Lubezki, long shots and eccentric machines

Cinematography is the secret to a beautiful film fame. But that is just my personal opinion. Certainly Lubezki is nowadays a talented film magician, that brings big surprises with every release.

Mainly due to its incredibly beautiful shots of outer space, Gravity is also highly acclaimed because of its intricate machinery behind scenes, but it didn’t happen in a single day and the mastery that achieved such a great production was not made so easy.

‘Chivo’ Lubezki has certainly worked for a long time. From his teen age to his worldwide success, through their agony in Mexican TV series and early days in Hollywood. They have learned a lot and innovated everywhere.

It is true that his work boosts any production, but we also find something special in his style: long shots. And it might sound a bit cheesy or even nonsense, but his original cinematography has set a landmark in cinema.

It all started with some smooth camera movements here and there in Sólo con tu pareja, the first production, where Lubezki and Alfonso Cuarón joined forces to bring a fun and enjoyable film.

The film went international under the name “Love in the Time of Hysteria”, but didn’t have much press. But Lubezki’s big shot came the following year with the film adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s novel Como Agua para Chocolate (Like water for Chocolate).

This film was internationally acclaimed and Lubezki’s cinematography was praised everywhere, giving him several prizes around the world. It is recognized as one of the essential films of the beginning of the “New Mexican Cinema”.

And immediately started the Hollywood era when Lubezki and Cuarón, again, brought A Little Princess, which premiered in 1995 and included simple but enchanting shots mixing vivid colors and a soft camera movement that equaled the vision of the children, empowering them throughout the film.

This early work gave him his first (of many) Academy Award Nomination for best Cinematography.

‘Chivo’ started to experiment with more freedom and his ventures were happily received, and bigger productions started to knock on his door.

The birdcage, Meet Joe Black and Great Expectations (again with Cuarón) pushed his creativity and got a second Academy Award Nomination on 1999 for Sleepy Hollow, a dark and visually compelling film directed by Tim Burton.

No memorable long shots were made up to this point, until the year 2001 came and with it, besides Ali, the duo Cuarón-Lubezki presented Y tu mamá también.

Perhaps Hollywood was not ready for their experiment, and they created a great piece of film repleted with long shots here and there, along the highways (of course, a road movie), on the streets, and the very memorable final scene when the three travelers drink and dance together.

This continuous shot of almost 7 minutes took three days and more than 40 shots to be made. But in the end it became one of the most memorable scenes of the Mexican cinema. Iconic.

Boom! His camera work was praised everywhere and the film reached new lands and expanded the borders of the Mexican cinema. The new Mexican cinema had a new masterpiece among its productions.

New films were completed with his magic touch, and his third nomination of the Academy Award came on 2005 with Terrence Malick’s The New World.

However, the next year the mighty team Lubezki-Cuarón released Children of Men. This is a very underrated film that made me fall in love with his cinematography.

They took their experiments to a new level with this superproduction that reached high levels of realism, given especially because of the camera work.

Here we see beautiful long shots everywhere, skilfully created to highlight that sensation of realism. His experiments were intended to create the most realistic expression of the film.

Natural light, natural movements of the camera, no green screens, etc. It all resulted in an immersive work, where you can feel the desperation, the sadness, the anger, the tension… everything!

Children of Men meant to be an ambitious project, although it was a huge technical challenge for Lubezki, who had to create special machinery (with a talented team) to be able to produce his amazing shots.

Many praise the car chasing scene in this film, or even the tense escape from the safe house of the terrorists. My personal scene, nevertheless, is the final escape through the streets of the destroyed city, where the camera rolls for an extremely long and amazing shot. The balance between timing and acting was mastered in this final bit.

Needless to say, the attention and awards began raining from everywhere, including his fourth Academy Award nomination, and many more prizes from all around the world.

But after this beautiful project, Lubezki seemed to dim out, taking part in few projects, until Terrence Malick set him for the cinematography of The Tree of Life.

Probably the most challenging goal of a cinematographer is to strengthen a scene, including your surroundings, and the nature of it, but especially where you have to focus on the importance of your actors, which in this case were children. But ‘Chivo’ had already a lot of experience with it.

The shots powerfully immerge us in the vision of the greatness in the small things of life. They get us in the perspective of an evolving life with all its colors and shapes. I think Post Tenebras Lux owes a lot of its unique art to this Lubezki’s work.

An impressive result was originated and, again, more and more awards. But maybe Lubezki was in need for a bigger challenge. A challenge so big, that it would be out of this world.

2013 arrived and the duo Lubezki-Cuarón took a simple screenplay of a thriller in space: Gravity. Yes, that film that is still now in the mouths of everyone and has become a classic of the Cinema already.

I didn’t find any interesting story in Gravity, nothing new or original there, but the cinematography… oh boy! Mind-blowing piece of art.

Many wouldn’t like it, many would love it. I think is an excellent cinematography that overcame its challenges.

Filming on space is of course impossible with that magnitude (up to now), and they had to create the most realistic view of events up there. And that is perhaps the main characteristic that several critics have forgotten, comparing it, for example, with Interstellar.

Interstellar has, naturally, a much better script, exceptional performances and a great direction, but the cinematography is undoubtedly better in Gravity. Even Chris Hadfield said Gravity is the best visual experience of being in space ever created. Boom!

Tons of CGI and post-production, but the secret for the beautiful shots and natural view is the magic hand of Lubezki, and his incredible original machines.

Again, the long shots were a key part of the production. The initial shot that opens the film is an elegant eye-candy. Simply marvelous.

If the awards were not enough, this time Lubezki got as many as possible, even his first Academy Award for best cinematography.

This is one of those classic films that one must watch in the cinema. This is a pure Cinema film.

If you thought Lubezki reached his top-score, then he surely surprised you last year with the arrival of Gonzalez Iñárritu‘s Birdman.

He set this impeccable dancing between camera and actors, creating a captivating revolving panorama that swings between laughs and tears, contours and lights. All combined but not mixed. Spectacular.

But the surprises will not stop, ‘Chivo’ is currently joining forces with Iñárritu again to conceive The Revenant, a theatrical version of the misadventures of Hugh Glass.

Following that, a project again with Terrence Malick will give us the chance to be surprised by Lubezki’s magic mind.

I just wait for his next work, which surely will be pure GOLD.

Update: A preview of his newest work? Check the newest trailer of his most recent masterpiece: The Revenant

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