In May this year we lost Gordon Willis, the master cinematographer of ‘The Godfather‘ and many of Woody Allen’s most acclaimed films – that unbeatable run from Annie Hall to The Purple Rose Of Cairo. October’s issue of American Cinematographer features Willis on the cover, and features personal memories from various collaborators and peers.
Indiewire has published an excerpt of Woody Allen’s recollections of Willis.
I remember the first shot that I made with him was in ‘Annie Hall’ with the lobsters. The lobsters dropped on the floor, and we panned slightly from one lobster to another. And he said, ‘No, we should cut.’ It was the first time we’d ever worked together, and I said, ‘No, no, it’s more exciting to pan over with a sort of handheld look.’ He gave in to me on that, and he couldn’t sleep nights for the rest of the picture! I mean, it bothered him so much — this minor, minor intrusion on this set of rigid rules that he had about his aesthetic. He was never comfortable with it. If you watch the picture, you see this little pan for a second; there’s not a single human on the planet who ever raised any question about it, nor would anyone. It looks perfectly fine, but not to his superb eye. To him, it should have been a cut, even though it was [a move of] probably a foot from right to left. And he couldn’t live with it. Two months into the picture, he’d say to me, ‘If we get a chance, let’s go back and make that shot again.’ We couldn’t make it again; it was [just] impossible to make it again. But that’s how much it bothered him!
Indiewire also has quotes from Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Soderbergh. They also have this classic photo of Willis and Allen on the set of ‘Annie Hall‘.
The October issue of American Cinematographer is out next month.