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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christopher Doyle

12:35 PM By Franz , ,

As far as filmmakers go, cinematographers -or directors of photography- are not among the most recognized. The work of a cinematographer often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Some would argue that this is the way it should be since, the photography should not get in the way of the story. Even so, a vast amount of movies go by each year with no redeemable qualities
regarding their imagery.

Christopher Doyle, is a cinematographer unlike any other in many respects. His style is deeply engraved in every frame of his footage. Regardless of this, he has said that if there is just one image that the audience can take away, then the cinematography is a success. Though eccentric, his style is one that speaks to what cinematography really is.

If photography is writing with light, then Vittorio Storaro is a novelist and Christopher Doyle a poet. Doyle’s photography is in a word, intimate. He finds the angle, composition, colors and perspective to create shots filled with energy and emotion. His attitude towards film is a pure one. One that embraces growth and development. This is why he is considered the most innovative cinematographer of our time. He is the definition of avant-garde, of the cutting edge and of creative, brash risk taking.

What purpose does a work serve if the execution of it does not try to move its medium forward? In film, this huge weight falls on the director, the cinematographer and production designer of a film. Doyle can be brash in his use of color. seeing a few scenes of any of his films gives you an insight into how he allows colors to dominate the screen. However, he often has a more subtle approach using primarily white light to let the production design and location bring the colors in. That said, he does not align himself with classical theories on color. "Storaro says green is the color of knowledge. Well, I've done many films where green was the color of memory, and that's just a personal choice. Actually, in `Hero' we used green for the flashbacks because we ran out of colors.” He also understands the complexity of red and avoided using it in his films until “In The Mood For Love.”

The lens on Doyle’s camera is more often than not telephoto. In my opinion, he borrows this from Kurosawa, whose use of telephoto lenses provide a surreal control of form and line in his films. This is evident when comparing “Ran” to “Hero.” The telephoto lens is a powerful tool in that it can create remarkable intimacy in close ups and surreal separation in wide shots. I admire Doyle because he embodies many of my beliefs on film. The belief that one’s work must be the best work that one can do and nothing more. He often says that his best film is his next one.

His vision of the art of cinematography goes back to Michelangelo's belief that every block of stone has a statue inside it and it’s up to the sculptor to find it. The next work you make is already there. It’s in your thoughts, in your past, in your co-workers, in your script, in your money, your locations, in your cast and so on. A film is a collection of what everyone puts into it and if the people are not passionate and the idea is not innovative then you end up with modern western cinema.

“Cracking the Hero Color Code,” Robert Mackey. New York Times. August 2004
“Christopher Doyle,” Lights in Film Blog
"The strangest cinematographer in the world": Christopher Doyle.” Sean Axmaker. November
29, 2004. Green
“The Wild Man.” Matthew Ross. Filmmaker Magazine