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RIP, Gordon Willis

By Rich Heldenfels Published: May 19, 2014

The brilliant cinematographer has died at the age of 82. One story is here. When you look at his body of work, you can see why this is such a loss to film. His "Godfather" cinematography alone is celebrated -- though sometimes underappreciated. As I said in a 2008 DVD column:

I've seen The Godfather and The Godfather Part II countless times over the last 30-plus years. But I am now wondering when I last saw them the way they were meant to be seen.

Paramount's Tuesday DVD release of those movies along with The Godfather Part III is being billed as ''the Coppola restoration,'' masterminded by director Francis Ford Coppola. The third film was remastered and the first two copied from a painstakingly restored version that not only made technical improvements, but that also involved cinematographer Gordon Willis in the process to make sure that the new rendition reflected his original vision for the film.

The result can be startling. As an extra about the restoration notes, wear on the negative and the making of many, many copies led to degradation in the picture, especially in the delicate contrasts between light and dark, and the subtleties in the dark portions.

When restored, Willis's astonishing art was evident.

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