First off is the 1995 epic Las Vegas crime drama CASINO, the first of several collaborations between director Martin Scorsese and 3-time Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Richardson. While Richardson has often spoken about Scorsese’s preference for designing each and every camera setup himself, the lighting style of this film is unmistakably Richardson’s. For example, the frequent use of overexposed top light creates a visual link between Casino and not just other Scorsese / Richardson collaborations like Shutter Island, but also Richardson-shot films by other directors such as JFK and Inglourious Basterds.
Then we have the darkly beautiful coming-of-age drama THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola and her only feature shot by frequent Todd Haynes collaborator, Edward Lachman. The images in this film are romantic and haunting in equal measure, evoking the unique melancholy of adolescent nostalgia. Coppola was primarily influenced by photography in crafting the feel of this film, primarily the hazy backlit look of 70s-era Playboy Magazine, as well as the work of photographers Bill Owens and Takashi Homma, who captured the odd beauty hidden in both American and Japanese suburbia.
And in another seminal directorial debut, we have images from John Singleton’s classic BOYZ N THE HOOD, shot by Charles Mills. The film launched the career of Singleton as a director, earning him an Academy Award nomination at the astounding age of 24, and launched the acting careers of Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, and Regina King. Since then, it has gone on to become a sort of cinematic cultural shorthand for the authentic experience of everyday life in South Central Los Angeles during the early 90s, not unlike Taxi Driver did for Manhattan in the mid-70s or Do The Right Thing for Brooklyn in the late 80s.
And last but certainly not least, we’ve got images from Akira Kurosawa’s beloved samurai western, YOJIMBO, shot by arguably the greatest Japanese cinematographer of his generation, Kazuo Miyagawa. Like many of Kurosawa’s mid-century samurai films, Yojimbo’s influence can be felt widely across cinema history, from the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, all the way up to The Mandelorian. While Kurosawa could be considered a master of nearly every element of the craft, his ability to visualize drama through composition and staging is a particular strong suit and there are few better examples than his work in this film. But don’t just take it from us, check out this fantastic video essay on the subject by the tragically defunct YouTube series Every Frame a Painting.