×

Michael Ballhaus to Receive Golden Bear from Berlin Film Festival

LONDON — The 66th Berlin Intl. Film Festival will award its Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement to German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, to whom the festival is also dedicating its Homage.

Ballhaus is one of the world’s leading cinematographers. He established his reputation in Germany where he worked with, among others, auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder, helping the “Young German Cinema” gain new artistic freedom. He later worked with American directors such as Martin Scorsese, and affected the lighting and look of U.S. moviemaking.

“We are honoring Michael Ballhaus as a director of photography who was a kindred talent to directors and whose oeuvre is unique,” Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said.

His body of work comprises some 130 films for movie theaters and television, including 15 films with Fassbinder and seven with Scorsese, alongside many other top directors, including Wolfgang Petersen, Volker Schloendorff, John Sayles, Robert Redford, Mike Nichols and Francis Ford Coppola.

Ballhaus began as a still photographer and cameraman in television. He had already been Fassbinder’s director of photography three times before taking his place at the eyepiece on “Martha” (West Germany, 1974), a psycho-drama about a sado-masochistic marriage. During the shoot, Fassbinder and Ballhaus discussed how to film the first meeting of the future couple as a magical moment. Ballhaus suggested a semi-circular travelling shot due to the uneven ground at the location.

Fassbinder countered with a challenge to have the camera make a full circuit of the pair. The resulting 360-degree dolly shot drew audiences into the scene’s emotional intensity and was to become a Ballhaus trademark. “The cinematographer’s intent and his genius is the way he comes up with visual language to suit each individual director and film,” the festival said.

Following their collaboration on “After Hours,” Ballhaus’ second outing with Scorsese was “The Color of Money” (U.S., 1986), which was shown out of competition at the 1987 Berlinale. For the film about pool hustlers, Ballhaus unleashed the camera to glide, in a movement echoing that of the pool balls, around the room.

For Nichols’ romantic comedy “Working Girl” (U.S., 1988), about a secretary who cleverly grabs the chance to transform herself into a powerhouse businesswoman, Ballhaus put a spectacular aerial shot behind the opening credits. The camera slowly circles the Statue of Liberty before pushing in to land on the Staten Island ferry.

In the key piano scene in Steve Kloves’ “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (U.S., 1989), the camera dollies slowly around singer Susie Diamond (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) and pianist Jack Baker (played by Jeff Bridges). “The long, sensual travelling shot is a flirtation just as intense as the interaction between Michelle Pfeiffer in her red dress and Jeff Bridges at the ivories,” the festival said. The cinematography garnered Ballhaus one of his three Academy Award nominations.

His fame grew in the 1990s with work on films such as Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” (U.S., 1990), Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (U.S., 1992) and Redford’s “Quiz Show” (U.S., 1994, shown out of competition at the 1995 Berlinale).

In Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” (U.S., 1993), the subtle use of camera angles and gentle dolly shots brought the drama of a love triangle in 19th-century New York to life. After returning to Germany in 2007, he lensed “3096 Tage” (3096 Days, Germany, 2013) directed by Sherry Hormann, his final outing as a director of photography.

The Berlinale will bestow its Honorary Golden Bear on Ballhaus at an award ceremony on Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. in the Berlinale Palast, which will be accompanied by a screening of “Gangs of New York.”

The preceding evening, there will be a discussion in English with Ballhaus and Jim Rakete titled “Michael Ballhaus meets Jim Rakete” at the HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1) theater.

THE TEN FILMS SCREENING IN THE BERLINALE HOMAGE
“Martha” (West Germany, 1974, director: R. W. Fassbinder), TV film
“The Color of Money” (U.S., 1986, director: Martin Scorsese)
“Working Girl” (U.S., 1988, director: Mike Nichols)
“The Fabulous Baker Boys” (U.S., 1989, director: Steve Kloves)
“Goodfellas” (U.S., 1990, director: Martin Scorsese)
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (U.S., 1992, director: Francis Ford Coppola)
“The Age of Innocence” (U.S., 1993, director: Martin Scorsese)
“Quiz Show,” (U.S., 1994, director: Robert Redford)
“Gangs of New York” (U.S./Italy, 2002, director: Martin Scorsese)
“3096 Tage” (3096 Days, Germany, 2013, director: Sherry Hormann)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Yao Chen in “Send Me to

    Cheng Cheng Films Nabs North American Rights to China's 'Send Me to the Clouds'

    New York-based distributor Cheng Cheng Films has acquired North American rights to first-time Chinese director Teng Congcong’s comedy drama “Send Me to the Clouds,” starring and produced by A-list actress Yao Chen. The company is planning a theatrical release for fall 2019. “Cheng Cheng has always championed films with strong female leads,” the firm said [...]

  • A White White Day

    Film Movement Brings ‘A White, White Day’ to the U.S. (EXCLUSIVE)

    OSLO  —  New-York based distributor Film Movement has acquired U.S. rights to critically-lauded Icelandic drama “A White, White Day,” today’s opening film at New Nordic Films in Haugesund. In a separate deal, sales agent New Europe Film Sales has closed French-speaking Canada with Funfilm and English-speaking Canada with Game Theory. Hlynur Pálmason’s sophomore pic, “A [...]

  • (from left) Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)

    Korea Box Office: ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ Topples ‘Exit,’ ‘Roar to Victory’  

    Opening on Wednesday, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. Showing on some 1,311 screens nationwide, the UPI release earned $15.1 million from 2.03 million admissions over five days. That included the four-day National Liberation Day weekend. “The Battle: Roar to Victory” remained in second. The [...]

  • Tracy Morgan Netflix stand-up special

    Film News Roundup: Tracy Morgan Joins Eddie Murphy's 'Coming 2 America'

    In today’s film news roundup, Tracy Morgan and Michael Rooker book roles in major movies, and Gravitas buys “Christmas Break-In.” CASTINGS Tracy Morgan has signed on to appear in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” sequel as the brother of Lesley Jones’ character. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is directing the project with Murphy, Kevin [...]

  • Spider-Man Far From Home

    'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Gets Re-Release With New Scene

    Sony Pictures is re-releasing “Spider-Man: Far From Home” with a new action scene. Starting Aug. 29, a new extended cut, featuring four minutes of a never-before-seen action sequence, will be released in theaters in the United States and Canada. The film will also be available in IMAX and large formats in select locations. “Spider-Man: Far [...]

  • Matthew Modine

    Supporters Back Matthew Modine After Clumsy Joke at SAG-AFTRA Meeting

    More than 100 women, including Ellen Barkin and Allison Janney, have voiced support for Matthew Modine’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA presidency, following a joke at a SAG-AFTRA meeting that some decried as misogynist. With voting set to conclude on Aug. 28, the campaigns have featured vitriolic attacks between supporters of Modine, secretary-treasurer Jane Austin and incumbent [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content