Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer

Tom Sigel has a very eclectic body of work and ability to adapt to different visual styles — from a straightforward dramatic approach on “Usual Suspects” to an edgy, skip-bleach bypass with an engaging, active camera for “Three Kings” to a sublime ’70s period look in “Frankie and Alice.” And now there’s “Drive.”

For me “Drive” has a very quiet, studied look. I feel like a voyeur watching ultra-personal frames of character behavior. It’s rare to have shots so interesting on the screen for long durations. Tom’s use of saturated urban night colors — and rich lighting overall — enhanced the noir-like drama.

There is a great scene when Irene (Carey Mulligan) tells Driver (Ryan Gosling) her husband is coming out of jail. They are driving in L.A. at night. There’s a shot from the backseat over to Irene, where you can barely see her face as she tells him. Slivers of passing, corrupted light barely pull them out of the darkness; then a similar shot of him glancing toward her, listening. A two-shot across the Driver to Irene is focused on him as she waits for his reaction. He just continues to stare forward, their faces bathed in rich sodium light. It’s really the only time we see her face in the scene, as they continue to drive. We painfully wait for the camera to pull focus to Irene but it holds eternally with Driver’s glare.

Although a very simple scene, it’s highly emotional and wonderfully unorthodox, unpredictable.

Paul Cameron, who most recently shot “Man on a Ledge,” was also the d.p. on “Collateral,” “Man on Fire” and the upcoming “Total Recall.”

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