The Best Shot Films According to Cinematographers? Really?
From a poll of expert professionals, few surprises and groans.
The American Society of Cinematographers, who, a decade ago, conducted an in-house poll of the best shot films of all time, have followed up with a new poll covering films from the eleven years that followed. (I guess it’s too early to talk about 2009?) The winner: Amélie, shot by Bruno Delbonnel. I’d like to believe that that’s not an obvious choice, just as I’d like to believe that cinematographers have better taste. I don’t happen to be a fan of the film, but irregardless, I find the lenswork, with its swirling and swinging through the streets of Paris, rendered in an oversaturated palate, all a bit phony, to the point of seeming conspicuously like CGI. Now, I have no problem with using any part of the vast array of technology currently available if it leads to a great film; but for determining a distinction like the best shot film of recent years, I’d like to award it to a film that really looked like it was shot rather than programmed, you know?
In any case, here’s the full top ten and their respective cinematographers and their guilds – interestingly, they’ve all been profiled in at least one issue of American Cinematographer:
Amélie: Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC (AC Sept. ’01)
Children of Men: Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC (AC Dec. ’06)
Saving Private Ryan: Janusz Kaminski (AC Aug. ’98)
There Will Be Blood: Robert Elswit, ASC (AC Jan. ’08)
No Country for Old Men: Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (AC Oct. ’07)
Fight Club: Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (AC Nov. ’99)
The Dark Knight: Wally Pfister, ASC (AC July ’08)
Road to Perdition: Conrad L. Hall, ASC (AC Aug. ’02)
Cidade de Deus (City of God): César Charlone, ABC (AC Feb. ’03)
American Beauty: Conrad L. Hall, ASC (AC March & June ’00)
Off the top of my head, I wish that any of the following placed among the these top finishers: Mark Li Ping-bin for Flowers of Shanghai; Ellen Kuras for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; John Toll for The Thin Red Line; Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire; Tillman Buttner for Russian Ark; and Harris Savides for Elephant.
Our own site has some films that demonstrate wonderful cinematography, of which I’m keen to point out the following:
- Michel Baudor’s stark but sensual black and white lensing in Anchoress.
- Huai-en Chen’s postcard perfect rendering of Taiwan’s natural beauty in Island Etude.
- Kostas Gikas’ idyllic Greek island lensing in Pandora.
- Flávio Zangrandi’s gritty but expressive documentary camerawork in The Charcoal People.
- Yi Seung-jun’s crisp capturing of the colors of Kathmandu in Children of God.