Allen Daviau, the cinematographer who helped Steven Spielberg make the transition from box office wunderkind to filmmaker of weighty themes with “Empire of the Sun” and “The Color Purple,” has been anointed the latest recipient of the American Society of Cinematographers’ lifetime achievement award.
Presentation of the laurel is one of the hallmarks of the annual ASC kudofest, to be held Feb. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.
A five-time Academy Award nominee — beginning with Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and including two films with Barry Levinson, “Avalon” and “Bugsy” — Daviau follows in the footsteps of such ASC lifetime honorees as Conrad Hall, Gordon Willis, Vittorio Storaro and Sven Nykvist.
The ASC’s last four lifetime award winners, including Fred Koenekamp and Richard Kline, were either retired or well past their prime. Daviau, however, continues to be quite active in commercials and the testing of digital cameras and film stocks, and he’s prepping for his next feature.
His last release was 2004’s CGI-heavy “Van Helsing,” the first time he worked on a picture “that was entirely finished in digital intermediate,” which allows for the scanning of film images into the digital realm to fine-tune color, contrast and sharpness. Daviau said the introduction of such technology allows d.p.s “to broaden our palette” and “do more daring things.”
Daviau, who started out in the profession by shooting pre-MTV-era musicvideos of such groups as the Animals and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, caught Spielberg’s eye in 1967. A year later, they made a 26-minute film called “Amblin” shot in 35mm with no dialogue, just music and sound effects.
Daviau’s other credits include John Schlesinger’s “The Falcon and the Snowman,” Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life” and Peter Weir’s “Fearless.”