I have just finished watching Road To Perdition. I haven't seen this film in many years and not since I have become a director of photography myself. Conrad Hall has an amazing credit list, but there are only two of his films which have directly effected me and my love of cinema; American Beauty and Road To Perdition. Sure, Cool Hand Luke, In Cold Blood and Butch Cassidy are great, but they're not from my era; not from a time where cinema was indirectly affecting my career choices. It was because of these two films that I wanted to watch Conrad's older work. It just so happened his last two movies came out at quite an influential part of my life.
I studied and wrote a paper on American Beauty at University. Road To Perdition came out shortly after I left but it had an unknown and profound effect on me. At the time I thought it was all about Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey. It wasn't until a while after that I realised Conrad L. Hall's photography was the reason I love those two films so much. Funny how something you don't understand or see at the time can possibly have such an impact on your life.
These two films are not wholly responsible for my career choices, nor are they the main reason I love film so much, but they are part of the reason. Conrad's photography, along with a number of other cinematographers, left a deep impression on me over the years and at some point I didn't even realise it.
Now that is the beauty of cinematography; creating something that compliments the story and so subtle that the majority of the audience won't notice it, yet it will impact some more than you can imagine.
If you research Conrad Hall, you will find it is said that he doesn't have a standout specific style, that he adapted to the director and to the story for each film. This seems to be true. At first viewing of the films he photographed, there doesn't seem to be a style which would make you think this was a Conrad Hall piece. But if you take into consideration that Butch Cassidy and Cool Hand Luke were shot at a time where a lens flare was grounds for dismissal, then you might start to notice that Conrad started to fight against the perfection pursued by other cinematographers and studios at the time.
He wasn't afraid to blow out a window and was just as bold with his shadows. Contrast ratio is an important part of how we expose and Conrad seemed to be the master of this. He wasn't afraid of shadow, especially on the talents face.
It's evident that Conrad Hall developed his style to serve each story he was telling, rather than force a style on everything he shot. Yet it could be said his style was perfecting the imperfections.
All images sourced from www.Film-Grab.com