Michael Ballhaus (1935-2017): One Of The Cinema’s Sharpest Eyes

by Ashley Naftule

Michael Ballhaus

Michael Ballhaus died today. Found dead in his Berlin apartment after passing away due to an illness. Ballhaus was 81 years old.

His name might not ring a bell at first, but it’s a safe bet that you’ve been exposed to his work. A cinematographer and director of photography for the likes of Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Francis Ford Coppola, his cool and controlled style has been a hallmark of cinema for decades. He’s been nominated three times for the Academy Award for cinematography (“Broadcast News” in 1987, “The Fabulous Baker Boys” in 1989, and “Gangs of New York” in 2002).

Normally, these blogs tend to be heavy on text. But for today’s installment, it feels more fitting to let the man’s work do the talking. So here’s a retrospective of Michael Ballhaus in images. The cinema lost one of its sharpest eyes today; it only seems right to show you what that eye captured.

NOTE: While these images are in chronological order, it’s not a comprehensive overview of his work. Ballhaus shot a LOT of films, including some that we would all like to forget (I’m looking at you, “Bagger Vance”!).

Beware of a Holy Whore (Fassbinder, 1971)

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Fassbinder, 1972)



World on a Wire
(Fassbinder, 1973)

The Marriage of Maria Braun (Fassbinder, 1979)

After Hours (Scorsese, 1985)

Papa Don’t Preach (Foley, 1986)

Under The Cherry Moon (Prince, 1986)

The Color of Money (Scorsese, 1986)

Broadcast News (Brooks, 1987)

The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels(Oz, 1988)

Goodfellas(Scorsese, 1990)

What About Bob?(Oz, 1991)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula(Coppola, 1992)

The Age of Innocence(Scorsese, 1993)

Quiz Show(Redford, 1994)

Outbreak(Petersen, 1995)

Air Force One(Petersen, 1997)

Gangs of New York(Scorsese, 2002)

The Departed(Scorsese, 2006)

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