IndieWire reached out to the directors of photography whose feature films are premiering at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to find out which cameras and lenses they used and, more importantly, why these were the right tools to create the look and visual language of these highly anticipated films.
Directors’ Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)
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Dir: Jonas Carpignano, DoP: Tim Curtin
Format: 16mm, 35mm film
Camera: Arriflex 416, Arriflex SR3, Arricam LT, Arricam 235
Lens: Zeiss Ultra Primes
Curtin: Director Jonas Carpignano and I have been making movies together for many years, and we always choose to work with film. One of the most unique aspects of shooting with Jonas is his use of non-actors with real relationships, in this case an entire family. So while the story is fictional, their connections are real, and it is a priority to give them the space to move freely within the parameters of the scene. Shooting on film allows for great flexibility to be able to adjust quickly in the moment without sacrificing image quality.
For a naturalistic look, 16mm film has a texture and color that I love, and for me, nothing in the digital world has quite the same feel. And the 416 and SR3 are just great handheld cameras. Handheld 16mm has an inherent connection to a documentary and realist cinematic tradition that we draw upon, and is one of our primary modes of shooting. With that as a starting base, on “A Chiara” we would also switch to 35mm or utilize stabilizing rigs in order to differentiate sections of the film visually, depending on the narrative and emotional moment.
For lenses, we chose the Zeiss Ultra Primes, mainly for their sharpness and color rendition. There are plenty of other great lens sets I find beautiful, but some have the effect of over-glamorizing the subject. I find the clean sharpness of the Ultras has a great way of connecting the characters to their surroundings, grounding them in a specific reality, and this feeling of location is very important to our storytelling.
“Between Two Worlds”
Dir: Emmanuel Carrère, DoP: Patrick Blossier
Format: X-OCN ST, 4K, 3:2, 24 FPS, Anamorphic Scope
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Optimo zoom lenses (30-72 & 56-152
Blossier: Emmanuel Carrère is mostly known in France as a writer. “Ouistreham” (“Between Two Worlds”) is our second collaboration. Shot in 2004, “La Moustache” was the adaptation of one of his novel. “Ouistreham” is an adaptation of the work of French journalist Florence Aubenas. Ten years ago, she spent six month among precarious workers, concealing she was a journalist. The result was a powerful novel, “Le Quai de Ouistreham.” The English title being “Between Two Worlds,” Emmanuel Carrère was searching for a look between two worlds, something between a documentary and a fiction film.
All the cast, except Juliette Binoche, was non-professional. And the only important question was how to shoot with non-professional actors. Emmanuel wished to shoot with a very small crew and two cameras, and I had the feeling that we should shoot in anamorphic scope. Resolving all these contradictions has been tricky. To move fast it was better to use only zoom lenses and I knew I couldn’t use a big lighting set-up. The Optimo zoom lenses are T:4, I was then obliged to use a camera with a very high sensibility.
Since I shoot digital, I use the Arri Alexa. I love this camera, but here it was not the right solution to shoot in anamorphic scope. I shot tests with the Sony Venice and the 2500 ASA sensor, and it became clear that it was the right tool for this film.
Dir: Anaïs Volpé, DoP: Sean Price Williams
Camera: Digital Bolex D16
Lens: Elite Super 16 lenses
Williams: We chose this camera fairly instinctively. After not working for some months, I couldn’t imagine myself picking right back up and going back to shooting the way I had, nor with the predictable tools. Anais Volpe, the director, asked me what I thought about the digital bolex. I had used the camera on a short in 2015 and didn’t really enjoy myself.
But times were different. I found out about a company in Paris that had three of these cameras, which made the possibility of making a feature certainly worth entertaining. We did a test one night with one and watched the results on a big screen some days later. We were all very touched by the quality. Using film lighting philosophy and techniques brought me pleasing results. It’s a rich colorful image that doesn’t feel electronic at all to me. I think it suits the film very much.
Raquel Chacon Madrigal
Dir: Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, DoP: Sophie Winqvist Loggins
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Anamorphics
Loggins: “Clara Sola” takes place between the mundane and the magical. We wanted to create a real world, authentic almost in a documentary way. Filming with first-time actors on a remote location, we put effort into weaving the story together. Within the realness glimpses of magic appear. We shied away from effects when building those elements, so as to leave the viewer in doubt of what it is and where it comes from.
We began prep in Sweden speaking of story, symbols, mythology, and structure. A year later, we spent a good amount of time in Clara’s house blocking, talking, drinking tea, and seeping in the magic of the rain forest. That was a big inspiration. It allowed me to land and feel the place, get to know the different lights and the mood of the nature. We were in a cloud corridor, so quickly we could be enfolded in mist. I’ll never forget the forest at night. After long conversations, Nathalie and I decided on the Cooke Anamorphic lenses. We found them pleasingly naturalistic. Still the anamorphic compression heightens the atmosphere and nicely balances the rough intuition of handheld camerawork. We ended up shooting most of the film on the 65mm macro. It was so lovely to be able to come close during improvisations and it helped us to achieve the visceral feeling of touch and Clara’s experience of the world.
My director spoke of her childhood siestas where light was sparse in day interiors. Together with a modest budget for night exteriors, I understood that I was dealing with a lot of dark. We choose Arriraw for it’s beautiful textures and richness in latitude. From tests on location, my colorist Peter Bernaers and I built a LUT that allowed me to go deep and low. I kept sending Peter frames and he would feed back the sweet spot and the boundaries. We studied the greens of the forest. It was important to keep the film saturated and real while still stepping into the poetic and simplistic. The under-exposure gave a creamy moody softness full of color that suited Clara’s vibe.
“The Employer and the Employee”
Dir: Manuel Nieto Zas, DoP: Arauco Hernandez Holz
Format: 4K X-OCN XT
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Cooke Mini S4
Holz: Ideally we would have shot this movie with Cooke anamorphic lenses, but in this region of the world anamorphic lenses are as rare as black pearls. We wanted to avoid extremely sharp optics – this is a movie where boundaries get fuzzy – we kept the idea of using Cooke optics. We chose the Mini S4 as the camera was going to travel on stabilizers over bumpy roads and weight was a big concern.
For this movie, full of camera movements, we used a Dana Dolly, a Movi, a Black Arm, and Steadicam. We avoided traditional dollys because we were going to work on uneven topography and we did not have the time to constantly level tracks. We tried to solve this by shooting scenes with as few shots as possible, sometimes concentrating all the action in one single shot, and developing simple choreographies between actors and camera. We let go of the camera into a journey as an active spectator through that world, and all these devices were used following that goal.
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Dir: Radu Muntean, DoP: Tudor Vladimir Panduru
Format: 4.5k ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI MINI LF
Lens: COOKE S7 set – mainly 40mm and 50mm
Panduru: Knowing that Radu would like to shoot the film handheld, at first, we had to answer some basic questions about how we would move the camera inside the car, how big the camera should be, and what the minimum focus distance is, but also what lens would be best for the night scene.
We knew that we shoot in a 2.39 aspect ratio. I was familiar with the Large format and wanted to avoid the barrel effect on a wide lens panning close to the character. Because we planned to have some long shots in the car interior, we built, with the help of our amazing grip team, a remote controlled mechanical slider that gave us the possibility to move continuously from one character to another, the weight and the size were part of the reason for choosing the Alexa Mini LF.
We have tested – in a night lighting set-up as close as possible to the shoot – the Zeiss Supreme Primes and the Cooke s7, and because of the way that the Cooke reacted to the highlights and the flairs we decided that it had a more natural feeling to it. Also, the fact that the lenses were not so sharp made us confident they were the right pick.
The night scenes play an important role in the film, and we wanted to recreate, as much as possible, a realistic feeling of the night, but at the same time make it feel mysterious. It was important for me to rely on a good sensor, with a lot of tones in the shadows.
The Alexa mini Lf let me play with the lower part of the curve, rating the sensor at 400 isom and gave me the possibility to use the flashlights as a key light bouncing off the surroundings, or from the characters.
Dir: Vincent Maël Cardona, DoP: Brice Pancot
Format: 2.8K Apple ProRes4444 anamorphic
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Technovision Anamorphic Zeiss T2.1
Pancot: “Magnetic Beats” is a period film that begins in the early 1980s, just before the election of François Mitterrand. It presents a group of very young people in a changing world. It is the end of an era. With Vincent, we wanted to find a way to visually translate the inner point of view of Philip, the young protagonist. We were not looking for a realistic approach, but rather a poetic and subjective one.
We did a lot of testing before shooting to find the right combination of lens and camera to get that special identity. We fell in love with the old Technovision Zeiss anamorphic T2.1 series, with all its imperfections, and its very special texture. We didn’t want very sharp and precise imagery, but rather a very grainy and imprecise look. This camera gave us the versatility and flexibility to work in all sorts of setups (on a Ronin, in very small locations, etc.). I shot at 1600 ISO to get the grainy look and it allowed me to work with practical lighting in many scenes. We added some de-focus and grain texture in post-production to enhance the look we aimed and worked on during the shooting.
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Dir: Anita Rocha da Silveira, DoP: João Atala
Format: 2.8k AppleProres 444XQ
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke 2x Anamorphic SF, Cooke Mini S4, Century 600mm and Angenieux 44-440mm Anamorphic
Atala: The film takes place in a dystopic, evangelical future. Fantasy and reality mingle into a dark and colorful visual experience. Church-going teenagers face a very disturbing discovery that unleashes an awkward mystery. Life as they know it could be over. The film’s esthetics follows its narrative: A fantastic horror that translates in deep colors, tangled within dark shadows, audacious camera movements and visual sensations.
With the opening of the film, two colors are shown, green and red. Green represents Medusa and all of its mysteries and possible revelations. Red represents blood and life. These two concepts shock, but never mix, hence yellow is not seen in the film. The church is portrayed as a colorful and saturated event, where all church-goers gather to pray and to lead a somewhat strange social life.
Shooting the film in anamorphic was the obvious choice since the subject-to-background separation is tremendous, taking the audience into the main character’s shoes. The visual awkwardness that anamorphic delivers was also important for the film, since the fictional world must be seen with different eyes than that of reality. Spherical lenses were also used for visual content that is shown within the film and for the visual emulation of a pair of binoculars that the main character uses. Once the relationship with the binoculars and the spherical long lens is established, towards the end of the film, a third person evil entity is felt through the same lens.
Once chaos is established, the main visual support of the film is broken, or better yet, added to this esthetic relationship. Medusa’s references on camera movement and colous go back to the late 1970s film “Suspiria,” by Dario Argento and John Carpenter’s “The Fog,” with its concealed suspense and horror. “Medusa” is a daring picture shot in a present day Brazil that is threatened by the theocratic rhetoric. Documentary and fiction mingle, resulting in a sort of a deep fiction, a filmic manifesto where strange possibilities are awakened by a young and curious girl.
Dir: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, DoP: Hélène Louvart
Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa mini
Lens: Cooke mini S4i, Angeniuex EZ for underwater scenes
Louvart: We shot mostly in the same house, the family house, keeping the point of view of Julija, a teenager, with her parents and a family friend. The place was surrounded by the sea, with many scenes filmed under water, and deep water, or just under and over the surface, and also in a boat. We used some underwater equipment, and a mix of “steady” hand-held, ronin, tracks and tripod. Our way of shooting was very precise, to follow the characters, the relationship between all of them, and we managed to keep the same precision when we shot under the water, for this intimate and sincere story.
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“Ripples of Life”
Dir: Wei shujun, DoP: Wang Jiehong
Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW
Camera: Alexa Sxt &Alexa Mini
Lens: Arri Master Prime
Jiehong: In setting the tone of this film, we wanted to capture natural and lively imagery. We did not film with strong colors or complicated camera movements, because I want the scenes to be natural with natural lighting and camera motion intended to build the story’s atmosphere naturally. The goal was that everyone, with different culture backgrounds, can have visual empathy with our film and enjoy it. In the second story, the scene features Chen and a director location scouting at a reservoir. In another scene, Chen and her best friend pick vegetables on a roof. ARRI Alexa does a great job performing color transition and in skin tones and details in dark places, even though there is barely any artificial light. Alexa is my only choice because it can create the beauty of nature and real images.
Agatha A. Nitecka
“The Souvenir Part II”
Dir: Joanna Hogg, DoP: David Raedeker
Format: 16mm film, 16mm digital, 35mm, 35mm anamorphic
Camera: Arri 416, Moviecam, Sony Venice
Lens: Zeiss High Speed, Canon Zooms
Raedeker: “Souvenir 2” is the story about a young film student finding herself in the shadow of a destructive relationship. As in “Souvenir 1,” different shooting formats reflect on her personal journey and creative liberation, as well as the feel of the setting in the 80’s. However, we wanted to keep the period look subliminal and made sure that it was subtle enough not to draw too much attention and divert from the characters. Changing formats and our different shooting styles felt like a dance with the content itself and in the final scene they both merge into one.
We shot most of it on 16mm film with inserts of student films and a musical number on 35mm color and 35mm anamorphic black and white film. We also filmed some passages on 16mm digital and 35mm digital, as well as interviews on Betacam and High 8. This created a colorful collage of the time and our heroine’s character.
Because Joanna shoots chronologically, and without script or rehearsal, we sometimes employed two cameras to get more coverage for the edit. Many takes lasted as long as the freely improvised scenes were running and to keep performances fresh we did no repeats. Joanna’s way of working was sometimes nerve wrecking, but on the other hand the lack of control taught me to trust the moment, become more observant and look closer, what’s playing out in front of the camera. It’s something I learned to cherish.