[Left] with dir Jules Dassin - "Up Tight!"

               

BORIS KAUFMAN

Born: 24 August 1906, Bialystok, Congress Poland [part of the Russian Empire], as Boris Abelevich Kaufman [Борис Абелевич Кауфман], son of Abel Kaufman, a bookshop owner, and Fejga Galpern.

Died: 24 June 1980, New York City, USA.

Education: Sorbonne University, Paris, France.

Career: After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Poland regained its independence, and Boris, together with his parents, moved to Poland. His brothers Mikhail [birth name: Moishe] Abramovich [Михаил Абрамович Кауфман, 1897-1980] and Denis [birth name: David] Abelevich [later: Arkadievich] [Давид А́белевич Кaуфман; known as Dziga Vertov (Дзига Вертов), 1896-1954] stayed in the Soviet Union. Traveled to Germany and Belgium and arrived in Paris in 1927. Entered the film industry in 1928 in France as doph. He served in the French Army during WWII and, after the Nazi occupation began, managed to escape to Canada. After working briefly with John Grierson, for the National Film Board of Canada, he moved to the United States in 1942. The unions didn't give him permission to work in Hollywood, so he turned to ph doc's. He was ph with the US Office of War Information [OWI]. His Russian origins and avant-garde Parisian experience were increasingly a liability under McCarthyism. He was forced to renounce his brothers, stating he had no living relatives in Russia. He retired in 1969.

Was a member of the ASC.

Boris - Moishe/Mikhail - David/Denis

Film about the 3 brothers: 'Dziga i ego bratya/Dziga and His Brothers [- A Film Family on the Cutting Edge]' [2002, Yevgeni Tsymbal; ph: Alexander Burov; 52m]. Appeared in the doc 'Operator Kaufman' [1998, Rasmus Gerlach; ph: R. Gerlach & Irina Linke; 52m].

Awards: 'Oscar' AA [1954; b&w] & Golden Globe Award [1955] for 'On the Waterfront'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1956; b&w] for 'Baby Doll'.


 


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The biggest mystery about Boris Kaufman is why he never directed a film. As a rule, any director of photography of his stature and taste for independence will, at least once in his life, wish to sit in the director's seat. Instead, that taste for independence was manifested in both frequent change of pace in his career and contract-free work on films which he obviously cared for, with directors with whom he felt at home. Vigo, Kazan, Lumet: all profited immeasurably from his work; according to Kaufman himself, his was the decision to use a hand-held camera for 'À propos de Nice'; he also convinced Kazan to make 'On the Waterfront' entirely on location. When Kaufman arrived in New York, his intention was to go to Hollywood. The unions were having none of that, however, and so his name disappeared from mainstream cinema, to resurface in the documentary tradition which was, after all, where he had started in France. It's possible that Hollywood might have tamed him, given him a contract at MGM and turned him into an unhappy technician shooting second units on Lassie films. The alternative scenario would give him the opportunity to change the cinematic look of Los Angeles in the same way he did for New York in films like 'On the Waterfront' and 'The Pawnbroker'. [Markku Salmi in 'Film Dope', #29, March 1984.]

BK - Elia Kazan - Carroll Baker - Karl Malden - "Baby Doll" [1955]

Marlon Brando - Joanne Woodward - Anna Magnani - Sidney Lumet - BK - "The Fugitive Kind" [1959]

In his long career, Boris Kaufman filmed newsreels, avant-garde films, documentaries, industrials, commercials, and feature films, winning an Academy Award for black-and-white cinematography in 1954 and maintaining lengthy collaborations with three notable movie directors - Jean Vigo, Elia Kazan, and Sidney Lumet.

After filming experimental films, Kaufman was invited by Jean Vigo to work with him on 'À propos de Nice', a short, shocking satire on upper- and middle-class lifestyles in that resort city. Kaufman used a Kinamo [one of the first hand-held 35mm cameras, which his brother Denis had brought him in 1927] "to get rid of the tripod, to be more flexible, and to avoid being noticed by the people we were filming."

Their second film, 'Zéro de conduite', was shot in 16½ days - seven in a Paris studio for the interiors, then nine-and-a-half in a school in suburban St. Cloud. The shooting ratio was two or three to one, which was all they could afford. For the sound shooting Kaufman used a Debrie camera, and for more flexibility, the little Kinamo. Their final film, 'L'Atalante', was shot on a barge on the canals around Paris in late fall and winter, in bitter cold. Vigo's frail health gave out completely, just as the filming was finished; his death soon afterwards, at age 29, ended their close personal friendship, as well as the avant-garde phase of Kaufman's career. The Vigo-Kaufman collaboration lasted only five years, but was one of the most creative and memorable in film history, ranking perhaps with Griffith and Bitzer and Eisenstein and Tisse.

In the middle and late 1930s, Kaufman worked as staff cameraman at Paramount's Paris studio, where he began learning English, and on numerous European features, little known today. In the Second World War he was drafted into the army as a French citizen, and, when France fell, escaped to the United States with his wife and their son. For the remaining war years, he worked at the National Film Board of Canada in Ottawa and at the Office of War Information in New York. As documentary assignments grew scarcer and less challenging, he began shooting industrial films - and those new one-minute oddities called TV commercials. He longed to return to feature dramatic films, but Hollywood was out of the question.

When Kaufman heard that Elia Kazan was going to shoot 'On the Waterfront' in New Jersey, he wanted to show him 'L'Atalante', but could not find a print in the United States. He showed two of his American documentaries instead, and got the job anyway, beginning the second of his three important collaborations. After filming on the docks and rooftops, Kazan gave Kaufman the choice of filming the interiors in a studio or on location. Later, Kaufman said that while studio shooting would have been easier, especially in dead of winter, he preferred "the patina of reality" they found in waterfront bars and sixth-floor tenements. "I drew upon my experience. I developed ways to apply precise lighting on location, which is not easy. By precision lighting I mean lighting that has a meaning. Of course, the only meaning of lighting is to reveal the inner expression of the face or the mood of a place."

Kaufman was thought by some producers to be 'slow'. Kazan may have had this in his mind when he wrote, after Boris's death, for a tribute at the Museum of Modern Art: "Poetry, as everyone knows who's tried it, takes a little longer. He didn't hurry his pace, become careless, diminish his devotion."

Kaufman's third major collaboration was in 1956 with '12 Angry Men', Sidney Lumet's first film. They worked together off and on for some ten years. Lumet considers 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' their "closest and most successful collaboration.".

It was Kaufman's increasing burden, especially later in his career, that he often knew and cared more about the 'pictures' he worked on than their directors did. Nothing, of course, could equal the first great collaboration with Vigo, when they were young. "I had no second thoughts about risks involved," Kaufman later recalled. "When you carry a bigger responsibility in a larger picture, you have to be conscious of many things - and you discipline yourself just to survive in available conditions... This art form has to survive in very materialistic and utilitarian conditions, which is not easy." No one ever accused Boris Kaufman of taking the easy way. [From article by Cecile Starr.]



 FILMS

1927

Les Halles centrales [Boris Kaufman] b&w; doc/7m

1928

Champs-Élysées [Jean Lods] b&w; doc/?m

1928

La marche des machines [Eugène Deslaw] b&w; exp short/9m

1928

24 heures en 30 minutes [Jean Lods] b&w; doc/?m

1929

À propos de Nice/Nizza/On the Subject of Nice [Jean Vigo] b&w; doc/23m

1929

Les Halles/Paris Markets [André Galitzine, Boris Kaufman & A.R. Lindt] b&w; doc/?m

1930

L'équipe/L'étoile du nord [Jean Lods] b&w

1931

La natation par Jean Taris, champion de France/Taris, champion de natation/Taris, roi de l'eau [Jean Vigo] b&w; doc/10m

1931

La vie d'un fleuve: La Seine [Jean Lods] b&w; doc/25m

1932

Le mile [de Jules Ladoumègue] [Jean Lods] b&w; doc/41m

1932

Travaux du tunnel sous l'Escaut [Henri Storck] b&w; doc/20m; cph: Michel Kelber & Louis Berger; film is lost

1933

Zéro de conduite [: Jeunes diables au collège]/Zero for Conduct [Jean Vigo] b&w; short/41m

1933

Le client du numéro 16 [Jean Mamy] b&w; short/?m

1933

Une vilaine histoire [Christian-Jaque] b&w; short/40m

1933

Le chemin du bonheur [Jean Mamy] b&w

1933

L'Atalante/Le chaland qui passe [Jean Vigo] b&w; cph: Louis Berger; restored in 1990

1934

Le Père Lampion [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1934

Zouzou/Zou Zou [Marc Allégret] b&w; cph (?): Michel Kelber, Jacques Mercanton & Louis Née

1934

Perfidie [Roger Capellani] b&w; short/1072mtr

1934

Torture [Roger Capellani] b&w; short/39m

1934

Lui.. ou.. elle [Roger Capellani] b&w; short/45m

1935

Lucrèce Borgia/Lucrezia Borgia [Abel Gance] b&w; cph: Roger Hubert

1935

Les berceaux [Dimitri Kirsanoff] b&w; exp mus short/5m; a 'Cinéphonie' d'Émile Vuillermoz

1935

La fontaine d'Aréthuse [Dimitri Kirsanoff] b&w; exp mus short/6m; a 'Cinéphonie' d'Émile Vuillermoz

1935

Jeune fille au jardin [Dimitri Kirsanoff] b&w; exp mus short/4m19s; a 'Cinéphonie' d'Émile Vuillermoz

1935

Quand minuit sonnera [Léo Joannon] b&w; cph: André Bac

1936

Klokslag twaalf [Léo Joannon] b&w; cph: André Bac; Dutch-language version of 'Quand minuit sonnera'

1936

Le petit chemin [D.B. Maurice = Maurice Diamant-Berger] b&w; short/29m

1936

L'homme sans coeur [Léo Joannon] b&w

1936

De man zonder hart [Léo Joannon] b&w; Dutch-language version of 'L'homme sans coeur'

1936

Oeil-de-Lynx, détective [Pierre-Jean Ducis] b&w

1936

On ne roule pas Antoinette/You Can't Fool Antoinette [Paul Madeux] b&w

1937

Cinderella [Pierre Caron] b&w

1937

Êtes-vous jalouse? [Henri Chomette] b&w

1937

Les hommes sans nom [Jean Vallée] b&w; int ph; ext ph: Georges Million & Raymond Clunie

1938

Fort Dolorès [René Le Hénaff] b&w

1938

Les gaietés de l'exposition [Ernest Hajos] b&w

1938

A l'ombre d'une femme [Raymond Goupillières] unfinished

1938

Le veau gras [Serge de Poligny] b&w; cph: Philippe Agostini

1939

Sérénade/Schubert's Serenade [Jean Boyer] b&w; cph: Claude Renoir & Louisette Hautecoeur

1943

Why We Fight [?] ?; ep of 7-part doc series, 1942-45

1943

[Toscanini,] Hymn of the Nations [Alexander Hammid & Irving Lerner] b&w; mus perf/28m; co-contributing ph; ph: Peter Glushanok; prod OWI

1944

A Better Tomorrow [Alexander Hammid] b&w; doc/24m; prod OWI

1945

Capital Story [Henwar Rodakiewicz] b&w; doc/?m; prod OWI

1945

The Southwest/Land of Enchantment. Southwest U.S.A. [Henwar Rodakiewicz] b&w; doc/?m; prod U.S. Information Service

1946

Journey Into Medicine [Willard Van Dyke] b&w; comm doc/39m; prod U.S. Dept of State

1948

Terribly Talented [Alexander Hammid & Willard Van Dyke] b&w; doc/?m

1948

Osmosis [Willard Van Dyke] b&w; doc/19m

1949

The Lambertville Story [Justin Herman] b&w; mus doc/10m; ep Paramount Pacemaker-series

1949

The Football Fan [Justin Herman] b&w; short/11m; ep Paramount Pacemaker-series

1950

Preface to a Life [William S. Resnick] b&w; short/28m

1950

The Tanglewood Story/Tanglewood, Music School and Music Festival [Larry Madison] b&w; mus doc/20m; prod U.S. Dept of State

1951

The Gentleman in Room 6 [Alexander Hammid] b&w; short/11m; experiment in subjective camera

1952

Leonardo da Vinci [Luciano Emmer & Enrico Gras] sepia-c; doc/45m; ph extra footage US version; ph: Mario Craveri, Antonio Harispe & André Thomas

1952

And the Earth Shall Give Back Life [Victor Jurgens] b&w; doc/25m

[Right] with actor Marlon Brando - "On the Waterfront"

1953

On the Waterfront [Elia Kazan] b&w; uncred ph last seq: James Wong Howe; filmed 1953-54

1954

East of Eden [Elia Kazan] ph (in b&w) screen-tests with James Dean and Paul Newman; film was ph (in cs/c) by Ted McCord

1954

Garden of Eden [Max Nosseck] c; 67m

1954

Within Man's Power [Nicholas Webster] b&w; comm doc/27m

1954

Amazing What Color Can Do [?] ?

1954

Singing in the Dark [Max Nosseck] b&w; loc ph: Arndt von Rautenfeld

1954

Crowded Paradise [Fred Pressburger & Ben Gradus (loc seq New York & Puerto Rico)] b&w

1955

A Family Affair [Irving Jacoby] b&w; comm doc/31m; or ph Richard Leacock

1955

Patterns/Patterns of Power [Fielder Cook] b&w

1955

Baby Doll [Elia Kazan] b&w; 2uc: Arthur Steckler

[Left] with dir Sidney Lumet and actor John Fiedler - "12 Angry Men"

1956

12 Angry Men [Sidney Lumet] b&w

1958

Home Again [Irving Jacoby] b&w; comm doc/35m; prod for the Division of Chronic Illness Control of the New Jersey Dept. of Health and the American Heart Association

1958

That Kind of Woman [Sidney Lumet] b&w; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1959

The Fugitive Kind [Sidney Lumet] b&w

1960

Splendor in the Grass [Elia Kazan] c; addph: Frank J. Calabria

1962

Long Day's Journey Into Night [Sidney Lumet] b&w; 136m & 180m

1963

Gone Are the Days!/Purlie Victorious/The Man from C.O.T.T.O.N. [Nicholas Webster] b&w; 2uc: Fred Bornet

1963

All the Way Home [Alex Segal] b&w

1963

The World of Henry Orient [George Roy Hill] p/c; cph: Arthur J. Ornitz; started by B. Kaufman who quit to start work on 'The Pawnbroker'

1963

The Pawnbroker [Sidney Lumet] b&w

1964

[Samuel Beckett's] Film [Alan Schneider] b&w; short/24m

1965

The Group [Sidney Lumet] c

1967

Bye Bye Braverman [Sidney Lumet] c

1968

The Brotherhood [Martin Ritt] c

1968

Up Tight! [Jules Dassin] c

With dir Otto Preminger [left]

"Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon"

1969

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon [Otto Preminger] c; title seq ph: Stanley Cortez