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Walter Lassally (18 December 1926 – 23 October 2017)

Walter Lassally’s family fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and came to England where his father made industrial and documentary movies. Following in his father’s footsteps, Lassally made his name as a cinematographer in the Fifties, working as part of the British Free Cinema movement, and alongside directors such as Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, and Lindsay Anderson. These were short movies and documentaries that reflected the mood of Britain at the time, and Lassally’s involvement in them helped forge the partnership he made with Richardson in the early Sixties, and which led to a trilogy of movies about working class British lives (past and present) that brought both of them international acclaim. Following his collaboration with Richardson, Lassally reunited with Cypriot director Michael Cacoyannis, with whom he’d worked sporadically during the late Fifties, on perhaps his most famous work, Zorba the Greek (1964). Lassally won an Oscar for his work on the movie, and when he retired he donated it to a beach front taverna located near to where Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates famously danced together in the movie (alas, the statuette was lost in a fire there in 2012).

Lassally continued to work steadily after that, and was much in demand, but in 1972 he began another working relationship that would provide him with extra plaudits in the years ahead, with James Ivory. They worked together off and on over the next twenty years, and Lassally continued to provide the movies he worked on with a thoughtful and intelligent visual approach to the material, while also doing his best to come up with new innovative ways of presenting said material. And even though he officially “retired” in the early Nineties he continued working up until his last feature, Crescent Heart (2001). While not a household name in the same sense as some of his contemporaries, Lassally was nevertheless a signifier of quality if you saw his name in the credits of a movie. Thanks to his early background in shorts and documentaries, Lassally was always able to find the truth within an image, and provide a clarity of vision that always helped to elevate the material or the narrative he was working with. An unsung hero behind the lens then, but very capable of capturing sights that could provoke an emotional and an intellectual response in the viewer.

1 – A Girl in Black (1956)

2 – A Taste of Honey (1961)

3 – The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

4 – Tom Jones (1963)

5 – Zorba the Greek (1964)

6 – Oedipus the King (1968)

7 – Malachi’s Cove (1973)

8 – Heat and Dust (1983)

9 – The Bostonians (1984)

10 – The Deceivers (1988)