michael chapman (1935-)
new york cinematographer known for starting out as gordon willis' camera operator for the films klute, the godfather and bad company. chapman went on to be the director of photography for many of the classic martin scorsese films: taxi driver, american boy: a profile of steven prince, the last waltz, and raging bull. reading masters of light and listening to chapman's commentary on raging bull, you come to understand quickly that chapman's knowledge of film, art and literature is extremely sophisticated and that he brings this knowledge to his work.
chapman's use of experimentation and abstraction is surely unique in film history. in masters of light, chapman explains his desire to use more experimentation and abstraction in film: "....like shoot super-8 and then blow it up to 35mm so it would be like seurat; all the grain would be that big. i would make it much more abstract, much more stylized and much less like reality.... i would like to make big patterns of color; totally flat red, yellow, green." this quote certainly influenced my last viewing of scorsese's raging bull. chapman said the big influence on the film's visual style was weegee's photography, which is very apparent. yet one surely sees much more abstraction in the film; disorienting camera movements, extremes in light and dark, visual abstractions from fog, mirrors, glass and heat, and of course the images relationship to the *sound.
the film is also very classical in its form, which to me adds further to the abstract quality.
at times the sequences look like michael snow shot them (back and forth, la région central), and at times they have the look of the classic hollywood films of the 1940s.
*(much of the abstractions in raging bull have to do with the sound design by frank warner. warner slowed down and manipulated animal sounds for much of the fight sequences, and also used the favourite john cage tool; silence.)
-the last detail 1973 (d. hal ashby)
-the white dawn 1974 (d. philip kaufman)
-taxi driver 1976 (d. martin scorsese)
-the front 1976 (d. martin ritt)
-american boy: a profile of steven prince 1978 (d. martin scorsese)
-fingers 1978 (d. james toback)
-the last waltz 1978 (d. martin scorsese)
-invasion of the body snatchers 1978 (d. philip kaufman)
-hardcore (d. paul schrader)
-raging bull 1980 (d. martin scorsese)
-personal best 1982 (d. robert towne)
-the lost boys 1987 (d. joel schumacher)
-the fugitive 1993 (d. andrew davis)
-masters of light: conversations with contemporary cinematographers, by dennis schaefer and larry salvato, univ. of california press.