RIP Haskell Wexler, Oscar-Winning Cinematographer and Documentary Filmmaker

haskell wexler medium cool 35mm panavision silent reflex psr motion picture camera blimp cameraman cinematographer director matte box arriflex 1969 ronald grant black white photo

Haskell Wexler at work on Medium Cool, 1969 shooting with a blimped 35mm Panavision Silent Reflex [PSR] Camera. Photograph: Ronald Grant

Haskell Wexler belonged to a key time in the development of the art of cinematography. As we move completely to digital filmmaking, this era is now capped off with all the greats who will have pioneered and achieved great work shooting on film.

In addition to our Cool & Moody Wexler filter, our Warm & Natural Days of Heaven filter owes some debt to Haskell Wexler.

Jeff Wexler:

His cool, uncluttered but visually distinct style grew out of his years as an educational and industrial filmmaker, which led to his photographing of documentaries such as Joseph Strick’s “The Savage Eye” in 1959. He continued to invest his own money in films that promoted causes because he saw them “as an instrument for social change.”

Variety: Haskell Wexler, Oscar-Winning Cinematographer and Documentary Filmmaker, Dies at 93

Good overview of Wexler’s career in The Guardian: Haskell Wexler obituary

American Cinematographer In Memoriam: Haskell Wexler, ASC, 1922-2015

Haskell’s son Mark Wexler’s documentary on his father Tell Them Who You Are

Haskell Wexler at work on one of our favorites Elia Kazan’s America, America. Shooting handheld with a French Éclair Caméflex camera:

/var/www/vhosts2/production filma.kr/wp content/uploads/haskell wexler elia kazan america america fench eclair cameflex camera handheld black white greek immigrant photo

Filmakr Filter: Days Of Heaven

via GIPHY

Found in the Warm & Natural set, this Filmakr LUT-based filter is named after the 1978 film Terrence Malick film Days Of Heaven.

Malick and cinematographer Nestor Almendros modeled the film’s cinematography on classic silent films, which often used natural light. They drew inspiration from painters Johannes Vermeer, Edward Hopper (particularly his House by the Railroad), and Andrew Wyeth, as well as photo-reporters from the start of the 20th century.

Much of the film was shot during the early morning or late evening right before the sun has set, what has become known as “magic hour”, which Almendros called “a euphemism, because it’s not an hour but around 25 minutes at the most. It is the moment when the sun sets, and after the sun sets and before it is night. The sky has light, but there is no actual sun. The light is very soft, and there is something magic about it. It limited us to around twenty minutes a day, but it did pay on the screen. It gave some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism.” Lighting was integral to filming and helped evoke the painterly quality of the landscapes in the film. A vast majority of the scenes were filmed late in the afternoon or after sunset, with the sky silhouetting the actors faces, which would otherwise be difficult to see. Critics were unanimous in citing the photography as a technical milestone.

The production ran so late that both Almendros and camera operator John Bailey had to leave due to a prior commitment on François Truffaut’s The Man Who Loved Women (1977). Almendros approached cinematographer Haskell Wexler to complete the film. They worked together for a week so that Wexler could get familiar with the film’s visual style.

In 2007, Days of Heaven was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. We’re looking forward to the remake with all those killer CGI effects — biplanes, locust swarms, digital sunsets! Not.

Original trailer for Terrence Malick’s Days Of Heaven