REVIEWS FROM CANNES; ALSO, QUOTES FROM AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER TRIBUTE ISSUE
Reviews are beginning to come in from the Cannes Film Festival of the new documentary, Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond, which features interviews with Zsigmond, John Travolta, and Nancy Allen, among others. In an interview posted at Festival de Cannes, the film's French director, Pierre Filmon, is asked how he managed to get Zsigmond, a master behind the lens, to sit in front of his camera. "There was a lot of pressure," Filmon answers. "The images had to be up to the mark, the timing had to be right; everybody had to give their utmost. In terms of format, there were interviews, meetings, discussions, informal moments of life, cut together with movies illustrating Vilmos’ career, chosen for their graphic power and to correspond with what we were talking about at the time. It’s like a game of ping-pong between images from the past and what we were experiencing that particular day with Vilmos."
Twitch's Jason Gorber writes of the film, "From the opening shot where the subject is adjusting the lighting, tweaking the seating height, futzing with back illumination and checking the camera's gamma, you know that Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond is not an everyday documentary. But Vilmos Zsigmond isn't your everyday cinematographer, either, and in this one scene you can see him take a decent shot on digital video and make it just a bit more...perfect."
Gorber concludes, "As a survey of the man's work it's near complete, as what has resulted in being a memorium to a legend the film is even more vital. By capturing the man in his many environments - a hot pool, overlooking Budapest, sitting in a screening room - one gets the sense that we're meeting a genuine article, one both humble and yet proud of his accomplishments. As a warts-and-all take on the man's work it may falter, as a perfectly encapsulated close encounter with a giant of the last half century of film it's a priceless testament."
The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer writes that the film "uses an extensive interview with the director of photography, shot in 2014 on the occasion of a Paris retrospective, as the starting point to explore Zsigmond’s prolific and impressive career. Alongside the humble-sounding cameraman, who recounts various anecdotes in an accent thick enough to cut with a meat cleaver, a host of other colleagues and collaborators – including John Boorman, Peter Fonda, Jerry Schatzberg, Darius Khondji, Haskell Wexler, Bruno Delbonnel and Vittorio Storaro – speak inspiringly about how Zsigmond influenced both their own work and a major period in American filmmaking that we now call the 'New Hollywood.'”
AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER WEXLER/ZSIGMOND TRIBUTE ISSUE FROM APRIL
The April 2016 issue of American Cinematographer featured a cover story tribute to "ASC Legends" Haskell Wexler and Vilmos Zsigmond. The articles consisted of remembrances from many who worked with both cinematographers. Here are some excerpts in which Zsigmond's work with Brian De Palma are discussed:
After discussing working with Zsigmond on Heaven’s Gate, which he says was intense, hard work, camera assistant Michael Gershman tells AC, “Blow Out was a hard film as well. But I never saw Vilmos get down when we were working. He was always positive. And I think that the idea that he was always creating beautiful images—he thrived on it.
“Vilmos would say, ‘Michael, Michael, there are no rules, Michael! You can do whatever you want to do!’ That’s something that stayed with me as I became a cinematographer. The only rule is that there are no rules.”
Mike Sowa, colorist on The Black Dahlia: “I had the honor of grading Vilmos’ first digital-intermediate feature in 2006. Grading The Black Dahlia will forever be one of the highlights of my career. One memory that stands out was the time Vilmos invited Laszlo Kovacs to the DI theater. There I was, in between two absolute legends in the business. With great enthusiasm and wildly animated gesturing, Vilmos explained to his dear friend how exciting it was to have such wonderful grading tools available in this new world of digital.”
Stephen Pizzello (American Cinematographer editor-in-chief and publisher)
“When I was covering Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia for the magazine, Vilmos invited me to a DI session at EFilm. Upon arriving, I was happy to see his lifelong ‘brother from another mother,’ Laszlo Kovacs, sitting at the timing desk, just hanging out and keeping his best friend company. Laszlo’s health was declining by then, and he seemed to be nodding off, but never underestimate the vigilance of an accomplished cinematographer. At one point, as Vilmos was scrutinizing a scene, Laszlo must have opened an eye, because he suddenly sat up and warned, ‘Careful, Vilmos—that shot is a little soft.’ Vilmos squinted, looked at the screen a bit more closely and croaked, ‘Uh-oh—I think he’s right! I’ll have to talk to Brian about that.’ Laszlo settled back into his seat, and we soon heard him snoring, but he had his pal’s back.”