We were given a brief to create a report on one practitioner from modern day cinema, and one from classical cinema. For this task I will be looking at the cinematographers Emmanuel Lubezki and Freddie Young. I came to the decision of looking at these two practitioners due to their work on Lawrence of Arabia(1962) and Children of Men(2006).
Emmanuel Lubezki grew up in Mexico City; however his parents originated from Russia and fled to Shanghai after the Communist revolution in 1917. Studying amd living in Mexico he says the first “magic moment happened when I was looking through the viewfinder on a Super 8 camera and shooting the film” (Lubezki, 2007). He began studying History at the University of Mexico, however after visiting the still photography department at the university he abandoned history and began producing short films at the Mexican School of Cinema. From the outset he knew he wanted to become a cinematographer and even worked with Alfonso Cuarón whilst still at University. Him and a group of other aspiring cinematogrpahers worked in, and around, Mexico City producing films and trying to fund future films through sales of VHS tapes. After some of his work was selected for the Toronto Film Festival he started to gain notoriety from agents and producers in Los Angeles. From there he began working in Hollywood and on bigger and bigger films.
Emmanuel Lubezki is famous for his handheld wide-angle filmmaking style. This 3 time Oscar winner collaborated on films such as Birdman(2014), Children of Men(2006) and The Revenant(2015). Lubezki experimented with long takes in Children of Men; following in the wake of Steven Spielberg, who pioneered the “Spielberg oner”, he shot multiple impressive one takes through the movie including the famous car scene.
This 4 minute take took months to plan and build the rigging. Here are some photos of the car to show how they managed to achieve it.
(Nathalie, 2017) (Mike Seymour, 2007)
Lubezki and Alfonso Cuaron originally thought about using green screen over actually shooting the sequence in a real environment, however Lubezki fought for a non green screen route, as his preferred style is to shoot using natural lighting and he felt that there wouldn’t be realistic and natural reflections through the windows if shot using green screen.
Lubezki’s experimentation with long takes in Children of Men transferred over in 2014 to one of the most impressive cinematographic feats in the history film. The film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)(2014) seemingly runs for 1 hour and 59 minutes without a single cut throughout. Of course there are hidden cuts and the film itself separates itself into 3 acts via a transitional shot looking at the sky. Lubezki himself said the longest shot in the film is only roughly 15 minutes; most clocking in around the 10 minute mark. Still this is an extremely impressive achievement; when you consider every time the camera moved lighting also had to be altered to avoid unwanted shadows and to keep continuity.
Freddie Young began his work in the film industry in the midst of World War 1 in 1917. He began working as a tea boy. In 1929 he signed a contract with MGM British Studios doing any job from driving the studio car to an editor. Over the next 20 years he spent his time building up an impressive catalogue of films that he worked on. During World War 2 he served as “captain and chief cameraman in the Army Kinematograph Service at Wembley Studio” (IEC, 2016) and filmed major events such as the Normandy landings. In 1959 he freed himself from his MGM contract after 30 years and went on to produce critically acclaimed films such as Doctor Zhivago(1965) and Lawrence of Arabia(1962).
Freddie Young was one of the most influential and long working filmmakers of the 20th century. Working from 1917 all the way until 1984 his career spanned 67 years before his death in 1998. He was known for shooting his films using 70mm lenses for wide cinematic shots. The use of 70mm or 35mm is usually based on the cinematographers preference. Young was a Cinematographer who thought 70mm was a better medium to shoot on for his style of work. The wider shots and better quality when projecting were clinching points for Young to use this format at the time.
Young won 3 Oscars in Cinematography for his work on Lawrence of Arabia(1962), Doctor Zhivago(1965) and Ryan’s Daughter(1970); all of which he collaborated with David Lean on.
These 3 screen grabs are shots from Lawrence of Arabia.
Freddie Young’s deep and intense color palette used in this film is particularly evident here. The strong orange and reds bounding over the dark and bleak desert gives off a certain intensity to this shot.
The use of a wide angle lens for this shot accentuates the vast expansiveness of the desert, furthermore the leading lines of the shot point to a character in the distance of great significance, therefore representing an imminent scene of importance.
Again the use of a wide angle lense shows just how dwarfed the characters are by the vastness of the desert. A lack of identity is shown by the silhouettes of the characters in this shot.
This task gave me a lot of insight into the detailed styles of cinematography both directors of photography have. The natural lighting style of Emmanuel Lubezki, but still using a lot of diffusers and reflectors I found particularly inspiring and would like to implement that kind of lighting technique into my final major project.