First off this week we’ve got almost 250 images from the gorgeous and heart-wrenching James Baldwin adaptation IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, directed by Barry Jenkins and shot by his Moonlight collaborator James Laxton. Despite being an interior character drama, Jenkins and Laxton opted for the large format Alexa 65, which up to that point had been utilized on more epic action-filled productions like Spectre, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and The Revenant. But looking at the results, the motivation for this choice is clear. The format allows for relatively wide angle close ups to have the isolating shallow depth of a longer lens on traditional 35mm, creating beautiful images that are both immediate and intimate at the same time.
Then we have the epic 2019 sci-fi father-son drama AD ASTRA, directed by James Gray. The film was shot by ShotDeck favorite, Hoyte van Hoytema, who captured an intimate melancholy visual tone that feels closer to his work on an interior drama like Her than it does to many other flashier modern sci-fi films. Take note of how the color and lighting design evolves over the course of the film as our hero gets closer and closer to his stranded father while moving further and further from his home: from more neutral white light on earth, to the warm oranges and reds on Mars, to the cool greens and blues as they approach Neptune. A gorgeous piece of visual storytelling from start to finish!
Then we have the star-studded early 90s cult favorite, TRUE ROMANCE. Although it is most often lumped in with the canon of writer Quentin Tarantino, whose story/character fingerprints are all over the film, its visual style is undeniably that of director Tony Scott and cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball. In examining the same sort of color design elements, this film takes the opposite approach as Ad Astra, beginning with the cool icy blues of Detroit and then slowly moving toward warmer hues as our heroes escape to Los Angeles, before finally ending with the saturated oranges of the final beach sunset scene.
And finally we’ve got new images for the 2008 Coen Brothers dark comedy BURN AFTER READING. The film was shot by 3-time Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki, known for his often bravura visual style, however the language of this film is much more restrained. Instead of the roving long takes and super wide angle lenses we associate with Lubezki films like Birdman, Children of Men, or The Revanant, Burn After Reading feels closer in visual approach to other Coen brothers efforts from the last decade such as A Serious Man or Inside Llewyn Davis. A fascinating study in how a cinematographer’s personal style, no matter how established or easily identifiable it may seem, is still constantly in flux depending on their collaborators and the needs of the story.