AFI’s anniversary fete for 1992’s “Visions of Light” ended up a tribute to two recently departed cinematographers as well as a nostalgic look at an era before everything could be fixed in post.
“Frailty” helmer-thesp Bill Paxton led the tributes at the ArcLight Feb. 27 with a nod toward “Visions” co-director Arnold Glassman, who died about a week before the fete. Paxton was followed by Haskell Wexler, who introduced a film tribute to longtime business partner and “Road to Perdition” Oscar nominee Conrad Hall.
During the post-screening Q&A moderated by “Visions” co-director and Daily Variety film critic Todd McCarthy, cinematographers debated the impact of digital technology upon their craft, with several of the older hands lamenting the increased dependence on post-production and elaborate visual effects.
“I really resent the idea that you can do it in post,” said Vilmos Zsigmond. “I don’t really believe that in post you can do the same job. It costs 10 times as much to do it that way, so why do it?”
“In some ways I’d rather be my age rather than 30,” said “Taxi Driver” cinematographer Michael Chapman.
Younger cinematographers on the panel also grappled with the issue, with Wally Pfister noting that digital production is bringing cinematography into the hands of technicians who aren’t necessarily trained in the issues of light and exposure.
Wexler, who’s hard of hearing, ended up with the last word on the subject. “The primary motivation for technology is not the artistry; it is industry,” he said. “I’m not personally interested in the tools I use but the message I create.”
Also on hand, panelists John Bailey, Lazlo Kovacs, Nancy Schreiber, Amy Vincent and Peter Deming.