Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shooting Kinski #2: David Watkin


Kent born cinematographer David Watkin is among the most important directors of photography in British Cinema history. He has lensed an astonishing number of wildly diverse and legendary films such HELP, THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT, THE DEVILS and OUT OF AFRICA.
Born in 1925, the Oscar winning Watkin initially got his start working as a cameraman in many British documentaries and commercials. A fateful meeting with director Richard Lester would change everything for him and he was hired for Lester's wonderful THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT. He would continue to work with Lester throughout the years on films like HELP, HOW I WON THE WAR and THE MUSKETEER movies.
Noted for his innovative work with lighting, Watkin has always demonstrated that he can shoot any kind of film in seemingly any kind of condition. Chief among my favorite films that he has shot are Ken Russell's THE DEVILS and THE BOY FRIEND. Shot back to back for the legendary Russell, it is hard to think of two films more different in the great directors filmography and yet Watkin handles them both with an astonishing range. THE BOY FRIEND stands as one of the great examples of how well Watkin can use color while THE DEVILS is perhaps one of the ultimate examples of how light should be used in a film.
Watkin worked with Nastassja twice, first on 1976's TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER and then on 1984's THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Watkin's work on TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is quite striking and among its most obvious highlights. Much like Robby Muller he seems to have an inherent understanding of how much power Kinski's face could project and he photographs her wonderfully in TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER.
Even better is his work on Tony Richardson's THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, an underrated and striking film that features some of the lushest and most pure photography of his life. I actually prefer his work on this film to his Oscar winning OUT OF AFRICA from a year later. Speaking from a total layman's point of view when it comes to the art of photography, there is just something really warm about his work with Richardson. Kinski's Susie The Bear is one of her great roles and I have always loved how she is photographed in the film, with Watkin's understated style helping to bring out all of the vulnerability, doubt and finally emerging self confidence that Kinski projects.
Watkin would go onto to shoot many films throughout the late eighties and nineties but unfortunately he has never worked with Kinski again. He shot some lovely underrated films in the nineties including JANE EYRE but he will undoubtedly be most remembered for his work in the sixties and seventies with directors such as Lester and Russell. His last film according to IMDB was the little seen Kirsten Dunst feature, ALL FORGOTTEN. Ironic title for his final film considering the term 'forgotten' will never be used in describing the incredible career of David Watkin.

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