Ed Lachman Talks ‘El Conde’ & Teases Pablo Larraín’s Maria Callas Pic – Deadline

Two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman looked shattered by the time he sat down with us for an interview here at EnergaCamerimage in Torun, Poland. 

“I broke my hip, and it didn’t heal correctly. Now I’ve got an operation,” Lachman said of his physical state. 

“But he called me again to do this film,” Lachman continued, referring to Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, whom he has briefly left on set in Budapest where they are shooting a Steven Knight-scripted Maria Callas biopic starring Angelina Jolie. 

“I said yeah, sure, I’ll do it. And before that, I had lead poisoning, so it’ll just go on and on.” 

He added: “It’s amazing what you can get by with if you try.” 

Lachman’s injury occurred last year after he finished shooting Larraín’s black-and-white Augusto Pinochet satire El Conde, which he is promoting here at Camerimage. The inventive feature, which took the best screenplay award at Venice, is set in a parallel universe where fascist Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet exists as a vampire. After being ousted from power, Pinochet is now hidden in a ruined mansion on the cold southern tip of the continent. He has decided to stop drinking blood and abandon the privilege of eternal life. However, despite his disappointing and opportunistic family, he finds new inspiration to continue living through an unexpected relationship.

Larraín made El Conde for Netflix which marked his first collaboration with Lachman, who is best known for his work with filmmaker Todd Haynes.

“From his first film, Tony Manero, I’ve always liked his films,” Lachman said of Larraín. “Firstly, he always finds a different visual language to tell his stories. And, secondly, there’s always a political and social context to why he’s telling the story.” 

He added: “Alfonso Cuarón and Pablo, I think, are the two most interesting South American filmmakers today.”

With over 80 credits across features, TV, and music videos, El Conde was the first time Lachman had shot on a vampire project, which he said allowed for formal experimentation on set. 

“We did a lot of experimentation with the color of blood, for example. That was interesting,” Lachman said. “Most people would shoot blood red because it is red, but in black-and-white, red would be very dark. When we experimented, we came upon blue, which had a certain transparency in its darkness. So all the blood was blue.” 

After a short stop at Camerimage, Lachman jets back to Budapest to reconvene work on Larraín’s next feature, Maria. Based on true accounts, the pic will tell the tumultuous, beautiful, and tragic story of the legendary singer Maria Callas during her final days in 1970s Paris. Starring alongside Jolie are Pierfrancesco Favino (The Hummingbird), Alba Rohrwacher (La Chimera), Haluk Bilginer (Winter Sleep), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog), and Valeria Golino (Portrait of a Lady on Fire).

“He did Jackie and Spencer. This film fulfills the trilogy of him using, almost like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the female character, to represent the society of the culture of the time,” Lachman said of the pic. 

El Conde screens in the cinematography-focused main competition at Camerimage. Other pics playing in competition include Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor ThingsRidley Scott’s Napolean, Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro

The festival runs until Nov 18.

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