Thursday, July 19, 2007
Shooting Kinski #6: Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet
Halfway through the shooting of TESS, the acclaimed and much loved cinematographer of the film, Geoffrey Unsworth, would tragically pass away. Nearly 25 years after this when she was asked about Unsworth on the TESS dvd documentary Nastassja Kinski still teared up talking about it.
Academy Award winner Unsworth was born in London in 1914. He shot more than 80 films in his career from his first in 1943 up until TESS. Some of his greatest works include Peter Glenville's BECKET(1964), Stanley Kubrick' 2001(1968) and Richard Donner's SUPERMAN(1978).
Unsworth had a remarkable style about him and the range of films he shot is very impressive. It is hard to think of two more stylistically different films than say BECKET and 2001 and yet Unsworth gave them both a startling fresh and crisp look that worked incredibly well for each.
Unsworth's work on TESS was simply stunning and everyone in front of and behind the camera adored him. It is especially important to note that he had just finished up SUPERMAN when he came on board TESS, as a comparison between the shots of the Kent farm in SUPERMAN have a remarkable similarity to certain outdoor shots in TESS. They both remain two of the most striking looking films of the seventies.
The camera of Geoffrey Unsworth was in love with Nastassja Kinski and whether she is being shot from a distance or close up, outdoors or indoors...the effect remains entrancing and at times nearly overwhelming.
The production could have been in serious trouble when Unsworth died close to Halloween in 1978 but Polanski quickly placed the equally skilled Ghislain Cloquet in charge of the films look. It was a tricky assignment for the talented Cloquet who had to manage to match the shots Unsworth had already completed while not losing his own individual style.
The Belgium born Cloquet was ten years Unsworth's junior when Polanski handed him the mammoth task of completing TESS but he pulled through beautifully. While the dvd documentary details which one did certain shots, the film feels perfectly cohesive and the two very unique stylists managed to compliment each other perfectly.
Cloquet had already done some remarkable work before TESS including Bresson's astonishing UNE FEMME DOUCE (where his camera would bring some of the same brooding intensity that it gave to Kinski with the young Dominique Sanda) and Jacques Demy's DONKEY SKIN. The Oscar winning Cloquet would unfortunately also pass away just a few years after filming TESS in the winter of 1981.
Unsworth and Cloquet would win a whopping 5 international film awards for TESS including the Cesar and Oscar. They were two great individuals who were joined in a very tragic circumstance, and it is to both their credit that they managed to help create a film as beautiful and lasting as TESS.
Even the handful of critics who didn't fall under TESS'S spell never questioned how beautiful and well photographed it was. Nastassja Kinski under the lens of Unsworth and Cloquet remains one of the most stunningly beautiful images the screen has ever seen. Their photography in this film is among the most noblest in all of cinema and it remains the most beautifully shot of Nastassja's career.
For a more factual and knowledgable look at their work in TESS I highly recommend the following article at the Internet Enclopedia of Cinematagrophers.