This week in Zeferino Porfessional Lighting the cinematography that captured our imaginations this year is a balance of the sweeping and the intimate, the urgent and the languid. In the year when many have predicted that Roger Deakins may finally win an Oscar. We naturally had to include his masterwork Blade Runner 2049. But our list also includes everything from highly stylized period pieces to documentaries to understated narratives that feel like documentaries. To compile the list we gathered some of NoFilmSchool’s guy’s opinions.
DP Philippe LeSourd
Set during the Civil War at a southern school for girls, The Beguiled walks the line of looking like a period fashion spread right up to the edge, but never goes over. The film creates a clear, definite, and controlled sense of time and place that doesn’t interfere with our ability to stay engaged with the narrative.
Blade Runner 2049
DP Roger Deakins
If fans of the original Blade Runner and cinephiles alike could have chosen the cinematographer to pick up the mantle from the late Jordan Cronenweth for Blade Runner 2049. Roger Deakins would likely have been their first choice. Together with director Denis Villeneuve for the third time, Deakins created expansive, gorgeous vistas of dystopian wasteland. Intimate close-ups of impossible love, and with the help of visual effects, sometimes both in the same shot—see the massive hologram of Joi reaching out for K alone on a city bridge. The experience is mesmerizing.
The dystopic future has never looked so beautiful. Combined with a stunning production design, Roger Deakins inserts audiences into a familiar and bleak world while simultaneously showing us the absolute awe and spectacle of what it means to be a cog in this society. Take a still of just about any frame and you’ll find a beautiful image, but the real art is how Deakins’ visuals give audiences the chance to dive even deeper into the stories of K and Deckard.
DP Andrew Ackerman
To say the team who made Chasing Coral was dedicated to the image is an understatement. For this feature documentary to succeed. The film needed to capture irrefutable visual evidence that would tell people the story of mass coral bleaching in the face of rising ocean temperatures. Director Jeff Orlowsky and Cinematographer Andrew Ackerman first had special underwter cameras made to capture timelapses of coral dying. When bleaching events started happening at an unprecedented rate, the team began diving daily to manually capture the evidence. There result is at once a beautiful and tragic intersection of science and storytelling, and is a testament to the power of the moving image.
DP Rachel Morrison
Here are words that come to mind about the cinematography of this film: lush, sensual, tactile. The camerawork conveys an intimacy that builds a connection to the characters. One feels down in the dirt with them, and immersed in their story. No “gritty handheld” approach was employed, but somehow a lyrical sort of handheld. The depth of field choices and the rich yet natural lighting add to the narrative and the sensory experience. The film found that balance of beautiful camerawork that doesn’t take a viewer out of a story, but deepens their dropping into a world.
DP Vittorio Storaro
While Woody Allen’s latest film is not among his best, Wonder Wheel possesses some of the year’s most sumptuous visuals. This is his second collaboration with master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. A three-time Oscar winner for Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor, Storaro also shot Allen’s gorgeous Café Society (Cannes 2016). In Wonder Wheel, Storaro reimagines Brooklyn as a refulgent daydream. Lust translates into literal luster.
The Coney Island waterfront is a treat: every square inch of beach is packed with people like a 1950’s Where’s Waldo page. Bodies glow with vivid, surreal colors—reds, yellows, oranges. In a key moment of betrayal, a shadow slinks across a character’s face. Even as the film sags, Storaro’s images transcend. Each carefully composed frame heightens meaning, lingering long after the story’s end. Even if you’re not keen on Allen, this film is worth revisiting on mute. Simply to spend more time inside Storaro’s visual poetry.