Godfather cinematographer dies

Last updated 13:27 20/05/2014
Gordon Willis
LAUDED CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gordon Willis

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Gordon Willis, the cinematographer responsible for stirring camera work in such film classics as the Godfather trilogy and several of Woody Allen's best-known films, has died aged 82.

Willis died on Sunday (local time) in Falmouth, Massachusetts, funeral home Chapman Cole & Gleason confirmed. The cause of death was not immediately available.

"This is a momentous loss," American Society of Cinematographers President Richard Crudo told Hollywood trade website Deadline. "He was one of the giants who absolutely changed the way movies looked."

Willis received an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 2010 and was nominated for best cinematography Academy Awards for Allen's Zelig and The Godfather: Part III.

"He was a brilliant, irascible man, a one of a kind," Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola said in a statement. "A cinematic genius with a precise aesthetic. My favorite description was that 'He ice-skated on the film emulsion.' I learned a lot from him."

Willis' work was credited with lending unique, often stunning imagery to a roster of films ranging from the romance Manhattan and lavish musical Pennies From Heaven to the Watergate thriller All the President's Men.

In thrillers such as Alan Pakula's The Parallax View and Klute, for which Jane Fonda won her first Oscar, Willis's camera work evoked a dream-like, fugue state that critics credited with elevating the films to the status of classics.

The Queens, New York-born Willis worked often with Coppola, Pakula and especially Allen, with whom he made eight films.

"Gordy was a huge talent and one of the few people who truly lived up to all the hype about him," Allen said in a statement.

Willis's films with Allen included the black-and-white Manhattan, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Interiors, Stardust Memories and Broadway Danny Rose.

His credits in the 1990s included Presumed Innocent, Malice and The Devil's Own, the final film in a nearly three-decade career, which was also Pakula's last directorial effort.

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