Death of director of photography Bruno de Keyzer, BSC

La Lettre AFC n°299

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We were saddened to learn of the news of the death of our colleague Bruno de Keyzer, BSC, which occurred on Tuesday, 25 June 2019 at Villerville (Calvados - France), in his seventieth year of life. Lively, charming and talented, during his thirty-five-year-long career in France and the UK, he worked with directors such as Mark Peploe, Arturo Ripstein, Jerry Schatzberg and Bertrand Tavernier, for whom he shot six films.

Born on 11 August 1949, Bruno de Keyzer started out as a 2d Assistant Camera alongside Sven Nykvist and François Catonné on Louis Malle’s Black Moon in 1975, and then on Roman Polanski’s The Tenant in 1976. He then assisted Robert Fraisse and Bernard Zitzermann, as well as Pasqualino de Santis and Aldo Tonti, to name but a few.
In 1984, he signed off on the luminous cinematography of Bertrand Tavernier’s A Sunday in the Country, for which he won a César award. This began a collaboration that lasted up to the shooting of The Princess of Montpensier in 2010. In between these two films, they shot together Round Midnight (1986), Beatrice (1987), Life and Nothing But (1989), and In the Electric Mist (2007).

Bruno de Keyzer
Bruno de Keyzer

The work of a cinematographer is to light emotions
“You have to stick to the story. The main job of a cinematographer is not to light sets, it’s to understand the story that he is shooting and to try to serve it. From there on, the rest is simple. The photography comes next. We don’t light sets, we light emotions. The photography is a success when you’ve understood the story and that you’ve done it justice. With literature, each reader imagines something, but in the cinema, we impose our vision of a set, so we’ve got to get it right. If we’ve gotten it right, we’ve almost succeeded.” (Excerpt from chosen parts of a discussion with Bruno de Keyzer on the occasion of the screening of In the Electric Fog on 5 April 2011 at the Cine-Club of the Ecole Louis-Lumière)

Bruno de Keyzer sur le tournage de "Dans la brume électrique", en 2007
Bruno de Keyzer sur le tournage de "Dans la brume électrique", en 2007

Amongst other collaborations, particularly noteworthy are his work with Ariel Zeitoun (Souvenirs souvenirs in 1984 and Saxo in 1988), Caroline Huppert (Sincerely Charlotte in 1984), Jerry Schatzberg (Reunion in 1989), Francis Girod (Lacenaire in 1990), Claire Devers (Max & Jérémie in 1992), Arturo Ripstein (The Queen of the Night, 1994), Volker Schlöndorff (The Ogre, in 1996), Jerry Schatzberg (The Day the Ponies Came Back, in 2000), Emmanuelle Cuau (Very Well, Thank You in 2005).

“A cinematographer is like a rugby player, you’ve got to have a sense for the game. You’re not going to betray the director, you’re going to try and have the same reading of the scene as he does, and when you have an idea, you’re going to tell him about it. The style of the film is entirely decided before the first day of shooting. You know what you have to do with the director, and what you must not do. You don’t even have to talk about it. From that point on, every day, the director decides what he wants to get out of the actors. As for me, I have to read in the actors’ eyes how they are going to give the director what he wants. I have a visual reading.” (Excerpts from the aforementioned chosen parts).

Besides the César for Best Cinematography in 1985 for A Sunday in the Country, Bruno de Keyzer was nominated for Life and Nothing But in 1989 and for The Princesse of Montpensier in 2010. In February 2012, he was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, a decoration that he received from the hands of Joëlle Bellon at the town hall of Villerville.

Lastly, we would like to remember his participation in a Master Class organized in October 2015 in Bucharest by the RSC (Romanian Society of Cinematographers), which was supported by Aaton/Transvideo, Angénieux and K5600 Lighting.

Read an interview about his work on The Princess of Montpensier published in English by Benjamin B on the blog he runs on the AFC’s website.

Read an interview from September 2013, in which he briefly discusses his career, his profession, one of his passions, on the website of Ouest-France.

In the portfolio below, you will find a few photos of Bruno de Keyzer, certainly taken in London in the 1990s (photo 1), on the set of In the Electric Fog in 2007 (photo 2), on The Princess of Montpensier in 2010 (photo 3), and during the Master Class in Bucharest in 2015 (photos 4, 5, and 6). Thank you to Sylvaine de Keyzer, Jean-Yves Le Poulain, and Marc Galerne.