‘Carol’ cinematographer Ed Lachman dishes Oscar nomination and changing technology (Podcast)

Ed Lachman ‘s first credit as a cinematographer was on the 1974 film “The Lords of Flatbush,” which introduced both Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler. More than four decades later, both he and Stalllone are nominated for the second Oscars of their respective careers. While Stallone contends again for reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in “Creed,” the lenser is nominated for “Carol,” another collaboration with director Todd Haynes with whom he worked on “Far From Heaven” (2002). He contended for an Oscar for that film and reaped an Emmy bid for Haynes’ 2011 remake of “Mildred Pierce.” 

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During our recent conversation (listen above), Lachman reflected on the changing landscape of movie-making from film to digital, from images created on set to images manipulated during post-production. “We all use different tools to create our vision but the point is, how do we create images to tell our stories?” His rival nominees shot their films on a range of media, from digital video to ultra 70mm film, highlighting the various ways in which todays movies are made.

For the lenser, this new technology brings new challenges. “How do we judge our images? Through a camera, or do we judge how we create them through a computer? Even though we might originate those images, more and more our images are being manipulated through a computer. So how do we judge our work?”

Whereas “Far From Heaven” paid homage to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the era, “Carol,” which examines a love affair between two women who must keep their emotions a secret, required a rougher aesthetic. Because of this, Lachman chose to shoot on 16mm, which was then blown up to 35mm.

“We wanted this feeling of viewing Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) from the outside,” he explains. “So visually, we wanted these textures.” He strove for a subjective viewpoint, using various framing devices such as doorways, windows, cars, enclosures, and textures, as well as the grain that comes with 16mm. “We helped define the characters emotions. We were trying to create not just a representational view of the world, but a psychological one.”

Regarding his nomination, he reflects, “As a cinematographer, we’re all telling our stories through the camera, and we create the emotions with the visual language to engage the audience to our stories. So I was greatly honored to think that our film, which was a relatively lower budget to the other films being chosen, was chosen for its photographic acumen.”

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