It’s the most prestigious film festival in the world. The platform to display the work of the world’s best auteurs and introduce film lovers to fresh, exciting voices from every corner of the globe.
It therefore is also where cinematographers make their bones. While Hollywood might be where international DPs gravitate to gain access to the latest toys, resources, and money, Cannes is where they make their name.
Here are 20 cinematographers, new and old, you’ll want to know as the year’s best in international film is unveiled.
(Pictured: Jarin Blaschke)
Fresh off his first Oscar nomination for “The Favourtie,” Ryan returns to Cannes with Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You.” Ryan is a regular collaborator of directors Andrea Arnold, Noah Baumbach, and Loach. The Irish cinematographer is known for being a master of natural light and visceral camera movement.
Winner of three Best Cinematography Oscars (“JFK,” “The Aviator,” and “Hugo”), Richardson is known for his collaborations with Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino, who will be premiering the Richardson-shot “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” at Cannes this year. Early in his career the cinematographer’s signature style was creating extremely bright pockets of overhead light that actors would move in and out of. Always a bold cinematographer using expressionistic lighting, Richardson is also an incredible camera operator who is a master of delivering elaborate, precise camera movement to match the tempo and style of each director.
One of the most exciting talents to emerge from American independent film this year is Jomo Fray. At Sundance, he gave the low-budget boarding school-set “Selah and the Spades” a distinct look that matched its unique part-genre, part drama tone. One of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces in 2018, Fray will unveil at Cannes the highly anticipated “Port Authority.”
“I wanted the visual language to match the subjective reality of our protagonists — to match the delicacy and tenuous nature of a first great love,” Fray told IndieWire about “Port Authority. “We wanted the image to feel like wind hitting new skin, a pain but also a healing borne of newly exposing oneself. To create that we were interested in finding ways to be as raw and vulnerable with every aspect of the visual language as we could—imbuing that tension into every aspect of the photographic process (be that through the lenses, the lighting, the color, or the camera movement).”
In the last few years, Claire Mathon, with films like “Stranger by the Lake” and the stunning “Staying Vertical,” has emerged as one of the most versatile and exciting cinematographers working in Europe. Cannes 2019 may well serve as the platform for the French cinematographer to be recognized as one of the best international DoPs working today with two films, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Atlantics,” competing for the Palme d’Or.
Frederick Elmes is one of the most consistently reliable cinematographers. What’s remarkable about his work is how effortlessly he adjusts to the poetry of different directors, ranging from Jim Jarmusch to David Lynch (on films like “Blue Velvet” and “Eraserhead”) to Charlie Kaufman (“Synecdoche, New York”) to Ang Lee (“The Ice Storm”), while finding a way to bring the same perfect balance of cinematic realism to a TV series like “The Night Of.” With “The Dead Don’t Die,” Elmes is back working with Jarmusch, this time capturing the night time world of zombies descending on upstate New York.
The Austrian cinematographer has been Werner Herzog’s principal DoP since 1995 on films ranging from “Grizzly Man” to “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” Zeitlinger, who also works with Gotz Spielmann and Ulrich Seidl, brings to Cannes his first collaboration with Abel Ferrara. Ferrara’s very personal film “Tommaso” called on Zeitlinger to do what he so often does: Find beauty and style in a naturalistic, documentary-like approach to filmmaking.
“Abel wanted to shoot in a rougher, more documentary-looking style in order to counterbalance the world of imagination and erotic fantasies of the lead character,” Zeitlinger told IndieWire. “But because the scenes are realistic, I did not want the film to come across looking like a private home video. In order to do this, I had to bridge the gap between the demands of cinematic aesthetics and the cheap randomness of the real world. I designed the locations like film sets and painted the walls to make sure that the colors translated to film harmoniously. The color palate was based on the real world, but we eliminated more vibrant colors that would be distracting and reminded me of TV news.”
Being only 24 years old and having shot a critical hit at Cannes is in and of itself an incredible accomplishment. “Beanpole” isn’t some handheld, pseudo-documentary, but a well-crafted, visually precise piece of filmmaking.
“The chipped green paint of Iya’s apartment walls, the sour white light that soaks the hospital windows, and the 600 meters of period-perfect set that Balagov’s “Roma”-caliber production team built,” writes David Ehrlich in his review of “Beanpole” for IndieWire. “All cohere into a vivid snow-globe of space-time in which everything is believable, but nothing feels quite real.”
To accomplish this, Sereda took part in extensive preproduction and pre-shooting to make sure the image had the exact contrast, color and light that was needed. The young DoP told IndieWire, “We wanted to create a reliable atmosphere with picturesque elements.”
To capture the richness and breadth of the great South Korean DoP’s cinematography, one just needs to list the titles he’s shot: “Burning,” “The Wailing,” “Snowpiercer,” “Mother,” “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War,” and so many more. His IMDb page is filled with films dripping with a baroque style, but at the same time he has the incredible ability to create mystery and atmosphere through naturalism, as seen most recently in “Burning.” Hong’s latest Cannes collaboration with director Joon-ho Bong would appear to be more “Mother” than “Snowpiercer,” as the chamber piece family drama “Parasite” is a return by director Bong to his pre-“Host” filmmaking roots.
The Portuguese DoP has been responsible for three of the most visually striking international films of the last decade, two from his home country, “The Ornithologist” and “Tabu,” along with Argentinian Lucrecia Martel’s 2018 masterpiece “Zama.”
Poças’ work is alway understated, but produces images that are always rich in detail and color. As can be seen in the IndieWire exclusive images from “Frankie,” the film he’ll be premiering at this year’s Cannes, his natural light cinematography has a strong sense of atmosphere and time of day. In his collaboration with director Ira Sachs, Poças strove to give “Frankie” the natural feel of a ’70s and ’80s French color film.
Let’s start with the fact that Surdej has three features premiering at Cannes 2019: “Adam” (Un Certain Regard), “Our Mothers” (Critics’ Week), and “The Orphanage” (Directors’ Fortnight).
While we aren’t yet familiar with her work, Surdej has won awards for her cinematography and is extremely well respected by peers. In talking to her about her three Cannes films, Surdej described three visually ambitious projects, each with a distinct look.
“Adam”: “We tried to build a pictorial image of these women, a little bit like paintings and as most of the film is an inner journey happening in one place, I was dreaming that light would correlate with what is happening in the souls and hearts of our main characters.”
“Our Mothers”: “When we prepped the movie, we watched many pictures taken during the civil war of Guatemala. We wanted for the film to get close to the feeling of these photos that constitute a testimony of the past and they gave us initially the wish to shoot on 16mm film, for the organicity, the grain and the ability for a film to carry memory.”
”The Orphanage”: “[It’s] a historical drama set in Kabul in the 80’s, with musical Bollywood scenes. With the director Shahrbanoo Sadat we wanted to find a pictorial texture that would remind us of the films shot on film in that region in the 80’s, we had to be in Afghanistan, under a Russian influence and be able to transcend the picture into a Bollywood musical world.”
Jingsong Dong’s collaboration with director Yi’nan Diao on “Black Coal, Thin Ice” remains one the most under-appreciated and visual arresting films of the last decade. That their collaboration has graduated to Cannes competition with “The Wild Goose Lake,” which looks and sounds even more ambitious, makes this one of the more visually intriguing films at Cannes.
Tak Fujimoto, Néstor Almendros (with big assist from Haskell Wexler), John Toll and Emmanuel Lubezki – The list of legendary cinematographers who have been lucky enough to work with the cinematic poet Terrence Malick is a rarefied group. Enter Jörg Widmer, one of the most respected camera and steadicam operators of the young century and who has been a key part of Malick’s collaborations with Chivo starting with “New World” in 2005. Widmer has been working as a cinematographer as well for the last two decades, most notably on documentaries like “Pina” and “Buena Vista Social Club.”
It’s a background the seems perfect for “A Hidden Life,” Mallick’s first non-Lubezki shot film since 1998.
“Malick wanted us to be explorers, able to shoot like a documentary crew, mostly with natural light,” Widmer told IndieWire. “We were always looking for backlight, for which we needed lightweight cameras with lenses, which could take a lot of contrast without flaring and with a huge range of latitude. The actors should be able to move quite freely and keep their energy. We prepared the cameras in a setup, which allowed us to change from steadicam to slider or handheld in less than a minute. The takes could last from four to 40 minutes without a break. In interiors, we switched to the low light camera to capture as much as possible of the dark interiors in the rural homes, stables and prison cells.”
The cinematography dean of Cannes returns with his latest auteur, which he seems to collect like trading cards: Nicolas Winding Refn and his Amazon series “Too Old To Die Young.” Years ago, Khondji swore off studio filmmaking, or more specifically projects in which his director did not have complete artistic freedom. So invested he becomes in the vision of his collaborator, he refused to repeat the heartbreak of having a Harvey Weinstein screw around with another one of his films.
Ever since he shot “Le Trésor des îles Chiennes” in Cinemascope nearly 30 years ago, Darius Khondji has shown a masterful ability to combine big screen cinematic vision with edgy, unconventional material, from the subterranean sci-fi of “The City of Lost Children” and the pulsating neo-noir complexity of “Seven” through Michael Haneke’s nightmarish “Amour” and James Gray’s revisionist adventure yarn “The Lost City of Z.” Khondji is the ideal vessel for an auteur filmmaker in that he tends to clarify a director’s vision with imagery as vital as the characters onscreen. He helped salvage Wong Kar-wai’s misguided “My Blueberry Nights” from total ruin by recognizing the poetry in the American landscape at the heart of the work. Khondji is already a cinema legend, who we have the pleasure of continuing to watch in his prime.
[Editor’s Note: This blurb was partially written by Eric Kohn]
Ava Berkofsky has made a name working in TV, specifically in establishing the look for HBO’s “Insecure.” The bold use of color and creating a lighting scheme that made dark skin tones an asset, not something that had to be “solved,” made the show a visual standout. In particular, Berkofsky makes the low and practical light of Los Angeles at night pop in way that is unusual the half-hour format.
With “Share,” the rising cinematographer demonstrates an ability to bring the same distinct style to low-budget independent filmmaking.
Sofian El Fani
From “Timbuktu” to “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” Sofian El Fani brings a texture and intimacy with his camera and use of light, and not always in shooting situations where that is the particularly easy. The cinematographer returns to Cannes with Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven.”
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated El Fani shot “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo.”
Photo: Sofian El Fani Receives the Best Photo Award For ‘Timbuktu’ During the 40th Annual Cesar Awards Ceremony
It is near impossible to summarize the work of the great French cinematographer, whose collaborations are as varied as her dozens of collaborators, including directors Wim Wenders, Agnes Varda, Leos Carax, Claire Denis, Christian Vincent, Christophe Honoré, Larry Clark, Mia Hansen-Løve, Tim Sutton, Alice Rohrwacher, and Eliza Hittman. Also, from the standpoint of an American audience, it is also difficult to fully appreciate the work of a cinematographer with 115 titles on her IMDB page, when it has only been a couple handfuls of her recent films that has reached the international stage.
That which we have seen though is staggering and invigorating, from the formal rigor of dance in 3-D (“Pina”) to the energy of the grainy ephemeral color images of Coney Island at night (“Beach Rats”) to the organic beauty of Alice Rohrwacher’s first films (“The Wonders,” “Happy as Lazzaro,” “Corpo Celeste”).
Last Cannes, Louvart had three features at the 2018 festival. This year she has one highly anticipated title, “The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao.”
With Mukdeeprom’s budding collaboration with Luca Guadagnino — “Call Me by Your Name,” “Suspiria,” and now the Cannes short “The Staggering Girl” — the Thai DP is a name that for many is just now appearing on the American scene, but his work has been well known for awhile at Cannes via his collaborations with Apichatpong Weerasethakul — “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives“ having won the Palme d’Or in 2010. Working with Weerasethakul, the cinematographer has been able to pull evocative and slightly magical imagery from the lush Thai landscape. With “Call My by Your Name,” Mukdeeprom moved to the contrasting world of the dry Northern Italian summer, which he captured in such a way that you could feel sun on and air on the characters’ skin. Now, imagine it was actually a torrential downpour 28 of the 34 shooting days and you start to understand Mukdeeprom’s wizardry. Yet it was with “Suspiria,” named by IndieWire as the best cinematography of 2018, that showed he is truly one of the best handful of DPs working today.
José Luis Alcaine
José Luis Alcaine and Pedro Almodovar’s collaboration dates back more than 30 years with “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Arcaine has also branched out, working on gorgeous films like “Belle Époque” and an atmospheric crime drama like Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows.”
Alcaine has always supplied Almodovar with the colorful, deep focus, painterly canvases, but carved from often naturalistic settings. As movies increasingly look more like television, Arcaine and Almodovar pack the frame with layers of action and detail that reward careful, thoughtful viewing.
Turpin returns to Cannes with another Xavier Dolan film, “Matthias & Maxime,” which promises to be yet another inventive, playful use of the medium.
“We also used the 65mm format for a climactic love scene to have it emerge from the rest of the film. Very satisfying of course,” Turpin told IndieWire. “‘Matthias and Maxime’ has a different aesthetic if you compare it to Dolan’s previous work. It’s more natural, fresh, and simple, not as lit, flashy, colorful or contrasting.
While Turpin is known largely for his collaborations with Dolan, he’s shot other impressive films, more notably Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies.”
Jarin Blaschke’s partnership with director Robert Eggers is one of the most exciting things we’ve got going in movies today. Their emphasis placed on finding the simplest and most truthful approach often leads to a painstaking process of searching for the cinematic essence of every composition, camera movement and lighting setup. With very little resources they created the world of “The Witch” with detail, light and atmosphere that went beyond a film 10x it size.
In “The Lighthouse,” shot on 35mm Black and White Double X film stock with a boxy 1.2:1 aspect ratio, Blaschke took the duo’s world immersion to another level.
“I actually wanted the Double-X to behave like an even older film stock, so a filter was made to prevent all red light from reaching the film,” Blaschke told IndieWire. “This emulates pre-1930s orthochromatic film that couldn’t see orange or red light. Therefore, skies become much brighter and skintones become darker and more rugged/textured. This was another critical element that makes the film feel more broken-down and distant. Balancing the harshness of the film and filter were a set of Baltar lenses that were designed in the 1930s. These are the most luminous portrait lenses I’ve ever seen, and they add another glowing texture and dimension, rather than cheap gauze. For some hallucinatory sequences we used some 1870s-1900s -style optical designs.”