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American Cinematographer Magazine
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"One might ask why I was lighting the entire room rather than the actors," she continues, "and it was because the two cameras shooting simultaneously were moving in the room according to Michel's instructions. He had both operators [listening] on ear rigs, through which he would extemporaneously ask them to pan or move into a close-up. I must admit, we were less than enthusiastic about the ear rigs."

To help the actors maintain the flow of a scene, Gondry often shot entire scenes from beginning to end. Covering the scenes in dual moving master shots while keeping the opposing camera out of frame demanded spontaneous choreography by A-camera operator Chris Norr and B-camera operator Peter Agliata - and plenty of 400' mags. An 11-page scene that depicts Joel and Clementine's first meeting on Montauk was especially arduous, according to Kuras. "We were shooting on a real moving train on real tracks, and we only had a certain amount of time to get the scene. We had to use 1,000-foot mags to cover the scene in a one-shot deal, which is a killer way of shooting because you always have to be 'on.' While rolling, Michel would often ask us to move the angle of the shot. We didn't know whether he would use these shots as one move, so we tried to make everything usable. With all of that shifting, squatting and standing, working with the weight of 1,000-foot mags, and trying to slip between train seats with the assistant holding focus, the camera movement is not always the most graceful." With a laugh, she adds, "In the final cut, not surprisingly, Michel doesn't use any of the moves."

Inspired by the French New Wave, the filmmakers used some unusual methods to accomplish many camera moves. "Michel was very interested in calling back to Godard, whose work I know very well, by having us handhold the camera while sitting in a wheelchair," says Kuras. "My key grip, Bob Andres, and I did all these tests that had me in a wheelchair or in a chariot dolly, running all over sidewalks and up and down curbs, to see how bad it would be, especially on cobblestone streets. The wheelchair dolly move wasn't always perfectly smooth, but there was often real beauty in that low-angle, wobbly movement, and I was willing to go with it. With the entire film shot handheld, we ended up using sled dollies, wheelchairs and chariot dollies, but no traditional dollies at all."

Occasionally the overlapping demands of long takes, naturalistic lighting and cramped locations resulted in a downright comical configuration behind the camera. For instance, instead of staging a car scene with a process trailer, Kuras, Norr, two cameras and one assistant squeezed into the rear passenger seat to film both angles of a scene in which Carrey drives a car for real and Winslet rides along. The bulky mags required for the long take wouldn't fit inside the car, so the crew hung them out the windows, which then had to be boxed in for sound. "But as usual, we were shooting with only available light," says Kuras, "so we had to build a tiny muslin-and-Plexiglas exterior [for the mags], or we would have been totally dark in the back. And of course, the car wasn't a Lincoln Continental with four doors, it was a tiny Toyota! [First AC] Carlos Guerra was sitting between the two cameras, pulling focus on both at the same time. Talk about going in the completely opposite direction of a studio picture!"

However, Kuras was able to stylize a sequence she refers to as "the chase scene." As Joel burrows deeper into his own memories in a vain attempt to "hide" what remains of Clementine from the Lacuna technicians, the scenes' quality of light becomes distinctly dramatic. "We didn't want to make it a huge departure from the film's look, but we wanted to signal to the audience that we were in the tunnel of the mind," Kuras explains. "Michel's visual analogy, which was brilliant, was inspired by the French film Le Boucher: a car is driving on a deserted country road at night, and you can only see what's illuminated by the throw of the headlights. When you're remembering something, you don't get a full picture; you only see certain glimpses of the scene in your head, depending on what you're focusing on. So, for our 'memory light,' we attached a single clip light on top of the camera for closer shots; we used a Par can to similar effect in the wide shots."

Kuras filmed Eternal Sunshine on Fuji Reala 500D, mainly because she liked its cyan bias in the shadow areas and the smoothness and saturation of the colors and grain. "Although cyan in the blacks is perhaps not 'traditionally accepted,' I actually built additional cyan into the shadows at the post stage, because I really liked the look and color palette created by warm sodium-vapor yellow in conjunction with cyan green and cyan blue," she says. She made maximum use of the Reala by pushing it one stop and eschewing correction filters on her Zeiss Superspeed lenses.

At some key moments, the filmmakers simply let the frame go dark. "Michel really wanted this to feel like a European film, and many of those have shots where everything is dark and you can only glimpse one thing in the frame," says Kuras. "I admire the way Nestor Almendros [ASC] used available light, and the way Robby Műller still does. They and Raoul Coutard are some of the most amazing cinematographers. They use light sparingly, and I ascribed to that [approach] on this film."

The filmmakers' straddle between frank naturalism and visual metaphor didn't stop when Eternal Sunshine wrapped. Indeed, when Kuras and Gondry first began to work out the details of Eternal Sunshine, they decided to finish the film with a digital intermediate (DI). Kuras had used the process on two prior projects, Spike Lee's Jim Brown: All American (Post Process, AC Sept. '02) and Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity (AC April '02). On Jim Brown, Kuras used the DI to provide a high-quality blowup on a short schedule; on Personal Velocity, she used it to sweeten her original DV footage into something more "filmic." She notes that there were a number of reasons, both creative and logistical, for taking Eternal Sunshine to a DI. The most salient was Gondry's desire to insert digital-composite effects throughout the film; the DI process would allow Kuras more flexibility in matching the effects shots with images scanned from the original negative. But the cinematographer was also keen to make the most of digital tools' abilities to affect select areas of the frame: "I knew the DI would enable me to influence colors in the highlight and shadow areas within the image itself, which you can't do in traditional timing. Power Windows afford a great amount of control."

For the color-correction, Kuras returned to EFilm in Hollywood, where she had supervised the DV-to-35mm transfer on Personal Velocity. "[Postproduction coordinator] Mike Kennedy and [colorist] Mike Eaves at EFilm and [vice president] Beverly Wood at Deluxe all bent over backward to help me realize the unique vision of this picture," she notes. "With changing film stocks and different goals for each film, the DI process is a new learning experience each time."

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© 2004 American Cinematographer.