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)

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