Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

Score another one for Benoit Debie!!!

I just finished watching The Runaways, the biopic of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.  Having approached it with trepidation, I must say that I was extremely impressed with this film, especially coming from a newcomer, Floria Sigismondi, fresh out of the starting gate.  The acting was much better than I’d anticipated, the direction capable, and the story swift and entertaining.  But most of all, I was drawn in by the cinematography and the exquisite framing, lighting, and technique used.  And here I am, hitting the laptop keys frantically once again for all of my, what, 20 readers now? 😉

Benoit Debie on the set of The Card Player

 

A posting devoted to Benoit Debie is long overdue here.  I’ve been following this kick ass Belgian ever since I was blown away/disturbed by Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, where the camera work was a character in and of itself.  This man is absolutely, ground-breakingly brilliant.  Not since discovering the Dogme 95 group have I been this excited about a style of film.  I am not a cinematographer, and I do not have the vocabulary to describe everything in a way that would be satisfactory to someone with that kind of technical knowledge, but I am nevertheless going to tell the world in my own lay fashion how much I dig this man.

Debie constantly works with directors that are decidedly outside of the norm in terms of storytelling.  Noe and Argento alone, God bless ’em, could drive someone to drink with their exacting demands, and from what I can discern from interviews, Debie deftly handled both of these guys with the skill of a plate spinner.  These directors bring in Debie because they know that he will get the job done in the way that they want it. 

This kind of storytelling turmoil, of course, is not something that the audience gets to see.  Too often, myself included, we watch movies and do not pay due attention to aspects beyond acting, plot, and script, but even beyond that, there are plenty of times where, even if we acknowledge these aspects, we are not aware of the true extent of the technical difficulties involved and what sort of ingenious methods were used to get around those difficulties.  Having done a wee bit of research on Debie and the films he has DP’d, I can tell you that he is the king of overcoming obstacles.  Here’s an informative, albeit short, interview on Cineuropa’s website, and if you can read French, here is a GREAT article at Excessif.com where Debie highlights some of the more challenging moments on set.  For example:

  • Noe used such organic blocking with Irreversible that, if they were shooting on a street, for example (and most of the film was shot at night), Debie would resort to lighting the entire street to allow for full range of natural movement and turning of corners, etc…and this was done without floodlights because Noe is not fond of their effect! Yikes.
  •  Because Lucile Hadzihalilovic (who is married to Gaspar Noe) also does not like the use of floodlights, Debie took mirrors into the forest to illuminate the shots in Innocence.  (See my blog about this film here.) 

Benoit Debie combines such a magical blend of gritty realism and dizzying surrealism as to leave you transfixed.  Every time I watch a movie that he has DP’d, I find I have to rouse myself from an absolute stupor–THAT’S how sucked in I become.  I become an open-mouthed, drooling fool because his imagery is so powerful that I forget where I am.  I am not exaggerating. 

Okay, maybe the red wine helps…

Debie’s credits can be found here, on IMDB.  I suggest to each and every one of you reading this blog that you go through these, one by one, and watch as many as you can.  They are vastly different, exceedingly beautiful, and yet despite their differences, the Debie stamp is all over them.  You’re sure to fall in love and continue to seek him out, as I now do.  You’re also sure to see how generic other cinematography can be in most films.  Apologies, but it’s true. 

And p.s.–in case you’re a newcomer here, most of those films are by my favorite directors, too.  Use caution with Irreversible, though.  It’s amazing but EXTREMELY disturbing.

For more information, check out www.benoitdebie.com

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