[watch] Transcendent: The Cinematography of Wally Pfister


If I’m being completely biased, I have to say that Wally Pfister is one of my favorite contemporary cinematographers. Not only does he have a sweeping and elegant visual style that adds gravitas to every picture he works on – hence the reason a director who deals largely in gravitas, Christopher Nolan, has used him for every film since MEMENTO excluding INTERSTELLAR and the upcoming DUNKIRK – but also I respect where he came from and how he pulled himself up through the ranks from working on B-movies to Best Picture nominees.

Pfister got his start like many of our greatest modern filmmakers – under the wing of Roger Corman. Pfister’s first gig was THE UNBORN, which Corman produced, and from there he started working his way through steamy erotic thrillers like the INSIDE OUT series (not to be confused with the recent Pixar movie, not at all), the SECRET GAMES franchise, a few films under renowned adult film director Gregory Dark, and a straight-to-video horror flick or two (all of these and more in the same few-year timespan), but it was THE HI-LINE COUNTRY in 1999 that would change the course of his career. The film showed at Sundance, where Nolan saw it and sought Pfister out for MEMENTO, thus beginning one of the most beautiful and successful director-cinematographer collaborations of our time, and one that has yielded Pfister an Oscar for INCEPTION.

In another outstanding video from Sareesh Sudhakaran for wolfcrow, the career and style of Wally Pfister are studied for the purpose of tracing his path to greatness and determining just what it is about the way he works that makes him so great.
As a guy who started in this industry as a B-movie (and that’s being generous) screenwriter, I know how hard it is to garner respect and faith in your abilities outside that narrow realm, and Wally Pfister is one of the blueprints for how to do it and do it successfully. Recently he has transitioned into directing, with the sorely-underrated TRANSCENDENCE under his belt, as well as four episodes of the Will Arnett Netflix series FLAKED, and he’s your helmer for THE TICK reboot for Amazon starring Peter Serafinowicz (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) and Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN). If his ascent as a director is as quick and dramatic as his ascent as a cinematographer, expect another gold statuette on his shelf in the future.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist