The Beauty of Every Moment: Rodrigo Prieto’s Cinematography

Explore the aesthetic and techniques of Inarritu’s first and Scorsese’s latest DP.

Personally, if you had me make a list of my favorite working cinematographers, after writing Emmanuel Lubezki’s name at number one, you’d find the name Rodrigo Prieto in the number two slot. Prieto ‐ who has criminally only been nominated for a single Academy Award (for Brokeback Mountain) in his entire, storied career ‐ conveys with his camera a kind of lithe grace that others cannot, his shots are bold but seamless extractions of the beauty inside the moments of life, whether they be joyous or heartbreaking. His is a natural cinematography that embraces handheld cameras that hover close to their subjects, the lighting of the moment, and a style of framing that is asymmetrical and fluid, never rigid and static.

Prieto began his career in his native Mexico directing commercials and low-budget b-movies before capturing the attention of fellow countryman Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Together the two men would carve for themselves places on the Hollywood A-list with a trio of films about the mysteries and intricacies of human connectivity: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. Given the aesthetic versatility those films exude, Prieto was quickly snatched up by the biggest directors in the game: Ang Lee, of course, but also Spike Lee (25th Hour), Curtis Hanson (8 Mile), Oliver Stone (Alexander, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Pedro Almodovar (Broken Embraces), Morten Tyldum (Passengers) and most recently Martin Scorsese, for whom Prieto shot The Wolf of Wall Street, the short film The Audition, the pilot of Vinyl, and the upcoming Silence, as well as The Irishman, next on the director’s docket.

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In the following video from Sareesh Sudhakaran for wolfcrow, the aesthetic and techniques of Prieto are traced from his early days to the present, when he is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after shooters in the field. And fear not for his awards shelf: if the Silence trailer is any indication, he should be hearing his name called a handful of times this coming awards season.

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