Celebrating the great cinematographer

BY QUENTIN TURNOUR

Don McAlpine and Hugh Jackman during the 2008 shoot of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Don McAlpine (1934-) has become the local elder statesman of cinematography – the cinema craft for which Australia gets most respect and the most awards internationally. Now approaching 80, McAlpine goes back far enough to have a career that pre-dates our modern feature film industry, starting his working life as a country school teacher and amateur filmmaker before talking his way into a job with ABC-TV. His filmmaking career spans the entire period since the Australian cinema revival of the 1970s; he even shot one of the key films that triggered it, 1972’s The Adventures of Barry McKenzie.

McAlpine has enough experience and respect to have been honoured in 2011 with our local film industry’s major lifetime achievement accolade, the AFI/AACTA Raymond Longford Award. Yet he’s still a highly active and in-demand filmmaker, most recently at work in the US on Gavin Hood’s big budget sci-fi thriller Ender’s Game, but with smaller and idiosyncratic projects (like PJ Hogan’s Mental) also amongst his recent filmography.

To follow up Arc Cinema’s recent season of Show Me the Magic (documentary filmmaker Cathy Henkel’s look at his career and on-location working methods), we’re featuring a short selection of Don McAlpine ACS, ASC’s key work as one of Australia’s great feature film directors of photography. Consciously, we’ll place his local and international work side by side, including his first international film (and the one whose script provides the title to Henkel’s documentary) – Paul Mazursky’s 1982 Tempest – but also key collaborations with Australian directors like Baz Luhrmann and Bruce Beresford.

In late May, McAlpine will be in Canberra as a special guest of the 2013 Australian Cinematographer Society’s National Awards. Over the weekend of 25-26 May he’ll be on hand at Arc to round out the season with two ‘carte blanche’ sessions that he will select and introduce.