Tuesday 8 April 2014

Christopher Doyle: Director of Photography

Christopher Doyle is one of the best known and most acclaimed directors of photography in world cinema. Born in 1952 in Sydney, Doyle spent much of his early life on the road. At various points he was a well digger in India, a Norwegian merchant marine, a cow herder on an Israeli kibbutz, and a doctor of Chinese medicine in Thailand. In the late ‘70s, Doyle was rechristened Du Kefeng by his professor at the University of Hong Kong, and his life has not been the same since. 

Soon afterward, he moved to Taiwan and fell in with the Taipei art crowd, including such future members of the cultural elite as Hou Hsiao Hsien and Stan Lai. In 1978, he was one of the founding members of the Lanling Theatre Workshop, the first modern theater company in Taiwan; he also created a landmark television series, Travelling Images. Yet Doyle’s first breakthrough occurred in 1981, when Edward Yang asked him to shoot his feature debut That Day, on the Beach over the angry protests of the studio’s twenty-three salaried cameramen. 

Fearful that Taiwan’s relatively modest film industry might stunt his career, he again hit the road and got a gig shooting Claire Devers’ Noir et Blanc (1986) in France, only to discover that his heart still belonged to Asia. That same year, he returned to Hong Kong and shot Shu Kei’s second feature, Soul, a pastiche of John Cassavete’s Gloria (1980) starring noted Taiwanese directors Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Ke Yizhong. Though the reviews for the film itself were mixed, people noticed Doyle’s unique camera work and he soon found regular work in the Hong Kong film industry.

His work as a cinematographer there helped to define the beautiful formalism of contemporary Asian cinema. He is best known for his collaboration with Wong Kar-Wai, for whom he shot seven films including Chungking Express, Happy Together, 2046 and the sublime In the Mood for Love. Chris’ work on Hero for Yimou Zhang is also stunning. The other directors Chris has worked with include Zhang Yuan, Gus Van Sant, Phillip Noyce, James Ivory, M. Night Shyamalan and Neil Jordan.

Filmed in DV and Super8, this documentary is a kind of wild and stylized road movie -- from Bangkok to Hong Kong, via New York. The camera follows this eccentric and outrageous artist as he gives us his thoughts on his past and present work. From the recent sets of Invisible Waves by Thailand's Pen ek Ratanaruang, and M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water, to the locations in Hong Kong where he shot some of his most famous pictures, such as In The Mood for Love and Dumplings, Chris Doyle talks about his cinematic fascination for Asian culture.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

It seems to be the vogue for movie makers to make movies about themselves. This is great for other movie makers but it seems a little unhealthy or inward looking for the industry as a whole.

Having said that, this is a very evocative movie. Quotes from Chris Doyle:
"To be an artist you have to be generous."
"I go out for a walk and I come home with three ideas... There's always something to excite your imagination."
"Art reminds you of your humanity."

Directors who have worked with Doyle make lists of the styles he invented which have now been imitated worldwide.

Doyle mischievously walks by in the background while a director is waxing lyrical about him, making the director completely lose his train of thought. Very funny.