Director of photography Adam Kimmel’s adroit and unmannered cinematography for Lars and the Real Girl contributes greatly to keeping the unusual love story grounded where it could have easily gone off the rails. A veteran of 13 movies, 500 music videos and more than 1,000 commercials, Kimmel’s last film was Capote for director Bennett Miller, which put him in the limelight as a cinematographer.
Alternately hilarious and touching, the fable-like Lars is about an exceedingly shy introvert, superbly played by Ryan Gosling, who falls in love with Bianca, a mail-order, life-size doll. After an initial shock, people in Lars’ small town stop humoring him and begin to wholeheartedly embrace Bianca.
“There was some concern in prep to make Bianca seem more lifelike as the film progressed,” says Kimmel. “My take was that this is not a film where the audience needs to see Bianca as real. She’s supposed to be a fake doll in a wheelchair.”
Lars is only the second feature for director Craig Gillespie, oddly preceded by Mr. Woodcock, a high-concept comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton released earlier this year. Gillespie and Kimmel knew each other from numerous commercial shoots in New York over a span of nearly six years before going in different directions and separately winding up in Hollywood.
Kimmel re-teamed with his friend and former colleague on Lars, working closely with Gillespie as the movie evolved. “We shot-listed the film together,” he says. “That’s the way I like to work because, as much as it helps to have a plan of how you’re going to stage and cover each scene, it’s also the only time I can have one-on-one bonding with the director, getting inside his brain and fleshing out his concepts.”
The biggest challenge, says Kimmel, was the tight 32-day shoot and the unwillingness of Canadian authorities to let him bring in any crew. He convinced Gillespie not to shoot the film in a wide 2.35:1 format but in 1.85:1. “I wanted to stay far away from anything that had the earmarks of comedy, which tends to be filmed in a wide frame a lot of the time.”
The DP never went to film school. He started shooting hundreds of rolls at age 11, when his father bought him a Super 8 camera. “My brother and I would do parodies of The Exorcist and play with claymation techniques,”says Kimmel. At 17, he got his first exposure to a real shoot. He found a mentor and quickly climbed the rungs, winding up as an apprentice to the camera crew on Raging Bull/
Changing direction again, Kimmel’s latest picture is Rudo y Cursi, which he shot in Mexico and is now in postproduction for release in 2008. It’s about two brothers who are rival professional soccer players and stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in their first pairing since The Motorcyle Diaries. It is directed by Carlos Cuaron, who wrote the script for Y tu mama tambien, directed by his brother, Alfonso Cuaron. Both are members of the Cha Cha Cha Group, which also includes Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Colombian helmer Rodrgio Garcia.
– Jack Egan
Written by Jack Egan