Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

RIP Gordon Willis, Master of Cinematic Chiaroscuro (CLIPS)

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! May 19, 2014 at 1:24PM

Virtuoso cinematographer Gordon Willis, trailblazer of the New Hollywood who gave us everything from 1920s New York in "The Godfather" to 1970s Manhattan in the films of Woody Allen, has died. He was 82.
4
Gordon Willis and Woody Allen
Gordon Willis and Woody Allen

Virtuoso cinematographer Gordon Willis, trailblazer of the New Hollywood who gave us everything from 1920s New York in "The Godfather" to 1970s Manhattan in the films of Woody Allen, has died. He was 82.

The Godfather: Part II
'The Godfather: Part II'

Late DP Conrad L. Hall called Willis, who was born in New York into a show business family, the Prince of Darkness. Beginning in 1970 with four films, including Hal Ashby's "The Landlord," Willis became one of the great maestros of shadow and light. His lensing of Alan J. Pakula's 1971 gritty, paranoid thriller "Klute" -- starring Jane Fonda as a call girl, in an Oscar-winning performance -- paved the way for many auteur collaborations.

The following year, in 1972, Willis shot Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" -- ultimately going on to film the entire trilogy -- and gave us so many iconic images of of Marlon Brando skulking in the shadows as Don Vito Corleone. Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican likened Willis to "cinema's Caravaggio."

Willis was known for perfectionism, but also found poetry in the cracks and fissures in cinematic imagery and, specifically, celluloid -- and his idiosyncratic techniques yielded innumerable, timeless tableaux. "The lack of perfection, that's the hardest quality of all," he once said. "Because you're fighting your instincts. You're trained to want to do things perfectly."

Manhattan

Willis often worked with underexposed film, and would shoot just before twilight, during the Golden Hour, when the light is warm and whittling into darkness.

One of his landmark achievements was in 1979, with Woody Allen's "Manhattan," one of the great visual symphonies, and tributes to New York, of all time. Willis shot the cityscape in sweeping, 35 mm Panavision, and in a hauntingly romantic B&W of yesteryear. 

Roger Ebert wrote of the film, "All of these locations and all of these songs would not have the effect they do without the widescreen black and white cinematography of Gordon Willis. This is one of the best-photographed movies ever made."

His longterm partnership with Allen, from the Freudian mindscape of "Stardust Memories" to the luminous "Purple Rose of Cairo," ultimately landed Willis his first Oscar nomination in 1984 for the mockumentary "Zelig." (Willis eventually received an Honorary Academy Award in 2010.)

The last film he shot was Alan J. Pakula's "The Devil's Own," in 1997.

Read more touching obits for Willis here, here and here. Watch some of his iconic moments below.

This article is related to: Obit, Gordon Willis, Video, News, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola


E-Mail Updates