Owen Roizman — A Cinematographer who defined the ’70s, 1936-2023

You didn’t have to grow up in the ’70s, travel to America’s major cities back then to know what the decade looked like. And that was largely due to films lit and photographed by Owen Roizman.

The director of photography of the overcast natural-light-fixated “French Connection,” the malaise and gloom of “Network,” the existential fear of the dark of “The Exorcist,” the gaudy showbiz “West” of “The Electric Horseman,” the seedy side of SoCal of “Straight Time,” — “Black Marble,” “The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three” — he practically defined the on-screen look of the decade.

And when the “national malaise” mood was shifted by the delusional optimism of the ’80s, he was right there lighting it — “Tootsie,” “True Confessions,” “Absence of Malice,” “Vision Quest.”

He worked with Lawrence Kasdan on comedies and “Grand Canyon,” shot Westerns (“Wyatt Earp”) and musicals (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”).

Roizman’s the guy the cinematographer-turned-director Barry Sonnenfeld trusted to know the right “funny lens” to use for “The Addams Family.”

Roizman was one of the great ones, and never won an Oscar. Nominated five times and never won. You don’t always know who is defining the light, look and tone of a decade on Eastmancolor (Kodak), Fuji, Afga when they’re doing it.

Roizman made it to the ripe old age of 96. Well done all around, sir.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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