The film equivalent of a stroll through the Louvre, the documentary Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography collects interviews with many of modern-day Hollywood’s finest directors of photography and is illustrated by examples of their best work as well as scenes from the pictures which most influenced them. A who’s-who of cinematographers—Nestor Almendros, John Bailey, Conrad Hall, Laszlo Kovacs, Sven Nykvist, Vittorio Storaro, Haskell Wexler, Gordon Willis, Vilmos Zsigmond and others—discuss their craft with rare perception and insight, paying homage to pioneers like Gregg Toland, Billy Bitzer and John Alton and explaining the origins behind many of the most indelible images in movie history; from Citizen Kane to The Godfather and from Sunrise to Night of the Hunter, many of the truly unforgettable moments in American film history are here in all their brilliance and glory. -—Jason Ankeny, Rovi
Sometimes all it means is that the pictures are pretty, and for many people, I think, “cinematography” somehow connects with vast outdoor vistas—the sand dunes in Lawrence of Arabia, or the Texas plains in Days of Heaven. But great cinematography can also consist of the look in an eye, the tense space between two people, or the shadows in the corner of a cramped room. Visions of Light is a documentary that will likely cause everyone who sees it to look at movies a little differently in the future. It is a film about cinematography, consisting of a great many great shots and sequences, commented on by the men (and a few women) who photographed them. In Visions of Light, many great cinematographers talk about their relationships with directors, with shots, and with the light. It is always hard to say exactly where a director’s contribution ends and the cinematographer’s begins, but it is always true that it’s the cinematographer’s responsibility to realize the director’s vision—and sometimes, they hint here, to supply it. —Roger Ebert
Below: the camera captures the scenic beauty of the Colorado mountains as Slim Pickens and Van Heflin ride the Stagecoach, courtesy of A Certain Cinema.