LIGHT YEARS by Tom McDonough


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An absorbing but not always sensible dive into the the minds and attitudes of some well- known and important movie cameramen, as well as McDonough's own confessions as a first- (or sometimes second.) unit cameraman. Big names and big movies float about these pages, but rarely are explored in any depth. Also, the diffusion of ideas about camerawork allows few of them to stick in the mind. Among the more successful passages are the likening of Hemingway's stripped style in The Sun Also Rises to a hypothetical camera technique that would embrace stark realism while defying journalistic banality. Also, great fun is found in McDonough's long description of the first tests of a new device called the Skycam, a kind of flying camera worked by remote control. And there are many wonderful pages about the Steadicam and its operators, who are a breed of technological aristocrats among cameramen. The great cinematographers, we discover, don't just photograph, but become part of the storytelling process. Gordon Willis tells of his relentless need to simplify and help his director use fewer shots. Willis, in fact, becomes the star of this text; there are also delicious insights into such greats as Billy Bitzer, James Wong Howe, Nestor Almendros, Vittorio Storaro and others, and brilliancies about lighting and shooting Coppola and Woody Allen films. Many gripping, sometimes hilarious vignettes--but primarily for those with a serious interest in film technique.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Grove