Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond, a documentary about the Hungarian-born cinematographer by French director Pierre Filmon premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, index.hu reports. The film was part of the Cannes Classics programme, and it became an impactful and touching piece in the wake of the Oscar-winning cinematographer’s death this year.
Originally, Pierre Filmon asked Vilmos Zsigmond to work with him on a film he was going to direct, but during the planning phase, he decided to turn the camera on the cinematographer himself.
In the beginning of, Zsigmond tells stories about the films he worked on purely for money, at the start of his career, in which he is credited as William Zsigmond. For a short time, he even tried using the name Billy Zigi, since his name was very difficult for Americans to pronounce. Fortunately or not, due to its ridiculousness, this did not stick, but soon everyone learned to pronounce his name anyway.
The film features scenes from his early film, then directors, actors and colleagues talk about his most famous works. Peter Fonda, as it turns out, can imitate Zsigmond’s voice perfectly, and he also recounts stories of the background and the execution of The Hired Hand, which paints the film in a completely different light. Another significant moment is when Zsigmond recalls being told that he does not have what it takes to make it in the film industry, and this being perhaps the reason why he worked so hard his whole life, so he can prove them wrong.
John Boorman, Jerry Schatzberg, Darius Khondji, Nancy Allen, Mark Rydell, Vittorio Storaro, and Isabelle Huppert also appear in the film, as well as John Travolta, who worked with Zsigmond on Brian de Palma’s film Blow Out. The actor speaks honestly about the exhausting 360-degree shots, and how he once simply left after the fiftieth take, because he couldn’t bear it anymore.
Zsigmond also talks about the disagreements, bad tempers, and discarded ideas, one of which almost got him fired from McGabe and Mrs. Miller. The documentary also features his only credit as an actor. Richard Donner asked him to play a strange German painter in Maverick, which was also shot by him, so behind-the-scenes photos show him in full costume, standing behind the camera.
Vilmos Zsigmond won an Oscar for his work on Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The film was nominated for another 8 categories in 1978.
The documentary is a tribute to one of the most significant cinematographers of all time. Vilmos Zsigmond died on January 1, 2016, at the age of 85.
Read Daily News Hungary’s obituary here.