SPOTL IGHT ON… | PH I L I PPE ROUSSELOT
AND THE WINNER IS… DOP Philippe Rousselot was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Energacamerimage Film Festival. We catch up with the man himself to discuss what the award means to him and why he’s not slowing down any time soon
WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES CAMER I MAGE
P hilippe Rousselot has shone as a Beginning with French arthouse cinema, Rousselot soon broke Hollywood, shooting a long list of films that are timeless and diverse, in equal measure. In 1993, already a two-time nominee, he won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Robert Redford’s rural American drama, A River Runs Through It . Since then, his career has gone from strength to strength, bringing some of Tim Burton’s weird and wonderful worlds to life, working on intense dramas and dark comedies and recently creating new visual wonders in the Harry Potter universe with the Fantastic Beasts series. As such, it’s fitting that his work has been acknowledged with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Camerimage Film Festival. The 28th instalment of the festival ran from 14-21 November. “It’s a fantastic gathering of cinematographer for decades now, forging a career that has been as long and distinguished as any other. cinematographers and other filmmakers from around the world,” says Rousselot of the festival. “It’s a real beehive of information, creative ideas and culture. I’ve always felt one can learn such a lot over the short week the festival runs for – you can see wonderful new works, be inspired by new people and make contacts, all in a friendly, non-competitive atmosphere.” As conversation moves to his past works, it’s clear the DOP is neither sentimental nor thinking of slowing down any time soon.
“I’ve always loved the Éclair Cameflex,” he tells us, appropriately, given his roots. It’s the 16mm beauty Jean-Luc Godard used to shoot Breathless . “I last used that on Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear in 1988. “I don’t have too much of a fixation on gear, though most of my work has been shot using various spherical and anamorphic Panavision lenses. In the days of film, I often shot on a Panaflex 35mm, but I recently used the Arri Alexa XT Studio camera during Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them .” For the film’s choice of lens, Rousselot resorted to his old faithful and selected two sets of Panavision E & G Series glass, offering a vintage look where needed, but some modern innovation elsewhere. Clearly, the camera choice was a hit. Come the sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald , Rousselot went once more for Arri, scaling up to the larger-than-large format Alexa 65. Unafraid of the new, he selected a set of Leitz Thalia primes to complete his set-up. While Rousselot is willing to adapt, it seems a part of his passions still belongs to the golden days of old. Perhaps this has lead to his success – that, and the wealth of knowledge and skill he brings to each new set, unconsciously or otherwise. Without doubt, he’s worthy of Camerimage’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Finally, what of a last word regarding his win? “Receiving this award, I feel I’m stealing it from someone much more deserving than I. Still, I’ll take it anyway,” Rousselot jests.
“Thinking of my career, I’m not especially proud or ashamed of anything – I try not to look back too often. In the future, I see another film, then another, then another – each different from the last and hopefully all good,” he enthuses. So, when he approaches a new film, what exactly does a master with 50 years’ experience consider? “Anything I carry from film to film certainly isn’t conscious,” Rousselot explains. “My specific tastes are constantly changing, as does each film. Every one offers up its own unique set of challenges, so I take every film – every scene, even – one at a time. Nonetheless, we often fail to come up with perfect solutions – it’s the nature of filmmaking.” Unlike his own likes and dislikes, Rousselot doesn’t believe the craft has changed all that much over time, at least not at the heart of it. “It manifests in sudden bursts, but technology in the world of cinematography evolves at a steady pace. Digital cameras arrived suddenly, but took years to gain prominence. The same goes for LED lighting and more modern innovations – those things have changed the specific way we work,” he says. “Fundamentally, though, the shooting of a film dances to the same music it always has.” Having worked with such a wealth of kit – kit that’s evolved hugely over time – Rousselot is in a very unique position. When he began, celluloid reigned and anything more was unimaginable. Now, there’s 8K and beyond (For more on this, see page 24), stupendous amounts of colour data and razor-sharp lenses.
50 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
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