The Creativity of the Cinematographers

in 60th Venice Film Festival

by Blagoja Kunovski

I hope that perfectly good critics know how great is the contribution of cinematographers in creating the film as a real visual art. But, do most of them pay consequent attention to the creativity of the directors of photography when writing about the film? To be honest that is not usual for most of us. Most concentrate on the scenario and the plot, what and how the director is expressing him-/herself, mentioning always the actors’ names, but very rarely the creative input of the director of photography. Few competitive festivals have a special prize for the DoP (rare examples are two Spanish festivals: San Sebastian and Valladolid). Anyhow, the real satisfaction for the great “tribe” of cinematographers are the two leading world Festivals dedicated to their creativity: the one in Lodz/Poland and the oldest one, the International Film Camera Festival of the Manaki Brothers in Bitola, in the Republic of Macedonia (24th Edition will be September 24-28, 2003).

Coming back to the Jubilee 60th Venice Film Festival, first of all I was very pleased with the fact that on the main jury was one of the greatest Directors of Photography, Michael Ballhaus (Dracula, Gangs of New York). The second awareness for the importance of the cinematographers was the presence of the 80 years old Tonino Delli Colli as promoter of one of the prizes at the Gala Closing. Delli Colli is certainly one of the greatest living cinematographers in the world, and he must be the champion with its 180 shot long feature films (just to mention a few of his trade mark: Accatone, Decameron, Once Upon a Time in America, La vita e bella).

From the programs of the 60th Mostra I have chosen a group of films which are the real proof of the creativity of the DoPs, even when some of the films are not as convincing on the level of scenario and directing. In that group of my favourites is Rodrigo Prieto (Frida, The 25th Hour) whose visual creation in the film 21 Grams, with its obscured shade of colours, follows the profound drama of the characters.

Another perfect example for the dynamic camera movements and the photography as an expression of the author Raoul Ruiz, is the film Une place parmi les vivants, where the Romanian DoP Ion Marinescu demonstrates his obvious talent.

The demonstration of the master-class of the DoP Christopher Doyle (who will be granted the Special “Golden Camera 300” for his contribution to the World Film Art, at the 24th Manaki Bros. Festival in Bitola, including his photo exhibition) we meet in the film Last Life in the Universe directed by Pan Ek-Ratataruap, especially in the sequence of the cleaning the house of the girl by her ex-jakuza Japanese visitor.

The winner of the Golden Lion, Russian film The Return by the first time feature director Andrei Zvjagintzev, is excellent on each level of expression, but the visual creation of the DoP Mikhail Kritchman shows his great talent as much as that of the young director.

From the world famous Polish school of cinematographers we have in the competition also the film Pornography in which the DoP Krzysztof Ptak has created the best part of the film with the gallery of the visual glances.

In Zatoichi, the director Takeshi Kitano has again his creative partner, the DoP Katsumi Yanagishima, with whom he has already established a tandem. The best part in visual creation of the whole film structure we can see also in the film Code 46, directed by Michael Winterbottom, where two DoPs Alwin Kuchler and Marcel Zyskind (who has done his best work as cameraman & DoP in this year’s Berlinale winner In This World) make our trip into the futuristic reality of Shanghai at least visually more mysterious.

And finally, in the more obscure side of a specific ghost story we can also meet in the film Good Bye, Dragon Inn, the DoP Liao Ben-Rong, who helps the director Tsai Ming-liang break the silence of the cinematographers.