What makes a cinematographer’s work perfect? The lighting, the framing of a shot or the movement of a camera? Is it simply one person’s work or an effort of a group of people? In an attempt to find some kind of common thread among the films that most consider “great” in terms of cinematography, Fandor’s Scout Tafoya personally polled over 60 film critics, asking them to list out films that “feature their version of ideal or perfect photography.” This is the result: 6 films that received the most votes.
- Days of Heaven (1978)
This film gave us the iconic dialogue, “You’ve got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven” amongst many other things. This romantic drama film is set in 1916 and talks about a farm labourer who convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
- Barry Lynden (1975)
Barry Lyndon follows the adventures of an opportunistic Irish nitwit, Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), as he clambers inelegantly up the social ladder in search of a title and a fortune. At the 1975 Academy Awards, the film won four Oscars in production categories. Although having had a modest commercial success and a mixed reception from critics on release, Barry Lyndon is today regarded as one of Kubrick’s finest films. In numerous polls, it has been named one of the greatest films ever made.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
“The genius is not in how much Stanley Kubrick does in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ but in
how little”, says critic Roger Ebert. Despite initially receiving mixed reactions from critics and audiences, the film garnered a cult following and slowly became the highest-grossing North American film of 1968. Even today, it is regarded as of the most influential films to have been made. The film has also been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
The twist is supposed to arrive at the end of the movie, but Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans pulls the rug from under our feet much sooner than that. What’s commendable is the fact that this silent film was the 1st ever film to have won an Academy Award for ‘Unique and Artistic Picture’. In this fable-morality subtitled ‘A Song of Two Humans’, the ‘evil’ temptress is a city woman who bewitches farmer, Anses and tries to convince him to murder his neglected wife, Indre.
- The Conformist (1970)
Bertolucci makes use of the 1930s art and decor associated with the Fascist era: the middle-class drawing rooms and the huge halls of the ruling elite in his political drama The Conformist. Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, liked Bertolucci’s screenplay and his directorial effort. Not only this, but the review generator at ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ gave this film a 100 percent positive review.
- Night of the Hunter (1955)
Based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb, Night of the Hunter was adapted for the screen by James Agee and Laughton under film noir. The story focuses
on a corrupt reverend-turned-serial killer who attempts to charm an unsuspecting widow and steal $10,000 hidden by her executed husband. Much like most of the films on this list, this film too was not a success with either audiences or critics at its initial release