×

Multiple Visions, the Crazy Machine

The mesmerizing images of Mexican d.p. Gabriel Figueroa (1907-97) catalyze a fascinating master class in cinematographic philosophy in gorgeous-looking docu "Multiple Visions, the Crazy Machine."

With:
With: Darius Khondji, Javier Aguirresarobe, Pascal Marti, Luciano Tovoli, Eduard Grau, Anthony Dod Mantle, Ricardo Aronovich, Vittorio Storaro, Philippe Rousselot, Christopher Doyle, Giuseppe Rotunno, Hideo Yamamoto, Angel Goded, Walter Carvalho, Jean Michel Humeau, Shoji Ueda, Gabriel Beristain, Alexis Zabe, Larry Smith, Paulo Andres, Haskell Wexler, Lula Carvalho, Checco Varese, Janusz Kaminski, Affonso Beato, Raoul Coutard, Cesar Charlone, Lauro Escorel, Benoit Debie. (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, English dialogue)

The mesmerizing images of Mexican d.p. Gabriel Figueroa (1907-97) catalyze a fascinating master class in cinematographic philosophy in gorgeous-looking docu “Multiple Visions, the Crazy Machine.” Alternating glowing black-and-white excerpts from films lensed by Figueroa with sharply composed, sensitively stylized talking-head interviews with 40 cameramen from different countries and generations, Mexican multihyphenate Emilio Maille brings into the light men more used to painting with it, and finds them, in most cases, highly capable of articulating their craft with words. The pic reps quality fare for festivals, cinematheques and broadcasters, with broad potential in ancillary.

Revered for the great beauty and complexity of his lensing, Figueroa had a long career in his homeland and Hollywood, working for top-drawer helmers including Luis Bunuel, Emilio Fernandez, John Ford and John Huston. He shot more than 200 films, although Maille draws solely on his Mexican pics from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, showing Figueroa to have had as great a role as still photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo in defining his country’s visual identity, by depicting natural elements of the landscape.

Maille removes the film excerpts from their narrative context, stripping them of sound so his interviewees can focus on the essence of the image and the depth of the frame. As he cuts together thematic sequences (for instance, landscapes, women walking, couples kissing, musicians performing, people dancing or sleeping), hypnotic minimalist music composed by Michael Nyman and Manuel Rocha draws viewers into the visuals and elevates their intensity.

The lensers discuss a wide range of topics, including the portrayal of emotion through faces; the expressionist terrain of black-and-white; monochrome vs. color; and the future of cinematography in a digital age, making the pic an ideal companion piece to Chris Kennedy’s recent docu “Side by Side.”

The interviewees also share more personal reminiscences. Italian lenser Vittorio Storaro recalls his surprise when he saw Figueroa’s name used as a marketing tool on a poster, and realized that Figueroa had achieved a level of visual expression so specific and important that simply his presence on a film guaranteed a certain vision.

French New Wave luminary Raoul Coutard confesses that his own preferred style of lensing is comparable to Dutch painting, but it’s something he never did himself because “he worked with a lot of people who knew nothing about how to make films,” and that influenced his cinematography. Oz-born, Hong Kong-based d.p. Christopher Doyle speaks in what sound like Zen koans, while Hideo Yamamoto believes Japanese lensers unconsciously imitate Figueroa’s way of constructing closeups and subtle use of space.

The playful end credits, showing the faces of all the interviewees and their main lensing credits, were shot in negative 16mm black-and-white with a Bolex camera. Masterful editing by Octavio Iturbe provides a compelling rhythm.

Popular on Variety

Multiple Visions, the Crazy Machine

Mexico-France-Spain

Production: An Alebrije Prods, El Caiman Films production in association with HSBC, Efcine, Fundacion Televisia, La Femme Endormie, Estudios Churubusco, Once TV Mexico, TV Unam, Programa Ibermedia, Commucacion Fractal. (International sales, Cat & Docs, Paris.) Produced by Gustavo Angel, Monica Lozano. Co-producers, Emilio Maille, Carole Solive, Alejandro Palma. Directed by Emilio Maille.

Crew: Camera (B&W/color, HD/16mm), Diego Rodriguez, Jean Gabriel Leynaud; editor, Octavio Iturbe; music, Michael Nyman, Manuel Rocha; sound (Dolby 5.1), Jean Guy Veran. Reviewed at Morelia Film Festival (competing), Nov. 6, 2012. (Also in Venice Film Festival -- Venice Classics.) Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast: With: Darius Khondji, Javier Aguirresarobe, Pascal Marti, Luciano Tovoli, Eduard Grau, Anthony Dod Mantle, Ricardo Aronovich, Vittorio Storaro, Philippe Rousselot, Christopher Doyle, Giuseppe Rotunno, Hideo Yamamoto, Angel Goded, Walter Carvalho, Jean Michel Humeau, Shoji Ueda, Gabriel Beristain, Alexis Zabe, Larry Smith, Paulo Andres, Haskell Wexler, Lula Carvalho, Checco Varese, Janusz Kaminski, Affonso Beato, Raoul Coutard, Cesar Charlone, Lauro Escorel, Benoit Debie. (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, English dialogue)

More Scene

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Natalie Portman Benjamin Millipied LA Dance

    Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied Help Raise Over $1 Million For L.A. Dance Project

    Natalie Portman may be joining Chris Hemsworth in Marvel’s “Thor 4: Love and Thunder,” but as the petite, Dior-clad actress struck a range of poses on the carpet inside downtown Los Angeles gallery space Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel on Saturday night, it was impossible to imagine her wielding an enormous hammer. But then, the Oscar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content