A certain light can shape an entire world. There are movies that can almost be silent: the atmosphere created by the photography is speaking for them. A crispy black and white, a lavish colour, a mysterious dark, a dazzling light, and the magic of cinema immediately operate on screen.
I personally can’t imagine Ingmar Bergman without Sven Nykvist, Wong Kar-Wai without Christopher Doyle, Aki Käurismaki without Timo Salminen, the Coen Brothers without Roger Deakins, the Nouvelle Vague without Raoul Coutard.
Few days ago, one of those magicians, the American Gordon Willis, sadly passed away.
His name will always be linked to the film-maker he has collaborated most during his career: Woody Allen. The Brooklyn Bridge in the distance, a man and a woman seated on a bench, the night falling on the city…. Does this ring a bell? Well, the man behind one of the most famous cinema scene, it’s him.
And this is Zazie’s tribute to Gordon Willis in 5 movies:
KLUTE by Alan Pakula (1971)
One day I’m going to write a post about this movie, which I adore.
New York in the 70’s, when the city was dirty and dangerous: a young Jane Fonda as a sensitive prostitute, a young Donald Sutherland as a shy detective. One of the best couples ever seen on screen, and the scruffy light of Willis on top of it. Unmissable.
ANNIE HALL by Woody Allen (1977)
I am absolutely sure that there is not a single woman in this world who didn’t dream of being like Diane Keaton in this movie: the way she dresses, the way she speaks, the way she drives. Simply to die for. Exactly as the cinematography of this masterpiece.
INTERIORS by Woody Allen (1978)
First “serious” movie for Allen and the most bergmanian one of all. Willis pays homage to Nykvist's work filming both the interiors and the exteriors as if the movie was set in Sweden instead of Long Island. The result is outstanding.
ZELIG by Woody Allen (1983)
Woody Allen slides into other peoples bodies while Willis finds a way to slide into different time and frame. One of the craziest, amazing ideas of modern cinema. A real joy to look at.
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE by Woody Allen (1984)
There is something about the sadness of this movie that can't be explained.
Maybe it is the story, maybe it is Willis magnificent black and white, but you constantly feel something has been lost for ever. And you are suddenly overwhelmed by the nostalgia for this kind of world, this kind of people.
This kind of pictures too.