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Sacha Vierny

French cinematographer Sacha Vierny, whose gifts for sculpting light contributed to the distinctive look of films by Alain Resnais, Raoul Ruiz and Peter Greenaway, died May 15 at age 81.

The son of Russian immigrants was born outside Paris, worked as a schoolteacher and began studies at veterinary college before gaining admission to the national film academy IDHEC, where he became friendly with classmate Resnais.

He apprenticed with Ghislain Cloquet, who shot Resnais’ seminal 1955 short “Night and Fog,” making his feature lensing debut alongside Resnais on 1959’s “Hiroshima mon amour.”

Vierny continued his collaboration with Resnais on “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961), “Muriel” (1963), “La Guerre est finie” (1966), “Stavisky” (1974), “Mon oncle d’Amerique” (1980) and “L’Amour a mort”(1984).

Equally at home lighting for black and white or color stock, Vierny worked with the best of Gaul’s artistically inclined helmers, including Chris Marker (“Letters from Siberia”), Luis Bunuel (“Belle de jour,” 1966) and Raoul Ruiz (“La Vocation suspendue,” 1977, “L’Hypothese du tableau vole,” 1978, “Les Trois couronnes du matelot,” 1982).

In 1985, Vierny began an artistic partnership with Greenaway translating the helmer’s painterly obsessions to the screen in “The Belly of the Architect” (1986), “Drowning by Numbers” (1988), “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” (1989), “Prospero’s Books” (1991), “The Baby of Macon” (1993) and “The Pillow Book” (1996).

His final screen contribution was last year’s Sally Potter film, “The Man Who Cried” starring Johnny Depp.