Death at 87 of Willy Kurant, cinematographer of the biggest names in French cinema

DISAPPEARANCE – Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematographer, Agnès Varda, Orson Welles and even Serge Gainsbourg, has died at the age of 87. The circumstances of his disappearance, however, remain unknown.

The sad news fell on Monday. Willy Kurant, cinematographer of the biggest names in cinema such as Jean-Luc Godard, Orson Welles, Maurice Pialat, Agnès Varda, Serge Gainsbourg, or more recently Philippe Garrel, died at the age of 87, according to the information from several sources. Neither the date nor the circumstances of his disappearance have been specified for the moment.

Since then, tribute messages have followed one another. Originally from Belgium, in Liège, Willy Kurant left a mark on the minds of his colleagues. Thus, the Belgian Society of Cinematographers (SBC) evokes “ a pioneer of the New Wave “. On Facebook, the French novelist and historian Noël Simsolo (Sergio Leone, Octopus) regrets the sudden disappearance of his friend, who left to travel to “ other lights “.

The eye of the greatest

Man in the shadows, Willy Kurant made his debut in the 1950s as a news cameraman reporter for French-speaking televisions, traveling around the world, as the Cinémathèque Française reported during its retrospective in 2013.

From this experience will be born a desire to practice a cinema of truth, where the image speaks for itself, deployed through the long sequence shots that we know. In the 1960s, Willy Kurant naturally fell into the New Wave movement, carried by directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Maurice Pialat, and Agnès Varda.

After some stammering in the short film, he will sign his first film as director of photography on The Creatures by Agnès Varda (1966), then collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard on Male Female. The doors will open the following year. Of Departure by Jerzy Skolimowski, at Anna of Pierre Koralnik passing by, ultimate consecration, Orson Welles in 1968. Serge Gainsbourg will also call on him in 1976 to put in images his first film I love you neither, with his partner and actress Jane Birkin in the key role. The two will meet later on Ecuador (1983) and Charlotte for ever (1987).

All his life, Willy Kurant will have lent his eye and his talent to the biggest names in French cinema. Across the Atlantic, American film critic Richard Brody, specialist in the New Wave and journalist for the New Yorker also deplored his disappearance, calling him “ one of the greatest directors of photography“.


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