Evan Prosofsky’s 5 Favourite Films – Text Luke Bather
It’s the middle of June! Looking outside it seems the weather has finally caught up with the season, which means outdoor cinema screenings abound and people are once again invited to ponder what films they’d like to see whilst sat uncomfortably on a towel in a park. The more sensible and/or less sociable amongst us similarly ponder which films we’d like to sit inside and enjoy away from the unforgiving glare of the sun and in dark, air conditioned rooms, the way the DoP intended.
After establishing himself as an exciting new talent in the world of cinematography with his work on Grimes’ ‘Oblivion’ video, Evan Prosofsky has been going from strength to strength shooting incredible looking and distinct videos for the likes of Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, Lorde, Lana Del Ray and Toro Y Moi amongst others. His measured, creative approach as well as his championing of film in a digital era has made him one of the most sought-after DPs currently working. Beyond music videos he’s spent the last year working on a personal project shot on IMAX as well as various short films and commercials. We caught up with him to ask him about some of the films that inspire him to shoot in the way he does.
‘The Wind Rises’ directed by Hayao Miyazaki
I couldn’t stop crying during this movie. I saw it alone at the BAM and I was the only person in the theatre. It’s gotta be his most personal, and watching it in the context of knowing it would probably be his last film was such an incredibly moving, surreal feeling. I discovered his body of work late – I never saw these films as a kid. Watching them now, I’m struck by so many things. His dedication to traditional animation, beauty, childhood, the environment; it just really speaks to me. I hope one day I can experiment with animation, but if I don’t get the chance Miyazaki will always inspire me to try new things with the camera to achieve the level of beauty he gets with his cells.
‘Jules et Jim’ directed by Francois Truffaut
Raoul Coutard. Wow. He created a ripple effect of handheld camera work that hasn’t really stopped being in vogue since he first did it. The cameflex is such a cool camera. The scene where they look at the face statues floored me – all the pans and that last Hitchcock zoom. I couldn’t believe you could move the camera this way and edit the way they did. It still feels so experimental but so deftly weaved. Whenever I watch this film I’m reminded how important it is to remain curious and playful with the camera. It wasn’t until I saw birdman that I felt somebody was really picking up where this film left off.
‘The Bicycle Thief’ directed by Vittorio De Sica
The cyclical story line is so universal, the backdrop – the birth of Italian Neo-Realism. Real people, real landscapes. Shot on 35mm with a massive, heavy, hunk of junk camera. How’d they do it? If they could, we can too. He set such a high bar of excellence, which is something we should all aspire to. It reminds me never to complain when I’m stuck with a difficult shot because our problems are so much easier these days. It empowers me to know there’s always a more creative solution to a problem, and reminds me of the beautiful authenticity that comes from working in real environments that just can’t be replicated.
‘The Tree of Life’ directed by Terrence Malick
One of the most heavily referenced films in our industry; I see images from this film in literally almost every commercial treatment I get, and I don’t blame anybody for it, because it struck something within me. I’d been shooting for a few years by this point and I thought I knew what I was doing, but something kind of unshakeable in me was turned upside down. I hated this movie when I first saw it. I don’t know why. I think it exposed all my insecurities. I wished I were the one that shot this movie so badly. I remember revisiting it in Morocco; I was shooting a commercial and the director had heavily referenced the film in his treatment. I thought I should give it another chance. I had the worst food poisoning of my life, a doctor had to come give me a shot in my stomach and I couldn’t leave bed for two days. The film became my mantra and I couldn’t turn it off or I wouldn’t fall asleep. Watching it a second, third, tenth time, literally, each viewing gave me this completely different experience. I started noticing a nuance I’d never seen before in a film. When Jessica Chastain tucks her sons into bed, and they use different takes of the same shot like five times in a row. She turns off the light, turns it back on, tucks him in, says goodnight etc., it exposed so blatantly the filmmakers process but worked to describe a dimension between the two characters I’d never seen before.
Obviously the way Chivo handled the camera and collaborated with Jack Fisk and Terrance Malick is amazing; building three different homes faced in different directions so they could shoot in natural light all day, and shooting on IMAX to make certain moments pop. I never thought you could be so free with the camera at one minute and then cut to a locked-off IMAX shot or slider push-in on a 14mm right into Jessica Chastain’s face and have it work so well. In the last year I’ve had the honor of shooting some commercials and the McCartney video Chivo’s gaffer Bobby Wotherspoon, and hearing stories first hand about the way him and Terry collaborated and it never fails to make me tear up. Real filmmakers. Soldiers. A big happy family making art together, how cool is that?! The famous quote from Terry to Chivo “I won’t put in a single shot that makes you uncomfortable” is probably something most cinematographers dream of, not that we aspire to perfection but more that it hints at (to me) a beautiful level of collaboration and mutual respect, and more importantly, freedom to experiment. Knowing what I do now about how they made this film I can’t blame anybody for wanting to work this way.
‘The Master’ directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
I guess I mention this film because 65mm has been in my mind a lot lately, and I think this has to be one of the best and most beautiful examples of it to date. The close-ups of Joaquin and Phil’s characters are kind of unforgettable. Haunting. I love how Paul Thomas Anderson grounded his decision for 65mm in what he saw as the aesthetic of the era; 4×5 grafflex cameras and large format were very much in vogue. The “portrait” scene in the department store, those close-ups of the boys against the yellow background; Where did he cast these people?! The long tracking shot too, and THE BEST (to me) was the scene he cut out and in my mind a big mistake. In the special features bonus footage, when Joaquin opens the box and it lights on fire. That tied it all together for me, but maybe for PTA it answered too many questions. Anyway, if I had to choose, this would probably be my favorite director and my favorite film of all time.