The extended documentary sequence that opens Léos Carax’s 1991 film ‘Les amants du Pont-Neuf’ says much about the life and talent of the man who lit it, the cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier.
It shows the nightly trawl of Paris’s homeless, who are picked up by the social services, washed, patched up, fed and, if they wish it, re-deposited on the streets at dawn. The unflinching honesty and compassion were worthy of Caravaggio, as was the technique, in which blue-white flesh emerged from a treacly dark, and concrete bunkers gaped like the doors of hell.
Born in Lyon, Escoffier knew, by the age of seven, that he wanted to be a cameraman. He studied at L’École Louis Lumière, and worked as a camera assistant on features.
Given this experience, Escoffier should have fallen for big-time movies. Instead, he was always most comfortable with outcasts and renegades. His directors would include numerous hard cases – Léos Carax, Gus Van Sant, Neil LaBute, Harmony Korine –… read more