Variety looks ahead to the Oscars with cinematographers’ thoughts on their favourite cinematography this year, including three acclaimed directors of photography discussing Emmanuel Lubezki‘s work on Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life.
Sixteen years ago, Mark Johnson called me to tell me about a terrific young cinematographer who was photographing “The Little Princess,” a movie Mark was producing. The cinematographer was Emmanuel Lubezki, aka “Chivo.” Mark was right. The film went on to earn Chivo a well-deserved Academy Award nomination, but was just the beginning of an extraordinary career.
He followed “The Little Princess” with a body of work that is breathtaking in its expressiveness, experimentation and beauty. The films have ranged from the grand scale to the intimate — always surprising and inventive but with powerful imagery supportive of the story. Read more.
Lighting makes a d.p. the creator of his own universe. We can make the sun’s rays pierce a window to bathe a room in warm luminosity, or have moonlight move amongst the shadows, instilling mystery and the fear of the dark. I still recall the bedroom from “The Sea Inside,” which I shot for Alejandro Amenabar, built as a set, in which, each morning, we could decide whether it would be sunny or nocturnal.
“The Tree of Life” takes the opposite course. Terrence Malick’s film looks for the light that nature herself gives us. And if a room needs dusk, he orients his space so that the warm rays of the actual sun flood the scene with its truth. To me, the work of Emmanuel Lubezki on this unforgettable film is an extraordinary, impassioned demonstration of this. It’s the hunt for the sublime moment, nearly impossible to manufacture. It’s the patient waiting for the best moment of light, in the face of losing everything. Read more.
His camera is constantly moving (operated by Jorg Widmer and by himself), forever reframing in search of the moment — not for the sake of itself but for the definition of the film’s impressionistic manner. […]
It is the overwhelming emotional journey which pushed me into the cinema seat: the beautiful natural light, the uncompromising attention to all the details, the wonderful art direction and the almost unimaginable crispness and luminosity of the cinematography that makes me hope there are more films to come. Read more.
Emmanuel Lubezki has previously received nominations for Academy Awards in the category of Best Cinematography in recognition of his work on Children of Men (2006), The New World (2005), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and A Little Princess (1995).