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Gordon Willis ASC has passed away


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#1 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
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Posted 18 May 2014 - 09:39 PM

Douglas Hart just posted the news on Facebook.

 

Perhaps one of the top five cinematographers in film history, a major influence for a generation and more of cinematographers, and a significant agent in changing the look of movies from the classic theatrical Hollywood studio style into a contemporary one based on naturalism -- but in his own personal case, still a deeply artistic and individualistic vision.


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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
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Posted 19 May 2014 - 08:53 PM

A titan of film photography. Certainly one of the most influential. And for me personally, a cinematographic hero. Bold, fearless, unconventional, minimalist. Although he retired too soon, at least he left a legacy it will be hard to improve upon.

Also, most directors did their best work with Willis. Probably because he forced them to come prepared, think visually and block through scenes and always put story before style. He wasn't always the easiest to work for because he was such a purist and demanded mis en scene. The `shoot it from every angle and figure it out in the edit`-policy certainly didn't fly with Gordon. And as that became a more prevalent  way to work, that's also when he retired. He didn't enjoy working that way - he wanted real filmmakers, points of view and not just image collectors. I couldn't agree more with Gordon in this regard. Today, blocking and planning shots that don't involve coverage is almost a lost art.

 

Coppola said himself that it was "touch and go with Gordon" on the first Godfather. There was the famous shot when Brando gets gunned down as he's buying oranges at the market. Coppola wanted to shoot it from overhead, so as to see all the oranges scatter as he falls down. "Who's point of view is that?", Gordon asked. Coppola said he just thought it would look interesting and they had a big fight about it. Begrudgingly Gordon shot it that way, and it did end up in the cut. It's a great shot (and in this particular case maybe Gordon was being too conservative), but it's a fair question. Why do things for effect if it doesn't help the story? Why be self-indulgent? That's the kind of purist he was.

 

In the end Coppola and Willis became very close and Coppola readily admits he learned more from Gordon than the other way around.


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