A great, candid, 2-part interview with famed Christopher Doyle:
“Life of Pi” Oscar is an Insult to Cinematography
“Are you fucking kidding? That’s not cinematography. That’s control of the image by the powers that be, by the people that want to control the whole system because they’re all accounts. You’ve lost cinema. This is not cinema and it’s not cinematography. It’s not cinematography.”
Of the five best cinematography nominees, three shot on 35mm film – Bob Richardson for Django Unchained, Janusz Kaminski for “Lincoln”, and Seamus McGarvey for “Anna Karenina” – while Roger Deakins shot “Skyfall” in a digital format, and Miranda shot “Life of Pi” in digital 3-D. With more and more feature films shot digitally, and rising use of CGI, we asked if the direction film is heading requires a new conception of cintematography.
“I totally disagree,” Doyle said. “It has no relevance to the way film is going. It’s just these old people wanking. Do you know the average age of the people who vote? Sixty-five. Check it out. I may be wrong. It may have dropped to 64. [According to a 2012 report by the LA Times, the Academy is 94 percent white, 77 percent male, and has a median age of 62.]
Behind all Doyle’s vitriole is an impassioned argument for the recognition of great cinematography, one he’s adamant needs to be made. “I think we’re in this incredible period of transition, and I notice that some of us have a voice – me, [“Slumdog Millionaire” and “Antichrist” cinematographer] Anthony Dod Mantle – and speak out, because we care.
Interview, Part 1
Lately, Doyle has been in Beijing working on a film he can’t yet talk about with his favourite new leading man, Ai Weiwei. “Ai Weiwei is the Tom Hanks of Chinese cinema,” he says. “Ai Weiwei is so fucking beautiful on film because he’s so solid, he doesn’t give a shit. He is the great male star of the future of Chinese cinema. Please quote me. He’s the George Clooney of the new wave. Once he sees [the footage] he’ll either burn everything we ever shot or he’ll embrace it.”
That Doyle is still taking chances with experimental forms is a gust of fresh air after recent announcements from Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh that they’d sooner bow out of cinema than risk diluting their filmographies with weaker new works. “I love film to be challenged to do something that engages with a different generation who have had different visual experiences, and different life experiences of course, Doyle says. “If we think we have something to say, let’s fucking get out there and talk about it.
“We should fuck up the system, we should fuck up the medium, we should be especially aggressive towards our own so called, you know, gao gao zai shang, how do you say that in English? Our so-called elevated stage, or elevated status. Fuck the elevated status. The kids out there, ‘Gangnam Style’ or whatever it’s called – of course we have to compete with it, with integrity perhaps, but not with fucking arrogance, not with gao gao zai shang, not regarding yourself as a pinnacle of intellectual astuteness and visual acumen. No, come on.”