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Emmanuel Lubezki

Emmanuel Lubezki

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Also Known As: Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern, Chivo Lubezki Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Mexico Profession: director of photography, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Arguably one of the world's best directors of photography and the best Mexican cinematographer of his generation, Oscar-winning Emmanuel Lubezki shot to prominence with the success of "Like Water for Chocolate" (1991), directed by Alfonso Arau and went on to a career that encompassed independent films as well as mainstream Hollywood fare. Among his many awards and nominations was an unprecedented three consecutive Oscar wins for "Gravity" (2013), "Birdman" (2014) and "The Revenant" (2015).Lubezki developed an early interest in still photography and after majoring in film at Mexico's National University entered the local industry in the late 1980s as producer of classmate Luis Estrada's debut "El Camino Largo a Tijuana" (1989). Estrada hired him as director of photography for "Bandidos/Bandits" (1991) and the following year, the cinematographer was tapped for "Like Water for Chocolate", for which he received Mexico's Ariel award. His cinematography is noted for its layered quality, emphasizing color, no matter what the scheme, celebrating the illuminate fantasy (a quality that recalls the Technicolor work of 1950s Hollywood movie musicals) and composing vivid and memorable images that both haunt...

Arguably one of the world's best directors of photography and the best Mexican cinematographer of his generation, Oscar-winning Emmanuel Lubezki shot to prominence with the success of "Like Water for Chocolate" (1991), directed by Alfonso Arau and went on to a career that encompassed independent films as well as mainstream Hollywood fare. Among his many awards and nominations was an unprecedented three consecutive Oscar wins for "Gravity" (2013), "Birdman" (2014) and "The Revenant" (2015).

Lubezki developed an early interest in still photography and after majoring in film at Mexico's National University entered the local industry in the late 1980s as producer of classmate Luis Estrada's debut "El Camino Largo a Tijuana" (1989). Estrada hired him as director of photography for "Bandidos/Bandits" (1991) and the following year, the cinematographer was tapped for "Like Water for Chocolate", for which he received Mexico's Ariel award. His cinematography is noted for its layered quality, emphasizing color, no matter what the scheme, celebrating the illuminate fantasy (a quality that recalls the Technicolor work of 1950s Hollywood movie musicals) and composing vivid and memorable images that both haunt audiences and contribute subliminally to the main story. His photography for "Like Water for Chocolate" brought out the mystical elements of the story as well as dwelt on the sensual aspects.

It was only inevitable that American filmmakers would beckon and Lubezki crafted an almost dour composition for Ben Stiller's "Reality Bites" (1994). Working with Alfonso Cuarón on the 1995 remake of "A Little Princess", he earned his first Academy Award nomination. Lubezki gambled on using a green color scheme that added a lustrous patina of elegance to the period drama. For Arau's "A Walk in the Clouds" (1996), his beautiful camerawork enveloped the film's lovers in a mystical carpet of subdued lighting which mirrored their repressed sexuality and sensuality. For Mike Nichols' comedy "The Birdcage" (also 1996), Lubezki's photography stressed the vibrant candy-colored world of South Beach, Florida, lending a joie de vivre to the proceedings.

Reuniting with Cuarón for another literary classic, Lubezki lent his skills to the loose, modern-day adaptation of Dickens' "Great Expectations" (1998). As in their collaboration on "A Little Princess", the filmmakers used a green as the predominant color. In order to fully capture the large emotions of the piece, the cinematographer employed a widescreen format which allowed for both a more dynamic composition in each frame as well as aiding in the realization of the source material's themes. Later that same year, he captured the glamour and luxury of high society of "Meet J Black", Martin Brest's reworking of "Death Takes a Holiday". Using a subdued palette of grays, blues and tans, Lubezki created a warmly romantic overlay. The color scheme also served as an ironic counterpoint to the world of Anthony Hopkins' wealthy tycoon who lives in what the movie makers called "a purgatory." Despite that character's discomfort, the film maintains a bright, almost comforting look.

For his collaboration with Tim Burton on "Sleepy Hollow" (1999), Lubezki invoked the primeval landscapes of Thomas Cole and others artists of the Hudson River School. Burton particularly wanted to invoke the Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 60s, so the design team (including Lubezki) concentrated on creating a unique look for the film. The director of photography used stylized lighting and a monochromatic color scheme accentuated by the contrasting color of Colleen Atwood's period costumes. Less a historical recreation, "Sleepy Hollow" was more of a fantasy world that matched Burton's vision. Whatever the dramatic limitations of the adaptation, the film earned high praise for its design, with several critics' groups awarding prizes to Lubezki for his cinematography. Following this triumph, he teamed with Rodrigo Garcia for the Sundance-screened "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (2001).

His next film, "Ali" (2001), Michael Mann's uneven biography about heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali (Will Smith), Lubezki was hired eight months before principle photographyâ¿¿an unusually long period of prep time, but necessary because of the director's obsession for test shoots. After extensive shooting and discussion, both decided to eschew the desire to film in black and white-one of many different styles Mann and Lubezki discussed-to focus on a realistic documentary feel. Most of the movie was shot hand-held or with steadicam, giving "Ali" an immediacy lacking in most biopics and sports films. Meantime, Lubezki moved on to his next project, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (2001), a sex-charged coming-of-age road film that focused on a love triangle between two competing teenage boys (Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) and an older woman (Maribel Verdu). Once again, Lubezki shot with a hand-held camera, preferring a documentary style, while managing to bring out the vibrant colors of the Mexican landscape, adding a sensual, almost surreal look to the film.

For "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" (2003), Lubezki filled the screen with luminous colorsâ¿¿bright pink, purple and lime greenâ¿¿creating a highly-stylized and superficial world that was a complete departure from his previous films. He returned to more stark colors-shades of grey and black-for the big screen adaptation of "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004), a darker but no less extravagant children's adventure than "The Cat in the Hat." He credited photographer Bill Brandt and German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder for his dramatic lighting scheme. Lubezki toned down the palette for "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" (2004), a low-budget psychological drama about would-be assassin Samuel Byck (Sean Penn), an alienated salesman who tried to hijack an airliner in order to crash it into the White House. Then with "The New World" (2005), Terrence Malick's take on the Jonestown settlement in 1607 and the supposed love affair between Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, Lubezki shot a majority of the film with natural lightâ¿¿unusual given his affection for staged lighting.

He subsequently reunited with Cuarón for "Children of Men" (2006), a dystopian thriller that made impressive use of extended single-take shots that the two filmmakers elaborately constructed. Lubezki's work on the movie led to numerous accolades, including a BAFTA win and an Oscar nomination. After lensing the oddball Coen Brothers comedy "Burn After Reading" (2008), he reunited with the always-enigmatic Malick for "The Tree of Life" (2011). While the ponderous film met with mixed reviews, praise for Lubezki's cinematography was considerable, with another Academy Award nom, as well as other wins. While the pair's collaboration on "To the Wonder" (2012) received muted response, Lubezki's work with Cuarón on the tense sci-fi film "Gravity" (2013) was a huge hit. Following two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) stranded in space, the movie was so technically advanced that new technology had to be created for Lubezki to use, once again confirming his status as an innovator of the highest order. Lubezki won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on this film, then won the same award the following year for his work on Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman" (2014). The duo reteamed the following year for the frontier thriller "The Revenant" (2015), for which Lubezki won an unprecedented third consecutive Oscar for Best Cinematography.

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CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Began taking still photographs at age 12
1987:
Shot second unit work on "Gaby - A True Story"
1989:
Produced "El Camino Largo a Tijuana", the feature directorial debut of Luis Estrada
1991:
Debut as director of photography "Bandidos/Bandits", helmed by Estrada; also produced
1991:
First collaboration with director Alfonso Cuaron, "Love in the Time of Hysteria"
1992:
Breakthrough feature as a cinematographer, "Like Water for Chocolate", directed by Alfonso Arau; (US release in 1993)
1993:
Reteamed with Estrada for "Ambar"
1993:
Served as cinematographer on the American independent "Twenty Bucks"
1993:
US debut as Cinematographer for the two segments of the Showtime anthology series "Fallen Angels," the Cuaron-directed "Murder, Obliquely" and the Tom Hanks directed "I'll Be Waiting"
1994:
Shot "Reality Bites", directed by Ben Stiller
1995:
Earned richly deserved Academy Award nomination for "A Little Princess", directed by Cuaron
1995:
Reteamed with Arau for "A Walk in the Clouds"
1996:
Was director of photography on "The Birdcage", helmed by Mike Nichols
1998:
Fourth film with Cuaron, the contemporary remake of "Great Expectations"
1998:
Shot "Meet Joe Black"
1999:
Garnered widespread praise and an Oscar nomination for Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow"
2000:
Director of Photography for "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" the directorial debut for Rodrigo Garcia; premiered at Sundance (aired on Showtime in 2001)
2001:
Served as cinematographer on "Ali"
2002:
Was director of photography on "Frida"
2002:
Reteamed with director Alfonso Cuaron for "Y Tu Mama Tambien"
2005:
Received third Oscar nomination for his work on Terrence Malick's "The New World"
2006:
Reteamed with director Alfonso Cuaron for "Children of Men"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography
2011:
Lensed Malick's "The Tree of Life"
2013:
Reunited with Cuaron for "Gravity"
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Education

National University: -

Notes

"When I saw the movie ['The Little Princess'] I didn't even remember shooting it. It was the first time that had happened to me. The music, the images, the acting, and the editing all blended together, and suddenly I was trapped in the movie. It was a great feeling; I must have cried three times." --Emmanuel Lubezki in American Cinematographer, June 1996

"Before each movie I do a lot of tests. The producers don't love that, but I do them very closely with the director so that there are no surprises. You establish a look from the tests and then you try to be consistent for the whole movie." --Lubezki in American Cinematographer, June 1996

"Every project is completely different. I don't have any set style. That depends on the director and the script. Before shooting any movie, I try to see a lot of films to find ideas that I can use to tell my own stories. But the important thing to remember is that cinematography is not an end unto itself, and doesn't mean anything without the rest [of the production values]." -- Emmanuel Lubezki in American Cinematographer, June 1996

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