John Bailey on Vilmos Zsigmond

On Film / Short Takes — Jan 20, 2016

Earlier this month, we lost Vilmos Zsigmond, the venerated Hungarian cinematographer. Not only was he one of the greatest directors of photography in the world—known for his influential work with Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, and Brian De Palma, among others—Zsigmond was also a friend, ally, and hero to countless others in the industry. One of the young cinematographers he mentored was John Bailey, who has just published a moving tribute to Zsigmond on his blog, John's Bailiwick, hosted on the website of the American Society of Cinematographers.

In his piece, Bailey recounts Zsigmond's close friendship with fellow cinematographer László Kovács—the two emigrated together from Hungary to the United States in the late 1950s—and recalls his own experience working with Zsigmond (as well as interviewing him for our release of The Rose last year). “When sitting opposite Vilmos for any discussion . . . it was always his intense eyes that quickly got your attention,” Bailey writes, “perhaps because they were a window into deciphering what was still, despite 50-odd years in the U.S., a formidable Hungarian accent.” He also mentions the late cinematographer’s appearance last summer on Anthony Bourdain’s CNN travel show, Parts Unknown, which made him “marvel again at the huge creative mark this slight and gentle man made on American cinema.”

Read Bailey’s article in full here, and for more reflections on Zsigmond, read Criterion technical director Lee Kline’s tribute to him.