Pierre Lhomme - Writer

Cinematographer. Nationality: French. Born: Boulogne-sur-Seine, 5 April 1930. Education: French public school through lycée; studied at the École Normale des Ponts et des Chaussées (technical school for civil engineering). Career: Worked as an assistant cameraman; 1961—works on Saint Tropez Blues ; 1963—receives acclaim for his work on Le Joli mai ; 1990—receives critical acclaim for his work on Cyrano de Bergerac. Awards: Cannes Film Festival, Technical Grand Prize, for Cyrano de Bergerac , 1990; French Academy of Film Arts Award, Best Cinematography, for Cyrano de Bergerac , 1991; British Society of Cinematographers, Best Cinematography Award, for Cyrano de Bergerac , 1992; British Academy of Film and Television Award, Best Cinematography, for Cyrano de Bergerac , 1992.

Films as Cinematographer:


Saint Tropez Blues (Moussy); Le Combat dans l'île (Cavalier, Malle)


Le Joli mai (Marker)


La Vie de château ( Gracious Living ) (Rappeneau); Le Mistral (Ivens)


Le Roi de coeur (de Broca)


Mise à sac (Cavalier); Coplan sauve sa peau ( Devil's Garden ) (Boisset); Le Plus vieux métier du monde ( The Oldest Profession in the World ) (Autant-Laro, Bolognini)


À bientôt j'espère (Marker); Le Dernier homme ( The Last Man ) (Bitsch); La Chamade (Cavalier)


La Coqueluche (Arrighi); L'Armée des ombres ( Army In the Shadows ) (Melville); Mister Freedom (Klein)


La Vieille fille (Blance); Someone Behind the Door (Gessner); Quatre nuits d'un rêveur ( Four Nights of a Dreamer ) (Bresson)


La Maman et la putain ( The Mother and the Whore ) (Eustache); Je sais rien mais je dirai tout (Richard); Le Sex Shop (Berri)


Sweet Movie (Makavejev); La Solitude du chanteur de fond ( The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer ) (Marker); La Chair de l'orchidée ( Flesh of the Orchid ) (Chéreau)


Le Sauvage ( The Savage ) (Rappeneau); Die Große Ekstase (Berry)


Une sale histoire (Eustache); Les Enfants du placard (Jacquot ); Dîtes-lui que je l'aime ( This Sweet Sickness ) (Miller)


L'État sauvage ( The Savage State ) (Girod); Judith Therpauve (Chéreau)


Retour à la bien-aimée (Adam)


Tout feu, tout flamme ( All Fired Up ) (Rappeneau); Quartet (Ivory)


Mortelle randonnée ( Deadly Run ) (Miller); Le Grand carnaval (Arcady)


Urgence (Behrat)


My Little Girl (Kaisernan); Champagne amer ( Secret Obsession ) (Behi, Vart)


Maurice (Ivory)


Baptême (Feret); Camille Claudel (Nuytten)


Cyrano de Bergerac (Rappeneau)


Homo Faber ( Voyager ) (Shclöndorff)


Promenades d'été ( Summer Strolls ) (Feret)


Toxic Affair (Esposito)


Dieu que les femmes sont amoureuses ( Oh God, Women Are So Loving ) (Clément)


Jefferson in Paris (Ivory)


Mon homme ( My Man ) (Blier); Anna Oz (Rochant)


Les Palmes de M. Schutz (Pinoteau)


Voleur de vie ( Stolen Life ) (Angelo)


Cotton Mary (Merchant)

* * *

Although he remains virtually unknown and although he has escaped critical attention, cinematographer Pierre Lhomme has had a long and distinguished career, working with some of the most highly acclaimed directors and filmmakers of the modern era, including Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson, and Volker Schlöndorff. Lhomme worked on Saint Tropez Blues in 1961, but his first landmark film was Chris Marker's Le Joli mai , filmed in 1963. This film, a presentation of Paris in the early 1960s, is a documentary which captures the pulse of an international capital in the throes of (post)modernization. Lhomme's cinematography focuses on the people, the action, the movement of the time, and gives the film the high-realism necessary for such a socially real motion picture. The collaboration between Lhomme and Marker was such a success that the two worked together again on Marker's 1968 film, À bientôt j'espère and his 1974 film, La Solitude du chanteur de fond ( The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer ).

Apart from his early work with Marker, Lhomme has also cultivated two other long-standing collaborative relationships, the first with French filmmaker Jean-Paul Rappeneau, and the second with Ismaël Merchant and James Ivory. Lhomme first worked with Rappeneau in 1965 on the film La Vie de château ( Gracious Living ), a comedy set during the German occupation of France. Subsequently, the two collaborated on Le Sauvage ( The Savage ) in 1975, and Tout feu, tout flamme ( All Fired Up ) in 1981. By far the most well known and most acclaimed film produced by the team Rappeneau-Lhomme, however, was 1990s Cyrano de Bergerac , an adaption of Rostand's play by the same name. With Cyrano , Lhomme reveals his expert ability to film historical drama. The camera in Cyrano captures all of the detail worked into the setting and costume of the film—the details of fabric, the dim, interior lighting, the grit and grime of battle. There is also a concentrated use of close-up, which serves to remind the viewer that this film was based upon a play. The closely framed shots of Cyrano, Roxanne, and others replicate the more intimate viewing experience of the theater, while the panoramics point to the specific possibilities of cinema. Lhomme's work on Cyrano earned him several prestigious awards, including a César and a BAFTA award. To date, it remains his most critically acclaimed piece of work.

Lhomme's work with Merchant and Ivory dates to his work on the 1981 film Quartet. This film also reveals Lhomme's talent for historical drama. Here the setting is 1920s Paris, and the details of the period are richly captured in Lhomme's shots of smoky nightclubs and upper middle class apartments. Lhomme has gone on to make three other films with Merchant and Ivory, including Maurice (1987), Jefferson in Paris (1995), and Cotton Mary (1999). All three, also historical dramas, illustrate Lhomme's attention to detail in his filming of costume and setting, and his talent for recreating the ambiance of any particular country at any particular moment in time.

In addition to such collaborative endeavors, Lhomme has contributed to the work of other directors with whom he has worked only once. His cinematography in Robert Bresson's 1971 film, Quatre nuits d'un rêveur ( Four Nights of a Dreamer ) for example, adequately captures the sober, ascetic, almost dream-like hyper-realism so characteristic of Bresson's work. The film, based on a short story by Dostoyevsky, recounts four days in the life of a young man and his encounter with a young woman on a bridge. Bresson turns the story into a meditation on youth, and Lhomme contributes to this an elegant simplicity that focuses the spectator on the act of looking—looking at youth, looking at life.

Another particularly good example of Lhomme's ability to capture light, emotion, and the feel of an age is his work on Bruno Nuytten's Camille Claudel (1988). The film, based on the life of sculptor Camille Claudel, is striking for its whiteness, the white of plaster cast, of Parisian sunlight, of canvas, and Lhomme's camera work emphasizes this whiteness without blinding the spectator. Furthermore, his presentation of Isabelle Adjani in the role of Camille works to show the torment and emotion of the volatile female artist, trapped in a man's world.

Lhomme's films span several eras of modern filmmaking, from the New Wave to the Postmodern, from documentary to comedy to drama. The fact that he has worked on so many films, and with so many renowned filmmakers is, perhaps, an even greater testament to his talent as a cinematographer than the awards he has received.

—Dayna Oscherwitz

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