Stephen Goldblatt

'Closer'

QUICK TAKE
Highlights: “The Prince of Tides,” “Batman Forever,” “Cotton Club,” Angels in America”
Laurels: Two Oscar noms, three Emmy noms, three ASC noms
Tool kit: Joe Dunton provided the Arriflex camera package Golblatt used on “Closer.” Almost all of the images were recorded on Kodak Vision 2 5218 (film). The front-end lab was Deluxe, in London, and timing and release printing were done at Deluxe in Hollywood.

There’s no rest for the weary. Having barely completed a long and complex collaboration with Mike Nichols on the surrealistic HBO mini “Angels in America,” cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt flew to London with the director the day after wrapping post to begin work on “Closer.”

Based on the Patrick Marber play about two duplicitous couples, “Closer” plays out against the backdrop of galleries, photography studios and stark, modernistic flats inhabited by jaded urban professionals. “It’s not the London that tourists see,” Goldblatt says. “It’s an insider’s look at how reasonably well-off people live. The city is more like a character than a setting. Either consciously or maybe subconsciously, I brought something to it because I lived and worked in London as a still photographer and cinematographer earlier in my life.”

Goldblatt says that in the wake of their collaboration on the six-hour “Angels in America,” he and Nichols were on the same wavelength. He mainly covered scenes with a single camera, to be as unobtrusive as possible.

“I have no arbitrary philosophies about cinematography,” says Goldblatt, although he believes every story defines its visual grammar.

“We concentrated on bringing the audience into intimate contact with the four main characters, and not distracting them from the dialogue, which is explicitly sexual,” says Goldblatt, who is collaborating with director Chris Columbus on “Rent,” based on the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical.

“Closer” was mainly produced at practical locations, including the Drury Lane Theater and an underground aquarium with enormous tanks filled with sharks and other sea creatures. In one scene, the camera was on a Steadicam following Larry moving through the crowd toward an encounter with Anna. It was like choreographing a ballet.

“It was about a 200-degree move with glass everywhere,” Goldblatt explains. “Our lighting was motivated by the aquarium. Fortunately Mike wanted to see the characters in silhouette in the opening part of the shot. I don’t know how else we could have done it. We had a wonderful Steadicam operator who had to run an obstacle course to avoid reflections in the glass and give Mike the composition he wanted.”

Goldblatt also cites his close collaboration with production designer Tim Hatley. “Next, to the director, I believe the production designer is your most important ally,” he says. “One of the sets Tim built was a nightclub. There were glass panels all over the set. He put each of them on a swivel so it could be tilted to avoid reflections as the camera moved through shots on the long arm of a Technocrane.”

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