Comedies Comedies

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Bucking the conventional wisdom that says comedies do not
present cinematographers with as many creative opportunities as
dramas do, the French comedy Amelie, shot by Bruno Delbonnel,
ASC, AFC, was voted the best-shot film of 1998-2008 in a recent
American Cinematographer poll. “Cinematography is a desire, the
desire to challenge yourself and the desire to give the audience a
visual experience, and this desire is the same whether you’re shooting
a comedy or a drama,” observed Delbonnel, responding to news of
the poll results via e-mail. “I am very thankful to the readers of AC.
This is a real honor, especially considering the other movies on this list.
These are some of the finest cinematographers, and I’m not sure I
deserve to be among them, but I am very happy to be. All of these
movies are visually stunning, but more importantly, all of these cinematographers are consistent. From the first frame to the last, they
stick to the look they’ve chosen. And they are all explorers.”

More than 17,000 people around the world participated in
the online vote, which updates the comprehensive reader poll AC
published in March ’99 in honor of the ASC’s 80th anniversary. (That
vote covered the best-shot films of 1894-1997.) For the new poll,
each voter chose 10 films from a list of 50 nominated by AC
subscribers. Here’s the Top 10:

1) Amelie (2001): Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC. Jean-Pierre
Jeunet’s comedy about a sheltered young woman (Audrey Tatou) with
an overactive imagination is a vivid example of the unusual looks film-
makers could achieve with early digital-intermediate technology.
However, given limited time for preproduction testing, Delbonnel
actually decided to create as much of the film’s unusual gold-green
hue as possible in-camera. In a Sept. ’01 interview with AC, he
explained, “I thought that maybe this [post]process wouldn’t really
work … [and]I always believe in doing as much as possible during
the actual photography, because the result looks better than when
you do all the manipulation in post.” Reflecting on Amйlie today, he
says, “It’s difficult to remember how things started, [but]I had this
idea that it would be interesting to depart from the idea of following
what the script said in terms of effects — day, morning, evening and
so on — and work on a mood rather than an effect, a mood that
could reflect not only the story, but also the mood of the character. I
think I’m like most cinematographers: we try something on a specific
movie that is based on our thoughts at a specific time in our life and
career. Today I see Amйlie as a starting point in my way of thinking
about light, and since then I’ve kept developing what is more or less
the same theory, pushing it a bit further every time. This was the first
film I shot where I started to think of the script as a music score. In
each movie, there’s a melody I try to find [and]translate into light.
Amйlie was probably a very light, not-so-fast melody with this single
note, which is the overall yellow-green color in the film.” Delbonnel
earned ASC and Oscar nominations for the film, his first feature with
Jeunet. Super 35mm.

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