For more than thirty years, Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bin has been collaborating with some of the greatest living filmmakers. Although best known for his work with director Hou Hsiao-hsien on films such as A Time to Live, a Time to Die and Millennium Mambo, Lee has also shot for Wong Kar-wai (alongside Christopher Doyle on In the Mood for Love and Fallen Angels), Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tran Anh Hung, and Ann Hui.
This month, New York’s Museum of Modern Art is presenting a retrospective of Lee’s work to celebrate his contribution to cinema. To mark the occasion, Film Comment’s Dan Eagan conducted an e-mail interview with the cinematographer, whom Eagan describes as having developed an “uncanny grasp of artificial and natural lighting” when he was coming up as an intern at the Central Motion Pictures Company. “Over the course of 70 movies, he has attracted directors for his willingness to experiment with lenses, film stocks, and an array of filters, some of which he devised himself,” writes Eagan. “Lee’s signature style employs extended takes, intricate camera movements, and minimal lighting that complement his directors’ goals.
In his back-and-forth with Eagan, Lee dissects his process on various features he’s worked on, including Flowers of Shanghai, The Vertical Ray of the Sun, The Assassin, and The Rooftop. “I have to assess how the director has blocked the scene, how the actors might move on the set,” says Lee in a discussion about how he fits his work around the other elements within a scene. “If I feel that some adjustments can enhance the power of the image, I would raise my opinions and suggestions. But no matter what adjustments are made, the principle is to allow actors freedom within the space.”
Read the interview in full over at Film Comment’s site.