Freddie Francis and The Innocents

Freddie Francis and a Mitchell BNC

Freddie Francis with a Mitchell BNC.

On the evening of March 26, 1990, cinematographer/director Freddie Francis made a brief but noteworthy speech on accepting his Academy Award for Glory. After a quick mention of producer Freddie Fields and director Ed Zwick, he said, “I’m only going to pick out one guy to thank, and that’s my wonderful operator, Gordon Hayman.” (Hayman’s name had been left off the film’s credits. He operated for Francis frequently from The French Lieutenant’s Woman to The Straight Story, Francis’ last assignment.)

From left: Francis, director Jack Clayton and camera operator Gordon Hayman on set for THE INNOCENTS.

The Innocents. From left: Director Jack Clayton, camera operator Ronnie Taylor and Freddie Francis.

The 72-year-old cinematographer concluded with, “And we’re available from September.” Both sentences were typical of the generous and indefatigable man who, though widely known as one of the greatest English cinematographers, also directed nearly two dozen features (plus television) between 1962 and 1989.

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Stop, Go, Stop, Go: Rob Whitworth and Time Lapse

Rob Whitworth's equipment

Rob Whitworth’s equipment

Passport? Check. Sneakers? Check? Ramen and espresso maker? Check. Oh, and a couple of Nikons with prime and zoom lenses, a tripod, the all-important ND filters for extended exposures, and a laptop loaded with After Effects.

Shanghai based time-lapse filmmaker Rob Whitworth is ready to hop on a plane to any of the world’s capital cities and take you on a dazzling tour of its vistas and the intricate patterns of its frenetic people and traffic.

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Mark Harris: Five Came Back


Unlike 405,399 of their fellow American servicemen (according to the Department of Veterans Affairs), John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra did return from the trauma of the Second World War. But they were, like all of the “greatest generation” soldiers, profoundly changed by the experience.

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A View from the Blog

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A few weeks ago, I received a gracious comment from Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler on my recent post about his photographs of motion-picture print reels. I was disappointed that I had been unable to contact him directly for an interview because interviewing artists for these essays has been one of the payoffs of the writing.

Photo by Reiner Riedler

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Cinema Poet/Provocateur: Dimitri Kirsanoff

Dimitri Kirsanoff

Dimitri Kirsanoff

So intense are the narrative thru-line and emotional arc of Dimitri Kirsanoff’s 1926 film Ménilmontant that it is one of the few silent films without intertitles. The opening and closing scenes of graphic murder remain shocking today. Its sometimes frenetic but often poetic evocation of Parisian streets and the ominous waters of the Seine center it both in the 1920s tradition of urban documentary, as in films of Vertov, Ruttman and Siodmak, and in the mythic-poetic visions of Rene Clair, Man Ray and Buñuel.

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‘A Bloody Ex-Pat’ and ‘The Mona Lisa Curse’

Contemplating De Chirico

Robert Hughes contemplating De Chirico

After critic Robert Hughes leaves art collector Alberto Mugrabi’s apartment at the end of his 2008 BBC documentary The Mona Lisa Curse, Mugrabi, breathing a sigh of relief, whispers, “He’s a tough cookie.” To call Time magazine’s uber-articulate, uber-opinionated former art critic a “tough cookie” is like calling Hurricane Katrina a “storm.”

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Minor White at the Getty

2. cabbage hill, OREGON

Cabbage Hill, Oregon

“All photographs are self-portraits.”

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Windowsill Daydreaming

“The photographer projects himself into everything he sees, identifying himself with everything in order to know it and to feel it better.”

These are just two of Minor White’s famous epigrams. He could easily have published a quotable photographic Little Red Book of Mao, so apt are his thoughts on his art form. It would be an appropriate companion to Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer, which I wrote about in May 2011.

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The Unseen Portrait: Reiner Riedler

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A gallery invitation to Riedler’s THE UNSEEN SEEN

An uneasy balance often exists between photojournalism and portraiture. A news photo of a Palestinian youth hurling a bottle rocket at an Israeli tank, or a photo of two Russian Orthodox priests carrying a large icon in the snow, can become a “portrait” once the subject turns and engages the eye of the camera. This engagement of the viewer with the subject, created by a simple head turn to the lens, difficult to parse but powerfully dramatic, lies at the core of many a photographer’s evaluation of his work. Some critics, like Susan Sontag, have even examined the moral issues involved in the subject’s direct confrontation with the photographer/viewer.

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Drones, Drones, Drones (UAVs)

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon Prime Air

According to Natalie Sommer, an associate producer at 60 Minutes, before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ushered Charlie Rose into a secret room at Amazon’s corporate headquarters, he offered the reporter half of his fortune, and a trip to Las Vegas to spend it, if Rose could tell him what was in the room. Well, Charlie Rose is still working for CBS and PBS.

On a large, polished, wood table sat two 8-rotor drone helicopters emblazoned with an Amazon Prime Air logo, the vehicles of a futuristic concept to deliver your Amazon order, assuming it isn’t a heavy appliance like a television or toilet, to your home within 30 minutes after you place the order. That’s only half the running time of an episode of the CBS Sunday night news show.

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Bill Bryson’s ‘Little Walk’


The many markers of the Appalachian Trail

Only a writer with a wit as sardonic as Bill Bryson’s would title a book about a more-than-2,1000-mile, five-month wilderness trek on foot through 14 states of the Eastern seaboard— A Walk in the Woods. A “walk”? A person still in touch with the real world would likely title it A Punishing Rite of Passage That Should Be Done Only by Those Under 30. Continue reading ‘Bill Bryson’s ‘Little Walk’’