Allen and Khondji Work Like Magic

Published on website: July 24, 2014
Categories: Focus On Film
Emma Stone as Sophie Photo by Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Left to right: Emma Stone, Director Woody Allen and Colin Firth Photo by Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Simon McBurney as Howard Burkan and Colin Firth as Stanley Photo by Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Hamish Linklater as Brice and Jacki Weaver as Grace Photo by Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Set in the 1920s on the opulent Riviera in the south of France, Woody Allen’s latest film MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is a romantic comedy about a master magician (played Colin Firth) who is determined to expose a psychic medium (played by Emma Stone) as a fake.

To convey the romanticism of the 1920s and a look of natural enchantment, Allen reteamed with the distinguished cinematographer Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC. The two filmmakers previously collaborated on ANYTHING ELSE, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, and TO ROME WITH LOVE.

“We wanted to make a light and happy picture,” says Khondji, “but with a strong color palette to structure the film visually. My principal inspiration was the French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. We used old CinemaScope lenses from the ‘70s and photographed it on (Kodak 35mm) film, using a special process to lower the contrast and soften the images naturally.

“We then worked with color supervisor Pascal Dangin, who helped us render the images with a touch of the ‘autochrome’ look of the early color from the beginning of the 20th century.”

At Allen’s direction, Khondji placed an especially radiant light on Stone. “Woody asked me to convey her beauty on film and I hope I did,” Khondji notes. “I felt she had a natural glow, this combination of the color of her skin, hair and eyes, but it was mainly the way she played the character that inspired me to photograph her this way.”

Adds Stone: “He (Darius) basically put me in a white box of light. He took a long time to light me and I’m very grateful.” Magic in the Moonlight is in theaters now.