By Sayantan Mondal. Posted on March 09, 2015
With two back-to-back Oscars, Emmanuel Lubezki has become a cult figure of sorts in the world of movies. Let us understand what makes him right now the hottest property in Hollywood and why directors are chasing him for their movies. With Gravity and Birdman, he has finally solidified his position. Though some believe he should have won an Oscar long time ago with Children of Men, but we guess no one is complaining right now.
Let us do a quick recce of some of his movies and see what makes his cinematography stand out from the rest.
Lubezki's big break in Hollywood came with Reality Bites directed by Ben Stiller. If one looks at it very closely, it was like a music video, only an extended one. This was totally different from what Lubezki had done till now (collaborating with Alfonso Cuaron and a few indie Hollywood projects). It was a comedy and that too a tale of coming-of-age and the problems of the Generation X. The entire style of the movie was very bubbly, energetic and enthusiastic and this was going to be far cry from the movies Lubezki's would eventually do.
Lubezki got his first nomination for Alfonso Cuaron's A Little Princess, adapted from the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Each and every scene was rich in colour and details and it was because of Lubezki and Cuaron's vision that this classic tale turned out to be so vivid. Here's a scene from the movie where you can understand how Lubezki managed to get it right. What was extremely important was to get the emotion of the book right, to convey that story and everything added up perfectly that gave Lubezki his first Oscar nomination.
Sleepy Hollow, directed by Tim Burton, turned out to be extremely atmospheric with the foggy and decrepit feel added to it. Burton hired Lubezki following his work in Great Expectations and the decision proved fruitful. Lubezki took a lot of inspiration from British Horror movies to Mexican cult stuffs and what we see is a movie that's visually stunning and gets the Gothic feel right. It gave Lubezki his second Oscar nomination. Sleepy Hollow proved to be another defining moment in his career as he managed to overcome the problems of shooting such a lush production.
For Ali, Lubezki did a lot of detailing and studied a lot about the man himself. In some of the scenes we can see that the extreme close-up shots focuses on the man's mood. The entire cinematography of Ali can be divided into different slots where everything is shot with perfection be it triumph, be it joy, the defeat as well as very personal moments with different colours upping the magnitude of the biopic.
Continuing his partnership with Alfonso Cuaron, Y Tu Mama Tambien turned out to be another memorable outing. What Cuaron had to capture was emptiness, loneliness mixed with dosages of erotica that managed to drive the story forward. The three characters had distinct imageries attached to them but the challenge was to give them their individual spaces as well as bring them together without losing the momentum. And this scene perfectly shows why Lubezki is Cuaron's Christopher Doyle.
You would understand the genius of Lubezki once you watch this entire scene. There are apparently no breaks and the entire scene looks like one long take where a lot of things happen but then you don't really feel that they are cramped in. There were a lot of modifications done and according to reports Lubezki decided to shoot it inside the car along with the actors. And what the audience got was a tense scene that was a remarkable triumph.
There's not much to be said about Gravity and Birdman that gave him back-to-back Oscars. For every aspiring filmmaker both the movies are like holy texts that they must go through again and again and try and understand Lubezki's method and techniques and if possible improvise on them and realize nothing is impossible. Both Gravity and Birdman turned out to be technically fulfilling and gave everyone something to cheer about but we shouldn't forget that it was also Lubezki's cinematography that makes them brilliant.
Here's a supercut made by Jorge Luengo Ruiz celebrating the works of Lubezki. Well he deserves it.