My Obsession

Douglas Sirk

Douglas Sirk

The first filmmaker I photographed was Douglas Sirk.  The second, Alain Resnais.  And a few hundred later (including actors, producers, writers, cinematographers, programmers and critics), the most recent, Shane Carruth.

I’d been writing brief pieces for “Voice Choices,” the weekly guide that filled The Village Voice’s centerfold and persuaded the editor, Guy Trebay (a great writer, now at the Times), to also let me shoot Sirk to accompany my paragraph or two describing an upcoming series of his films at MoMA.

I wasn’t exactly a photographer when I went to a hotel in midtown with my Nikon F2 and on-camera flash to meet Sirk.  But I was obsessed with Sirk’s films (all films, actually), melodramas exposing the social hypocrisy of 50s America, shot in gleaming black and white and later, hyperreal Technicolor.  Of  course I made several shots that referenced his signature use of mirrors.  And it had been through mirroring of a sort that I had learned of Sirk’s films, reflected back to filmgoers in the United States who were unfamiliar with his by then decades old work by Neue Deutsche Kino wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder who cited Sirk as a massive, essential influence, both thematically and visually.

A new Sirk series, at BAMcinématek April 19-21, will feature four films that Sirk made with his made-for-him actor, Rock Hudson: “The Tarnished Angels,” “All That Heaven Allows,” “Written on the Wind,” and “Magnificent Obsession,” which also stars the first Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman (the only wife of any future American president to win an Oscar).

Also upcoming at BAMcinématek, April 16-17: two of Takeski Kitano’s ultra-violent, funny, unexpectedly emotional films, “Sonatine,” (for its 20th anniversary) and “Fireworks” (1997).

I also shot Kitano for Voice Choices and the image was used for the full-page cover–the expanded section took up more of the paper’s real estate during that era.  Like with Sirk, I photographed Kitano in a hotel (obvious why I remember the name: The Kitano– authentic, I was told, Japanese upscale) but with lots more equipment and an assistant to help set it all up.

Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano

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