Last week, we mourned the loss of Haskell Wexler, and now cinema has lost another one of its great craftsmen — celebrated cinemtographer Vilmos Zsigmond has passed away at the age of 85.
“Cinema needs good images. I think that if you don’t have good images, it’s not going to be a film. I think all films should be really visual,” Zsigmond told Filmmaker Magazine in 2014, and not only did he make “good images,” he made the movies he worked on simply beautiful.
Trained in Budapest, and pairing up with his friend and fellow cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, he captured the 1956 Hugarian Revolution on film before escaping to Austria, eventually landing in Los Angeles where he quickly got to work shooting anything he could. Honing his skills on a strong of low-budget B-movies, Zsigmond leapt to attention and acclaim providing gorgeous work on Robert Altman‘s “McCabe And Mrs. Miller,” “Images,” and “The Long Goodbye“; John Boorman‘s “Deliverance“; Steven Spielberg‘s “The Sugarland Express” and “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind“; and Michael Cimino‘s “The Deer Hunter” and “Heaven’s Gate.” Indeed, those pictures and filmmakers owe much to Zsigmond’s terrific work.
Zsigmond has continued to work steadily, and in recent years contributed to a trio of Woody Allen films (“Melinda And Melinda,” “Cassandra’s Dream,” “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger“), projects from Brian De Palma (“The Black Dahlia“) and Kevin Smith (“Jersey Girl“), and, most surprising, two dozen episodes of the sitcom, “The Mindy Project.”
Nominated four times, Zsigmond won an Oscar for his work on ‘Close Encounters.’ Zsigmond’s influence on cinema cannot be overstated, and the number of notable directors who sought out his talent speaks to the respect he earned from his colleagues. He will be greatly missed.