The documentary "The Man Who Shot Chinatown: The Life and Work of John A. Alonzo" is a fascinating look into the work and life of one of the most underrated figures of the movie industry, cinematographer John A. Alonzo (1934-2001). Inovative and hard worker he made the cinematography of 79 movies, some of the greatest movies of all time such as "Chinatown" (his only Oscar nomination) and "Scarface"; worked as an actor in his early years in Hollywood (he has a small role in "The Magnificent Seven") and even worked along with the great James Wong Howe, one of the most significant names of cinematography in Hollywood.
In the documentary footage of Alonzo's interviews and interviews with film critic Roger Ebert, actors Richard Dreyfuss (worked with Alonzo in "Lansky" and "Fail Safe") and Sally Field (worked with Alonzo in "Norma Rae" and "Steel Magnolias"), cinematographer Haskell Wexler and many of his friends and family presents us the professional, the family man and the friend in interesting testimonies. William Friedkin (who knew Alonzo from long time but only worked with him in "The Guardian") gives a great and relevant look on Alonzo's talented work including the exceptional lightning and the spectacular aerial shots of "Blue Thunder".
Documentaries that evoke the life and work of someone who worked behind the cameras on important films are very rare and this is well made except for the lack of information on Alonzo's final films, and for countless error on the year of release of many movies presented. Example: "Norma Rae" appears credited as released in 1978 but it was released in the following year. This kind of thing might seem not much of a big thing but it takes a little of the credibility of the researches of this documentary and provides wrong informations.
Another thing (noticed by other reviewer on IMDb also) it's the fact that the title of this documentary focused too much in "Chinatown" but when you watch it there's too little about it, and no one involved in "Chinatown" appeared to talk about his work on it. Not only he was nominated for an Oscar for his work (Polanski fired the first DP after this last one not follow his instructions) but he changed the face and the usual way of the film noir genre. This wasn't told in the documentary but if you take a look at the films noir they were all in black and white and Alonzo introduced colors, different lightning and the important use of shadows (Ebert mentions the shadows) in "Chinatown" establishing a whole new concept of film noir.
Except for that it's a must see documentary for anybody who enjoys movies and enjoys to know interesting things of what happens behind the scenes of great movies. On the rolling credits there's a few funny things about Alonzo and one story in particularly in told by Martin Ritt's daughter about how her father never was able to fix his TV when it was out of tune and he called to John Alonzo to fix it every time that happened. This funny story is presented in a good short animation. Very good! 9/10
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