Passing of Cinematographer Willy Kurant, AFC, ASC

Contre-Champ AFC n°320

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We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of cinematographer Willy Kurant, AFC, ASC, in Paris on Saturday, 1st May 2021, at the age of 88. Trained in the heyday of television reporting, he described himself as the “leader of the second group of the New Wave”. He was a daring and eclectic cinematographer whose career, in France and in the USA, lasted over sixty years. His work was recognized on films by directors as different as Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Jerzy Skolimowski, Orson Welles, Serge Gainsbourg, Maurice Pialat, and Philippe Garrel in recent years.

“I had a latent image in my memory. I had lived in Northern Europe, in Belgium, and I never forgot that light. The metallic blue sky, the dark clouds, the very high contrast, all stayed with me. Lighting is always a part of the story you are telling. It mustn’t be overly visible ; it must be part of the staging and the screenplay. I like a mobile camera, one that sticks to its subject.” (Willy Kurant, excerpted from the Cinema Lecon he gave at the Cinémathèque Française on 4 May 2013)

We will pay a justly deserved tribute to Willy Kurant soon. In the meantime, the AFC extends its friendship and its thoughts to Hélène, his wife, who stayed at his side until his last moments.

The thumbnail above is a portrait of Willy Kurant in 2001, taken from the work En lumière – Les directeurs de la photographie vus par les cinéastes, initiated and supported by Kodak – Photo by Sylvie Biscioni.