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Life struck me as several cuts above “meh” but never made me jump out of my seat.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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László Kovács: In Memory

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László Kovács (May 14, 1933 – July 22, 2007)

Kovács emigrated to the United States with his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond, who became another great Hungarian-American cinematographer.

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For me, perhaps the most indelible image in Kovács' work is the last shot of "Five Easy Pieces" (Bob Rafelson, 1970), a long stationary take of a gray, rainy stretch of Pacific Northwest highway, stuck in the muddy pavement outside an isolated gas station. The only camera movement is a slight pan. All the loneliness, frustration and alienation of the whole movie culminates (in a diminuendo, if that's possible) in this damp, atmospheric image.

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Other notable Kovács films include:

"Psych-Out" (Richard Rush, 1968) "Targets" (Peter Bogdanovich, 1968) "Easy Rider" (Dennis Hopper, 1969) "That Cold Day in the Park" (Robert Altman, 1969) "Getting Straight" (Rush, 1970) "Alex in Wonderland" (Paul Mazursky, 1970) "The Last Movie" (Hopper, 1971) "What's Up, Doc?" (Bogdanovich, 1972) "The King of Marvin Gardens" (Bob Rafelson, 1972) "Paper Moon" (Bogdanovich, 1973) "Shampoo" (Hal Ashby, 1975) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (Steven Spielberg, 1977 -- additional photography) "New York, New York" (Martin Scorsese, 1977) "The Last Waltz" (Scorsese, 1978 -- additional photography) "Ghostbusters" (Ivan Reitman, 1984) "Mask" (Bogdanovich, 1985) "Say Anything..." (Cameron Crowe, 1989) "Radio Flyer" (Richard Donner, 1992) "My Best Friend's Wedding" (P.J. Hogan, 1997)

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