Paul Schrader Cinematographer Asks: Who Killed The Color? (Guest Column)

Paul Schrader Cinematographer Asks: Who Killed

I’m writing because I’ve just seen a movie, “The Dying of the Light,” with pictures I don’t recognize, although the credits say I’m the director of photography. The film we shot had images with strong, violent colors and was dark. This one is not. A minor thing for some, of crucial importance for others. I’m writing therefore in the name of those for whom the sudden disappearance of even a single tiny element from a picture is the end of the world, because they (perhaps stupidly) think that the image in which they invested blood and tears has been destroyed.

In my case, I was denied the possibility to accomplish in post-production what is any cinematographer’s duty: “assuring that what audiences will see on cinema and television screens faithfully reflects the “look” intended by the director” (according to the American Cinematographer Manual). I have to say that this is the only version of “The Dying of the Light” I’ve seen and to which I can relate Paul Schrader’s intentions as they were expressed during pre-production and shooting. Regarding the issue of a possible “director’s cut,” and the non-disparagement agreement that (according to the press) prevents Paul from talking about it, I can only express my stupefaction at such a Kafkaesque situation. Seen from my country, Romania, it is hard to understand how a contract may contain language in conflict with the sacred First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Paul Schrader wanted color to play an unusual, extremely important role in the visual style of his movie. An Expressionistic approach where color doesn’t just represent moods and feelings, but meanings and symbols. This is why he insisted that color should be embedded in the very fiber of the image — using filters on lenses and colored lights — so that we were not merely catching colors on film, but truly sculpting the picture with color.

The moment you try to “re-paint” or modify such a thing, it is supposed to crash to pieces. And this is what has happened to “The Dying of the Light” — an unpleasant and tragic demonstration of the limits to the so-called wonders of digital post-production. By surgically eliminating the expressionistic color from the image — the pasty yellow-green of the African scenes, the dense sepia-chocolate of the American ones, and the bluish-green from the European ones — an unknown author has offered the public not only a crippled caricature of everything, but a collection of images deprived of soul, emotion and significance.

The result is that an unconscious feel of inartistic simplicity and amateurism pervades things you would not normally connect with color. As pretentious as it may sound, the reality is that color affects not only the perception of the artist’s world on screen, but the perception of an actor’s performance too: eyes, skin, make-up, hair, come to us in an “intended” emotional color. (For those who don’t believe, try watching “Apocalypse Now” in black-and-white.) The unbalancing of a well thought “color formula” has the effect of mutilating not only atmosphere, composition, and centers of interest in the frame, but also detailed production design, costume and make-up concepts all based on that original formula.

I’m writing this letter because I’m trying to understand why would someone deliberately ruin such a visual expression. Just because it’s possible? By pushing some magical buttons at a console, or because of some kind of aesthetic Daltonism? Why would someone damage something achieved with unknown effort and sleepless nights? Just because there are people today who cannot take a human activity called artistic creation seriously?

In the absence of a logical answer I can only make suppositions. I imagine there was someone at the production or distribution company who was suddenly struck by the thought that too much color is equivalent to too much art. “Art” being something traditionally understood by only a few, this person thought you cannot sell such a thing to too many people (ticket buyers). So he or she proposed to get rid of the art by getting rid of the color. Making things look “normal” seemed, for this person, a normal way of thinking. The unanticipated effect of killing the color — a Hiroshima-like image landscape — was determined by the fact that the color was not in the objects, but in the light. With the color died the light itself.

I am always reminded in this kind of situations — regrettably frequent nowadays — that you have the right to re-paint a precious painting bought with your money. Why not repaint a Picasso if you own it? After all, it’s yours. I agree, but this sort of thing will make the artist (wherever he is) very sad. And he may well ask: Why ?

Gabriel Kosuth is an award-winning cinematographer whose credits include “Made in Romania,” “Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis” and Paul Schrader’s “The Dying of the Light.”

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  2. Kim says:

    Very interesting and educational discussion…And congrats to DOP Gabriel Kosuth for winning ‘Best Cinematography’ at this years ‘Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood’. Good movie. I guess this time no one fuc*ed up his cinematography.

  3. Karl says:

    Even if seen in more lovely colors it doesn’t change the fact that the movie isn’t any good. Or perhaps the script and acting was also edited in post-production?

  4. Steven says:

    Everyone, please read an article from December 18, 2014 about the same subject. It seems that Mr. Kosuth’s column has started an important discussion about what it means to be a cinematographer today and who is ‘the author’ of a film’s look:

    http://variety.com/2014/film/news/cinematographers-fight-for-control-of-the-image-1201382475/#respond

    “Cinematographers live in interesting times, with technological developments offering more options, but also opening the door for others to meddle with the image. “It’s a changing time and that’s not a bad thing because we have new tools. The bad part is that our influence is diminishing,” Steven Poster, who is a former president of the American Society of Cinematographers, said recently at a session organized by Technicolor at Camerimage, a festival dedicated to cinematography. (…)
    Poster said it is very important to work closely with the digital imaging technician, as “it gives you the control over the image that has been lost.”

    Unfortunately some studios had started to say it wasn’t necessary to have a DIT on set, especially on TV productions. Digital technology offers the director the opportunity to change the look of the film in post. Ed Lachman, who was Oscar nommed for “Far from Heaven,” said that he recently worked with a director who wanted to color correct every shot with him.

    Matthew Libatique, who was Oscar nommed for “Black Swan,” said: “Directors think they have ownership over the color of a movie because they see something they like and they know they can do it on their f—ing laptops.” He added: “If you are worth your salt as a cinematographer, you’ve already baked in the majority of the look. You are 99% there. Why are we spending four weeks doing it again?””

  5. Gabriel Kosuth says:

    Sorry for not paying attention to this kind of subtleties. I lived in a system where freedom of speech and thinking was punished with torture, prison and deportation, and where people used to find the expresssion of “truth” listening to VOICE OF AMERICA. With great risks, if you ever heard those stories. We think that the most important thing our bloody Revolution accomplished is the freedom of speaking freely, exactlly like the Americans taught us !

  6. Valeriu Campan says:

    The issue of this article by Mr. Kosuth is of utmost importance for cinematographers and filmmakers faced with a myriad of technology changes that on surface make our life easier but also can easily distort or sadly highjack our original intentions.

    I take heart though, seeing that ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) recommended its members to read the article and take note of this debate.

    http://www.cinematographer.org.au/cms/page.asp?ID=21628

    I hope to see some constructive comments and less personal attacks.

  7. Joshua Cody says:

    As a good friend of Mr Schrader, I am completely unbiased; but I won’t let that prevent me from mentioning that I’m lucky enough to have seen several cuts of DotL before it was taken out of the filmmakers’ hands like a baby on the banks of a Technicolor Nile. If critic Brian Orndorf is surprised “that anyone would want to see what the helmer originally had in mind,” then his life must be an eternal series of perpetual revelations. Matt Zoller Seitz got the Evan/Ethan thing right. (Ethan’s the name of the self-exiled protagonist in John Ford’s existential masterpiece The Searchers; Evan is the name of Cage’s character in this film; Seitz took over RogerEbert.com and is a Pulitzer finalist.)

    The film, which I guess nobody will ever be able to see, should be viewed in the context of the ever-changing grammar of filmmaking. At our present moment, one preoccupation is continuity. DotL explored ways to use cinema’s grammar to portray dementia, and it wasn’t doing this via free jazz, pounding percussion, or weird cuts, because the creative talent behind the film understands the lens of a camera is not isomorphic to the lens of the human eye. (I always think Welles abandoned the “first person” Heart of Darkness adaptation as his debut for this reason: too literal.) DotL employed the toolbox – editing, sound design, photography – to create subtle effects of discontinuity, organized into an ascending scale from the subliminal to the liminal to the superliminal. Glasses of water shift positions; rack focus is at odds with the narrative flow; Cage sits in front of, then behind, architectural landmarks; dialogue is repeated – or is it? Martin Scorsese has never been one to prioritize continuity – just watch Sorvino’s cigar in Goodfellas – but The Wolf of Wall Street makes a definitive statement on the difference between jump cuts and montage. (There isn’t one.) Inside Llewyn Davis twists its story into a Möbius strip. This is not the result of the Coens’ profound ineptitude which everybody’s too polite to mention.

    I haven’t the slightest notion as to what happened once DotL was rescued by Yul Brynner’s daughter, but it doesn’t seem to have become Charlton Heston. I rarely post comments in comment sections, but the recurring critical response (“I can’t imagine the director’s original cut is worse than this”) sparked the annotative impulse. I suspect the aesthetic goal of Mr Schrader – or as industry insiders call him, “Paul” – confused or escaped a producer, because in fact Paul knows all sorts of stuff about the movies. Even IMAX ones. Even black and white ones. Even those weird ones that print words at the bottom of the frame because they don’t understand the difference between movies and books. Speaking of books, my first book, [sic], features a retelling of a morphine delusion I experienced. It disorients the reader because it disoriented me. This is not uncharacteristic of morphine delusions. Some of my publishers and/or agents and/or editors encouraged me to excise the passage. I did not. It was a bit of a gamble; but just as morphine delusions tend to be disorienting, artistic endeavors tend to be risky. My (and Norton and Bloomsbury’s) bet paid off, in that a lot of people (not all) found the thing interesting and even dramatic. Frankly, it’s my favorite portion of my book.

    But that’s just me. One never knows how people will react to books or paintings or movies, which is the fun of it, and which is why I can’t quite understand why producers are unwilling to release things people like Paul Schrader or Angelina Jolie or Orson Welles created. How would producers feel if Paul or Angie or Orson fiddled around with their creative work? A blue-colored contract specifying the percentage of the gross ticket purchases the exhibitor is permitted to enjoy in order that the distributor may compile the volume expected once the examination of the exhibitor’s revenue is secured is different from a pink-colored contract specifying the percentage of the gross ticket purchases the exhibitor is permitted to enjoy in order that the distributor may compile the volume expected once the examination of the exhibitor’s revenue is secured. Anybody who’s taken a gender studies course must agree – even the ghostly C. R. Yb’aby.

    Joshua Cody

    • Ricky Retardo says:

      What a bizarre post.

      • Dave says:

        You lost me at “Seen from my country, Romania, it is hard to understand how a contract may contain language in conflict with the sacred First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” I know this isn’t a political commentary, but an artistic one – but justifying your arguments by complete misapplication of the U.S. constitution chips away at the validity of whatever it was you were trying to say. The amendment you referenced starts with the following words, “Congress shall make no law…” and then goes on to describe the sorts of laws it shall not make (ones restricting speech and so forth). That said, the amendment says nothing that would/could/should/will/does limit private parties from agreeing to (contractually, socially, formally, or informally) limited speech.

    • Tom says:

      Joshua, thanks! Very funny and illuminating…

      Now I finally understand what Schrader wanted to achieve with “Dying of the Light”:
      He wanted to design an experimental form specifically for his content:
      A film about dementia, that felt like dementia.

      Something formalistic and cinematic like “Memento”…
      If you tell the story of that film in a linear way it becomes banal.
      It’s only great because of the way it’s told.

      “Dying of the Light” could have been really quite great if it would
      be told and look according to Schrader’s and Kosuth’s vision.

      I want to see a Director’s Cut not this banal ‘producer’s version’….

      • Joshua Cody says:

        Yes, that’s it! And when I describe the intentional continuity “errors,” I’m not describing anything close to the experimental cinema of Peter Greenaway. It’s just the most effective way the filmmakers felt to tell their story.

        Ultimately, I think it’s a case of the current adjustment to film’s new distribution mechanisms. Transitions like this are always a little awkward; history has shown us this repeatedly. A lot of music people believe Beethoven was writing his breakthrough work, the “Eroica” symphony, for a future version of the orchestra. As Paul says, one history of art is the history of technology.

  8. seb says:

    Apart from from your issues with postproduction I find your cinematography in this movie very interesting Mr. Kosuth.
    I wish you good luck with new projects!

  9. George Mallingbury says:

    I’m sorry, but I’ve worked in a DI lab, and the fact you’re shocked at the outcome leads me to think you weren’t paying attention in the grading.

    If we take for example a medium budget indie film (we’ve done more, but there are more people involved) The DoP was in every week looking and feeding back to the colourist what he wanted.

    Unless your producers or director is colour blind, I don’t see where the excuse is. as DoP didn’t you have to sign off at least some of the first grades? didn’t the director have final say?

    • Jack Turner says:

      George,

      please read Mr. Kosuth’s column again ’cause you are missing the point.

      The producers took the picture away from the director and the cinematographer.

      They didn’t consult him in post-production at all.

  10. HKMOVS says:

    Geezus is this even real? The guy worked on Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis. Color is probably the least of his problems.

    • Vittorio says:

      ….and Academy Award-winner Wally Pfister worked on “Amityville VI: A New Generation”(1993) among many, many B-pictures and directed super-trash “Transcendence”(2014), easily the worst movie of the year. And Academy Award-winner Janusz Kaminski worked on “Killer Instinct”(1991) and directed the schlocky horror pic “Lost Souls”(2000). And Academy Award Nominee Phedon Papamichael worked on “Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls”(1989). And legendary cinematographer Harris Savides started his career with masterpieces like “Cindy Crawford: The Next Challenge Workout”(1993)…..

      Do you need more? The list is endless. We all need to pay out bills.

      Gabriel Kosuth did win awards for his Romanian features and is a competent cinematographer
      with over 20 years of working experience who cares about his work in a time when most cinematographers are fully content with producing compromised images for a living.

      Everything Kosuth wrote is true and cinematographers worldwide know it – but they are afraid to piss producers off, so the cowards shut up and let them destroy their work.

      Who is the true author of your work ?

      The director and cinematographer need to have the final say over the look of a film,
      not some greedy producers.

      • GetReal says:

        Well simple then. They’ll put up the money and of course it’ll make money. That trend will catch on and all directors will start to do it. They’ll be rolling around in cash and splashing it around on stories and artistic vision. Producers will disappear. Right?

  11. Henry says:

    “The Dying of the Light” could have looked much better if the producers would have listened to the cinematographer and it would have gotten better reviews if they would have released Schrader’s
    original version.

    Now they have a critical disaster and a product that NOBODY is supporting:
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dying_of_the_light/

    Since the released version is supposed to be ‘80% the same movie’ according to the producers
    I would really like to ask them: Where the changes worth the trouble ?

    Your company is discredited publicly, people make fun of your product and artists won’t trust
    you anymore. Was is worth it ?

    Why didn’t you let the artists do what they were supposed to do ?
    You would have had a better product and people who would be an asset in marketing.

    Now you have sh*t, congratulations!

  12. Chuck Z. says:

    This is a great article. As a movie lover, I lament the fact that the majority of new movies I see don’t have vibrant colors anymore — everything seems to be blanded-out into sepia tones or dreary, lifeless combinations of blue and orange (I guess this is supposed to connote “seriousness” and “gravitas”) and every movie looks the same. I guess the aesthetic of film changes every fifteen or twenty years or so. I hope that color will come back to movies soon. I miss it.

  13. I feel like it is the responsibility of the colorist to alert the DP if there are any major changes made to the look, from LUT to finished grade. We spend MONTHS in prep and throughout shooting, in close association with the director, deciding on the most minute details of color, contrast, depth, composition, et al, while (with all due respect) the colorist is working on another project. To just go in and change the look without even notifying the DP of the changes, is akin to having another actor ADR an actors performance. Unforgivable. It’s easy to say the company told me to do it, but is it the ethical decision?

  14. GetReal says:

    If you are an ‘artist’, stump up the money for your own art. As it stands (whoever’s fault this is), producers are risking the money and they will make the final decisions. I don’t, but If I were to put my own millions of dollars on the line, then regardless of the respect I have for your ‘art’, you are my tool for manipulating. Actors, directors, writers, cinematographers, color graders, and the like, you’d all be employed by me, not the director.

    • Keith says:

      Fair point, Get Real, it would be wonderful if DP’s could finance films and retain more control, but that’s not really the way the business works, although that’s changing. Look, for someone like yourself who only sees numbers, not art, there are lots of entertainment choices available for you on your smartphone. For others, there’s film in theaters. That’s why we have choices. Different strokes. But don’t fool yourself…this is an art, from the acquisition of the media, to the final output. This DP may not have financed the film, but obviously put a lot into it…that’s why they hired him and not someone else. He clearly shared a vision with the Director that was then altered by someone in the chain. He has every right to share his original vision and his disappointment in the outcome, as does the studio to release the work they think works best. Trust me, you don’t want artists to just throw up their hands and not care. You might think that’s what they deserve, but the audience deserves more.

      • GetReal says:

        Correct, and ‘throwing up their hands’ is absolutely not what I think is best for the industry. Mostly what I’m saying is that investing your own money is a substantial risk, and if more Directors would do that they’d find out very quickly that the bottom has fallen out of the market. Simply, not enough people will get out and watch purely artistic endeavors.

        Granted at the opposite end of the spectrum a whole lot of money is thrown around and a whole lot of junk is produced, but that still makes money. What the ‘artists’ need to do is reinvent their own ‘business model’ as such. They can not ever expect to have complete creative control without financial investment. What they must discover is a way to work with the producers and find a middle ground that doesn’t destroy their vision and doesn’t destroy the film’s capacity to make money.

        I imagine Schrader (given his history) has not been willing to accept that.

      • Travis says:

        Well said!

    • Steve gainer says:

      GetReal please post your real name. Or are you afraid?

      • Steve gainer says:

        Fair enough. Anyone with basic sense can see that you are a fraud. Not willing to give us a peek into that genius head of yours that has doubtless given rise to countless financial successes. I wish you all the best my friend, and hope that in the future you will post your feelings on Fox Business Network where your knowledge will inspire others to post on sites where they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. C-Ya!

      • GetReal says:

        Not afraid. Not weak. This is not personal. I’ve earned a lot of money in my life, and quite simply it serves me no benefit to be involved in a public stoush over what is in all likelihood an average movie. I haven’t seen many of your films, it doesn’t appear many would have. Speaking as a financier your work may have a quality (I’m not judging that), but as an investment you leave a lot to be desired.

        My feeling as an outsider to your industry is that people have set up camps and favor either the pure artistry of the work, or the money making potential. You know where I sit, and I’m happy with that.

      • Steve gainer says:

        Okay GetReal since you have given me the challenge,I’ll put my portfolio (http://stevegainer.com) and expierence In this industry against you in your industry. My life’s efforts against whatever you have to offer. Who are you? What have you done? We all want to know. Now is your chance. Give us the truth. Or are you just some afraid weak person, not willing to tell us who you are? Hahahahahah!

      • GetReal says:

        And look at the quality of your portfolio. Enough said.

      • Lol! Another troll. Look at my IMDB and see that I have indeed put my own money into production. Early on, I even took extremely low rates to shoot films I believed in. What have you done my friend, other than troll the web, injecting commentary where you truly have no business being involved in? Bye bye.

      • GetReal says:

        Why would I, when people like you are obviously waiting to throw out veiled inferences that I may not have an easy time getting work? The opposite is most likely true. I don’t work in your industry, but I get finance in a way you never will.

        Get your own money involved and you might just have a better time producing pure artwork.

    • Drabino-65 says:

      Not a bad point. The idea of an artistic person risking a life of destitution FOR their art is long gone, it’s become very easy to rely on producers and financiers. I’d love to see someone like Schrader bet his own money on his artistic integrity.

  15. Gary Sukadikah says:

    You’re a DOP it’s your job to capture images. Leave colouring to the Grader. If you’re precious about your images and poetry, maybe this line of work isn’t for you, open a Vimeo account.

  16. Dave Pultz says:

    As a digital colorist with a prior 35 year career as a film color timer, I can only agree. Having worked closely with a wide range of taltented directors and directors of photography, I’ve long come to respect and understand their creative choices.

  17. John says:

    CryBaby wrote: “Schrader’s cut was unwatchable, ask anybody who was at the test screening. BTW, the color was appalling and reminded me of vomit.”

    This is not true according to the only reviewer (Lankester Merrin) out there who saw Schrader’s workprint and had a chance to compare it to the released version. He wrote that “…in both it is an efficient and mostly effective B-grade thriller rooted in a distinctly Schraderian sense of guilt and moral anguish…” and that it had “…no major alterations to his narrative structure or the running time.”

    It was pretty much the same story but without all the interesting artistic details and decisions:

    “So The Dying of the Light isn’t so much a massacred film as a dismembered one. What’s missing in the theatrical cut, like the missing piece of Lake’s ear, is something that might pass unnoticed by many but which nevertheless leaves a hole. It is, in short, Schrader’s signature, as if the movie had been directed by some fugitive from justice who dipped his fingers in acid to remove the prints. The principal stylistic concept of Schrader’s version (which exists only in workprint form) was that we would see the world through Evan Lake’s increasingly unreliable eyes, with distorted camera angles and sound effects used to suggest his weakening grasp on reality. Those effects have been jettisoned here in favor of a more conventional strategy of having Lake’s periodic head pains trigger jagged flashbacks to his torture at the hands of Banir (a scene Schrader originally dispensed with under the opening credits). Also removed: a prologue in which medical scans of Lake’s brain were accompanied by voiceover narration explaining his condition, a tip of Schrader’s hat to the stomach X-ray opening of Kurosawa’s Ikiru (a film, and filmmaker, one doubts Schrader’s backers have ever heard of)….”

    The reviewer Merrin forgets to mention that all the ‘action scenes’ (which look phony now) were re-edited and that the sound mix and music were done without Schrader’s input, but there is
    little doubt, that Schrader’s original version would have been a much more interesting and artistically
    superior film. Mr. Kosuth’s expressionistic lighting and colors would have been a perfect fit to Mr. Schrader’s concept that main character Evan Lake’s perception of reality was distorted and unreliable.

    The real reason why the producers fu*ked up the distinct look of the film might have been simply that they knew that “Dying of the Light” would go direct-to-DVD or VOD in most countries and would mostly be seen on TV screens: I guess this is why they made the images much brighter than intended and made the colors look “normal”.

    This is not a small change, like Mr. Kosuth wrote, because it affects everything else: Make-up & hairstyling, production design, costumes, performance, atmosphere and storytelling. What was once designed as a moody and expressionistic drama became something very different and inferior.

    If producers don’t take cinematographers, directors and actors as creative partners seriously,
    why do they hire them ?

    I guess for the poster.

  18. The confusion between art and commerce, and whose investment has the power of definition, isn’t new, or technology based. Long ago there was a dispute about having DPs paid for their time in post, which was never resolved. Sharp producers have learned that they can pay less, and get a nice adaptable image for later ‘design’ in post. Stuff ‘decided’ in film, is now in play until, well forever. Digital is wonderful that way. And maybe, just maybe, the owners of this product will exploit this tempest in an old pot by having both versions on the home product. Then the public can weigh in on whether Schrader’s vision ‘worked’ or not.
    Clearly the need for artists and their patrons to be on the same page is as it always has been. Delusions about one’s value to the production will persist, on the part of investors as well as artists.
    There is no real news here. These are not the droids worth paying attention to.

  19. Danny says:

    Which is why I insist on being my own colorist, as all Cinematographers should do.

  20. Pedro says:

    I fail the understand the big picture in this post. Schrader doesn’t know who color corrected or took decisions about photography in post production? As a colorist, I’m aways in touch with DPs and give them feedback about my ideas or paths I’ve chosen (usually in accordance to them) in grading.

    Saying it’s fully the DP’s choice is a lie, it never is. The DP has the final word, tough. My question is: why didn’t he have his word, despite his indented colors were “good” or “bad” or, as a fellow said below: “reminds of vomit.”. If you don’t like somebody’s work, just don’t watch it. It gives no one the right to change it without permission.

  21. CryBaby says:

    Schrader’s cut was unwatchable, ask anybody who was at the test screening. BTW, the color was appalling and reminded me of vomit. I guess Mr Kosuth will have plenty of time to write all the op eds he wants, now that he will never get another paying job……

  22. iampliny says:

    Welp, the important thing is that he whined about it in the press. That should get him plenty of work.

  23. Some Guy says:

    So, wait… what’s the news on a director’s cut? I don’t believe Mr. Kosuth addressed that directly.

    And on a side note, thank you for writing this. I can’t imagine how the cast and crew feel about how this film turned out. I’d been looking forward to it for a long time and was very sad to hear how things went.

  24. Marc Walenga says:

    It’s pretty amazing what’s become of cinematography in the past decade…or rather what’s come to define “cinematography.” I remember popping in the extras from “The Lord of the Rings” DVD’s and coming away baffled as to why Peter Jackson would spend hours, recoloring every detail of a frame, often to little, if any, benefit except for the post-houses on the received end of the enormous post-production costs. “Why not do it the ‘old fashioned’ way and actually shoot what you want?” Such is the temptation of every new toy, it’s become common practice and it’s been a bane to the art of cinematography. It’s no surprise that the most powerful lens work of the past few years is Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Terrence Malick’s films, with no digital trickery to be found. (Or even electrical light that wasn’t part of the location, but that’s another matter altogether.)

  25. John Murphy says:

    Mr. Kosuth,

    thank you for explaining what went visually wrong in the postproduction of “The Dying of the Light”.
    I’ve seen the released film and was very irritated by the cinematography: I could see that you tried
    to work with color in an expressionistic way, but it somehow didn’t look right and coherent…

    The images are all far too bright and too monochromatic.
    And you’re right: It does affect all the other artistic contributions, too: The make-up and the production design is less convincing because everything is too bright and things are visible that should have been in the shadows. In the end the perfomances and the whole atmosphere suffers from this unauthorized manipulation of your visual design.

    And the ‘green screen’ work is bad: I suspect the producers didn’t invest more money than necessary in postproduction and did the effects at home on their laptops?

    Apart from the compromised visuals this film was destroyed by the producers in the editing, sound mixing and scoring stages, too: The producers always decided to take the most conventional approach and eliminated
    everything of potential interest. It’s now an incoherent B-movie, but could have been really good!

    I have no doubt that this is not the movie that you, Mr. Schrader, Mr. Refn, Mr. Yelchin, Mrs. Jacob or Mr. Cage wanted to do in the first place and I really hope that Grindstone will restore Mr. Schrader’s original version ASAP.

    Greetings

  26. krmercier says:

    Oh Friend — this is a tough one. Of course, no one will quibble with your stance but what makes this discussion more complicated is that, in recognition of your position), we could logically extend it to the work of actors, composers… it becomes complicated. When students have asked me about this very thing (typically it’s acting students, but any who study film), I say that we can conveniently suggest that the shoot is the place during which we gather critical visual and sonic elements to be used in creating the film in post. I word it this way in recognition of just how much sound is created in post (using the location sound as an element but not as “design”) as well as how significantly the visuals can be created or altered in post. Again: no one would (or SHOULD) argue the significance of the Cinematographer: that would be ludicrous. Although not the rule, DP’s usually attend colour correction for this very reason; i.e. to assure that the visual means of the storytelling are still be handled by the person(s) most able to manage them. Nonetheless… it’s a tricky question. Should the work of an artist, whose contributions were made chiefly (or solely) during the shoot, be protected and maintained throughout post and, if not, what is the process by which the artists themselves can participate — or even be notified?

    • rhschweitzer says:

      If you’re looking for an answer, as question marks tend to imply, I would have to say it’s not a tricky question at all. You have arrogant marketers intruding on art… Should the work of an artist, whose contributions were made chiefly (or solely) during the shoot, be protected and maintained throughout post? Yes, of course, undoubtedly… the process should be obvious and mandated regarding their participation unless they opt out.

  27. tlsnyder42 says:

    I hate today’s washed out color photography. Bring back luscious Technicolor!!!!!!

  28. Bob Richards says:

    The way the director describes his added color sounds really awful. I suspect they tried to salvage it in post production. Now when it sells no ticket, he can blame someone else. I always hated when they mess with color and exposure. I want it realistic.

    • rhschweitzer says:

      Fortunately, it’s not about what you want, and certainly shouldn’t be always the same, film to film… good thing there wasn’t some commission holder standing in the room with daVinci saying… I don’t know, Leo, she should either smile or not smile, make a decision, I don’t like the smirk, show some teeth.

  29. Ron Pulliam says:

    This is exactly my reaction to virtually every new film I see. Horrible tones that have no roots in realism or authenticity. It’s as if some moron has brainwashed all studio executives that only “he” (or “she”) knows that the color should be and has a stranglehold on final prints.

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