When I was in high school and trying to teach myself about movies, the first cinematographer whose name I could remember and recognize was Laszlo Kovacs, as I saw his name associated with films I knew like Easy Rider, What's Up, Doc?, Ghostbusters and even that weird guilty pleasure of mine, Harry and Walter Go to New York. So I feel sadder than usual to read reports that Kovacs has just died at age 74. The Hungarian-born cinematographer has been photographing films in the U.S. since the early 1960s -- he was a student in Budapest with another impressive DP, Vilmos Zsigmond.

Looking through film reference books in high school, it was fascinating to see a DP with such a wide range of credits -- someone who worked on both The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (he and Zsigmond are both credited on that one) and New York, New York. As I'm reading Kovacs's film credits on IMDb now, I'm simply impressed -- so many films I love are listed. He worked with Richard Rush on several films, including The Savage Seven (a biker remix of The Magnificent Seven) and Freebie and the Bean, with Bob Rafelson on Five Easy Pieces ... but my very favorite movie on his credits list may be his best work: the beautifully photographed Paper Moon in 1973. His black-and-white photography on the Peter Bogdanovich film (combined with Polly Platt's art direction) perfectly conveyed the tone of the Depression-era Midwest. His credits in the past 15 years weren't quite so impressive, and in fact I can't find a single film I really liked (Miss Congeniality, Two Weeks Notice), but Kovacs was definitely an influence on the style of 1970s films.

categories Cinematical