean you can't imagine that nobody wanted to employ him after Star Wars, but maybe they assumed he would be too expensive or something?

 

I see this happen with other cinematographers too to be honest and I don't understand it.

It's quite often that you see really talented cinematographers without work or even people who have had success on a huge film then go on to struggle. Is the success of a cinematographer not really connected to having successful films or even to how good their cinematography is? I'm not that surprised about the latter but I am surprised about the former.

 

Freya


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 02:03 PM

Could've been a number of things, the best known of his films after "Star Wars" was finished is probably "Flash Gordon"

 

Here's a video about him. mostly based around "Repulsion"

 

 


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 29 April 2014 - 02:04 PM.

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#3 John Holland

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 04:39 PM

Freya he retired he had a large farm in Sussex which he loved , he had done his bit for film .
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#4 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 11:47 AM

God, those fight scenes towards the end of Polanksi's Macbeth - they were so plain, so simple, and yet the realism of them made them seem so much more dangerous than virtually anything I'd seen up to that point. It was nail biting cinema.

 

I still think back to those scenes quite regularly actually, though I haven't seen the film in years.


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#5 John Holland

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 01:11 PM

Yep but i do think that was Polanksi's doing rather than Gil Taylors . Polanksi was still in his post Manson killings frame of mind !
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#6 timHealy

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 02:10 PM

So the question is "what happened to Gilbert Taylor?!" Did he just make poor choices of films to work on after that? I mean you can't imagine that nobody wanted to employ him after Star Wars, but maybe they assumed he would be too expensive or something?

 

Freya

 

maybe he was tired and was thinking about retiring soon. he was must have been about 62 when star wars was shot.

 

obviously from his imdb page he didn't retire that soon.

 

best

 

Tim


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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 03:06 PM

Some of those DPS work a long time, Freddie Young did his well known work in his sixties and worked until his early eighties.


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#8 KH Martin

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 07:37 PM

If you've read MAKING OF SW, you know that Taylor did not get along at all with Lucas, or with producer Gary Kurtz, who really wanted to fire him. Taylor followed studio orders about how to shoot the film rather than following Lucas' odd notion of a foggy looking fairytale/documentary look, which surely would have kept the movie from being the biggest grossing movie of all time (GL had wanted Unsworth based on LUCKY LADY, which, to my eye, based on clips, is the most godawful foggy whited out mess imagineable. I'm guessing they had to go to that extreme in order to make Liza Minelli acceptable to the lens?)

 

Perhaps more significantly, Taylor WAS fired off Milius' CONAN. The quote from the director in CINEFANTASTIQUE was actually worded along the lines of "he was terminated with extreme prejudice ... his methods were unsound."

 

So I guess the moral of the story is that if you piss off enough of what in the 70s were called The Movie Brats, the phone stops ringing.

 

EDIT ADDON: Taylor was not exactly thrilled to have to take and pass a camera test from Kubrick before doing STRANGELOVE. I'm guessing he didn't play well with others, but geez, most of the guy's work is really awesome. I think the 'stocking behind the lens' look for the desert planet in SW was his idea.


Edited by KH Martin, 06 May 2014 - 07:38 PM.

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 02:40 AM

LUCKY LADY, which, to my eye, based on clips, is the most godawful foggy whited out mess imagineable

 

Couldn't agree more. It's stuff like that - 70s stuff - that makes me so dismissive of this perceived golden age of british cinematographers. It's horrible, and part of a selection of styles I associate with the era.

 

P


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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 05:01 AM

All periods seem to have style features that jar in the future, I'm sure today will be no different. Geoffrey Unsworth really got into those fog filters for a while. but "Tess" looks a lot better than "Lucky Lady" 


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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 08:17 AM

I dunno. I don't object to 1940s movies - I like the black and white high contrast stuff. I quite like early technicolor - yesterday, I watched a bit of a 40s western which looked like an oil painting, it was beautiful, and I have endless respect for the people who achieved that on stocks in single digits of effective ASA. I grew up on 80s stuff, the sort of Panavision E series flare era, the time of Blade Runner. And I have a sneaking love of the modern teal-and-orange, high contrast, high saturation Transformers sort of material that no British producer would create even if someone threatened to drop an ACME 1-ton weight on his testicles.

 

But 60s and 70s moviemaking - with standout exceptions like Alien, albeit at the end of the decade - you can keep. It's as if people hadn't figured out how to use colour yet, and weren't exercising even the slightest bit of restraint. Of course there are many counterexamples; Unsworth himself, a quick Google reveals, also did some very nice Noiresque monochrome work - but that slightly gaudy, over-filled, hard-lit 1970s look is an absolute turnoff to me. Superman? Ugh, blech. Even 2001 is only saved by its production design; otherwise, it's a perfect (imperfect) example of the breed.

 

P


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#12 KH Martin

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 06:14 PM

There's good stuff out of the UK 70s era. I remember Connery's triple crown of WIND & THE LION, MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and (to a lesser degree if I remember correctly) ROBIN & MARIAN looking pretty damned good. But a lot of british stuff from that period I've only seen on tv in the early 80s, probably off of bad 16mm prints, and they all look both foggy and grainy (I remember this thing called QUEST FOR LOVE that was a sci fi love story that almost played better when I didn't look at the screen ... kind of presaged the whole Abrams/lensflare thing with me, which is LUCKY LADY level awfulness.) 

 

There's some of that in US work of the era as well, basically the bad versions of MCCABE & MRS MILLER ... Lazlo Kovacs shot something called MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER that a critic said looked like it had been shot through a dirty windshield. Going by a single late-night tv viewing, I'd have to agree (a really strange approach for a movie about voyeurism, to not be able to see clearly, but I guess that might just be irony.)

 

I agree with you about SUPERMAN ... except for Canada/Kansas, I though it was overrated in terms of look. But I really like all of 2001, & to me Alcott did an amazing job of matching to Unsworth for the ending hotel room scene. Alcott shot that DAWN OF MAN part too, but that is a thing unto itself. 


Edited by KH Martin, 07 May 2014 - 06:15 PM.

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#13 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 02:16 AM

Those films were shot by Billy Williams, Oswald Morris and David Watkin, who had a different style to Geoffrey Unsworth.

 

Hard v soft light was part of a debate that was going on during that period and there was a lot of experimenting going on with coffin lights, umbrellas and improvised units that were then manufactured as Chimeras.


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#14 Tom Yanowitz

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 08:12 AM

As I like very much Gilbert Taylor's work, both for his actual lighting and composition and for having worked with my two biggest influences of all time (the beatles and stanley kubrick), as well as on Repulsion, The Avengers, Frenzy, The Omen.

 

The best thing I found yet on his work was the audio commentary track of Repulsion by Polanski and Deneuve, where Roman points out how Taylor's black and white enhanced his own directing work.

 

But apart from that, most of internet search on Taylor seems to only feature Star Wars stuff, which I care a bit less about.

 

Anyone knows about books, or docs on Taylor and his 60s B/W work ?


Edited by Tom Yanowitz, 13 March 2016 - 08:14 AM.

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#15 Jonathan Flanagan

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 08:31 PM

As I like very much Gilbert Taylor's work, both for his actual lighting and composition and for having worked with my two biggest influences of all time (the beatles and stanley kubrick), as well as on Repulsion, The Avengers, Frenzy, The Omen.
 
The best thing I found yet on his work was the audio commentary track of Repulsion by Polanski and Deneuve, where Roman points out how Taylor's black and white enhanced his own directing work.
 
But apart from that, most of internet search on Taylor seems to only feature Star Wars stuff, which I care a bit less about.
 
Anyone knows about books, or docs on Taylor and his 60s B/W work ?


https://www.theasc.c...ylor/page3.html

Also check out, David A. Ellis' book Conversations With Cinematographers, which features an extended interview with Taylor about his career.
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#16 Tom Yanowitz

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 06:22 PM

Thanks !


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