Watch: Vilmos Zsigmond Defined 1970s Cinema
The late cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond arguably defined the look of American cinema in the 1970s. He worked on films like Altman’s ‘McCabe and Mrs. Miller
,’ De Palma’s ‘Blow Out’ and Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ for which he received an Oscar. Despite the fact that few of his films look alike, Zsigmond developed a distinct visual style over the course of his illustrious career—namely succeeding in creating significance within the frame by juxtaposing his subjects using deep focus. In ‘Blow Out,’ the shot where John Travolta’s Jack Terry points his boom mic at the distant owl can be seen as representing the duality between sight and sound. In ‘Deer Hunter,’ you can also see a duality in Robert De Niro’s Michael "Mike" Vronsky. As he walks across atop a rocky mountain, his troubled past is represented by his mirror image that’s reflected on the lake surface. Zsigmond’s ability to maximize the area of the visual frame to produce new meaning beyond the film’s narrative is just one of the many reasons why he gained his legendary status in the filmmaking industry.