Oscar Profile #474: Edward Lachman

Born March 31, 1948 in Morristown, New Jersey, Edward (Ed) Lachman is the son of Rosabel and Edward Lachman, a movie theatre distributer and owner. He attended Harvard University and studied in France at the University of Tours before pursuing a BFA in painting at Ohio University.

Mentored in cinematography by such masters as Robby Muller (Paris, Texas), Sven Nykvist (Fanny & Alexander) and Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), he learned how to sculp low light from Muller, study natural light from Nykvist and manufacture chiaroscuro light from Storaro.

Lachman’s first screen credit was as associate producer for the 1970 short, Shut Up…I’m Crying. His second was as assistant cameraman on the 1972 documentary, America First. His first credit as a cinematographer was on 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush.

For the next decade, Lachman was the credited cinematographer on a number of documentaries and short subjects, but also worked as an assistant cinematographer and cameraman on such major films as Stroszek, An American Friend, King of the Gypsies, Last Embrace, They All Laughed and Insignificance.

Lachman’s notable works as a cinematographer from the mid-1980s through the end of the 20th Century included Desperately Seeking Susan, Less Than Zero, Mississippi Masala, Light Sleeper, Selena, The Limey and The Virgin Suicides. He achieved even greater fame with 2000’s Erin Brockovich.

Working with director Todd Haynes for the first time on 2002’s Far from Heaven, Lachman received numerous awards include one from the New York Film Critics as well as his first Oscar nomination. In 2006, he was the cinematographer on Robert Altman’s last film, A Prairie Home Companion. In 2007, he reunited with Haynes for I’m Not There. He then worked as cinematographer for Todd Solondz on 2009’s Life During Wartime and Ron Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman on 2010’s Howl.

Lachman was director of cinematography on all five episodes of Todd Haynes’ epic 2011 miniseries, Mildred Pierce, receiving and Emmy nomination for his work on the last episode.

Working with Haynes again on 2015’s Carol, Lachman received his second New York Film Critics Award, a BAFTA nomination and his second Oscar nomination among other awards. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers which had previously nominated him for Far from Heaven, Mildred Pierce and Carol. He subsequently worked with Haynes again on 2017’s Wonderstruck and 2019’s Dark Waters.

Edward Lachman is currently in post-production on The Seville Communion/The Man from Rome. He remains one of the screen’s best cinematographers at 71.

ESSENTIAL FILMS

DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (1985), directed by Susan Seidelman

Perhaps it was his start in documentary filmmaking, or maybe it was his long apprenticeship with German director Werner Herzog and his relationship with the European masters, Muller, Nykvist and Storaro who were his friends and mentors, but by the time Lachman photographed Desperately Seeking Susan, his beautiful but unobtrusive cinematography was as much a part of the films he worked on as were the performances of its stars, in this case Susanna Arquette, Madonna and Aidan Quinn in a film largely made on the streets of Manhattan. Arquette played a housewife mistaken for the missing Madonna.

FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002), directed by Todd Haynes

Lachman perfectly recreated Haynes’ variation on and tribute to Douglas Sirk’s 1955 film, All That Heaven Allows by using the same type of incandescent lighting equipment, the same lighting techniques, and the same type of lens filters that would have been used in the 1950s when making the film. The result was the first of his two New York Film Critics’ awards and the first of his two Oscar nominations. Haynes received his first and to date only Oscar nomination for his screenplay. The film was also nominated for Elmer Bernstein’s score and Julianne Moore’s luminous performance.

CAROL (2015), directed by Todd Haynes

Lachman shot this beautifully photographed film that took place between the Christmas season of 1952 and early 1953 on Super 16-millimeter film to resemble photographic film of the late 1940s/early 1950s. Photography by Saul Leiter, known for shooting through windows and using reflection, was a key influence. The result was Lachman’s second New York Film Critics’ award and second Oscar nomination. The film, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), was also Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Score and for the performances of Cate Blanchett and Roney Mara.

WONDERSTRUCK (2017), directed by Todd Haynes

Lachman perfectly captures the two distinct looks of New York City in 1927 in black-and-white and a very different New York City in color in 1977, climaxing in the great blackout of 1977 in this tale of two children, fifty years apart, who run away from home and end up at the Museum of Natural History. Julianne Moore, in her fourth film for Haynes, and Michelle Williams in her second, are the big names in the film but it is carried by child stars Millicent Simmonds in the 1927 section and Oakes Fegley in the 1977 version with strong support from Cory Michael Smith and Jaden Michael in this underappreciated masterwork.

DARK WATERS (2019), directed by Todd Haynes

Nominated for two Satellite awards, one of the first year-end 2019 awards to be announced, this tense film reunites Haynes and Lachman in the exposé of the DuPont Chemical Company and the decades long fight to bring them to justice for the pollution first discovered as the film opens on Cincinnati’s Ohio River in 1975. It climaxes in 1998 with the deaths of 190 cows. Anne Hathaway, Satellite nominated Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins star with William Jackson Harper, Bill Pullman, Louisa Krause, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and Bill Camp in key supporting roles.

EDWARD LACHMAN AND OSCAR

  • Far from Heaven (2002) – nominated – Best Cinematography
  • Carol (2015) – nominated – Best Cinematography
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    1. Got to work with him on both Carol & Dark Waters. 🙂

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