Welcome To The Cinematography Hour

Since my post on Roger Deakins directly resulted in him winning a Bafta on Sunday (shut up), I thought I'd highlight some other great cinematographers of our time. Conrad Hall has an impressive back catalogue including Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Marathon Man, but there are two specific films I'm going to yammer on about.

American Beauty

American Beauty is still as perfect as it was 12 years ago but if Sam Mendes had his way, Hall would've never been chosen. Deemed by the Brit as "too old and too experienced", he was shown the error of his ways by Tom Cruise after his first choice didn't like the script. Honestly, is there anything Tom Cruise can't do?!

According to Wikipedia, "Hall's approach was to create peaceful compositions that evoked classicism, to contrast with the turbulent on-screen events and allow audiences to take in the action and he chatted extensively with the director on how each shot would be lit. It's clear how thought out the process was because each scene is painfully exquisite and the running theme of red (roses/door/blood) against grey/white is particularly striking without seeming contrived.

Road To Perdition

Unfortunately Hall died before he had a chance to pick up his Oscar for his fine work on what must be one of the most underrated films of all time, 2002's Road To Perdition, but I think this scene says it better than I ever could.