Henri Alekan


Director Of Photography

About

Birth Place
France
Born
February 10, 1909
Died
June 15, 2001
Cause of Death
Leukemia

Biography

One of France's most distinguished, and versatile, cinematographers, Henri Alekan became an assistant camera operator in 1929 and graduated to director of photography as a member of the French Resistance (he had escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1940). He made his mark in black and white in the 1940s. Rene Clement's "Battle of the Rails" (1945), an expansion of Clement's shor...

Family & Companions

Nadia Starcevic
Wife
Script supervisor.

Bibliography

"Des Lumieres et des ombres"
Henri Alekan (1979)

Notes

He was a Commander in the Legion of Honor of Arts and Letters.

Biography

One of France's most distinguished, and versatile, cinematographers, Henri Alekan became an assistant camera operator in 1929 and graduated to director of photography as a member of the French Resistance (he had escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1940). He made his mark in black and white in the 1940s. Rene Clement's "Battle of the Rails" (1945), an expansion of Clement's short documentary, allowed Alekan to beautifully capture the acts of sabotage and fights between the railway workers and Germans. His lyrical precision and sober yet sensitive abilities achieved their apotheosis with Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et le bete/Beauty and the Beast" (1945), in which he created a poetic atmosphere that was a perfect harmony of images, using contrasts to create plays of light and shadows in ways that invoked artists like de Hooch and Vermeer.

Alekan shot several American features, notably Billy Wilder's "Roman Holiday" (1953). Switching to color, he earned notice for his work on Abel Gance's "Austerlitz" and Jean Delannoy's "La Princess de Cleves" (both 1960). For his work on Joseph Losey's "The Trout" (1982), Alekan earned a Cesar and contemporary audiences may best know him for his lyrical return to black-and-white in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" (1987). More recently, Alekan collaborated with Amos Gitai on four films: "Esther" (1986), that used the harsh desert sun for dramatic effect through contrasts of light and shadow; and the thematic trilogy, "Berlin/Jerusalem" (1989), which employed German expressionism giving way to an almost travelogue-like view of Israel; "Golem-L'Esprit de l'exil" (1992), employing a multi-exposure technique to create poetic effects; and "Golem-Le Jardin petrifie" (1993), which used landscape photography as symbolism of the central character's search for lost family heirlooms.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Faraway, So Close (1993)
The Other Eye (1991)
Dorenavant tout sera comme d'habitude (1985)
Himself
Unser Nazi (1984)
Director Of Photography

Cinematography (Feature Film)

Petrified Garden (2003)
Cinematographer
Golem, the Spirit of the Exile (1992)
Director Of Photography
Esther (1989)
Director Of Photography
J'ecris dans l'espace (1989)
Director Of Photography
Berlin Jerusalem (1989)
Director Of Photography
Im Exil der Ertrunkenen Tiger (1988)
Cinematographer
Wings of Desire (1987)
Director Of Photography
Wundkanal (1984)
Director Of Photography
Une Pierre dans la bouche (1983)
Director Of Photography
The Beautiful Prisoner (1982)
Director Of Photography
Het Dak van de Walvis (1982)
Director Of Photography
La Truite (1982)
Director Of Photography
The State of Things (1982)
Director Of Photography
The Territory (1981)
Director Of Photography
L' Ombre et la nuit (1978)
Director Of Photography
Figures in a Landscape (1971)
Director of Photography
Red Sun (1971)
Director Of Photography
Mayerling (1969)
Director of Photography
The Christmas Tree (1969)
Director of Photography
Triple Cross (1967)
Director of Photography
Lady L (1966)
Director of Photography
Topkapi (1964)
Director of Photography
The Marriage of Figaro (1963)
Director of Photography
Five Miles to Midnight (1963)
Director of Photography
Tales of Paris (1962)
Photographer for "The Tale of Ella" and "The Tale of Antonia"
Black Tights (1962)
Director of Photography
Austerlitz (1960)
Director Of Photography
The Case of Dr. Laurent (1957)
Director Of Photography
Frou-Frou (1955)
Director Of Photography
Heroes and Sinners (1955)
Director Of Photography
La Reine Margot (1954)
Director Of Photography
Roman Holiday (1953)
Director of Photography
Julietta (1953)
Director Of Photography
Le Fruit defendu (1952)
Director Of Photography
Stranger on the Prowl (1952)
Director Of Photography
Battle of the Rails (1946)
Director Of Photography
La belle et la bête (1946)
Director Of Photography
Mollenard (1937)
Director Of Photography

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

La Marie du Port (1950)
Photography
Anna Karenina (1948)
Photography
Les maudits (1947)
Photography
Battle of the Rails (1946)
Photography

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wings of Desire (1987)
Dp/Cinematographer
Dorenavant tout sera comme d'habitude (1985)
Other
The State of Things (1982)
Dp/Cinematographer

Cinematography (Short)

En rachâchant (1982)
Cinematographer

Cinematography (TV Mini-Series)

The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966)
Director of Photography

Life Events

1929

Worked as camera operator's assistant at Billancourt Studio

1932

Helped organize what became the union of assistant cameramen

1940

Imprisoned by the Germans

1941

Debuted as director of photography on the short "Le Chariot de Thespis" and Yves Allegret's feature "Tobie est un ange" (no longer extant)

1944

Was a founding member of IDHEC

1946

Co-founded Academie du Cinema

1946

Garnered international attention for work on "La Bataille du rail/Battle of the Railway", helmed by Rene Clement, and "La Belle et le bete/Beauty and the Beast", directed by Jean Cocteau

1948

Shot the British-produced "Anna Karenina", directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Vivien Leigh

1950

Reunited with Carne to shoot "La Marie du Port

1952

Short film co-directing debut (with Henri Bonniere), "La Sarre, pleins feux"

1953

Hired to replace Franz Planer on "Roman Holiday", directed by William Wyler

1957

Solo short film directing debut, "L'enfer de Rodin"

1964

Was director of photography on "Topkapi"

1968

Served as cinematographer on "Mayerling"

1981

Shot both "The Territory" for director Raul Ruiz and "The State of Things" for Wim Wenders

1982

Earned acclaim for "The Trout"

1986

Began collaboration with director Amos Gitai on "Esther"

1987

Received the lion's share of critical praise for the glorious black and white cinematography of "Wings of Desire", directed by Wenders

1993

Acting debut in Wenders' "Faraway, So Close"

1993

Shot last feature, "Petrified Garden", directed by Gitai

Videos

Movie Clip

Roman Holiday (1953) -- (Movie Clip) Open, No Sign Of The Strain Following credits confirming the all-location shooting in Rome, Audrey Hepburn in her de-facto debut, the princess of a pointedly not-named country, beginning her Academy Award-winning performance, opening William Wyler's Roman Holiday, 1953, co-starring Gregory Peck.
Roman Holiday (1953) -- (Movie Clip) Care To Make A Statement? The ending of the escape from official guest quarters by visiting Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn), only beginning to feel the effect of a sleep medication, and the introduction of reporter Joe (Gregory Peck) and buds, especially cameraman Irving (Eddie Albert), in William Wyler's Roman Holiday. 1953.
Roman Holiday (1953) -- (Movie Clip) Did You Bring Me Here By Force? American reporter Joe (Gregory Peck) awakens Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn), whose minders consider missing, but whom he in fact rescued, roaming the city while on sleep medication, not revealing that he knows who she is, in Roman Holiday, 1953.
Wings Of Desire (1987) -- (Movie Clip) Open, When The Child Was A Child Spoken by Bruno Ganz as an angel called Damiel, composed by screenwriter Peter Handke and director Wim Wenders, the words are original though they suggest 1: Corinthians 13, the otherwise ethereal opening to the international hit Wings Of Desire, 1987, (the German title closer to Heaven Over Berlin), soaring over the then-divided city.
Wings Of Desire (1987) -- (Movie Clip) Less Effort, More Swing Now roaming West Berlin, angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz), who’s expressed broad discontent to a colleague, happens on a circus where Marion (Solveig Danmartin) is practicing, her first scene, in director Wim Wenders’ celebrated Wings Of Desire, 1987.
Wings Of Desire (1987) -- (Movie Clip) If Grandma Was Here Cutting from a plane over Berlin, another look at Bruno Ganz as (invisible) angel Damiel, as he sees and hears the thoughts of Peter Falk on board, sort-of playing himself, his narration mostly extemporized, after the shoot, in an L-A sound booth, guided by director Wim Wenders back in Germany, then observes other Berliners, early in Wings Of Desire, 1987.
Scapegoat, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) An Emptiness In The Heart Opening the MGM-British production, with affecting narration by Alec Guinness, from Gore Vidal’s screenplay based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, as English teacher Barratt, arriving on the ferry at Port Boulogne, Calais, then reaching Le Mans (though the city is never named) and it’s famous cathedral, briefly meeting Peter Bull, in The Scapegoat, 1959, co-starring Bette Davis.
Beauty And The Beast (1946) -- (Movie Clip) You Will Never See Me Belle (Josette Day) in her continuing adventure at the castle, meets "The Beast" (Jean Marais) and passes out, followed by further freakiness, in Jean Cocteau's Beauty And The Beast, 1946.
Beauty And The Beast (1946) -- (Movie Clip) Is Anyone There Disconsolate father (Marcel Andre) of the heroine, lost in the woods, comes upon a mysterious house, nobody apparently home, in Jean Cocteau's Beauty And The Beast, 1946.
Beauty And The Beast (1946) -- (Movie Clip) You Steal My Roses Father (Marcel Andre) awakens in the mysterious castle and meets and offends "The Beast" (Jean Marais), in Jean Cocteau's Beauty And The Beast, 1946.
Beauty And The Beast (1946) -- (Movie Clip) I Am Your Mirror Hoping to save her father from ruin, Belle (Josette Day) sneaks into the home of the beast, guided by the "voice of magic" (voice of director and scenarist Jean Cocteau) in Beauty And The Beast, 1946.
Beauty And The Beast (1946) -- (Movie Clip) Once Upon A Time Imaginative opening sequence from director and writer Jean Cocteau, from Beauty And The Beast, 1946, starring Josette Day and Jean Marais.

Trailer

Family

Pierre Alekan
Brother
Puppeteer. Younger; traveled with brother performing until Henri decide to pursue career in film.

Companions

Nadia Starcevic
Wife
Script supervisor.

Bibliography

"Des Lumieres et des ombres"
Henri Alekan (1979)

Notes

He was a Commander in the Legion of Honor of Arts and Letters.