|Highlights: “Ali,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Great Expectations”
Laurels: Two Oscar noms, one ASC nom
Dream collaborators: Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson.
Tool kit: On “Snicket” Lubezki used Kodak 500 ASA film, vision 2500 and Panavision cameras with platinum and primo lenses. “I like starting with sharp and crisp lenses,” he says. “During the process they damage as you do more copies and prints. And when you go through Digital Intermediate, you reduce the resolution to 2K.”
The world can look a little offbeat when you’re a child, especially if your parents die in a fire and your guardian wants to off you for the family fortune.
Such is the story of the Baudelaire children in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” — a place where adults are myopic, and a child’s voice is ignored.
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To illustrate this running theme of the “Snicket” novels, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shot a majority of the movie from the children’s point of view. “At the heart of this film is the resourcefulness of young people,” says director Brad Silberling, “as you view the experience through their eyes, the kids are there to ground you, to let you know that they’re OK.”
Some of the film’s most intriguing reaction shots are from eldest sister Violet (Emily Browning), whose deadpan expressions sum up her take on the absurdist calamity that surrounds her. “When Count Olaf enters disguised as Stefano, she turns to the camera, quietly expressing how she’s not thrown by him, that this is a game of mental chess. Emmanuel would move the camera a foot and slide into to her,” adds Silberling, who admires how the d.p. always brings a heart and an eye to his films.
To heighten the children’s sense of reality, Lubezki lensed several scenes at 30 frames a second, giving the pic a graceful, fluid look.
Similar to his prior films “Like Water for Chocolate” and “The Birdcage,” Lubezki infused “Lemony” with dramatic lighting, a style he credits to German renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder and Bill Brandt, a photographer known for his use of shadows and floor-to-ceiling shots.
“Their characters have a light inside them, they’re luminous. Their surroundings are always darker than the subjects’ faces,” says Lubezki of Brandt’s and Cranach’s work.
As such, Lubezki played with the height of lights to illuminate a character’s personality. “The lower the light, the more people appeared menacing. The higher the light, the more peaceful they were,” he says.
Given Lubezki’s affinity for lighting, he’s pushing the bar on the upcoming Terence Malick film “The New World,” the majority of which he shot without any lighting.