August 15, 2018

Watch: DP Michael Ballhaus and His Love for the Moving Camera

The late cinematographer may be gone,  but his remarkable images live on.

Michael Ballhaus, the highly respected German cinematographer known for his frequent collaborations with directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Martin Scorsese, passed away last year at the age of 81 in his native Berlin. A veteran of the industry, Ballhaus' prosperous career spanned seven decades and three Academy Award nominations (for Broadcast News, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and Gangs of New York, respectively).

Revisiting Ballhaus' lengthy IMDB page provides a slew of memorable titles that heavily influenced the styles of both European and American cinema, and in the video produced by Fandor below, some of the cinematographer's most noticeable traits (and skilled versatility) are given their deserved due. 

Known for his adoration of camera movement, Ballhaus' style was infused with an energetic pull that provided momentum to any narrative that might require it.

There were, of course, the legendary Steadicam shots (used to most prominent effect in Scorsese's Goodfellas in 1990), the tracking shots (the video provides a nifty example of one from Scorsese's After Hours in which our two leads take a late-night stroll to a nearby diner), and, one of the more "how did they do that?" maneuvers, the 360-degree tracking shot as seen in Scorsese's The Color of Money and the aforementioned After Hours (throughout the spinning duration of its closing credits). 

Ballhaus' last American feature was The Departed, for which Scorsese won the Academy Award for Best Director. In total, the two men partnered up seven times, which, while substantial, doesn't even come close to the 16 times the cinematographer worked with Fassbinder. Now that's productivity for a cinematic hero of your homeland. 

What is your favorite film shot by Michael Ballhaus? How many of his projects have you seen? Let us known down in the comments.      

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