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The Pfister Factor

Friday 18 February 2011, 17:11

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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Besides a magical rapport with a camera, what else do Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Curtis Hanson, Ron Howard, Nicolas Roeg and even Timur Bekmambetov have in common with Academy Award nominee Wally Pfister, the brilliant cinematographer who makes Christopher Nolan's epic movies look so fine. (The clue is in the picture)

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    Comment number 1.

    I'm getting a sense of Déjà vu... looks like somebody uploaded the wrong video unless the Bafta one was so good you want us to watch it again :P

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    Comment number 2.

    I've been wondering whether I should comment or not to highlight the mistake - I thought it would have been reported and fixed by now! Alas, like Tweek, I shall have to raise the alarm also.

    Still a great watch though ;-)

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    Comment number 3.

    I'm getting a sense of Déjà vu... looks like somebody uploaded the wrong video unless the Bafta one was so good you want us to watch it again :P

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    Comment number 4.

    Very, very good indeed, Cadwern!

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    Comment number 5.

    Perhaps the repeat is the clue? Wally Pfister shot the "Bafta" video blog? (and Mr K was the man on the grassy knoll!)

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    Comment number 6.

    Sorry everyone, we had a technical glitch. All working now, please refresh the page.
    From The Kermode Team

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    Comment number 7.

    It's nice to see cinematographers getting some recognition for their contribution to film. I've long thought that they, along with editors are the unsung heroes of what makes cinema great.

    Last week, after winning a BAFTA for the beautifully shot True Grit, Roger Deakins started trending on twitter. I was both surprised and impressed with this as I've long been an admirer of his work with the Coens, Sam Mendes and on numerous other great films. It was nice to see that many other people are aware of his work. Just seeing his name in the opening credits of a film is a reassurance.(incidentally, if, like me, you're a cinematography nerd, I wholeheartedly recommend Deakins' commentary on the DVD of Fargo. It's a shame we don't get more DP commentaries because it's fascinating stuff)

    On the subject of Pfister, one aspect of his work that I've always liked is his use of helicopter shots. I would happily watch a montage of the spectacular soaring landscape and cityscape footage deployed in Nolan's films.

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    Comment number 8.

    Inception best film of the year? Rubbish. Will Self nailed it in The Guardian last week:

    "Inception wasn't the last word in sci-fi meta-sophistication, but rather a stupid person's idea of what an intelligent film is like."

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    Comment number 9.

    I think Wally Pfister deserves an award for the name alone.

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    Comment number 10.

    @VincentKane:

    Regardless of our opinions on Inception (and I love it), I wonder what precisely Will Self would consider an intelligent film of recent date?

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    Comment number 11.

    The confusion I've always had about the film-making process is this interface between the Director and the DP - who is responsible for the look of the film? If it's all the DP, what is the director doing?

    Is it just a case of the director says, roughly, "I want suchandsuch a scene to look thusly" to the DP, who goes away and implements the request or does the DP come to the director and say "I think we should be shooting it like this"?

    Is the DP just concerned with the quality of light through the lense and the shape of the frame, or does it go deeper than that?

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    Comment number 12.

    The cinematography in Inception is indeed superb, but I expect Roger Deakins to repeat his BAFTA success. How has that man not won an Oscar yet?

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    Comment number 13.

    I find Chris Nolan and Wally Pfister so admirable not only because their films look wonderful - particularly The Dark Knight, which was staggeringly good-looking at the IMAX and remains so on Blu-Ray. What I respect more is their general refusal to pander to the usual "as an artist" balls which hamstrings my respect for so many actors/directors/writers. There are numerous interviews in which, in the fashion of Hitchcock, they display real intelligence concerning a workmanlike attitude towards film-making: film stocks, 3D, digital/celluloid/IMAX, whatever it may be. They have no problem being this obtuse in interviews. Some might find it (as with Inception) smarmy and self-aggrandising, but I'd much rather have this than a painfully awkward Friday Night with Jonathan Ross brown-nosing session.

    If there's one thing which can be guaranteed of The Dark Knight, it's that it will look sharp, boldly colourful and spectacular.

    In a way which Avatar never will.

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    Comment number 14.

    Yeah '13' - Avatar really wasn't very colourful and certainly not spectacular, was it?

    OOh, but it does make me look really intelligent and serious about 'proper' film if I give it a good old bashing to impress Doc Marky.

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    Comment number 15.

    You're right Mark

    "Inception" was the best - and most cinematic - film of 2010 and Chris Nolan/Wally Pfister is a superb team.

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    Comment number 16.

    Is it not the case that Cinematography can only be as good as the relationship with the director? I mean Pfister and Nolan have been working together for over a decade now and you can see the continued rise in the standard of work from Memento to Inception. Another and somewhat underrated example is Tom Tykwer and Frank Griebe starting with Run Lola Run through to The International producing some stunning work in those films and the ones in between.

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    Comment number 17.

    Unfortunately trickle up doesn't always happen, a high school friend of my brother's had great expectations, had won short film competitions and a scholarship to the AFI. Ended up working for Corman, but didn't stick around long enough to snag a directing gig, ended up working as a projectionist in a grindhouse in the 70's, which resulted in his best known project (and a footnote in the history of grindhouse), a compilation of exploitation trailers with links done by the Carradine family. His last film was produced by schlockmeister Charles Band, and was so rubbish that Band, not usually sniffy about quality, had his name taken off the film.

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    Comment number 18.

    Mark, you could have opened this post with "What do Martin Scorsese (Kundun), The Cohen Brothers (most of their films since Barton Fink), Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) have in common? The brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins."

    Roger Deakins deserves to win this year; if he doesn't they should hand him a Lifetime Achievement award. (They should do anyway.)

    Deakins has been nominate nine times, never yet won. I'm hoping this is his year. I'm sure Pfister will win one (or at least be nominated again) sometime in the future.


    There's a short film about Deakins work on True Grit here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0-dXh_IsiQ&feature=player_embedded

    #11. 'Is the DP just concerned with the quality of light through the lense and the shape of the frame, or does it go deeper than that?'

    It can and often does go deeper than that. There's a culture show feature on DP Christopher Doyle (best known for his work on Zhang's Hero with Jet Li) below.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDMRB5cCrzY

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    Comment number 19.

    @ Joel_Cooney

    Yup that's an interesting question. I remember Terry Gilliam saying that he worked as a "trinity" with his DP and camera operator on 12 Monkeys where they tried to come up with the best possible shot together. And then he (Gilliam) functioned as a "filter" where he had the final word. But I get the idea that it seems to differ from movie to movie who does what to which degree which really makes you (i.e. me) wonder to what degree it is truly "A film by [insert name of director]" at the end of the day. I mean I also remember Gilliam saying that he felt most movies don't need a director at all. That there was only a minority of the movies being made where you really had a visionary at the helm of things.

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    Comment number 20.

    Mark, I really wish you would stop saying certain films are the ‘best’ or ‘worst’, since all experience is wholly subjective, the most a person can say about a film is how much they favour it.

 

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