City lights for Darius Khontji and James Gray

City lights for Darius Khontji and James Gray

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Cannes (AFP) – “Taking a photo, I hate it”, Darius Khontji laughs after climbing the steps in Cannes: This photography director does not want to be in the light signal for the third time in the James Gray film “Armageddon Time”. Race for the Palm d’Or.

Repeating his position “behind the camera”, he was forced to pose in front of the lens between a master class on Thursday at the 75th Cannes Film Festival and a ceremony in his honor on Friday.

Woody Allen, David Fincher, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sidney Pollack, Michael Haneke or Wong Kar-wai: The best filmmakers The Franco-Iranian cinematographer is not well known to the public.

Not to forget James Gray, who has already co-starred in “The Immigrant” and “The Lost City of Z” and who gave him the light of “Armageddon time” in the Cannes competition.

It all started with an advertising film in Uruguay. “He persuaded me to come, he kept telling me + it will not count, do not judge me in this ad + I answered him + but you, do not judge me on it + (laughs)” says the AFP loving sexogenarian who came to France from Iran at the age of three.

“James is a force of inspiration,” insists the photographer, who is still humble and confuses conversation about others when asked about his work.

Cotillard, Bresson

To prepare “The Immigrant”, the filmmaker sent Khondji a photo of Carlo Molino. This Italian architect photographed his prostitute friends. In the film that is sent, the director’s attention is not on the eroticism but on the face of the journey of life.

American director James Gray at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2022 Stefano Relandini AFP / Archives

“This woman had a religious beauty, James told me + this movie must be religious +”. As he puts it from a pieta by the 15th-century Italian painter Bellini, in “The Immigrant”, Khondji illuminates Marion Cotillard as the Exit.

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Khondzi and Gray share “electoral relationships” similar to Robert Bresson’s passion for filmography. Having studied there in the 1970s and 80s, the photographer is well acquainted with New York, the city of Gray. New York in the 1920s is the backdrop for “The Immigrant” and “Armageddon Time” in the 1980s.

But their relationship was further enhanced by the film “The Lost City of Z”, which was shot in Ireland and Colombia. “Two Challenges,” Khondji summarizes.

“The natural light in Ireland is beautiful, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but it scares everyone, because it changes all the time and the shadows run across the landscape.” “We can not wait for the right light to shoot, we were shooting all the time (laughs)”.

Sidan, Bong Jun-ho

In the Colombian jungles, it is the creatures, not the focal lengths, that are being tested. “We were all so skinny, James made pasta every night to carry us forward (laughs)”.

Khondji is always ready for the adventure of exotic or avant-garde shooting. He thus surpassed “the 21st century portrait of Zidane”, where a footballer was filmed live with 17 cameras during a match.

Later, Douglas Gordon from Scotland and Philippe Barreno from France combined to create an anonymous film material in the music of the rock band Mogwai.

“One camera is one angle. If we add other cameras, these are different angles. It will tell other stories, just like + Rashomon +,” Khondji analyzes. This film by Akira Kurosawa inspired Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”, the same story that changes according to each hero’s perspective.

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From the point of view, this is Korean Bong Joon-ho (Pans d’Or “parasite”), who will soon take over Khondji, always between two projects.

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