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LACMA Series Spotlights Two Masters of the Frame

Journal de France

Journal de France

Coinciding with the Paris Photo L.A. show at the Paramount Pictures lot, which will highlight works by filmmakers such as Chris Marker (La Jetée) and Bruce Conner (Breakaway), LACMA will feature two documentaries on April 26 and 27 about renowned imagists.

Multiple Visions, The Crazy Machine (2012) is an evocative showcase for cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa (1907-97), possibly Mexican cinema's most artistically revered figure. Figueroa shot more than 200 movies — many of which helped define the country's cinematic Golden Age during the 1940s and '50s — and was the cameraman of choice for auteurs in Hollywood (John Ford, John Huston) and abroad (Emilio Fernández, Luis Buñuel). The film constructs impressionistic montages from Figueroa's movies (set to an atonal, ambient score) and interviews a veritable who's who of international cinematography; everyone from Raoul Coutard (Breathless) to Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love) to Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln) eulogizes his craft.

While it's short on information — withholding the filmographies of its craftsmen, and even the titles of the films excerpted, until the end — it's an engrossing taste of Figueroa's highly expressive black-and-white landscapes, piercing close-ups and stunning command of atmosphere.

By contrast, Journal de France (2012) is more subdued, a self-portrait by French documentarian Raymond Depardon (10th District Court), co-directed and narrated by his partner of the last quarter-century, Claudine Nougaret. It intercuts footage of Depardon on a six-year project to photograph France with rarely seen outtakes from his personal archive, dating from his beginnings as a globe-trotting photojournalist in the early 1960s. It's a memoir and a tribute rolled into one (and catnip for Francophiles), retracing Depardon's indelible gaze at the people and places of his extensive travels.

CAMERA/IMAGE: GABRIEL FIGUEROA AND RAYMOND DEPARDON | LACMA | April 26-27 | lacma.org

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