GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


 

   


GYÖRGY ILLÉS

 

Born: 2 November 1914, Eger, Heves megye, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary].

Died: 12 June 2006, Budapest, Hungary.

Career: Entered the industry as studio spotlight operator. Became doph in 1948.

In 1949, he was commissioned to set up a department of cinematography at the Faculty of Film [and Television] of the [State] Academy of Drama and Film [Színház-és Filmmûvészeti Fõiskola], Budapest. 'The curriculum I developed featured photography only in the first term, and even part of the entrance exam involved the applicants' bringing in their photographs. Those candidates who got into the second round were given the task to go out to locations we appointed them and create a photographic étude consisting of ten to twelve pictures. Most of my students were excellent photographers, and over the years we saw masses of brilliant photos. I remember, years and years ago, a young man came up from the country and presented us the most fascinating series of pictures. He had a magical mind. His name was Sándor Sára.' Other students were Vilmos Zsigmond, Lajos Koltai, László Kovács, Sándor Kardos, János Kende, Elemér Ragályi, etc.

Was [honorary] president of the HSC. Became honorary citizen of Budapest in 2001.

Appeared in the doc's 'Filmszemle '86' [1985, Zoltán Bonta], 'Igaz ember, Egy' [2002, dir/ph János Edelényi] & 'Szemlevillanás' [2003, Zoltán Bonta].

Awards: National Association of Hungarian Journalists 'Lifetime Achievement Award' [2000]; 'Master of Hungarian Motion Picture' [2004]; Middle Cross of the Hungarian Republic [2004]; HSC 'A Legenda' Award [2005].


Obituary: Few countries can boast as many great cinematographers as Hungary, and many of them were students of the legendary György Illés, who taught at the Budapest Academy of Drama and Film for more than 50 years and has died aged 91.

'The curriculum I developed [at the Academy] featured only still photography in the first two terms,' he said. According to cinematographer Sándor Sara, 'When you are working with a zoom lens, you have to make up your mind in a fraction of a moment, and still photography provides a very good training for that.' Lajos Koltai, who shot most of István Szabo's films, recalled that 'Illés taught us to be accurate about details, because sometimes the only information people get about history is what they see in the movies.'

When Vilmos Zsigmond received his Academy award for 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', he thanked Illés before mentioning Steven Spielberg. László Kovács, whose films include 'Easy Rider', said: 'I owe a lot to György Illés. In my first semester, he had me draw charcoal portraits, and he taught us to see forms, light, tones, textures and all of the things you instinctively use in cinematography. We studied music, literature, art history and architecture.'

With Illés' help Kovács and Zsigmond, then final year students, secretly filmed the conflict with Soviet troops during the 1956 Hungarian uprising. After the revolt was crushed, they fled to the USA; in the 1970s, Spielberg, Robert Altman, Michael Cimino and Brian De Palma began using them because of the techniques they had learned from Illés.

Illés began his career as assistant cameraman on Géza von Radványi's 'Valahol Európában/Somewhere in Europe' [1947], which also marked the return to creative work in his homeland of the film theorist and author Béla Balázs - it was with Balázs that Illés was asked to set up a cinematography department at the Budapest academy.

As director of photography, he worked with many leading Hungarian directors, including Márton Keleti, Károly Makk and Zoltán Fábri, for whom he shot two Oscar-nominated features, 'A Pál-utcai fiúk/The Boys of Paul Street' [1968] and 'Magyarok/Hungarians' [1977]. In 2000, he was given a lifetime achievement award by Hungarian film critics.

He never made a film outside Hungary and seldom traveled. A shy, modest man, he liked his small flat, with a view over Mafilm, the studios founded by Alexander Korda. [From obituary by Ronald Bergan in 'The Guardian', 20 July 2006.]

 

 

22 June 2006: The ashes of the great cinematographer György Illés were interred in Budapest's Farkasréti Cemetery on Friday. Attending the ceremony, held in stifling heat, were almost all important members of Hungary's film-making profession.

Addressing those who came to pay their respects, Minister of Education and Culture István Hiller noted that it is difficult to speak about a man who did not enjoy praise. Illés was a modest, down-to-earth person who preferred giving to receiving, Hiller said. He recalled the story, now legendary among film circles, of Illés sneaking into a cinema in Eger at age 17 to watch a French film, then firmly deciding to become a cinematographer. Even after 80, 'Uncle Gyuri', as many referred to him, would still read scripts, and he would cross the street in front of his home to visit the offices of the Society of Hungarian Cinematographers at least three times a week. Illés was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life, spending seven decades 'in the service of light', Hiller said.

Chairman of Duna Television László Cselényi recalled that Illés had actively participated in the creation of Duna TV, which is broadcasting to ethnic Hungarians living all around the world as well as in Hungary. Cselényi offered the consolation that even after his death, Illés's heritage belongs to his students and the entire nation.

Former rector of the Theatre and Film Academy Péter Huszti bid farewell to 'Uncle Gyuri' the teacher on behalf of all of the academy's students, past and present. Huszti, who also paid his respects as a friend, recalled the kind gestures Illés would make to his film crew during shoots. Cinematographer Lajos Koltai told those gathered at the ceremony that Illés had always tried to enjoy what he was doing, because he said good work could only be done with a feeling of contentment. Illés was a man who walked 1,700 kilometers to return home from the Don Bend, then was taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp. He was one to always say, 'The only thing I want is to live'. He left behind his love, his films and, through his students, his knowledge, Koltai said.

[Among the] other important film professionals attending the funeral were cinematographers János Kende, Elemér Ragályi, Lajos Koltai and János Edelényi. [From the Kultúra.hu website.]


 

 FILMS

1949

Szabóné/Anna Szabó [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1950

Felszabadult föld/Liberated Land [Frigyes Bán] b&w

1951

Vihar/The Storm [Zoltán Fábri] c

1951

Tüzkeresztség/Baptism by Fire [Frigyes Bán] b&w

1951

Civil a pályán/Try and Win [Márton Keleti] c

1953

Péntek 13 [Márton Keleti] b&w

1953

Kiskrajcár [Márton Keleti] c

1953

Ifjú szívvel [Márton Keleti] c

1954

Fel a fejjel! [Márton Keleti] c

1955

Az élet hídja [Márton Keleti] b&w

1955

Budapesti tavasz/Spring in Budapest [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1955

A 9-es kórterem/The Hospital No. 9/Ward No. 9 [Károly Makk] b&w

1956

Pázmán lovag [Viktor Gertler] ?; ballet film/730mtr

1956

Ünnepi vacsora/Gala Dinner [György Révész] b&w

1956

Az eltüsszentett birodalom [Tamás Banovich] c; released in 1989

1957

A tettes ismeretlen/Danse macabre [László Ranódy & László Nádasy] b&w; 2nd ph: Miklós Herczenik

1958

Szent Péter esernyöje/Dázdnik svätého Petra/St. Peter's Umbrella [Frigyes Bán & Vladislav Pavlovic] c

1958

Ház a sziklák alatt/The House Under the Rocks [Károly Makk & György Hintsch] b&w

1959

Szegény gazdagok/Poor Rich/Fatia Negra [Frigyes Bán] c; 2nd ph: Tibor Vagyóczky

1959

Álmatlan évek/Sleepless Years [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1960

Kálvária/Calvary [Gyula Mészáros] b&w

1960

Hosszú az út hazáig/It Is a Long Way Home [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1960

Füre lépni szabad/Don't Keep Off the Grass [Károly Makk] b&w

1960

Próbaút/Test Trip [Félix Máriássy] ?

1961

Nem ér a nevem [Márton Keleti] c

1961

Megszállottak/The Obsessed Ones [Károly Makk] b&w

1961

Megöltek egy lányt [László Nádasy] b&w

1962

Nedele ve vsední den/Pirosbetüs hétköznapok/Every Day - Sunday [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1963

Pacsirta/Drama of the Lark/Skylark [László Ranódy] b&w

1963

Párbeszéd/Dialogue [János Herskó] b&w

1964

Mit csinált felséged 3-tól 5-ig?/His Majesty's Dates [Károly Makk] c

1964

Karambol/Collision [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1964

Húsz óra/Twenty Hours [Zoltán Fábri] b&w

1965

Szerelmes biciklisták/Cyclists in Love [Péter Bacsó] b&w

1966

Utószezon/Late Season [Zoltán Fábri] c

1966

Minden kezdet nehéz I-II. Rendhagyó Magyar Film/All Beginnings Are Hard [György Révész] b&w; 144m

1966

Az aranysárkány/The Golden Kite [László Ranódy & Imre Gyöngyössy] c

1967

Falak/Walls/Lost Generation [András Kovács] b&w

 

fényképezte = photographed

 

1968

A Pál-utcai fiúk/The Boys of Paul Street/The Paul Street Boys [Zoltán Fábri] as/b&w-c

1969

Imposztorok/The Impostors [Félix Máriássy] b&w

1969

Az oroszlán ugrani készül [György Révész] c; cph: István Hildebrand

1969

Isten hozta, örnagy úr!/The Toth Family [Zoltán Fábri] c

1970

Szemtõl szemben [Zoltán Várkonyi] c

1970

Utazás a koponyám körül/Trip Around My Cranium [György Révész] c

1970

Hatholdas rózsakert [László Ranódy] b&w; 2nd ph: Lajos Koltai

1970

Én vagyok Jeromos [István Tímár] c

1971

Hangyaboly/Ant-Hill [Zoltán Fábri] c

1972

Harminckét nevem volt [Márton Keleti] b&w

1972

A Magyar ugaron/Fallow Land [András Kovács] b&w

1972

Plusz-mínusz egy nap/One Day More, One Day Less [Zoltán Fábri] c

1973

Hét tonna dollár [György Hintsch] c

1974

A Pendragon-legenda [György Révész] b&w-c

1974

141 perc a befejezetlen mondatból/141 Minutes from the Unfinished Sentence/The Unfinished Sentence in 141 Minutes [Zoltán Fábri] c

1975

Tüzgömbök [Imre Fehér] b&w

1975

Legenda a nyúlpaprikásról [Barna Kabay] c

1976

Az ötödik pecsét/The Fifth Seal [Zoltán Fábri] c

1977

Magyarok/Hungarians [Zoltán Fábri] c

1977

Legato [István Gaál] c

1978

Csillag a máglyán [Ottó Ádám] c

1979

Fábián Bálint találkozása Istennel/Balint Fabian Meets God [Zoltán Fábri] c

1980

Ideiglenes paradicsom/Temporary Paradise [András Kovács] c

1981

Requiem [Zoltán Fábri] c

1982

Rohanj velem! [Miklós Markos] c

1983

Gyertek el a névnapomra!/The House-Warming [Zoltán Fábri] c

1985

Az elvarázsolt dollár/The Enchanted Dollars [István Bujtor] c; cph: László Baranyai

1987

Szeleburdi vakáció [György Palásthy] c

1988

Nyitott ablak [Nándor Bednai & Gyula Bodrogi] c

1996

Retúr/Return [György Palásthy] c

 

 TELEVISION

1976

Fekete gyémántok I-II./The Black Diamond [Zoltán Várkonyi] tvm; 162m

1983

Titanic [- Nachspiel einer Katastrophe] [- Bericht über eine Katastrophe] [- The Nightmare and the Dream] [Lutz Büscher] tvm; 52m & 103m; cph: Alois Nitsche

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1947

Valahol Európában/It Happened in Europe/Somewhere in Europe [Géza von Radványi] c.asst; ph: Barnabás Hegyi

1948

Talpalatnyi föld/Treasured Earth [Frigyes Bán] c.asst; ph: Árpád Makay

1948

Lúdas Matyi/Goose Boy [Kálmán Nádasdy & László Ranódy] co-c.asst; ph: Barnabás Hegyi

1976

Labirintus/Labyrinth [András Kovács] actor; ph: János Kende

1985

A tanítványok/The Disciples [Géza Bereményi] actor; ph: Sándor Kardos

2001

Hamvadó cigarettavég/Smouldering Cigarette [Péter Bacsó] actor; ph: Tamás Andor