Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

New York Film Critics' Cinematography Winner Delbonnel Goes 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood December 4, 2013 at 2:16PM

Given the evocative look and setting of the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," it's not surprising that Bruno Delbonnel snagged the cinematography award yesterday from the New York Film Critics Circle. He exquisitely captures the coldness, sadness, unhappiness, and loneliness of Oscar Isaac's struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village of '61.
1
Inside Llewyn Davis

Given the evocative look and setting of the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," it's not surprising that Bruno Delbonnel snagged the cinematography award yesterday from the New York Film Critics Circle. He exquisitely captures the coldness, sadness, unhappiness, and loneliness of Oscar Isaac's struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village of '61.

The French cinematographer ("Big Eyes," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "Amelie") doesn't like to reference other movies, but the archival research from the period was predominately desaturated. So he decided to make it more personal and lit it like a folk song, using the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" as a starting off point.

"I wanted to find another palette that was uncomfortable, and that was magenta," Delbonnel explains. "I wanted it to be disturbing. And I bloomed the white in the grading so the skin tones are softer. It's a very grounded color palette."

Llewyn Davis

In "Llewyn Davis," Delbonnel equates sadness with lack of light. It's usually overcast, there's rarely bright sunlight and daylight comes and dies very fast in this strange musical odyssey."I try to be consistent all through the movie, so for me the rule on this one was to have the light falling off every time in the background. And then I can work with different colors or different moods."

Delbonnel shot on film, also not surprisingly, because it seemed most appropriate for the period and because of the grain structure of the Kodak stock. He used the iconic Gaslight Cafe as the chorus -- "dark, contrasty, almost colorless." In fact, the opening in which Davis beguiles with "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" was the only time Delbonnel set a period look. "There is no credits so here we have to establish what the Gaslight was. It was in a basement and I wanted to do a Bohemian club, so I kept it really muted with the brick wall and different practicals.And the alleyway is very catchy as well where the mood and palette change."

By contrast, Davis' meeting with the imposing Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) at the Gate of Horn in Chicago is grander and more mysterious."The scene's about failure," Delbonnel suggests. "He picks the wrong song ['The Death of Queen Jane'] but he's truthful to folk music and its roots. But nobody talks about his talent; they always talk about the other guy's talent. It's an underlying idea, which is very interesting. I shot F. Murray with a rim light so you barely see him and asked him not to move."

The cinematographer's favorite sequence is the road trip to Chicago with all the night driving, accompanied by John Goodman's cranky old jazz man and his taciturn driver. It's almost surreal. "It was hard and we shot on location in winter and we were low budget and didn't have a lot of equipment. But it's dark and strange and dreamy."

Talk about strange: the confusing fight in the alley that served as the catalyst underwent a lighting change after the rehearsal. "I wanted to light the guy with his hat and smoking his cigarette. But when I heard his strong voice, I realized it would ruin the mood completely, so I immediately decided to shoot him in silhouette. You only see the cigarette light and you hear his voice saying, 'You're a funny guy.' Then you only see his face before he punches him. I like the unexpected. It's cinema for me, which is about images and sound."

Now let's see if this unexpected New York state of mind will land the cinematographer his fourth Oscar nomination.


This article is related to: Inside Llewyn Davis, Immersed In Movies, Awards Season Roundup, Thompson on Hollywood, Interviews


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.