Thursday, October 11, 2012

In Memoriam: Harris Savides, Cinematographer


If you’ve seen a really fine-looking independent film in the past 12 years, there’s a damn fine chance it was shot by Harris Savides, an expert American cinematographer who, for reasons still unknown, passed away earlier today at the age of 55.

I’m fascinated by virtually every aspect of the filmmaking process, but there’s something about the art of cinematography that can move me explicably. A great cinematographer can provide images that evoke any number of emotions, possibly many at once. Savides had that ability. And more.

Savides was a digital pioneer, preferring the use of natural light and long takes. When Gus Van Sant went on his micro budget indie kick, he entrusted Savides to make the films work. Which they did, thanks much in part to their sparse, visual appeal.

David Fincher, Noah Baumbach, Michel Gondry, Sofia Coppola, hell, even Woody Allen gave Savides a chance to tell their stories through his lens. I was planning on showing a few of my favorite Savides shots, with brief explanations as to why I like them. But on second thought, it’ll be much better to let the images do the talking.

Savides’ visual artistry will certainly be missed. But for now and always, we have these:

The Game, dir. by David Fincher (1997)

The Hire: The Follow, dir. by Wong Kar-wai (2001)

Gerry, dir. by Gus Van Sant (2002)

Gerry (2002)

Elephant, dir. by Gus Van Sant  (2003)

Birth, dir. by Jonathan Glazer (2004)

Last Days, dir. by Gus Van Sant  (2005)

Zodiac, dir. by David Fincher (2007)

Zodiac (2007)

American Gangster, dir. by Ridley Scott (2007)

Margot at the Wedding, dir. by Noah Baumbach (2009)

Milk, dir. by Gus Van Sant  (2008)

Milk (2008)

Greenberg, dir. by Noah Baumbach (2010)

Somewhere, dir. by Sofia Coppola (2010) 

Somewhere (2010)

The man himself, discussing the films that influenced him.

24 comments:

  1. He's definitely one of those people where I've seen their work but didn't know their name. Now I've got another reason to re-watch Zodiac and Milk.

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    1. I can completely agree with this. I really ought to have known his name before this post since I loved the visual qualities of Zodiac, Somewhere and his various Van Sant collaborations. I think a re-watch of Gerry is definitely in store.

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    2. Ah, I just love his work so much. Such a shame that he has good all too soon. I'm watching Elephant tonight. Haven't seen that one in quite some time.

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    3. Gerry as well, I'm definitely watching Gerry tonight.

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    4. Elephant is one of those films like Irreversible; incredible, but I don't think I could revisit it because it's just too much of a punch in the stomach watching it.

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    5. Yep, completely agree. I've seen it once, in 2003 when it came out. Maybe it's time again... I've always wanted to write a review of that one. About how when I first saw it, I was like... "What the fuck is going on, this is so goddamn boring."

      But then THAT happened. And I was like..."Oh, I get it. Whoa..."

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  2. whoa, genuinely didn't know he did all that.

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    1. Yeah man, dude was a genius. Easily one of the best American cinematographers ever.

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  3. I guess, I wasn't the only one who went on IMDb today after the news broke out to see who he was and going down his filmography, said to himself "I have seen this, this and this and this too. Woah!! I have seen LOT of his stuff. Why didn't I know him ?" :(

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    1. Just one of those things, man. We know their work, but not their name. The point is that you know him, in one way or another. His work will live forever. A sad passing indeed.

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  4. This is really sad, he shot some really beautiful films :(

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    1. Yeah he certainly did. Really tough loss.

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  5. I'm really devastated. This guy is one of my 5 favorite DPs working today. His work is just unlike anyone that is out there. I'm right now writing a tribute to him that I hope to post later today.

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    1. Agree, he was definitely one of my favorite working DPs. Such an eye.

      Look forward to reading your post.

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  6. Such a sad loss. Very beautiful work.

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  7. As you may remember from my 2000s cinematography picks, I love this man's work, especially in Gerry, Birth, and Somewhere. It sucks that he'll never shoot another film again. :(

    Love the video. Didn't know he did one of these for Criterion. I need to watch Blue, perhaps the whole trilogy, again now.

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    1. Yep, I do remember your picks. Actually, it's kind of ironic timing that you posted that not too long ago. Crazy sad.

      His comments about Blue are so awkward yet sincere. A really cool man.

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  8. This is very saddening. The work he did for Fincher is my favorite, but he definetly had unique style which shows in all the films he worked on.

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    1. For sure. Zodiac is one of the best-looking films I've ever seen. Really sad news here.

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  9. When I heard of his passing yesterday, I immediately thought, "Oh, how sad. I wonder what films he did, because the name sounds familiar." I didn't have time to look him up, and I instantly thought, "Well, that's ok. Alex will probably write up a worthy obit." And the next morning, there it was!

    Thanks for being predictably reliable, bud.

    I am familiar with many DPs, but I'm amazed at how in the dark I was about Savides. What a great talent, a tremendous loss. And so young! Damn.

    The Game might be my favorite of his. A gorgeously dark film, in so many ways.

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    1. Ha, my pleasure man. I felt obligated to highlight a man whose work has had such a huge impact over contemporary films.

      The Game is insanely gorgeous and dark. Love the look of that one.

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  10. Such sad news. I haven't seen much from his work, only 'Somewhere'. But I loved the cinematography. He did some fine job from the images.

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    1. He certainly did. Somewhere really is a movie propelled by its images. The cinematography is as much a part of that film as the acting. Such a sad loss.

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