Robby Muller, the Dutch director of photography of such striking ’80s and ’90s films as “Dancer in the Dark,” “Down by Law,” “Repo Man” and “Paris, Texas,” died July 4 in Amsterdam. He was 78 and according to Dutch publication Het Parool had been suffering from vascular dementia for several years.
Muller was known for his collaboration with filmmakers including Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Lars von Trier, Alex Cox and Barbet Schroeder, who created some of the most notable auteur films of the 1980s and 1990s.
As a European, he brought a memorable approach to portraying Los Angeles on film in William Friedkin’s “To Live and Die in L.A.,” Schroeder’s “Barfly” and Cox’s “Repo Man.”
The last feature-length film he shot was Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 “24 Hour Party People,” which vividly captured the Manchester music scene of the 1980s. That same year, he collaborated with director Steve McQueen on an art installation, “Carib’s Leap.”
Born in Curacao in the Dutch Antilles, he studied at the Netherlands Film Academy. Wenders’ 1970 “Summer in the City” was the first feature for both of them. He went on to serve as D.P. on Wenders’ “Alice in the Cities,” “The American Friend,” “Kings of the Road,” “Until the End of the World” and 1984’s “Paris, Texas,” which was hailed for its contrast of bleak desert scenes with garish views of life on the road.
Roger Ebert said of “Paris, Texas”: “The photography by Robby Muller contains the sense of a far horizon beyond every close shot.”
For Jarmusch, he shot “Down by Law” in what the Guardian called “moody and exquisite” black and white; he also shot the New York director’s “Dead Man,” “Mystery Train” and “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.”
Jarmusch remembered him as an important influence, tweeting “Without him I don’t think I would know anything about filmmaking.”
Of von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves,” the Guardian said, “The superb cinematographer Robby Muller lit broad areas of space to facilitate freedom of movement on every location and set, and shot the action with handheld Super 35 mm cameras, lending rare visual dynamism to the CinemaScope screen.”
He is survived by his wife Andrea Muller and a son.