Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography

Just when you thought there was nothing left for talking heads to say about movies, here’s a first-rate visit with many of the best cinematographers in the business–John Bailey, Vilmos Zsigmond, Laszlo Kovacs, Conrad Hall, the late Nestor Almendros, Gordon Willis, Haskell Wexler, Vittorio Storaro, and Sven Nykvist, among others–talking with rare insight and perception about their craft (and discussing some of their predecessors, such as Billy Bitzer and Gregg Toland). The filmmakers, Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy, and Stuart Samuels, are smart enough not only to listen to what these artists have to say, but to come up with the best clips from the best prints available to illustrate their comments. It’s a pity they’ve basically restricted their inquiry to the U.S. industry, though that’s not surprising considering that the American Film Institute, which coproduced the movie, pretty much limits its efforts to preserving and promoting local mogul interests, unlike its counterparts elsewhere in the world. (The many non-American cinematographers are also shown discussing almost exclusively their American work.) But the uncommon virtue of this 1992 documentary is that it teaches us a great deal about things we think we already know. Why, for instance, was the lighting so low in the Godfather films? You might be surprised. Todd McCarthy, also a film critic for Variety, will be present at both screenings to answer questions. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, February 5, 6:00, and Saturday, February 6, 6:30, 443-3737)

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