Amir here, to welcome you back to Team Top Ten, our monthly poll by all of the website’s contributors. For our first episode in 2014, we are looking at The Greatest Working Cinematographers in the (international) film industry. As long time readers of The Film Experience are surely aware, the visual language of cinema is something Nathaniel and the rest of us are very fond of discussing. Films and filmmakers that have a dash of style and understand cinema as a visual medium always get bonus points around these parts. We celebrate great works in cinematography on a weekly basis in Hit Me With Your Best Shot, but it was time to give the people behind the camera their due.
More than 50 cinematographers from all across the world received votes. If the final, somewhat American-centric, list doesn’t quite reflect that, chalk it up to the natural process of consensus voting. Cinematographers like Agnes Godard, Oleg Mutu, Mahmoud Kalari, Rodrigo Prieto and Eric Gautier all had their fans, as did Hollywood stalwarts like Dante Spinotti and Robert Richardson. Furthermore, Harris Savides’s name was attached to several ballots, with the unfortunate note that if he were still alive, he’d be on the list. That would have certainly been the case, so here’s Glenn Dunks with an honorable mention for Savides, and then on to the top ten:
“Does anybody doubt that Harris Savides would appear on this list if it weren’t for his death in 2012 at the age of 55? I would even hazard a guess that he could have been number one. I distinctly remember wanting to know who this man was and what his career had been after witnessing Birth. The way he mixed golden hues of UWS high society with the chilly silver of a New York winter captivated me. That film alone with its graceful tracking shots and magnetic opera sequence would be enough of a game changer if it weren’t also for his prior film-defining work with Gus Van Sant on Elephant, Gerry and Last Days. He would later work with David Fincher (Zodiac), Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) and his last great collaborator, Sofia Coppola (Somewhere and The Bling Ring). A mighty force taken too soon.”
TOP TEN GREATEST WORKING CINEMATOGRAPEHRS
10. Dion Beebe
“Who on Earth is Dion Beebe?” felt like a common question in the early-to-mid-2000s when the Australian cinematographer stormed onto the Hollywood scene. Whatever it was that director Rob Marshall had seen of his prior work that gave him enough faith to turn to him for Chicago I’m not sure – Australian films Praise and Holy Smoke! were hardly indications to hire him for a lavish musical – but beautiful work it was. Still, if his further collaborations with Marshall on Memoirs of a Geisha (for which he won an Oscar) and Nine (for which he should have been nominated) suggests perhaps little more than a handsome craftsman, then it was his sensual and sensorial work on Jane Campion’s In the Cut, visually representing erotic tingles with images, and Michael Mann’s digital masterworks Collateral and Miami Vice that proved he was a bold and innovative one, too. – Glenn Dunks