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July 26, 2007 at 5:04 AM #39719birdcatParticipant
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Laszlo Kovacs, a Hungarian refugee and master cinematographer whose stylistic inventions transformed cinema with such movies as "Easy Rider" and "Five Easy Pieces," has died. He was 74.
Kovacs died Sunday in his sleep, said his wife, Audrey Kovacs.
Laszlo Kovacs made about 70 movies over five decades. His work ranged from the gritty black-and-white portrayal of Depression America in "Paper Moon" to the saturated glamour of "Shampoo."
He became interested in cinematography while a student at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest.
During the 1956 revolt against the Communist regime, Kovacs and classmate Vilmos Zsigmond filmed the protests with a borrowed 35mm school camera hidden in a shopping bag, according to an obituary on the Web site of the American Society of Cinematographers.
As the Russian Army crushed the revolt, both men fled the country across the Austrian border with 30,000 feet of film stashed in sacks. They arrived in the United States in 1957. Some of the footage was later used in a television documentary.
In the 1960s, Kovacs made a series of low-budget motorcycle movies. When Dennis Hopper approached him about shooting the "Easy Rider," Kovacs wasn’t enthusiastic, thinking it was just another biker movie.
But when Hopper acted out the story — two friends on a cross-country journey to discover America — Kovacs changed his mind.
Released in 1969, the movie won international acclaim and made a name for Kovacs. He went on to shoot or direct photography for dozens of other movies, including "Ghostbusters," "The Karate Kid," "Frances," "Mask," and "Miss Congeniality." He did additional photography for "The Last Waltz" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
He received the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
July 26, 2007 at 5:07 PM #171416TomScratchParticipant
Thanks for posting this tribute, birdcat.
Kovacs showed in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider that you don’t have to have textbook lighting (key, fill, blah blah, etc.) in order to make superb images in milestone films. Natural can do sometimes.
His film Targets is a personal favorite of mine, the last film of Boris Karloff (doing the famous appointment in Samarra monologue) and one of the most effectively directed films of the early career of Peter Bogdanovitch.
Kovacs and his work are featured in the ’92 doc Visions of Light, a celebration and exposition of (mostly) American film cinematography. Highly recommended for anyone engaged in the pursuit of happiness through moving images.
REGARDS … TOM 8)
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