Simone Fary's definition of good cinematography as "how meaningfully the
images presented are used" is surely as limited and self-serving as any
other she's come across. It seems to me there is more to cinematography
than its effect on the viewer. Some shots are hard to make, and making
them well constitutes good cinematography even if we don't quite
notice--perhaps, especially if we don't quite notice. Let me give a
current example, from VERTIGO which will soon be available for many to
see again. The redwood sequence of this film was shot inside a forest of
very tall and old trees which severely obstructed the natural light, and
it was both complicated to run electricity and difficult to hide the arc
lamps. The depth of field is important--difficult with low light. The
characters must move--again difficult with low light. The cinematography
is heroic, not just good; but the scene will go right by us if we don't
stop to consider these things.
One could go on at some length--there are so many other detailed,
different, demanding examples.
I would recommend that for starters readers interested in good
cinematography have a look at Nestor Almendros' enlightening book, A MAN
WITH A CAMERA, in which some of the basic stories are told.
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