Oscar nominee Philippe Le Sourd (‘The Grandmaster’) on shooting ‘one million feet of film’

Lenser Philippe Le Sourd tells Gold Derby that working with acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai on “The Grandmaster” was a huge undertaking. While the shooting schedule ended up lasting for 365 days spread out over three years, he admits it was worth the effort as he reaped his first Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.  

As he reveals in our webcam chat below, “I didn’t speak Chinese, and I didn’t know anything about this period in which the film was set [apart from] Bertolucci’s ‘The Last Emperor.’ I went to China with no script [and] every day was a discovery, as we were receiving script pages every day.”

He admits his greatest challenge was never knowing what would make it into the film. Often scenes would be shot for days on end and then reshot months or even years later: “You say [to yourself] oh, I love what I did in 2009, but what do I think in 2012?” In the end, he says, “there was one million feet of film.”

And the scene that ended up in the film of which is he most proud? “The scene with Zhang Ziyi training on the snow, I love that scene because that was the first scene of the movie that we shot, and we did a lot of tests … and we found and [settled on], through this scene, how to shoot a fighting sequence.”

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