December AC Wraps Year of Standout Cinematography

New edition showcases the work of Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC; Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; Robert Richardson, ASC; Eric Steelberg, ASC and Sean Bobbitt, BSC.
Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) vies for a position of privilege with the queen in the period feature The Favourite, shot by Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC. (Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

In his opening note for the incoming December 2018 issue, laying out the primary contents, editor-in-chief and publisher Stephen Pizzello writes of the cover story on the period drama The Favourite

I became a fan of Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC when Wuthering Heights blew my mind at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The movie’s bold take on Emily Brontë’s classic tale — intimately framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio — was raw, intense and completely absorbing. I was similarly astounded by my first taste of Dogtooth, a fearlessly outré slice of absurdist cinema from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who proved just as audacious with his follow-up films Alps, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC (left) and key grip Andy Woodcock confer between shots.

When I heard that Ryan and Lanthimos would be teaming on the 18th-century costume drama The Favourite, I circled the title on my coming-attractions chart. A droll spoof of Restoration-era “teacup movies,” The Favouriteplayfully pokes at genre conventions, making artfully offbeat use of ultra-wide lenses, and had me laughing out loud at some unexpected bursts of contemporary-sounding pejoratives. “[Yorgos] doesn’t like conventional coverage,” Ryan informs Jim Hemphill. “He’s very keen on creating a [visual] language where you don’t really see the normal angles that you would expect.” Lanthimos concurs: “I don’t react well to angles or lenses that feel ‘middle of the road.’ In this film, I wanted to create a world which felt quite absurd and distorted.”

As an extreme counterpoint, Pizzello notes that the recent release Suspiria, a reimagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo horror classic, is

…downright grotesque. Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and director Luca Guadagnino set their version in late-1970s Berlin and created an oppressive, somber ambience that reflects the political tenor of the times. 

Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom checks his light on actress Tilda Swinton.

The look, Guadagnino tells Iain Marcks is intended to reflect on “the concept of contemporaneity and conflict with the generations of the past, the fathers and mothers who deny themselves the possibility to acknowledge what they did under National Socialism.” The resulting style might be dubbed Fascist Grand Guignol.

A complete retrospective piece on the original 1977 film — shot by Luciano Tovoli, ASC, AIC — can be found here.

Pizzello continues:

While political conflict provides a haunting backdrop in Suspiria, it’s foregrounded in A Private War, shot by ASC member Robert Richardson, who reconnoitered with documentarian and first-time feature director Matthew Heineman. 

Robert Richardson, ASC angles in for a long-lens look.

The cinematographer’s extensive background in documentary work made him an ideal choice for the project, which dramatizes a decade of journalist Marie Colvin’s real-life experiences in many of the world’s war-torn regions. 

Heineman tells Patricia Thomson that while Richardson’s Oscar-winning renown was slightly intimidating, the ASC icon never made him feel out of his depth: “It was never like, ‘I’m Bob Richardson, I’ve won three Oscars and been nominated for six. I’ve been doing this forever.’ No, it was always peer to peer. That’s what made it such an enjoyable experience for me.”

Steadicam operator Shaun Cobley covers the action during one harrowing scene.

Elsewhere in the issue, longstanding collaborations figure into the coverage:

This picture marks the seventh collaboration between (from right) director Jason Reitman and Eric Steelberg, ASC, following Tully; Men, Women & Children; Labor Day; Young Adult; Up In the Air and Juno.

On The Front Runner, Eric Steelberg, ASC continued his longtime collaboration with director Jason Reitman to recount the scandalous fall from grace experienced by Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart in 1987 — a timely topic in today’s climate of “gotcha” politics. 

Another longstanding collaboration is explored in Rachel K. Bosley’s Q&A with Widows cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, BSC and director Steve McQueen, who renewed their fruitful pairing on the Chicago-based crime drama.

Director Steve McQueen and Sean Bobbitt, BSC have also collaborated on 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Hunger.
Bobbitt lines up a shot.

Coverage in the December issue also includes:

• An ASC Close-Up interview with cinematographer T.C. Christensen

• Cinematographer Chapin Hall on shooting the short-form period piece Last Taxi Dance

• Shot Craft: A continued discussion on the use of diffusion — focusing on make-do and improvised materials — the basics of shooting with holiday lights, and shooting in extreme-cold conditions.

• A complete year-end index to AC’s print coverage in 2018.

Be sure to get this great issue of American Cinematographer, and subscribe today to our print or digital edition to make sure you never miss another. (You can sample our digital edition here or scan the QR code below to check it out on your mobile device.)


The Favourite: Unit photography by Atsushi Nishijima. Additional photos by Yorgos Lanthimos. All images courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

Suspiria: Photos by Alessio Bolzoni, Sandro Kopp, Mikael Olsson and Willy Vanderperre, courtesy of Amazon Studios.

A Private War: Unit photography by Keith Bernstein. Additional photography by Paul Conroy. All images courtesy of Aviron Pictures.

The Front Runner: Unit photography by Frank Masi, SMPSP, courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Widows: Unit photography by Merrick Morton. All images courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

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