In 2015, a group of filmmakers including Christopher Nolan spearheaded an effort to keep Kodak — the last remaining maker of motion picture film — producing celluloid as a creative option for filmmakers. And with films such as Nolan’s Dunkirk, its hard to deny film was much more in the cinematography conversation this year.
When Warner Bros. released Dunkirk on July 21, it included 31 Imax 70mm screens and roughly 100 standard 70mm sites, making it among the largest large-format releases in the past 25 years. A 70mm presentation of Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express, lensed by Haris Zambarloukos, opened the Camerimage international cinematography festival in November, and also unspooled in the format on a handful of screens in New York and Los Angeles.
Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi was shot using a combination of film (35mm and 65mm) and digital formats, confirmed cinematographer Steve Yedlin.
Additional cinematographers used 35mm film to realize their creative intent. Among those whose films are now awards contenders are three-time Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski for Steven Spielberg’s The Post; Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Call Me by Your Name; Alexis Zabe for The Florida Project; Bill Pope for Baby Driver; Matthew Jensen for Wonder Woman; Oscar-winner Robert Elswit for Roman J. Israel, Esq.; and recent Oscar winner Linus Sandgren (La La Land), for Battle of the Sexes. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread also used film.
For the kinetic large-format experience of Dunkirk, roughly 70 precent of the film was lensed with Imax cameras in 15-perf 65mm (65mm is the production format used for 70mm exhibition), and the rest with 5-perf 65mm using Panavision cameras.
“In many ways Dunkirk was the most challenging film I have ever worked on”, says cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, explaining that Nolan wanted to do as much as possible in-camera, whether in the air, on the land or at sea. “It was very important to us to try to be as close to the subject as possible — an unfiltered window into the world — and to use the clarity of the format as much as possible.… We tried to handhold as much as possible for the film — really to be in there, reacting.”
Two time-Oscar nominated cinematographer Edward Lachman chose 35mm film to create two different time periods in Wonderstruck. For instance, he says that to capture the feel of the ‘20s “Kodak remade its Double-X black-and-white negative film for me. We did that because the grain structure and exposure latitude of the film is totally different than modern colour stocks.
“I think there’s a real renaissance to what film is,“ Lachman contends. “It’s another tool that we have that we shouldn’t give up. It’s another paintbrush. Why should we be limited to one tool?”
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