Ronin - Photography

Last Update: 19 September 1998

ROBERT FRAISSE (Director of Photography) has had a long and distinguished career primarily in the French cinema, where he has been the cinematographer on more than 25 feature films. He is perhaps best known internationally for this three collaborations with director Jean-Jacques Annaud: The Lover, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography in 1992, the 1996 Imax production of Wings of Courage and, more recently, Seven Years in Tibet.

Fraisse's French film credits range from comedies like Yves Robert's Le Jumeau, Philippe De Broca's La Gitane and Gerard Oury's Fantome Avec Chauffeur to thrillers such as Christopher Frank's Spirale, Jacques Deray's Un Crime and Denis Amar's L'Addition to psychological dramas like Pierre Granier-Deferre's Cours Prive.

His other credits include Lady Chatterly's Lover, The Last Romantic Lover and the highly acclaimed HBO television movie Citizen X, which brought Fraisse to the attention of John Frankenheimer, with whom he would subsequently collaborate on Ronin.

In addition, Fraisse has served as director of photography on more than 600 French television commercials, working with an impressive roster of international directors, including Tony Scott, Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Lee Lacey and Catherine LeFevre, among many others.

"John [Frankenheimer] envisioned a type of lighting that results in an almost complete absence of color, a pastel processing, which is very dramatic and not what you'd expect in this sort of film. We also used a Steadicam for half of the shots in the movie, because its mobility allowed us to constantly follow the actors, which gave the film the realistic look of a documentary.

"We could have done this using the traditional technique of a dolly and rails, but that would have taken much longer to set up and would have required time-consuming rehearsals. David Crone, our Steadicam operator, was so efficient, his images so stable and his composition so flawless that it is impossible to tell the Steadicam shots from the regular camera shots.

"The movie has many group scenes, in whichJohn would want to capture two, three and even four actors in the same frame, all at different distances from the camera. To accomplish this signature effect, we shot in Super 35 mm with wide angle lenses, because those lenses allowed us to obtain sharp images of the shot's entire depth of field while giving the actors freedom of movement within the frame."

Frankenheimer was very specific about the stark visual look he wanted for Ronin, with a minimalist and realistic approach in telling the story.

He chose to work with Fraisse after seeing the highly acclaimed HBO film Citizen X. "I was taken by how brilliantly it was lit, and I wrote Robert's name in my notebook," the director recalls. "His great work on that project, which was shot in only 35 days, showed me that he could work fast. I made my choice then and there, and didn't call anyone else."

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