Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Gil Taylor and Vadim Yusov die on the same day

Two incomparable cinematographers passed away within hours of one another on Friday.

Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 22:21


Over the last month or so we have, in this place, been indulgently counting down the last 50 years, one film at a time. We hope that no curse is in play, but, just eight films into the project, we have included work by two men who died last Friday. Vadim Yusov, who was 84, was mainly known for his collaborations with Andrei Tarkovsky on such projects as Solaris, Ivan’s Childhood and — our choice for 1969 – Andrei Rublev.

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Gil Taylor (pictured above), who reached 99, was among the most versatile and gifted cameramen Britain has yet produced. He shot Ice Cold in Alex, Dr Strangelove, Hard Day’s Night, The Omen and — our choice for 1965 — Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. The story goes that he turned down a Bond film because he found Polanski so fascinating. Gil was clearly no fool. He also shot something called Star Wars, but he didn’t really regard that as such a magnificent achievement.

It wouldn’t be at all fair to compare the headlines on Gil’s obituaries with the famous one that greeted Orson Welles’s death: Sherry Man Dies. (Younger readers may need to be reminded that Welles advertised a popular brand of that fortified wine.) But he would, most likely, have not much enjoyed the stress put on George Lucas’s space opera. “Gilbert Taylor, Star Wars cinematographer, dies aged 99,” the BBC informed us. He found the whole thing a bit silly and Lucas impossibly hard to read. “George avoided all meetings and contact with me from day one,” he said. “In my view, he didn’t want to have a serious conversation about anything. Even actors say the worst thing in the world is to go and have lunch with George Lucas — because he never speaks.” Taylor described the film as “corny”.

So, we had better stop talking about it. Hadn’t we?. Seek out Gil’s black and white work on Repulsion or the silvery Dr Strangelove. Seek out his striking use of colour in Hitchcock’s Frenzy or Polanski’s Macbeth. His contribution to the success of those films is immeasurable.

By the way, now 100, Douglas Slocombe, DoP of The Servant, is still with us. Live longer, sir.

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