Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki
I can’t lie. I don’t like Leonardo DiCaprio. Never have. For every The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can, or Django Unchained there is a Shutter Island, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, or Gangs of New York that just smothers any enthusiasm I might have for his work. Toss in the fact that I don’t like period pieces, and I was destined to be late to the party seeing The Revenant.
However, last night my buddy suggested we go to the movies after work. I, being an insufferable cheapskate, suggested that we got to the discount cinema. After quickly scanning over the list of available titles, I decided that $2 was a fair price for enduring another DiCaprio performance.
I, however, am not concerned with the finer points of casting or plot this time around. (If you haven’t seen the film yet, here is a full synopsis. In a nutshell, it is about a hunter/trapper who is seeking revenge on a man who not only left him for dead, but murdered his son.) I will say that this is a compelling, harrowing, and memorable movie filled with some truly gripping performances. (And, yes, even Leo knocks it out of the park.)
What grabbed me from the opening scene, though, was the cinematography. This film is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. It is so beautiful and haunting and immediate.
I did some research and discovered that the cinematographer was Emmanuel Lubezki. I didn’t recognize his name, but it turns out I have seen a number of his films. Reality Bites, The Birdcage, Meet Joe Black, and Sleepy Hollow are but a few he has lensed.
Born in Mexico City in 1964, the photographer, affectionately referred to as “Chivo” (“Goat”) by friends, attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He began working in the Mexican film and television industries in the 1980s. His first international effort, Twenty Bucks, is a really cool movie. (It is a dramatic film that follows the travels of a single $20 bill as it passes from person to person, detailing each individual’s particular story.) Prior to that, he was behind the camera on the critically acclaimed Like Water for Chocolate.
As of late, he has taken his work to a rarefied level. Lubezki is the first director in history to win three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Cinematography. Gravity, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and The Revenant comprise this Holy Trinity.
Chivo shot The Revenant , which is set in 1823 and staged almost entirely in an unforgiving wilderness setting, using nearly 100% natural light. The result is a movie with an astonishingly “real” feel to it. It has warmth, texture, and an immense scale that few cinematographers would be able to duplicate.
His achievement is even more impressive when one considers the desolate locations and brutal weather conditions with which he had to contend.
This is the work of a master photographer working at a very high level of difficulty and absolutely soaring.
If you have not seen the film yet, catch it at the theater while you still can. It will be best appreciated with the scale and scope that a theater setting provides.
-Zep the Bear