Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Shooting Kinski: Jean-Francois Robin
Born in France during World War Two, Cinematographer Jean-Francois Robin has had a fascinating four decade career behind and in front of the camera. The Cesar nominated Robin got his start in French film in the early seventies on a couple of horror shorts. He made his feature film debut as cinematographer on the legendary Jean Rollin’s haunting and influential Lips Of Blood. Robin’s excellent work for Rollin would mark him as one of the most talented, if lesser known, photographers that came out of French cinema in the seventies and his work has only improved since.
Like most of Rollin’s greatest works, Lips Of Blood didn’t make much of a splash at the time so Robin wasn’t able to immediately capitalize on his excellent work on it. He spent the rest of the seventies and early eighties shooting a variety of relatively minor French films for directors like Alain Cavalier and Patrice Leconte before landing a huge assignment for famed Polish director Andrzej Zulawski with 1985’s L’Amour Braque in which he was able to photograph Sophie Marceau.
The demanding Zulawski got the best out of Robin and his work on L’Amour Braque received a lot of attention from critics and other directors. One director who was most impressed by it was Jean-Jacques Beineix who was prepping his follow up film to Moon In The Gutter, 1986’s Betty Blue. Robin was hired for Beineix’s iconic and popular film and immediately became one of the most sought after French cinematographers due to his work on it.
Maladie D’Amour would be one the first films that Robin began shooting after completing his work for Beineix on Betty Blue and it is also one of his best. Like a lot of key French films from the eighties, his work was an intriguing mix of stylish ‘cinema du look’ inspired video photography mixed with a rich film tradition from many of the sixties best photographed works. With some ingenious lighting and a deceptively simple style, Maladie D’Amour benefits greatly from Robin’s work and Nastassja looks fantastic through his lens.
Robin would continue to work with Beineix on his next couple of films and also struck up a partnership with the great Claude Sautet. This collaboration would prove to be a fruitful one and it produced the career best work of both men, the glorious 1995 film Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud.
Robin continues to be a successful cinematographer and has even acted in a couple of films for some of his directors. Maladie D’Amour would unfortunately mark the only time Robin and Nastassja would work together, but he can rightly claim to be one of her key cinematographers as he caught her at one of the most pivotal moments in her career.