Michael Ballhaus, the renowned visual composer best known for his long and fruitful partnerships with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Martin Scorsese, has passed at age 81. His most famous accomplishment is the long Goodfellas tracking shot in which Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco slip into the Copacabana through the kitchen, but God, I loved so much of his work. Ballhaus knew from steam, smoke, shadows, reddish glows and sunlight piercing down through windows…all the impressionist tricks of the trade. And above all about gliding movement.
The headliners: Fassbinder‘s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Fox and His Friends, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lili Marleen. Steve Kloves‘ The Fabulous Baker Boys. Nancy Meyers‘ Something’s Gotta Give. James L. Brooks‘ Broadcast News and I’ll Do Anything. Mike Nichols‘ Working Girl, Postcards From The Edge and Primary Colors. Wolfgang Petersen‘s Air Force One. Francis Coppola‘s Dracula. Scorsese’s After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York, The Departed.
Thrice nominated for Cinematography Oscars — Broadcast News, Baker Boys, Gangs of New York — but never a winner. Between scrumptious bites of bagels, lox, cream cheese and red onion, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award voted to give Ballhaus their 1990 Best Cinematography trophy for Goodfellas.