The Gordon Willis Frame

Gordon Willis was one of the cinema’s greatest artists. Drawing from over 25 of his films, this essay celebrates Willis’ lighting, blocking, preference for a 40mm lens and above all his use of strong geometric patterns. Whether collaborating with some of America’s most celebrated directors; Woody Allen, Alan J. Pakula and Francis Ford Coppola, irrespective of the genre and regardless if the setting was urban, rustic, contemporary or period, Willis’ style was so identifiable that he redefined cinematography. More than a director of photography, Gordon Willis was a cinematograph-auteur.

This video-essay is part of a series I am uploading for education purposes and is protected under the Fair Use copyright laws of the United States.

8 Responses to “The Gordon Willis Frame”

  1. andrew silver says:

    terrific essay on Willis

    • Thank you Andrew, I really enjoyed putting it together and to be honest, such was Willis’ genius and so beautiful are his surviving images that I was spoiled for choice and the essay could easily have gone on for another 6 minutes.

  2. Nachiketa A says:

    Thanks Steven. I am a self-educating student of cinematography and direction, and this essay made me realize why so many of the frames are still potent from viewing some of these films while growing up. I never took notice of the cinematographers work consciously at the time, but now I see the master at work influencing subconsciously. Thanks for making this essay and sharing.

    • Thank you very much for such generous remarks. I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the essay and that it has brought you to one of cinema’s greatest artists. Gordon Willis was a true rarity, a director of photography whose artistry was as recognisable as a director’s. I have also posted other essays on directors such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese as well as pieces on Blade Runner, Inception, The Silence of the Lambs and a short contemplation on Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. I hope you enjoy them.

  3. Lee Moyer says:

    This is the best compilation of Willis’ mastery I’ve seen. Thank you!

    Amarcord led me to your work, and since then I’ve listened to (and watched) many more pieces. I keep nodding and talking back to the podcast episodes. I feel like one could talk about Blade Runner for hours, but Zora’s death – running through all four seasons (of fashion) before dying in the snow – is one of my favorite scenes. That Rutger Hauer had such skill he could play hide-and-seek while wearing the clothes of the 3 year old he is and not draw derision… my favorite performance in an incredible film. But I digress…

    I so appreciate your work and the love you have for cinema.
    Thank you again,

    • Hello Lee,
      Thank you for such generous compliments!
      And also, thank you for such a brilliant insight into Blade Runner and Zora’s death – until you mentioned it, I never noticed the featuring of the seasons!
      Best wishes,


  1. […] Benedict edited an elegant compilation video of Gordon’s work and […]

  2. […] Benedict edited an elegant compilation video of Gordon’s work and […]

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