by Jim Ridley
on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 4:46 PM
Forty-two years ago, an obscure B movie called The Road to Nashville packaged some of country's hottest acts--Johnny and June Carter Cash, Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, Connie Smith, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner--in a flimsy framework about a Hollywood talent scout hoping to make a movie about country music. Of no special interest to anyone at the time was the cameraman shooting the movie in Nashville: a Hungarian emigre who billed himself as William Zsigmund.
If the name doesn't ring a bell, maybe this one does: Vilmos Zsigmond, who just four years later shot Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller under his real name. He went on to shoot some of the best and/or most influential movies of the next decade, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deliverance, The Deer Hunter, Altman's The Long Goodbye, and one of my favorites, Brian De Palma's Blow Out.
At 9 p.m. tonight on NPT-Channel 8, the documentary No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos chronicles the lifelong friendship of Zsigmond and his fellow cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, whose own credits range from Easy Rider to Ghostbusters. The clip above concerns their literally death-defying efforts to record the Communist takeover of Hungary. Considering how little attention cinematographers get, at least in relation to their importance to a movie's end result, the chance to see these two masters in deep focus should be a movie lover's treat.
The movie shows tonight on PBS's first-rate Independent Lens series, which shows high-profile documentaries fresh from the festival circuit or theatrical release. Remember, you can always TiVo Sons of Anarchy.