Trust in the Man

The man: Emmanuel Lubezki.


This great DP finished a film some time ago, but it will only be released here on 9 Oct, Burn After reading, directed by the Coen brothers.


Lubezki, being my favourite DP of all times, and the Coen brothers, being few of my favourite directors, I naturally went to check out goggle news on the new, greatly anticipated film. Boy, I was disappointed with the reviews. Not disappointed at the filmmaker, namely Mr Chivo a.k.a. Lubezki, but at what the critics said.


While many had generally good ratings fot the actors and the directors, a number of critics ‘critised’ Lubezki’s cinematography in the film. Some sources said that he used only simple dolly and camera moves, others said he was a disappointment for a DP who was able to present audiences with masterpieces like Children of men. A site even said something like, oh he’s not that good, no wonder the Coen brothers went back to work with their long time DP, Roger Deakins, on their next film. Come on, Deakins have been working with the brothers for years, given the rapport and trust, they would naturally work with him again when possible. No matter how fantastic another DP who replaced Deakins might be. (Roger Deakins was unavailable to photograph BAF for the brothers. He’s a great DP, though, mabye my 2nd favourite.) Man, when I read it, I have to admit I wasn’t pleased. Not at Lubezki, but at the critics. Call me bias here. I will still have my ultimate support for Lubezki.


I wanted to judge the film for myself. Did Lubezki really disappoint many film-goers? Did he disappoint the colloberators in making the film? Did he not out in his best? I strongly believe in my opinion about him, a very good one that is, and I will never let other opinions wander my believes.


Anyway, being so ‘fed up’ at the discouraging responses, I was glad to finally receive my copy of the American Cinematographer magazine. The best thing is, there is an artical on Burn After Reading! An interview with Lubezki on the making of the film! Wooh! It was kind of like the highlight of that day! haha. And the interview did not disappoint me the least bit. He in a way, justified all the negative comments by the critics.


In the interview, Lubezki said the bothers wanted the film to look ‘ugly’. Some colours were a little mismatched, and when Lubezki wanted to correct it, the directors said no. Also, Lubezki, being so intelligent (haha), gave the brothers some comments, which they accepted and agreed with. He also managed to cleverly solve problems while filming and cleverly made the shots look the way they were supposed to. Lubezki, among other intelligent things he did, also asked the brothers to allow for another re-take because he felt the initial shots ain’t that right. Lubezki had to sacrifice his pride for that, but did what he thought was right anyway, all for the sake of doing a good job for the brothers. I mean, what else can you ask for, man? This man IS good.


And for some who said the film was boringly photographed, I quote directly from the magazine. I sure hope I won’t get sued for plarigism or the like.. haha.


Quoting the DP: “This is not a period movie, and it doesn’t have any of the visual flourishes of Barton Fink or The Big Lebowski– it’s very minimalist. The story happens in the present in sub-urban Washington; I cannot imagine anything more visually boring.” Being able to sustain the audiences attention despite the boring surroundings is a great deal in his part, I must say.


Being a good DP, to me, isn’t just about being able to photograph a scene beautifully. It’s not about being able to capture beautiful, scenic shots that make audiences go ‘wow!’.


Being a good DP, to me, is more about staying true to the story, being able to bring across the directors’s dreams to the big screen visually. Being able to solve the problems on set well and having a good relationship with the cast and crew, respecting and loving them. In this, I think Emmanuel Lubezki did a great job, from what I read from other interviews and the magazine.


Apart from Burn After reading, I want to share with you guys a great, cool, thing I observed from a particular film he photographed, Great Expectations. The film was loosely based on the book, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.


Great Expectations was beautiful. Story wise and visual aspects. It was photographed very beautifully too, and that was perhaps becasue the story called for it.


Anyway, in scenes when Mrs. Dinsmoor appears, Lubezki employs a certain canted shots, which gave a sense of discomfort and surreality, to me at least. Thoughout the whole film, I felt weirdly uncomfortable whenever she is about to appear. But at first, I didn’t understand why I felt this way. It was some kind of sutle, un-obvious feeling. Which was a great job in Lubezki’s part, because things didn’t happen so obviously. Audiences feel the way the director wanted them to, without knowing why. That’s where Lubezki’s magic lies.


At the later part of the film, after Mrs. Dinsmoor haven’t been seen for quite some time, she appears again. We were not expecting her, though, but Estella instead. However, because of the camera angles and movement, I sensed that Mrs. Dinsmoor is somewhere. Something was not quite right, something was not quite as I expected it to be. Tada! I was right. Dinsmoor appeared. Credict goes to Lubezki.


See, just be manipulating camera angles, movement, lighting, Lubezki was able to protray a character. To convey a certain message or emotion to audiences. To tell the story.


And this, I must say, he is the true artist. I have faith in the man’s work and professionism, and no cirtics’s comments can sway me from that.


Emmanuel Lubezki. The DP.





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