The ‘Cooke Look’ Brings Murder to Life
When Director of Photography Julián Apezteguia, ADF (La Asociación de Autores de Fotografía Cinematográfica Argentina — Argentinian Society of Cinematographers) got the chance to work with Director Pablo Trapero for the second time, on the director’s latest film El Clan — a dark story set in the 1980’s about a family of kidnappers and murderers — they used a full range of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses to give the film a “strong optical personality.”
The lens package for the Goya Award-winning Best Foreign Film in the Spanish Language, winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and Argentina’s Oscar® submission included the Cooke Anamorphic/i 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm lenses, with Apezteguia primarily relying on the wider lenses. El Clan is the third feature film that Apezteguia has shot with Cooke lenses, and his first shooting anamorphic, using the Alexa XT in 4:3 sensor mode.
“Working with a director like Pablo Trapero is always very collaborative because he has a strong vision of the kind of film he wants to shoot, but he also needs to walk the path with his DP and Production Designer in order to find the way to bring this vision to life,” said Apezteguia. “With this process, there’s a lot of discussion about the technical and aesthetic aspects of the film, evaluating different options in order to get the desired result. This exchange of ideas goes all the way to the final grading of the film.”
Set in Buenos Aires the 1980’s, El Clan is the true story of the Puccio family who kidnapped four people and killed three, and how they live their lives through these events. Starring Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, and Gastón Cocchiarale, the story demanded that the characters maintain a strong look.
“We decided to give the film a strong optical personality, and for this we chose Cooke Anamorphic lenses with an Alexa XT 4:3 camera,” added Apezteguia. “I feel the way the anamorphics render perspectives, and the (unique) way they twerk the out of focus part of the image — what’s behind the subject in focus — gives the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses a unique look that is perfect for generating the feeling of a strange place or situation.”
Apezteguia relied on a host of other optical techniques, such as split field diopters, starting or finishing a shot with the image out of focus and even taking the lens out of the camera while recording. All of this helped build the optical personality.
Shot entirely on location, Apezteguia used tungsten fresnels, Kino Flos and HMI lights, both big (12k, 6k) and small (1.8k and 400w). In some specific instances, sodium or mercury streetlights were used.
“The main challenge I had to face was a series of sequences that Trapero wanted to shoot in a long Steadicam shot with no visible cuts. These were the kidnapping scenes (exteriors involving cars), the final sequence where one of the main characters jumps from a building trying to kill himself, and a long walk of the father from the family kitchen to the bathroom/dungeon where he keeps his victims. It’s always difficult to light a scene when the camera describes many different points of view without cutting, so I try to use the minimal quantity of fixtures possible, or use practicals so that they can be seen by the camera. Also coordinating the camera movement with the actors’ performances is part of the hard teamwork involved in the making of this film.”
Having used Cooke S4 lenses on two previous feature films, Habi, la extranjera and Dias de Pesca, plus many commercials using Cooke S5s, Apezteguia is very familiar with the distinctive look that Cooke lenses give cinematographers. “I like the texture they provide; they are sharp but not too crisp. I think this works very well with digital cinema cameras, giving you the chance to keep the cinematic feel working with an electronic image. They are also very kind to the actors’ faces.”
Apezteguia is so confident in Cooke lenses that they were chosen without testing against any other lenses. “We did extensive testing with the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses so we knew how to get the exact look we wanted. One of the interesting things about working with anamorphic lenses is the particular perspective they provide that is inherent to the construction of a lens that squeezes the image that will be un-squeezed later. Cooke was the obvious choice because we got the perspective without losing definition…and with the plus of getting the ‘Cooke Look’ for our period film.”