Rodrigo Prieto

Cinematographer: 'Lust, Caution'

One of the major challenges d.p. Rodrigo Prieto faced on Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” came toward the end of the film, on a street scene in which a golden sunset needed to be created.

“We had to find a way to shoot toward the shade of the buildings and create the sunset with huge tungsten lights,” Prieto says. “When we were shooting in the middle of the day, I had to use clusters of many lights, to avoid shadows.”

To craft the mood of WWII-era Shanghai, Prieto looked to vintage Hollywood movies, giving the film an erotic, noirish glow. “It’s sort of a homage to film noir, but we wanted it to be our own version of it,” Prieto says. “Instead of using hard lights and shadows, we used bigger, softer sources. The challenge was controlling these sources to keep it moody and atmospheric.”

“Lust, Caution” is Prieto’s second collaboration with Lee after being most associated with Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams”).

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“He is very specific about what he wants to achieve,” says Prieto about Lee. “He’ll choose a lens and angle and camera movement that will enhance what he has to say. My involvement has more to do with lighting and film stock and filters and that type of texture than with the grammar of the film language.”


Awards pedigree: Oscar nom for “Brokeback Mountain,” for which he also won various critics’ awards; ASC noms for “Brokeback,” “Frida”; Camerimage’s Silver Frog for “Alexander”; Venice Film Fest award for “Lust, Caution.”

Mentors/inspiration: Fellow Mexican d.p.s Guillermo Navarro, Nadine Markova, Emmanuel Lubezki

Visual aids: “I use stills from my favorite photographers. I put them up on the big board in my office when I’m preparing a movie so that I’m reminded of the first images that attracted me during my research.”

Favorite tool: “I vary from film to film. I try not to be married to any particular tool or method or technique.”