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Woody Allen, Cinematography, and Cinematographers

Woody Allen

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#1 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 10:37 AM

What are Woody Allen’s films known for when it comes to their cinematography? I see that he himself and David Mullen talked about his love for warm colours.

 

Has he ever talked about why he worked with so many famous cinematographers and why he chose each one for the particular film they worked together on? I’m especially intrigued by these one-time cinematographers and how he found them, such as Wedigo von Schultzendorff, whose work on Hollywood Ending I loved, or why only now Vittorio Storaro.

 

What’s Up, Tiger Lily? Kazuo Yamada

Take the Money and Run Lester Shorr

Bananas Andrew M. Costikyan

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) David M. Walsh

Sleeper David M. Walsh

Love and Death Ghislain Cloquet

Annie Hall Gordon Willis

Interiors Gordon Willis

Manhattan Gordon Willis

Stardust Memories Gordon Willis

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy Gordon Willis

Zelig Gordon Willis

Broadway Danny Rose Gordon Willis

The Purple Rose of Cairo Gordon Willis

Hannah and Her Sisters Carlo Di Palma

Radio Days Carlo Di Palma

September Carlo Di Palma

Another Woman Sven Nykvist

New York Stories (segment “Oedipus Wrecks”) Sven Nykvist

Crimes and Misdemeanors Sven Nykvist

Alice Carlo Di Palma

Shadows and Fog Carlo Di Palma

Husbands and Wives Carlo Di Palma

Manhattan Murder Mystery Carlo Di Palma

Bullets over Broadway Carlo Di Palma

Don’t Drink the Water Carlo Di Palma

Mighty Aphrodite Carlo Di Palma

Everyone Says I Love You Carlo Di Palma

Deconstructing Harry Carlo Di Palma

Celebrity Sven Nykvist

Sweet and Lowdown Zhao Fei

Small Time Crooks Zhao Fei

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Zhao Fei

Hollywood Ending Wedigo von Schultzendorff

Anything Else Darius Khondji

Melinda and Melinda Vilmos Zsigmond

Match Point Remi Adefarasin

Scoop Remi Adefarasin

Cassandra’s Dream Vilmos Zsigmond

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Javier Aguirresarobe

Whatever Works Harris Savides

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Vilmos Zsigmond

Midnight in Paris Darius Khondji

To Rome with Love Darius Khondji

Blue Jasmine Javier Aguirresarobe

Magic in the Moonlight Darius Khondji

Irrational Man Darius Khondji

Unititled Woody Allen film (2016) Vittorio Storaro

 

This is how it looks when it comes to number of films per cinematographer:

 

Carlo Di Palma: 12

Gordon Willis: 8

Darius Khondji: 5

Sven Nykvist: 4

Zhao Fei: 3

Vilmos Zsigmond: 3

David M. Walsh: 2

Javier Aguirresarobe: 2

Remi Adefarasin: 2

Kazuo Yamada: 1

Lester Shorr: 1

Andrew M. Costikyan: 1

Ghislain Cloquet: 1

Wedigo von Schultzendorff: 1

Harris Savides: 1

Vittorio Storaro: 1

 


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#2 Mark Dunn

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 10:59 AM

The Carlo di Palma question is easy to answer- he became ill in 1997 and was prepping a film for Allen shortly before he died.

It's pretty clear he liked to work with the same person whenever he could and only unavailability or death changed that.


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#3 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 11:23 AM

I was going to mention the death of Carlo Di Palma, but thought that that was evident. Harris Savides’s death is another similar instance. But what happened with Gordon Willis, whose last film with Woody Allen was The Purple Rose of Cairo, released in 1985, yet Gordon retired only in 1997, 12 years after that collaboration.

 

The Wedigo von Schultzendorff choice really interests me. I presume he saw one of the films he worked on and invited him to work with him. I just wonder what film. Same happened with Zhao Fei, whose Raise the Red Lantern made Woody notice him. I presume that Fei is who inspired Woody to create the character of the Chinese cameraman in Hollywood Ending, since in the beginning Fei also used a translator when working with Woody. I think von Schultzendorff really got the Woody look right, and I wonder why they never worked together again.

 

I think that I read in an interview with Darius Khondji that he passed on an opportunity to work on one of Woody’s films, which, obviously, made him chose another person. Something like that.


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#4 John E Clark

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 12:25 PM

Just a Note... "What's Up Tiger Lilly" was not a Woody Allen film... he took a Japanese film, and dubbed in a completely new English language dialog track with 'humorous' results, spoofing the then popular 'spy/thriller' genre.

 

From the wiki...

---

Allen took a Japanese spy film, International Secret Police: Key of Keys, and overdubbed it with completely original dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film.[2] By putting in new scenes and rearranging the order of existing scenes, he completely changed the tone of the film from a James Bond clone into a comedy about the search for the world's best egg salad recipe.

----

 

As noted, when a cinematographer he 'likes' is available he will use them... but perhaps in the later films it could be also a 'work with new people' sort of thing. From an 'actor' point of view, Allen's films are sort of 'touch stone films', and place an actors CV on a higher order than yet another Transformer installment...

 

But most of Allen's films, at least from those I have seen since the 70s... well, avoided seen in many cases... tend to have been 'in and around New York City', to the point were it was news when he began shooting outside of NYC now a number of years ago. He also shoots on a 'very low' budget relatively speaking, and so that could also limit who wants to participate.

 

The film styles of his film have been technically good... so he has gotten that sort of talent, but I think the camera work has also been pretty simple. Like his Audio... which as far as I know, he still produces a 'mono' track, with dialog paramount.


Edited by John E Clark, 11 December 2015 - 12:27 PM.

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#5 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 13 December 2015 - 02:31 PM

I used his filmography on Wikipedia to make the list. Somehow that passage that you quoted kind of contradicts the thesis that it was not a Woody Allen film ("original dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film", "completely changed the tone of the film").

 

It's funny that just today I read that Wedigo von Schultzendorff wasn't his first choice for the director of photography for Hollywood Ending. It was Haskell Wexler, but he was fired after the first week.

 

I also found out that his most expensive film to date is The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which cost $26 million.

 

As for the camera work, the other day I bumped onto an interview with Vilmos Zsigmond in which he mentioned that he thinks Woody doesn't really know anything about lenses and that kind of stuff.

 

What really got me intrigued about his films is this warmth, which David Mullen says is something he has been known for all along. Is there anyone else who likes to shoot films that way?

 

What Woody said about the warm colour palette in his films and the 'coldness' of many films today really made me think and look at things differently. I knew something was bothering me, and he made me realize in part what it was about today's films.

 

http://www.rogereber...rectorial-style

 

I figured there wasn't much of a difference since, when you shot "Midnight in Paris" with Khondji, you both immediately thought of "2001: A Space Odyssey" when you filmed in the Musee de L'Orangerie. You generally prefer a warm color palette, very warm colors. What was the film, or the experience that made you realize that's your general preference?

It has an effect on me, I like it. When I see cool films, no matter how beautiful they are, there's something off-putting about them. I have all my characters—or 99% of the characters—dress in autumnal clothes, beiges, and browns, and yellows, and greens. And I have [production designer and long-time collaborator] Snato Loquasto make the sets look as warm as possible. And I like the lighting to be very warm, and I color-correct things so that they're very red.

Sometimes, the cameraman will be shocked. Sven Nykvist said "My God, their faces will all look like tomatoes!"

And I said "Well, let's try it." He got to like it.

And when Darius was color-correcting "Midnight In Paris," we went all out and made it red, red, red in color-correction. It makes it like a Matisse. Matisse said that he wanted his paintings to be a nice easy chair that you sit down in, and enjoy. I feel the same way: I want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warm color, like take a bath in warm color. It's like how I play the clarinet with a big, fat warm tone as opposed to a cool sound that's more liquid, or fluid. I prefer a thicker, richer, warmer sound. The same with color; I feel it has a subliminal effect on the viewer in a positive way.


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 December 2015 - 03:57 PM

Wes Anderson's films, though they don't avoid blue, are generally on the warm autumnal side.

 

I recall an interview with Sven Nykvist where he said he didn't like the trend towards timing faces towards the orange but obviously he made exceptions.

 

With Allen, I think the overall warm cast really started on "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982) where Gordon Willis used yellowish filters for his day exteriors; before that, Allen's movies had warm tones in the frame, occasionally warmly-lit scenes, but not a consistent orange-yellow cast to the timing.


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#7 John E Clark

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Posted 14 December 2015 - 02:41 PM

I used his filmography on Wikipedia to make the list. Somehow that passage that you quoted kind of contradicts the thesis that it was not a Woody Allen film ("original dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film", "completely changed the tone of the film").

 

I was pointing out that the shooting of the film was completely without any Allen control/input, as it was a Japanese made film. Perhaps he 'chose' it in some way, but I don't think it should be compared to any of his later films where he was the director, and could control to whatever degree, who was hired as cinematographer, and what style of 'image' was produced, if the discussion is 'what is Wood Allen's directorial style of image'...

 

I've never thought of Allen as a 'technical oriented' director... he may have a look in mind, hires cinematographers to achieve that 'look', etc. but how the look is gotten is not in his interest.

 

I think he uses mono audio because that allows dialog to be paramount, and while things may have changed, mixing for mono was cheaper than 'fancy' sound... even stereo with dialog centered...

 

Since I've never spoken with Allen, let alone on these sorts of subjects, this is just conjecture on my part.

 

I would also point out that that from my view Allen produces 'dialog' heavy films. In some cases they could be just as well 'stage' plays, rather than motion pictures. So yes in the sense that "What's Up Tiger Lilly" works as a 'dialog replacement' and is seen as a 'Allen' film... it is the dialog that makes it an Allen film, not so much the visuals.

 

For example, I would not class 'Battle Beyond the Sun"(1962) as a Francis Ford Coppola Film... despite the fact that he wrote the English language dub, and added a few 'space monster' shots... shots which I don't think I've ever seen replicated in any of his later films as either script writer or director/writer... The reason for that is the film was shot in Russia, then bought by Roger Corman for US distribution, with attendant 'dub'. The film imagery was 'fixed', and I don't know that Coppola even changed the editing... just added the extra scenes... could be wrong on that... (In fact, has Coppola done any 'sci-fi' films since? )


Edited by John E Clark, 14 December 2015 - 02:48 PM.

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#8 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 01:57 PM

Wes Anderson's films, though they don't avoid blue, are generally on the warm autumnal side.

 

I recall an interview with Sven Nykvist where he said he didn't like the trend towards timing faces towards the orange but obviously he made exceptions.

 

With Allen, I think the overall warm cast really started on "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982) where Gordon Willis used yellowish filters for his day exteriors; before that, Allen's movies had warm tones in the frame, occasionally warmly-lit scenes, but not a consistent orange-yellow cast to the timing.

 

It's funny you should say that because I was kind of going backwards to see if I could pinpoint when is it that he started using this kind of yellowish, golden glow I keep being fascinated by, and I think I've established that it was first used in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which went through the digital opticals process. I did detect a lot of this kind of glow in Hollywood Ending as well.

 

Which remind me of an allusion from that film...

 

There's a scene in Central Park, where the director, played by Allen, discusses how they will shoot something with the Chinese cinematographer/cameraman, production designer, costume designer and a few other crew members.

 

The dialogue goes like this:

 

– We can play it for the winter. Use snow.

– I buy that. A white background...

– ...to set off the two leads in marvelous forties red!

– What? What?

– What is he saying?

– No white. He cannot shoot white background.

 

What's this about the white background being a no-no?


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 03:00 PM

His warm movies go way back before "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (2010) -- look at "September" (1987), it has that butterscotch color scheme. Look at "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) which has a golden glow.


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#10 Carl Looper

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 02:47 PM

My favourite anecdote/mythology about Allen is that he doesn't watch a scene when it's being rehearsed and shot. He listens to it. He said he can tell if the scene is working by the sound of the actor's voice. He doesn't need to see it, or look at it through the eyepiece, or on a video monitor. He'll walk around with headphones on, staring at the ground, just listening to the voice. He leaves the direction of the cinematography up to the DP. That's what he hires them to look after, he will say. But no doubt there is a lot of discussion before hand. I can't imagine it otherwise. It's really just in the field that one adopts a more specific role. Behind the scenes (in various creative meetings) I imagine it's a very different dynamic. But this story of Allen with his headphones is quite insightful regardless of it's particular truth value.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 12 January 2016 - 03:01 PM.

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#11 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 14 January 2016 - 06:50 AM

His warm movies go way back before "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (2010) -- look at "September" (1987), it has that butterscotch color scheme. Look at "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) which has a golden glow.

 

I know. But I was specifically referring to this very particular kind of that whole golden glow, which I think started when he started post-producing his films at least in part digitally.


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#12 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 01:58 PM

A few days ago it was announced that Eigil Bryld will be the cinematographer for Woody Allen’s Amazon TV series.

 

He’s a Dane:

 

https://en.wikipedia...iki/Eigil_Bryld

 

You surely know him from House of Cards, which I find dreary in its look.

 

Who knows, perhaps this series will be another 2 : 1 aspect ratio production from Woody Allen.


Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 06 March 2016 - 01:58 PM.

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