In a precedent-setting move, the American Society of Cinematographers presented its feature film honors to Bruno Delbonnel for his work on “A Very Long Engagement” on Sunday night. It was the first time the ASC honored a foreign-language feature in the awards’ 19-year history and the first time a non-ASC member copped the top prize.
The ASC had previously nominated the French-speaking Delbonnel for his work on “Amelie” (2001), but he was considered a surprise choice given the strength of his competition, which included previous ASC winner Caleb Deschanel (“The Passion of the Christ”) and the team of Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron, whose state-of-the-art digital work on Michael Mann’s “Collateral” was much discussed in d.p. circles.
Unlike the Directors Guild of America awards, the ASC kudos are not necessarily considered a bellwether of the Oscars, for which Delbonnel is also nominated. In fact, the clubby, invited-members-only society may be considered something of a maverick group — agreeing with the Academy’s choice only six times out of 18 previous years.
Delbonnel’s extensive use of digital intermediate — used to fine-tune a film’s images through computer-enabled post-production — also makes him a daring choice for the ASC, which has a rep for its purist approach to the use of film stock.
Also honored at the ceremony, which took place at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, were Nathan Hope for episodic television (CBS’ “CSI”), Jonathan Freeman in the broadcast movie/miniseries/pilot category (NBC’s “Homeland Security”) and Robbie Greenberg for cable movie/miniseries/pilot (HBO’s “Iron Jawed Angels”). Greenberg’s ASC award was his third.
Another highlight of the black-tie gala were lifetime achievement tributes to Fred Koenekamp, best known for his work on such epics as “Patton,” “Papillon” and “The Towering Inferno”; and Tonino Delli Colli, revered for his landmark collaborations with Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Leone.