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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Benoît Delhomme

Benoît Delhomme
Photo by Kerry Brown
By Benoît Delhomme and Joshua Handler

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most exciting and original voices in modern cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The responses below are from Benoît Delhomme, best known as the director of photography on A Most Wanted Man, Lawless, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 1408, and the upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything.

Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent cinema, world cinema, and films of the past and why (if you don't feel that it is important, please tell why)? 
Well I think it is always easier to appreciate the qualities of an old film. I learnt everything from watching the "cineClub" on French TV all Friday and Sunday evenings many years before going to film school! I was living in a small town in Normandy, so I did not have access to the Cinemathèque . I discovered Ingmar Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini, Ozu, and Kurosawa on a bad TV!
I strangely always preferred foreign films to French I got the idea quite early on that making cinema will be about learning other cultures. I kissed a girl for the first time after the two-and-a-half-hours screening of Kurosawa's DERSU UZALA... When I arrived in Paris in the early '80's my favorite filmmakers were German: Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders. THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN and PARIS, TEXAS are still so strong in my memory. I recall their images very often because they are part of my film education...In film school we learned how to analyze old classics. [O]ur teacher was applying a kind of psychoanalytic approach which revealed the perfect structures of film masterpieces: CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS...he sometimes tried to apply his method to recently released movies and it was a disaster!
How did viewing indies, classics, and/or films from around the world help/influence you when shooting THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, A MOST WANTED MAN, LAWLESS, or any of the other films you've shot? 
On THEORY OF EVERYTHING I used to tell James Marsh that I was trying to combine some melodramatic light effects inspired by Douglas Sirk's movies with the more modern and realistic, but still very poetic visual approach of Krzysztof Kieslowski's movies (THREE COLORS: BLUE, WHITE, RED). On A MOST WANTED MAN, I arrived in Hamburg with THE AMERICAN FRIEND from Wim Wenders in mind...and kind of kept it all the way in some part of my brain. The city had changed a lot since Wenders shot there but I liked the idea to pay a secret homage to Robby Müller's wonderful colors and textures. On LAWLESS, John Hillcoat asked me to watch again the first SCARFACE directed by Howard Hawks, a few Sam Peckinpah classics, Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE, but I personaly did not think that any of these references really worked, and we finally built our own style. 

What's one French film (narrative or documentary) and one non-French-language film (narrative or documentary), and one classic that you would recommend film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
A recent French film I would recommend to see is the last Jean-Luc Godard movie called GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE. Godard is 83, but his film is incredibly daring visually, full of ideas. I guess he was the first "film geek" to use two iPhones to shoot in 3D!  I would also recommend UNDER THE SKIN by Jonathan Glazer (UK) and  STRAY DOGS by Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan). A classic I would really recommend is PERSONA by Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) with the superb black and white photography by Sven Nykvist.  Ok they are all difficult films to watch but they are all using[...]very unique storytelling. They all have a special "voice". They ask you to make a real effort of concentration. I think this is what you need when you are an aspiring filmmaker and you are yourself trying to find your "voice". 
And if you're interested...
My personal take on films and filmmaking on instagram: 
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Friday.

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