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Darius Khondji


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#1 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 02:43 PM

So what about Darius Khondji?

 

Quite a few times I went through the threads about his work around here, and it’s mostly about Seven, a tiny bit of My Blueberry Nights, a nice remark about how The Interpreter was “shot surprisingly straight” (Phil Rhodes), some were interested in the VariCon and negative flashing process, one thread about Delicatessen, a film which probably was the first real breakthrough, but all in all, not really much about him.

 

I was just thinking the other day about how he likes to used bounced or reflected light or bounced and reflected, which some say here is what he exclusively use, and how in those Woody Allen films, no matter how gorgeous I find them, ended looking like a little bit too much diffusion.

 

So what is his reputation? I dread asking this, but I have to: is he one of the top-notch cinematographers working today or perhaps just a tiny, tiny bit down the ladder? I’d say he is top-notch. He himself says that he’s (just) not an award-winner.

 

I couldn’t really find much about some of his preferences, apart from perhaps a lot of diffusion and lots of bounce, loves anamorphic, seems not to have anything against digital (perhaps one of the first who shot with the Alexa for a commercial)… Not really much.

 

What are your thoughts on his work?


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#2 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 02:47 PM

Yeah, I forgot an important thing I’ve read just recently: “goes all out on his grades”. I just couldn’t believe I didn’t come to that conclusion before I read that, because it’s really true, if you take a look at his recent work.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 03:00 PM

I think he's brilliant.
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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 03:50 PM

Darius is brilliant, but more of an experimental and risk taker then most DP's.

I thought his early stuff was brilliant, but as he's worked on bigger productions, it seems like they've tied his hands a bit, which has turned that unique look he once had, into a more normal hollywood look.

I look at Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Seven, Alien:Resurrection and Panic Room, those are just brilliantly photographed movies. I don't know what changed, but since then he's not quite been the same. The Woody Allen films do look good, but they're not typical Darius.

I'm excited to see his new movie, The Lost City of Z.
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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 04:20 PM

Watching Seven for the first time was an almost religious experience. I was lucky enough to see one of the ENR prints, and I was blown away by his use of light and shade, the richness of the color and by how dark everything was. His work around that time was characterized by his use of the Varicon combined with ENR or skip bleach. He referred to it as 'the process'. I believe he used it even on commercials and less dramatic material than Seven. It was part of his style. I had a brief conversation once with his Gaffer from 'The Beach', Alex Scott, who told me that Khondji was very fond of soft light, but used it in a very skillful way. Alex admitted that he had learned a lot from working with him.

 

His style has changed in recent years, perhaps as he's moved away from the dark, dramatic movies that he made his name on.


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#6 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 04:49 PM

I think he's brilliant.

 

That’s all I’m getting? :)

 

Darius is brilliant, …

I thought his early stuff was brilliant, …

 

I'm excited to see his new movie, The Lost City of Z. 
 

 

All this talk of brilliance makes my heart rejoice. He really is brilliant. He’s my favourite. That’s it. I love his photography.

 

There’s this irresistible tastefulness about his work, this impeccable French taste, and none of it just magazine photoshoot prettiness. It’s much more and much better than that.

 

Perhaps his approach hasn’t changed; it’s just that the most recent films he has worked on aren’t of that type as the ones at the beginning of his career.

 

I, too, cannot wait for both The Lost City of Z and Okja. His work is so diverse, and I am sorry that he hasn’t worked as much as I think he should have. When he said that he is not an award-winner, he won me even more. It seems to matter little to him; his work speaks volumes. Not winning an award is immaterial.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 05:58 PM

The thing is that there are dozens of brilliant cinematographers out there, and even more if you want to look at older movies... My interests are just too broad to focus so much on one person anymore. When I was a beginner, I got fixated on one or two specific cinematographers but at some point I expanded my outlook on cinematography.

Also, I'm in a hotel on vacation right now using my iPad to post, so don't expect much in terms of lengthy discussions...
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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 06:08 PM

I was pissed when Fincher and him split ways. Darius fit his work so nicely, but Fincher is hard to work with, so there may have been some issues.

It surprised me when Darius started shooting Allen's stuff. It's such a departure from his darker work.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 06:13 PM

"Cheri" had some gorgeous period photography using old optics adapted to anamorphic I believe.
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#10 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 07:01 PM

I was pissed when Fincher and him split ways. Darius fit his work so nicely, but Fincher is hard to work with, so there may have been some issues.
.

The issues are fairly well documented. While shooting Panic Room, Khondji reportedly felt so constrained by Fincher's insistence that they stick exactly to the shot by shot pre -vis, that he asked to leave the project.


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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 07:13 PM

Sometimes, an artist only needs one or two works to establish their reputation as a master. I think 'Se7en' is one of those. 'The Godfather', 'Days of Heaven', and 'Chungking Express' would be a few others.
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#12 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 03:30 AM

The issues are fairly well documented. While shooting Panic Room, Khondji reportedly felt so constrained by Fincher's insistence that they stick exactly to the shot by shot pre -vis, that he asked to leave the project.

 

Has he also split with Jean-Pierre Jeunet? But perhaps that wasn’t a feud; Khondji just asked for a fee Jeunet couldn’t afford, which is why Jeunet went with Delbonnel for A Very Long Engagement. Is that how it went?


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#13 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 09:21 AM

Directors often work with different DPs. Sometimes it's because their regular guy isn't available, or they can't afford the rate. Sometimes it's because they just want to try someone new. Just like any job, there's always going to be more than one person you enjoy working with.


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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 10:25 AM

A lot of this is timing, sometimes the schedule of the director doesn't sync up with the cinematographer's, so then the director hires a new cinematographer and if they like that experience, they continue with the new person for awhile.
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#15 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 12:21 PM

I got it from here (I thought it’d be difficult to find the exact post) – so it wasn’t A Very Long Engagement, but Amélie:

 

 

From what I heard Darius Khondji asked for too much money to do 'Amélie' so Jeunet went with Delbonnel.

This film will only get released in France at the end of October btw.

 

I don’t have a problem with it (if he asked for a higher fee). I don’t think it’s greed. He is top notch, that’s just it.

 

I love a certain firmness of this kind (though I don’t know how I’d feel if I were a producer bankrolling this): my services cost this much, and that’s the deal. You want a Khondji light, it costs that much.

 

And, Stuart, I actually love it when there’s flow in crews. It is annoying when a director glues himself onto his DP. Case in point: Kamiński and Spielberg or Robert Richardson and Tarantino or Scorsese or any other, probably better, examples.

 

Darius Khondji, too, seems to work with various people, although some do reapper, e.g. for films shot in France Cyril Kuhnholz, he worked with Frans Wetterings several times, he also seems to like when Pascal Dangin does the colour correction and so on.

 

"Cheri" had some gorgeous period photography using old optics adapted to anamorphic I believe.

 

It seems to be his preferred format: everywhere you look, he talks about anamorphic, how much he loves it, and how it’s appropriate for the film being discussed. I love it that you mentioned Chéri; I was waiting to hear something about his work on it.

 

Funny how his preferences changed over the years: when he was talking about Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love, he spoke of Frost and Rollux as his favourite types of diffusion. In an article about Chéri, he was saying how tracing paper is his preferred material, but that gaffers don’t like to use it because it’s very flammable. I’d have to check, but for Irrational Man, I think it was unbleached muslin? Or perhaps I misunderstood everything and he was talking about preferred diffusion for that particular film he was being interviewed about.

 

Okja will be shot in Vancouver from 31st July to 21st August so I’m hoping for some behind-the-scenes, though I’m not holding my breath given the scarceness of photos from the filming of The Lost City of Z and others. On the other hand, Okja has some big talent so who knows? That filming schedule might mean that he won’t be available for Woody Allen’s New York drama this summer, but then again, maybe Woody has already chose someone else or the filming won’t be in the summer, a time of the year it usually happens.


Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 14 June 2016 - 12:25 PM.

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#16 Mitch Gross

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 11:07 PM

Don't forget that one's work must be appropriate to a given project.  For much of his earlier work with Jeunet he used older, softer Cooke zooms, but I'm sure that would never be appropriate for a Fincher film.  And sometimes it's a matter of a director or producer allowing the DP to spread his wings a bit.  To reference an outside example, The Graduate was lauded for it's of-the-minute style using strong colors, extreme angles, calling attention to the CinemaScope frame, handheld POV and other types of imagery that certainly didn't fit into "accepted Hollywood norms" of the time.  Yet it was photographed by Hollywood veteran Robert Surtees, who was in his sixties at the time with something like 50 feature DP credits to his name over a span of more than two decades.

 

None of that is to take anything away from Khondji's work, which I find exquisite.  His use and control over shadows and hanging images just at the edge of exposure is really quite lovely and expressive.  He's lucky to have gotten the chance to show what he could do.


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#17 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 15 June 2016 - 06:20 AM

What do you guys think is emitting this lovely golden light?

 

photo-pc08-cheri-hotel-mezzara.jpg


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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 June 2016 - 10:03 AM

Looks like a tungsten lamp in a daylight balanced setting.
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