Ellen Kuras: 'Bob Richardson' Hard Light

From American Cinematographer, Psycho Killer by Andrew O. Thompson (June 1999)

Another technique carried over from Lee’s prior movies is the use of hot, overhead sources that envelop actors in halos of glowing light (a style popularized by Robert Richardson, ASC). Used in counterpoint to the cross-processed reversal’s unusual tonalities, these "auras" often signify the comfort of a familiar environment. In Marie’s Salon, for instance, a narrow spot Par can was used to provide a flattering accent amid the space’s warm, egg-cream-like haze. The technique is particularly apparent during a raunchy sex scene involving Vinny and hairstylist Gloria (Bebe Neuwirth); during the duo’s tryst, hot light traces the contours of the beautician’s milky skin, lending literal meaning to the phrase "sexual afterglow."...

..."That ’Bob Richardson hard light’—downlight from overhead that’s four to five stops overexposed—is something that Spike called for specifically. Because it’s non-motivated, there were times when I wouldn’t even have thought to put it in. Spike likes to use these particular hotspots to punctuate a dramatic effect. There’s definitely an emotional impact as a person walks through this very hot light, burns out and loses detail. Theoretically, one might not be able to explain it. When I was studying in France, I took a lot of classes about the ’theory’ and ’meaning’ of the image, but one can’t always provide a theoretical basis for everything."

- Ellen Kuras, ASC

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