2006

                

 CHRIS MENGES   BSC/ASC

Born: 15 September 1940, Kington, Herefordshire, England, as Christopher J. Menges, son of Herbert Menges [1902-72], musical director of the Old Vic for 25 years and principal conductor of the Symphonic String Players [Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra] from 1925-72.

Career: 'My grandfather [George Menges] was a violin player who was born and raised in Germany. He moved to England in 1890 to teach students to play the fiddle. I was born on a farm in Herefordshire, England. My family moved to London when I was 3 years old when my father became music director at the Old Vic Theatre.' After a period working at an estate agency, he was hired as an apprentice by filmmaker Alan Forbes [1958-60]. 'I was always fascinated by cameras and photography. When I was 17 years old, I went to work for our neighbor Alan Forbes. He was an American filmmaker who made documentary films for the cinema. Alan shot documentaries all over Italy, France and Britain. I was his assistant. I also recorded sound and helped him in the cutting room. Alan was a huge inspiration for me.' In 1961 he joined Derek Knight & Partners as a trainee asst editor and worked as a c.asst with doph Brian Probyn. From 1961-62 he worked as a soundman for dir Alan King and CBC-TV in Canada.

"World in Action" - With soundman Ivan Sharrock in Vietnam [1969]

Photo American Cinematographer Magazine & BSC

In 1963 he joined the 'World in Action'-team at Granada-tv as cameraman and worked on doc's in Cyprus (civil war), South Africa, Angola (civil war), Vietnam [3x with John Irvin, Richard Taylor & Charles Denton as dir], Algeria, Zanzibar (revolution), etc. 'I began shooting films for 'World in Action', a weekly current affairs documentary series. I draw on those experiences every time I work on a new project. I spent two years in Burma on two different trips in 1963 and 1972 during a very brutal civil war between different ethnic groups who were pushed into the Union of Burma by the British. Those types of documentaries expose you to a different world. You learn about composition, and how it affects the story, and about natural lighting. You experience those things by observing. You also learn to fit into the environment with the indigenous people and that there is no one right way to tell a story. The experience of being a fly-on-the-wall while shooting documentaries helps you develop as a filmmaker. I think everybody who wants to be a filmmaker can benefit from shooting documentaries with a handheld camera.' In 1965 he was doph in Canada on a number of doc's about European artists. In 1987 he took a nine-year hiatus from ph while dir 3 features. [Quotes from the ASC website.]

Appeared in the doc 'Shooting from the Heart – Chris Menges: Cameraman' [1985, David Turner].

Awards: As doph: BAFTA TV Technical Craft Award [1977] for 'Last Summer' & 'Chicago Streets'; BAFTA TV Technical Craft Award nom [1978] for 'The Opium Business: Opium 1 - The White Powder Opera'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1984] for 'Local Hero'; 'Oscar' AA [1985], LAFCA Award [1984], NSFC Award [1985], BSFC Award [1985], BAFTA Film Award [1985], BSC Award [1984] & NYFCC Award [1984] for 'The Killing Fields'; NSFC Award [1985] for 'Comfort and Joy'; 'Oscar' AA [1987], ASC Award nom [1987], BAFTA Film Award nom [1987] & LAFCA Award [1986] for 'The Mission'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1997], LAFCA Award [1996], BAFTA Film Award nom [1997], ASC Award nom [1997] & BSC Award nom [1997] for 'Michael Collins'; ASC Award nom [1998] for 'The Boxer'; British Independent Film Awards 'Lifetime Achievement Award' [2001]; Raindance FF 'Lifetime Achievement Award' [2001]; Madridimagen 'Best Cinematography' [2002] for 'The Good Thief'; European Film Award nom [2003] for 'Dirty Pretty Things'; Independent Spirit Award nom [2006] for 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada'; ASC Film Award nom [2008; shared], BAFTA Film Award nom [2008; shared] & 'Oscar' AA nom [2008; shared] for 'The Reader'; ASC International Achievement Award [2009].

As dir: Cannes FF 'Grand Prix of the Jury', 'Golden Palm' nom & 'Prize of the Ecumenical Jury' [1988], NYFCC Award Best Director [1988] & Independent Spirit Award 'Best Foreign Film' [1989] for 'A World Apart'; San Sebastián FF 'Prize of the Jury' & 'Golden Seashell' nom [1994] for 'Second Best'.


'Raid into Tibet' [tv-doc]: 'In May 1964, British journalist George Patterson - who had lived in Eastern Tibet before the Chinese invasion - bluffed his way into the remote Dzum valley in northern Nepal where a small detachment of the guerrilla force was based. Patterson was accompanied by a film crew – director Adrian Cowell and cameraman Chris Menges. They met with the leader and tried to convince him to allow them to film a raid inside Tibet. The three-man film team traveled with the guerrillas over a 20,000 foot pass into Tibet and captured dramatic footage of the subsequent attack on a Chinese military convoy. By this time, the headquarters at Mustang had been apprised of the mission and had alerted the CIA and their Indian partners in Delhi. The CIA was furious at this lapse in security and immediately sent orders to intercept Patterson and his team before they could leave Nepal and relieve them of their film footage at any cost. But Patterson was one step ahead and both his team and their precious footage were able to escape safely from Nepal.'

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Barry Ackroyd on Chris Menges:

The documentaries Menges shot of the opium trade in Burma [in 1963 and 1972] were amazing. When he directed a documentary in Harlem about the end route of the drug trade, he was following this young girl who was selling drugs on the street. The shot took him into a brownstone and there was no light, but the camera kept running. He was shooting nothing, and that was a miraculous image in my mind.

It's something I have tried to reproduce: in 'The Hurt Locker', there is a scene where it is written that they disappear into absolute darkness. Not a "cinematic darkness", an actual darkness. If you can make an image that is nothing, but is more powerful than something, that's something to strive towards.

Seeing his work on 'Kes', and the link he had with Ken Loach made me think I could achieve something, because I was more or less the kid from 'Kes'. I grew up in that industrial background. Later, Menges mentored me, and I remember him saying: "You don't want to have to chase the action. Get yourself in the right place and the action comes to you." [The Guardian, June 2011.]

·····

John de Borman on Chris Menges:

As a person, he is very self-effacing and modest. His colour palette and eye are second to none. You often look at his films, on locations which are difficult to light, and you have no idea where the light comes from. There is a great deal of complexity, style and taste. He plays with silhouettes, light falling onto a person's face. He manages to create absolute beauty and that is, for any artist, the goal. He is 70 and he never stops working. He has been incredibly consistent over decades of work. Every job he does you know will look beautiful. [The Guardian, June 2011.]



 FILMS

1962

The War Game [Mai Zetterling] b&w; short/15m; cph: Brian Probyn

1967

In Search of Opportunity [Mamoun Hassan] c; comm doc/23m; for Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme

1968

Beyond the Tropopause [Mamoun Hassan] c; comm doc/30m; for Plessey Co.

1968

Kes [Kenneth Loach] c

1968

Solo [Misha Donat] b&w; mus short/8m

1968

The Last of the Long Haired Boys [Peter Everett] c; replaced by ph Ken Hodges; unreleased commercially

1969

In Black and White/The Save the Children Fund Film [Ken Loach] c; doc/53m; prod for the charity Save the Children and London Weekend Television, but shelved for 40 years; premiered in 2011

1969

Loving Memory [Anthony (= Tony) Scott] b&w; short/52m; cph: John Metcalfe & A. Scott

1970

Black Beauty [James Hill] c; 2uc: Patrick Carey

1971

Talk About Work [Kenneth Loach] 16mm/b&w; comm doc/16m

Stephen Frears - actor Albert Finney - C. Menges - "Gumshoe"

1971

Gumshoe [Stephen Frears] c

1978

Black Jack [Kenneth Loach] c

1979

Vanessa/Vanessa Talks with Farouk Abdulaziz [Roy Battersby] 16mm/b&w (archive)-c; interview/55m; filmed 1978-79

1979

[Star Wars: Episode V:] The Empire Strikes Back [Irvin Kershner; studio 2ud: Harley Cokliss & John Barry] p/c; studio 2uc; ph: Peter Suschitzky

1980

Babylon [Franco Rosso] c

1981

Couples & Robbers [Clare Peploe] c; short/28m

1981

Battletruck/Warlords of the 21st Century [Harley Cokliss] c; 2uc: Ian Paul; add cameramen: Malcolm Ferguson & Warwick Attwell

1982

Local Hero [Bill Forsyth] c

1982

Angel/Danny Boy [Neil Jordan] c

1983

The Killing Fields [Roland Joffé] c; 2uc: Ivan Strasburg, Tony Breeze, Tom McDougal & Robbie Race; addph: Phil Méheux

1983

Comfort and Joy [Bill Forsyth] c

1985

Marie [: A True Story] [Roger Donaldson] c

1985

Fatherland/Singing the Blues in Red [Kenneth Loach] c; 3 seg: 'Actually Existing Socialism', 'Grosse Freiheit Strasse' & 'Stalinism Isn't Socialism. Capitalism Isn't Freedom'

1986

The Mission [Roland Joffé] J-D-C Scope (+ 70bu)/c; 2uc: Robin Vidgeon

1986

High Season [Clare Peploe] c

1987

Shy People [Andrei Konchalovsky] J-D-C Scope/c; 2uc: Allen S. Facemire

1994

Berlin Calling/Alexis Sally [Roger Christian] unrealized

1995

Michael Collins [Neil Jordan] c

1997

The Boxer [Jim Sheridan] c

1999

Long Walk to Freedom/Birth of a Nation [Shekhar Kapur] project; in 2007 scheduled as a project ('The Human Factor') of dir Clint Eastwood

2000

The Pledge [Sean Penn] J-D-C Scope/c; 2uc: Paul Mitchnick

2000

Riding in Cars with Boys [Penny Marshall] c; cph: Miroslav Ondrícek

2001

The Good Thief/Double Down [Neil Jordan] c; 2uc: Philippe Houdart; remake of 'Bob le flambeur' (1955, Jean-Pierre Melville; ph: Henri Decaë)

2001

Dirty Pretty Things [Stephen Frears (replaced Damien O'Donnell)] c; addph: Ivan Strasburg

2003

Criminal [Gregory Jacobs] c; remake of 'Nueve reinas/Nine Queens' (1999, Fabián Bielinsky; ph: Marcelo Camorino)

2004

Tickets» [Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami & Ken Loach] c; 3 seg; ph seg dir by Ken Loach; other ph: Fabio Olmi & Mahmoud Kalari

With dir Tommy Lee Jones [right] - photo by Dawn Jones

"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"

2004

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada [Tommy Lee Jones] s35/c; ph Mexico: Héctor Ortega; 2uc: Duane Manwiller

2005

North Country/Class Action [Niki Caro] s35/c

2005

Papa [Adrian Noble] announced in 2004; scheduled for June 2005 start; status unknown

2005

Notes on a Scandal [Richard Eyre] c; 2uc: Paul Bond

2006

Stop-Loss [Kimberly Peirce] c; uncred addph: Chuck Cohen; aph (New York): Hans Bjerno

2007

The Yellow Handkerchief [Udayan Prasad] scope/c; aph: Patrick Longman

2008

The Reader [Stephen Daldry] s35-to-35mm/c; ph 2nd shooting period (March-July); ph 1st shooting period (September-October 2007): Roger Deakins

2009

London Boulevard [William Monahan] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c

2009

Route Irish [Ken Loach] 35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c

2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close [Stephen Daldry] HD (ARRI ALEXA + Phantom HD)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc: Patrick Capone & Jody Lee Lipes; uncred aph: Phil Pastuhov; replaced ph Harris Savides, who became ill several weeks before shooting started

2012

Hummingbird [Steven Knight] HD (ARRI ALEXA)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c


 TELEVISION

1963

The Do-It-Yourself Democracy [Mai Zetterling] doc/45m; cph: Brian Probyn

1963

The Guns [exec prod: Tim Hewat] doc/45m; cph: Alan Hewison & David Samuelson; ep Granada-tv series 'World in Action'

1964

Raid into Tibet [Adrian Cowell] doc/b&w/30m/16mm

1964

The Light of Asia [Adrian Cowell] 3-part (x 25m) series/b&w/16mm; aired in 1966

1964

The Opium Trail [Adrian Cowell] doc/b&w/16mm/50m; + sound; filmed 1964-65; aired in 1966

1964

The Unknown War [Adrian Cowell] doc/30m/16mm; filmed 1964-65

1965

A Boy Called Donovan [Charlie Squires] mus doc/b&w/52m; cph: Tony Mander

1966

Crisis on Wheels [Kevin Brownlow] doc/?m

1966

Warship Eagle [Charlie Squires[ 6-part doc series/b&w; cph: Tony Mander

1967

The Tribe That Hides from Man [Adrian Cowell] doc/67m/16mm; cph: Charles Stewart, Ernest Vincze, a.o.; filmed 1967-70; some material used in the 3-part series 'The Last of the Hiding Tribes' (1998)

1968

Abel Gance – The Charm of Dynamite! [Kevin Brownlow] doc/50m/b&w; ep BBC-tv series 'Omnibus'

1969

Assignment Vietnam [?] doc/?m

1969

Wild and Free – Twice Daily [Chris Menges] doc/50m

1969

After a Lifetime [Kenneth Loach] tvm/80m

1970

The Kingdom in the Jungle [Adrian Cowell] doc/16mm/26m; cph: Charles Stewart, Ernest Vincze, a.o.

1972

The Opium Warlords [Adrian Cowell] doc/16mm/74m; filmed 1972-73; 'Menges tells the story in the flat, measured tone of one who has covered enough human disaster to know the sensational aspects are beside the point. ''We had worked out an agreement so that we could film inside the country for six months. But when we crossed the border from Thailand, we got caught in the middle of a war'' between the Shan state army and Chinese nationalists, remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. The film makers' neutral status was soon questioned, and under pressure from the Thai Government, Burma put a price on their heads. For a year and a half, they were trapped inside the country. ''We were being hunted, actually.'' By the time Menges made it back to Bangkok, where he had left his first wife and young children, they had given him up for dead and returned to London.' [From article by Kim Heron in The New York Times, 1988.]

1974

Peshmerga - Those Who Face Death [Chris Goddard] doc/?m

1974

It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow – The Story of the 1943 Bethnal Green Tube Disaster [John Goldschmidt] tvm

1975

Chicago Streets [Harley Cokliss] doc/60m

1975

To Be Seven in Belfast [John Sheppard] doc/b&w/50m

1975

Britain on the Brink? [prod: Francis Megahy] doc/55m; cph: Nic Knowland

1976

Angola - Spring 1976 [John Sheppard] doc/?m

1976

Busker [Michel Pearce] doc/44m

1976

Beautiful, Beautiful [John Irving] ?

1977

Islay - A Personal Impression of a Hebridean Island [Lawrence Moore] doc/52m; cph: ?

1977

Last Summer [Stephen Frears] tvm

1977

Angels' Defence [John Ingram] doc/52m

1977

City of Angels [John Ingram] doc/50m

1977

Dummy [Franc Roddam] tvm

1977

The Price of Power [Alan Bell] doc/60m; cph: ?

1977

The Opium Business: Opium 1 - The White Powder Opera [Adrian Cowell] doc/16mm/52m; + co-prod

1978

The Opium Business: Opium 2 - The Warlords [Adrian Cowell] doc/16mm/52m; + co-prod; re-edited version of 'The Opium Warlords' (1972-73)

1978

The Opium Business: Opium 3 - The Politicians [Adrian Cowell] doc/16mm/52m; + co-prod

1978

The Gamekeeper [Kenneth Loach] tvm/16mm; cph: Charles Stewart

1978

Cold Harbour [Stephen Frears] tvm/60m

1978

Before the Monsoon [Michael Grigsby] 3–part doc series/16mm: 'Roots of Violence' (51m), 'State of Emergency' (53m) & 'Seeds of Democracy' (37m); cph: Jimmy Dibling; filmed October 1978-January 1979

1979

Bloody Kids/One Joke Too Many/Red Saturday [Stephen Frears] tvm; released theatrically in 1983

1979

A Sense of Freedom [John Mackenzie] tvm

1979

Auditions [Kenneth Loach] doc/b&w/60m/16mm

1980

A Question of Leadership [Kenneth Loach & Barry Hines] doc/50m/16mm; cph: John Davey

1980

Looks and Smiles [Kenneth Loach] tvm/b&w

1981

East 103rd Street [Chris Menges] doc/70m

1982

Walter [Stephen Frears] tvm/16mm

1982

Walter & June [Stephen Frears] tvm/16mm; sequel to 'Walter'; both films screened as 'Loving Walter' (1983)

1982

Made in Britain [Alan Clarke] tvm; ep series 'Tales Out of School'

1982

R.H.I.N.O.: Really Here in Name Only [Jane Howell] tvm; ep series 'Tales Out of School'

1982

The Red and the Blue – Impressions of Two Political Conferences - Autumn 1982 [Kenneth Loach] doc/78m

1983

The Skin Horse [Nigel Evans & John Samson] doc/52m; cph: Dave Bridges, Tim Broad & John Holland

1984

Winter Flight/The Big Surprise [Roy Battersby] tvm

1984

Which Side Are You On? [Kenneth Loach] doc/50m; cph: James Dibling & Ken Morse; broadcast on 'The South Bank Show' was cancelled

1993

The Heroin Wars [Adrian Cowell] 3-part series/b&w-c/151m - 'The Opium Convoys' (51m), 'Smack City' (50m) & 'The Kings of Opium' (50m); filmed between 1964-92; released 1996 (re-edited & new material); in 1997 shown as 'The Opium Kings' (re-edited + new footage ph by Ned Johnston, a.o.) in the WGBH-tv series 'Frontline'

2002

Concert for George[David Leland] concert film/146m/HD; doph; cameramen: Roger Pratt, Nic Knowland, Barry Ackroyd, Joan Churchill, a.o.


 FILMS & TELEVISION AS DIRECTOR

1969

Wild and Free – Twice Daily [+ ph] see Television

1971

A Completely Different Way of Life? [tv-doc/b&w/50m; + prod] ph: James Dibling & Ray Orton

1973

Radical Lawyer [tv-doc]

1975

A Family Doctor [tv-doc]

1978

Fly on the Wall [tv-doc]

1981

East 103rd Street [+ ph/co-prod] see Television

With actress Jodhi May - "A World Apart"

1987

A World Apart [feature] ph: Peter Biziou

1990

CrissCross/Alone Together [feature] ph: Ivan Strasburg

1992

The Life and Death of Chico Mendes [feature; prod cancelled] eventually made in 1993-94 as the tvm 'The Burning Season' dir by John Frankenheimer & ph by John R. Leonetti

1993

Second Best [feature] ph: Ashley Rowe

1998

The Lost Son [feature] ph: Barry Ackroyd


 MISCELLANEOUS

1958

March to Aldermaston [group doc (16mm/b&w/30m) with Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, a.o.] co-prod assistance; ph: Wolfgang Suschitzky, Peter Jessop, a.o.; a shorter version was called 'Deadly Harvest'

1958

No Governors [Alan Forbes; unfinished doc] c.asst; ph: ?

1959

The Visit [Jack Gold; short] co-c.asst; ph: Alan Forbes

1959

The House of Street Urchins/Padre Borelli [Alan Forbes; tvm] c.asst (+ co-scrpl); ph: ?

1959

No Place to Hide [Alan Forbes & Derrick Knight; doc/b&w/10m] c.asst; ph: ?

1961

Manolis [Paul Crosfield; short/56m] prod runner; ph: Harry Orchard

1962

The Saturday Men [John Fletcher; 'Free Cinema' doc] c.asst; ph: Brian Probyn

1967

Poor Cow/No Tears for Joy [Kenneth Loach] c.op; ph: Brian Probyn

1968

If… [Lindsay Anderson] c.asst + co-c.op; ph: Miroslav Ondrícek

1981

Before and After the Monsoon [Ian Christie, Keith Griffiths & John Stewart] interview with dir Michael Grigsby about 'Before the Monsoon' (1978) illustrated with footage ph by C. Menges