Arguably the top French director of photography working in films, Thierry Arbogast has won a reputation not only for being fearless enough to shoot in any place, any heat, any season, but also for his ground-breaking mixing of film stocks during production on a single film, his intense preparation for each film, and his oft-stylized, oft-mesmerizing composition, usually featuring a manipulated color palette, and controlled but efficient lighting. Arbogast has worked with numerous French directors, but American audiences are aware of him mostly though his association with director Luc Besson on "La Femme Nikita" (1990), "The Professional" (1994) and "The Fifth Element" (1997).
Unlike most other French cinematographers, Arbogast did not attend film school. Rather, he began working as an assistant on features while still a teenager. By 1983, he was a full-fledged director of photography, working with Marc-Andre Grynbaum on "Le Prefere" and Jean-Daniel Pillault on "Les Jocondes." His reputation began to grow rapidly after "La Femme Nikita," as his composition was both distancing and revealing at the same time, the colors muted yet the light at times piercing. In 1991, Arbogast shot Eric Barbier's "Le Brassier," in which he framed a romance with muted warm tones and at the same time created the feel of a dirty, dank mining town. His work on "The Professional" (the first in the English language for both) again revealed harshness, yet at the same time the audience is drawn into the emotions of the characters. Arbogast won the Best Cinematography Cesar for his sumptuous work on Jean-Paul Rappenau's period drama "Le Hussard sur le toit/The Horseman on the Roof" (1995), and he won critical praise for his work on Gilles Mimouni's "L'Appartment" (1996), in which the green was entirely removed from the color palette in order to create a stylized--even severe--difference between the past and present. Arbogast further enhanced his reputation with his stunning work on Patric Leconte's "Ridicule" (1996), which seemed bright, almost like the Technicolor fantasy of old musicals, yet turned deadly serious and alienating when required.
Arbogast, who is known for spending up to six months preparing for a film, joined with Besson again for the sci-fi fantasy "The Fifth Element." With their highest budget to date, the pair brought to the screen a comic-book effect that many critics felt sold the picture more than its story. Arbogast resisted working in Hollywood for many years, despite the gobs of money thrown at him, in part because he was being offered the best French films by the best French directors. But he relented with Nick Cassavetes' "She's So Lovely" (1997), again skillfully using light to differentiate the time periods of the film. Arbogast won the Grand Prix Technique at 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his efforts on both "The Fifth Element" and "She's So Lovely."
Cinematography (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Broke in as director of photography working on "Le Prefere" and "Les Jacondes"
Worked with Luc Besson for first time on "La Femme Nikita"
Shot first English-language film, Besson's "The Professional"
Firmed international reputation with "Le hussard sur le toit/The Horseman on the Roof"
Was director of photography on Patrice Leconte's "Ridicule"
Worked with Luc Besson on big budget "The Fifth Element"
Shot first US feature "She's So Lovely"