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Pho­tog­ra­pher Eva Sereny ex­celled at cap­tur­ing the un­stud­ied mo­ment on the VHWV RI DQ HUDŠV LFRQLF ɿOPV

Newsweek - - Contents - BY MARY KAYE SCHILLING

Eva Sereny’s Through Her Lens

eva sereny got to work with françois Truf­faut just once—on 1973’s Day for Night— but the French di­rec­tor shared a piece of ad­vice she’s never for­got­ten. “He told me, ‘If you’ve seen a good film, you must see it two or three times,’” says Sereny. “‘Only then can you pick up the nu­ances.’”

You could say the same of her pho­tographs. Swiss-born and Bri­tish-raised, Sereny was one of the only fe­male set pho­tog­ra­phers in the ’70s, and she worked with vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor di­rec­tor, from Bernardo Ber­tolucci to Steven Spiel­berg. A new book, Through Her Lens (ACC Art Books), show­cases her gift for hu­man­iz­ing glam­our, and for cap­tur­ing mo­ments cin­e­matic in their nat­u­ral­ism. Her por­traits of women, like ac­tors Jac­que­line Bis­set and Char­lotte Ram­pling, have a fierce, in­tel­li­gent sen­su­al­ity, un­usual at a time of mind­less ob­jec­tiv­ity. Sereny—shy in per­son but fear­less be­hind the cam­era—in­hab­ited the edges of sets, “hid­ing be­hind peo­ple,” wait­ing for the pause in film­mak­ing. She was deeply in­flu­enced by Ber­tolucci and his di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, Vit­to­rio Stararo, whose “light­ing was in­com­pa­ra­ble.” And she mar­veled over Fed­erico Fellini’s “ca­pac­ity to ‘paint’ his ideas on the screen.”

She even­tu­ally di­rected her own film, 1984’s The Dress, win­ning a BAFTA at 34. “I thought the world was at my feet,” she says. But gen­der lim­i­ta­tions— never felt as a pho­tog­ra­pher—were crys­tal­lized by a top Hol­ly­wood agent. “Yours is an in­ter­est­ing story,” he told her, “but you’re a woman, and you’re not 20.”

Sereny’s last set job was for one of the Bourne movies; she won’t spec­ify which—it was not a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. The re­spect she had re­ceived, and the in­spi­ra­tion pro­vided by masters like Fellini, were gone. The Ital­ian di­rec­tor (“who had the worst lan­guage—un­re­peat­able!”) mapped out ev­ery as­pect of a film be­fore­hand, and pop­u­lated his work with non­pro­fes­sion­als he found on the street. “One poor guy, play­ing a sul­tan in Casanova, was so ner­vous he kept for­get­ting his lines,” says Sereny. “Fellini grew im­pa­tient, shout­ing, “For Christ’s sake, just say the Lord’s Prayer.’” The real lines were later dubbed in.

DOOM RAIDER Sereny worked on three In­di­ana Jones movies thanks to her friend­ship with pro­ducer Frank Mar­shall. “Steven’s sets were the most fun,” she says. This play­ful mo­ment was taken on the set of 1984’s In­di­ana Jones andthe Tem­ple of Doom: From left, Kate Cap­shaw, di­rec­tor Spiel­berg (who would marry Cap­shaw), Jones fran­chise creator George Lu­cas and star Har­ri­son Ford.

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