Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: RIP Gordon Willis

Monday, May 19, 2014

RIP Gordon Willis

by Tony Dayoub

"I may have gone too far a couple of times. I think there was a scene between Al [Pacino] and his mother, who was played by Morgana King in Part II. I did one scene; I went too far. I think Rembrandt went too far a couple of times."
- Gordon Willis, dubbed the Prince of Darkness by fellow cinematographers after his masterful application of underexposure in The Godfather films.

Recommended Films - Klute, The Godfather, The Paper Chase, The Parallax View, The Godfather: Part II, The Drowning Pool, All the President's Men, Annie Hall, Comes A Horseman, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Pennies from Heaven, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Godfather: Part III

1 comment:

Joel Bocko said...

When I used to live in Boston, I went to see Willis speak at the Harvard Film Archives. His interviewer, wearing a straight-from-central-casting tweed jacket and bow tie asked the most verbose questions you can imagine, while Willis lounged back in his chair wearing a bright pink jacket and aviator shades, and trying to hide a smirk. At one point the host asked a particularly long-winded question about the motivation behind the lighting set-up in a particular Manhattan exterior and after a long pause Willis cleared his throat and mumbled, "Welll, ya know, we looked at the street and thought, this light would look pretty good here. So we put it there." Silence, a smile, and a glimmer in his eye. To this day I'll never forget the host's pained expression as he tried to recover.

With Willis, the images truly spoke louder than words. If he had only lensed the sumptuous Godfather films, or just been Woody Allen's visual half in his warmly inventive and subtly ambitious 70s comedies, or presented the rich dark textures of the Pakula political thrillers and done nothing else, he'd be worth treasuring. The fact that he was responsible for the iconic visuals all these New Hollywood masterpieces is mind-boggling.

But now I'm following in that unfortunate host's footsteps, so I'll shut up. God bless, Willis - I hope heaven is dark enough for you.