Alice Rohrwacher / The Wonders
This year, Mudbound DP Rachel Morrison made history as the first woman nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar, a triumph that also underscored the troubling issue of gender inequality in the film industry. Few jobs on a movie set have been as historically closed to women as that of cinematographer – the persistence of the term “cameraman” says it all. Despite this lack of representation, trailblazing women have left their mark on the field through extraordinary artistry and profound vision. As seen through their eyes, films by directors like Claire Denis, Jacques Rivette, Chantal Akerman, Ryan Coogler, and Lucrecia Martel are immeasurably richer, deeper, and more wondrous.
The Wonders (Le Meraviglie)
Cinematography by Hélène Louvart
Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, Alice Rohrwacher’s vivid story of teenage yearning and confusion revolves around a beekeeping family in rural central Italy: German-speaking father, Italian mother, four girls. Two unexpected arrivals prove disruptive, especially for the pensive oldest daughter, Gelsomina. The father takes in a troubled teenage boy as part of a welfare program, and a television crew shows up to enlist local farmers in a kitschy celebration of Etruscan culinary traditions (a slyly self-mocking Monica Bellucci plays the bewigged host). Hélène Louvart’s lensing combines a documentary attention to daily ritual with an evocative atmosphere of mystery to conjure a richly concrete world that is subject to the magical thinking of adolescence. An NYFF52 selection.
The Milk of Sorrow / “Fausta”
Cinematography by Natasha Braier
Fausta, the only daughter of an aged indigenous Peruvian mother, is said to have been nursed on “the milk of sorrow.” This accursed designation is bestowed on the children of victims of the former terrorist regime. Fausta has learned of her mother’s past and her own presupposed fate through invented song, which is both an art form and oral history tradition. Upon her mother’s death, she must venture beyond the safety of her uncle’s home and choose whether or not to lend her gift of song so that she can pay for a proper burial. Director Claudia Llosa and DP Natasha Braier capture the striking beauty of Lima’s outskirts, as well as a revelatory performance by Magaly Solier, with dignity and grace. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. A New Directors/New Films 2009 selection.
Cinematography by Hélène Louvart
Wim Wenders began planning this project with legendary choreographer Pina Bausch in the months before her untimely death, selecting the pieces to be filmed and discussing the filmmaking strategy. Impressed by recent innovations in 3D, Wenders decided to experiment with the format for this tribute to Bausch and her Tanztheater Wuppertal; the result sets the standard against which all future uses of 3D to record performance will be measured. Not only are the beauty and sheer exhilaration of the dance s and dancers powerfully rendered by Hélène Louvart and Jörg Widmer’s lensing, but the film also captures the sense of the world that Bausch so brilliantly expressed in all her pieces. Longtime members of the Tanztheater recreate many of their original roles in such seminal works as “Café Müller,” “Le Sacre du Printemps,” and “Kontakthof.” An NYFF49 selection.
The Strange Case of Angelica
Cinematography by Sabine Lancelin
Manoel de Oliveira’s sly, metaphysical romance – made when the famously resilient director was a mere 102 years old – is a mesmerizing, beyond-the-grave rumination on love, mortality, and the power of images. On a rain-slicked night, village photographer Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa) is summoned by a wealthy family to take a picture of their beautiful, recently deceased daughter Angelica (Pilar López de Ayala). What ensues is a ghostly tale of romantic obsession as Isaac finds his dreams – and his photographs – haunted by the spirit of the bewitching young woman. The crisp chiaroscuro compositions of cinematographer Sabine Lancelin enhance the film’s otherworldly, unstuck-in-time aura. An NYFF48 selection.
Cinematography by Sabine Lancelin
Chantal Akerman’s hypnotic exploration of erotic obsession plays like Vertigo filtered through the director’s visionary feminist formalism. Loosely inspired by the fifth volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, it circles around the very-strange-indeed relationship between the seemingly pliant Ariane (Sylvie Testud) and the disturbingly jealous Simon (Stanislas Merhar), whose need to possess her completely in turn renders him hostage to his own destructive desires. The coolly contemplative camera style of Sabine Lancelin imparts an unbroken, trance-like tension, which finds release only in the thunderous roil of the operatic score. Print courtesy of Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique.
Cinematography by Akiko Ashizawa
What strange deceptions lurk beneath the placid veneer of the average Japanese family? Horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s unexpected – but wholly rewarding – foray into family melodrama-cum-black comedy quivers with an undercurrent of dread as salaryman dad (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his job and desperately attempts to maintain the illusion that he’s still employed; his grade-school son (Kai Inowaki) rebels by secretly taking (gasp!) piano lessons; and mom (Kyōko Koizumi) finds what she’s been looking for with her own kidnapper. The elegant long shots of Akiko Ashizawa toy with the meticulous framings of Ozu as Kurosawa guides the film through a series of increasingly audacious tonal shifts. An NYFF46 selection.
Cinematography by Crystel Fournier
A sensitive, heartrending portrait of what it feels like to grow up different, Céline Sciamma’s beautifully observed coming-of-age tale aches tenderly with the tangled confusion of childhood. When ten-year-old Laure’s family moves to a new neighborhood during the summer, the gender-nonconforming preteen (played by the impressively naturalistic Zoé Héran) takes the opportunity to present as Mickäel to the neighborhood kids – testing the waters of a new identity that neither friends nor family quite understand. Sciamma’s warmly empathetic tone is perfectly complemented by the soft-lit impressionism of Crystel Fournier’s glowing cinematography.
L’Apollonide: Souvenirs de la Maison Close
Cinematography by Josée Deshaies
“I could sleep for a thousand years,” drawls a 19th-century prostitute – paraphrasing Lou Reed – at the start of Bonello’s hushed, opium-soaked fever dream of life in a Parisian brothel at the turn of the century. House of Tolerance is, among other things, Bonello’s most gorgeous and complete application of musical techniques to film grammar, his most rigorous attempt to sculpt cinematic space, his most probing reflection on the origins of capitalist society, and his most sophisticated study of the movement of bodies under immense constraint. A shocking mutilation, a funeral staged to The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin, a progression of ritualized, drugged assignations and encounters: Bonello and frequent collaborator Josée Deshaies capture it all with a mixture of casual detachment and needlepoint precision.
35 Shots of Rum
Cinematography by Agnès Godard
When is a kitchen appliance more than just a kitchen appliance? When it’s in the masterful hands of Claire Denis, who somehow transforms it into a moving metaphor for the evolving relationship between a Parisian train conductor (Alex Descas) and his devoted twenty-something daughter (Mati Diop) as he gently nudges her out of the nest and each tests the waters of new relationships. Warmed by the ember-glow of Agnès Godard’s beautifully burnished cinematography, Denis’s delicately bittersweet take on the Ozu-style family drama conveys worlds of meaning and emotion – attraction, heartache, loss, hope – in a mere glance, a gesture, and, yes, a kitchen appliance.
Featuring in-person appearances, this international two-week series spotlights the amazing work of such accomplished female cinematographers as Agnès Godard, Natasha Braier, Kirsten Johnson, Joan Churchill, Maryse Alberti, Ellen Kuras, and Babette Mangolte. Organized by Florence Almozini, Tyler Wilson, and Madeline Whittle.