October 22, 1984 12:00 PM

by Nestor Almendros

Occasionally a book will come along that opens a door into a marvelous world most people never suspected was there. A Man With a Camera is such a book. The Spanish-born Almendros was cinematographer for such François Truffaut films as The Wild Child and The Last Metro. For Eric Rohmer he did My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee. Four movies he made with American directors were nominated for cinematography Oscars: Sophie’s Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Blue Lagoon and Days of Heaven, which won. Responsible for the visual impact of the films he works on, he often gets his inspiration from paintings: “There are a few painters from the past that are always helpful to me because they used light to give a three-dimensional feeling to their figures…. Vermeer for daytime interiors and La Tour for night interiors that are lighted by the luminous source of a flame. To these I must add Rembrandt and Caravaggio for effects of chiaroscuro, and Manet, Renoir, and other Impressionists for day exteriors.” Gauguin inspired some of the lush colors in The Blue Lagoon. For would-be moviemakers, the book is a mine of technical information about film quality and camera settings. For the rest of us, it will alter forever the way we look at movies. A Man With a Camera makes the simple business of watching a film—indeed, of seeing light come in a window—a far richer experience than it has ever been before. (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $17.95)

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