Just now catching up with the news at cinematographer Gerry Fisher passed away on December 2. He was 88 and, as the Telegraph notes, he “worked with some of the most renowned film directors of the second half of the 20th century, including Carol Reed, John Huston and Billy Wilder. However, he will be best remembered for his long collaboration with the cinematic auteur Joseph Losey, for whom he shot eight films, including Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971)…. During the 50s and 60s he manned the camera on shoots for, among many other films, David Lean’s Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Anthony Asquith’s The VIPs (1963) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s blockbuster Cleopatra (1963). He learnt his trade alongside some of the finest cinematographers of the 20th century, including Christopher Challis, Freddie Francis and Douglas Slocombe. His big break came in the mid-60s when, as he put it, ‘Joe Losey figured he saw something in me I didn’t know I had.’ The moody palette of Accident was in stark contrast to his approach four years later on The Go-Between.”
“On Secret Ceremony , a Borgesian fable set in an architecturally and decoratively distinctive mansion in London, Fisher allowed the colors and contours of the house itself to determine both the dominant colors of the film and also the wandering camera movements,” writes Verina Glaessner for Film Reference. “The effect made the house something of a character in itself rather than merely, as happened in The Romantic Englishwoman , an expressive setting for the performers. With The Go-Between, again a decidedly English story, this time of cross-class and intergenerational conflict and passions played out through notions of manners and etiquette, Fisher drew on his own childhood memories—of the particular play of sunlight on wood for example. This brought to the film a tactile precision which productively undercut its inherent nostalgia.”
Pierre-William Glenn worked with Fisher as a cameraman on Losey’s Mr. Klein (1976): “I was delighted to be offered the possibility of working with one of the best Directors of Photography of the 20th century, while he was working with one of the best Directors of our era…. Losey’s working method was based on trust and the freedom he afforded his colleagues. My privileged observation post undoubtedly allowed me to gain much experience at a time when know-how was not passed on lightly, when technical secrecy ruled, when the position of Director of Photography was more or less black magic and when the cameraman was the only person who actually saw the scene. At a time when there were no ‘control monitors’ cluttering up the workplace, we worked in an atmosphere of trust and deep, mutual respect.”
Cameraman Richard Andry: “On the set we invented a secret code. When he blinked his right eye, it meant: special development push one stop; the left eye: please bring me a cup of coffee; and both eyes: a glass of champagne! This code was used again during the part of Billy Wilder’s Fedora shot in France. We had the opportunity of drinking champagne a number of times…. He was a great man and a great professional, demanding on the set, talented and special, inventive, tireless and generous. I have always considered him as one of the best cinematographers of the second half of the 20th century. He was my mentor.”
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