American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 30

I

Reclaiming Art
By Iain Stasukevich

Photographed by Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC, Big Eyes tells the story of
real-life artist Margaret Keane (Amy
Adams), who was coerced by her
husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), into
letting him take credit for her paintings
of innocent waifs with enormous eyes.
Determined to set the record straight,
she wages a court battle to reclaim her
identity.
The feature reteamed Delbonnel
with director Tim Burton after their
collaboration on Dark Shadows (AC June
'12), and was filmed almost entirely on
location in San Francisco, Vancouver
(which stood in for 1950s San Francisco)
and Hawaii. Without the extensive
visual-effects requirements of their previous collaboration, the filmmakers gained
a certain amount of creative freedom,
though the transition to digital acquisition presented the cinematographer with
new creative challenges.
American Cinematographer:
Tell us about the look you wanted to
achieve with this film.
Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC: It's
a mix of hyperrealistic and twisted. We
30

January 2015

discussed Mario Bava and Italian horror.
Though Big Eyes isn't a horror movie,
there's something twisted about its reality. The Bava reference was more Tim
Burton's than mine; it was to give me an
idea of what he likes.
What do you mean when you
say hyperrealistic?
Delbonnel: When Walter Keane
becomes quite rich, he buys a house in
San Francisco, with a swimming pool and
everything. For these scenes, our references were the Life magazine color and
look. All of the furniture was from the
Fifties, in these twisted pastel colors: light
green, pink, light blues. There was something about how those photos were lit,
with a lot of light.
Those mid-century Life photo
essays had a surreal quality about
them, like they were faked or deliberately staged, but there was the
documentary aspect to them as well.
Delbonnel: Yes, you're right. I
suppose that's what we tried to do in this
movie; it's a cliché of the Northern California way of life. Every scene is what you
would 'expect': a sketchy, dark, smoky
jazz club and a classic California home
[for example]. We applied that same idea
to the Midwestern suburban neighborhood at the beginning of the movie and
American Cinematographer

to the typical courthouse in Hawaii. And
then we played with the cliché of the
Italian horror-film look. We were not
trying to shoot like a documentary,
though.
We didn't move the camera much.
It's more about the movement of the
actors inside the frame, about the
composition, and feeling the beauty of
the house when Walter and Margaret are
talking about luxury and how rich they
are. We wanted to film every room in the
house with wide lenses.
I used the sun as much as I could,
and in this house there were a lot of big
windows to let the sun in, though I tried
to diffuse it. I don't like hard shadows, so
I soften everything. It became more
about creating a very soft light and keeping the colors bright. When I couldn't
diffuse the sun with a big frame, I lit with
Dinos and things like that through heavy
frames of diffusion.
What kinds of diffusion do you
prefer?
Delbonnel: I usually have several
layers of diffusion. Let's say I have a 20K
or an 18K Arrimax - I'll use a 4-by-4
layer of 216 White Diffusion, and then
on top of that I'll have a big butterfly
frame with Quarter, Half or even Full
Grid. For all of the close-ups, I light

Unit photography by Leah Gallo, courtesy of The Weinstein Co.

Coerced by her
husband to let
him take credit for
her paintings,
artist Margaret
Keane (Amy
Adams) wages a
battle to reclaim
her identity in the
film Big Eyes.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Intro
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 9
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 13
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 14
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 17
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 18
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 19
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 20
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 21
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 22
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 24
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 25
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 26
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 27
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 28
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 29
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 30
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 31
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 32
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 33
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 34
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 35
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 36
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 37
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 38
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 40
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 41
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 42
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 43
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 44
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 45
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 46
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 47
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 48
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K9
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K10
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 49
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 50
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 51
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 52
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 53
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 54
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 55
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 57
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 58
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 61
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover4
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