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Arts and Entertainment

Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond Has Died

Vilmos Zsigmond at AFI Fest in 2007. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/ Getty Images)
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Vilmos Zisgmond, the Oscar-winning cinematographer known for his work on films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, and Deliverance, died in Big Sur on Friday after battling "a combination of many illnesses," according to his business partner Yuri Neyman.Neyman posted the news on Facebook, writing,

It is with great regret and deep sorrow that I must inform you that on Friday, January 1st one of the greatest cinematographers in the world, my dear friend and co-founder of Global Cinematography Institute Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC passed away. Arrangements for services are still pending. Please join with all of us in offering thoughts and prayers for Vilmos’ family at this difficult time.

Zsigmond was born in Hungary and fled the country in 1956 with his friend, fellow cinematographer László Kovács (who shot Easy Rider *and* Ghostbusters) with footage of the Russian invasion, which he incorporated into his documentary Hungary Aflame, and 1961 CBS documentary Twentieth Century. It was also featured in and the documentary “No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos, which chronicled the relationship between the two cinematographers.

His career in Hollywood spanned five decades, and he racked up a list of some incredible films—many of which he was awarded or recognized for. Zsigmond got his "break" so to speak on Robert Altman's "anti-Western" epic McCabe And Mrs. Miller. Roger Ebert wrote at the time "Some spend their lives trying, but always fall short. Robert Altman has made a dozen films that can be called great in one way or another, but one of them is perfect, and that one is McCabe & Mrs. Miller."

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From there, Zsigmond would work on two more films for Altman: Images and The Long Goodbye, and was in high-demand from the top directors of the 1970s and '80s: like Martin Scorcese, Stephen Spielberg, and Brian De Palma. Zsigmond won an Oscar for Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1978. The following year, he was nominated again for The Deer Hunter. But here's a trailer from De Palma's Blow Out, which rules:

In the later years of his career, Zsigmond worked for the Woody Allen films of the aughts, including Cassandra's Dream and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. He was nominated for another Oscar with De Palma's Black Dahlia. He also shot several episodes of The Mindy Project, and Mindy Kaling expressed her admiration for the cinematographer on Twitter:

And here's one more, if only so we can include the image of a babely young Warren Beatty:

As Neyman told the L.A. Times:

He discovered and created new styles in cinematography in the United States and in independent cinema...He was a very first voice. He taught people how to look and think differently. He was unique at a time when he was just in independent cinema, [before all the awards]. He changed how people view cinematography.

Really, not enough praise can be said about Zsigmond's outstanding storytelling and gorgeous, enduring images. So here's a scene he shot from Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye:

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