Robby Müller, Inventive Cinematographer, Is Dead at 78

Robby Müller, Inventive Cinematographer, Is Dead at 78


The director Steve McQueen, who worked with Mr. Müller on the short film “Carib’s Leap” (2002), compared him to a blues musician. “He plays just a few chords and he conveys what he needs to convey,” Mr. McQueen told The New York Times in 2016. “He’s a purist.”

Mr. Müller’s closest collaborator was Mr. Wenders, with whom he made 12 feature films. In a telephone interview, Mr. Wenders singled out a notable Mülleresque shot in “The American Friend” (1977), his noir drama adapted from “Ripley’s Game,” Patricia Highsmith’s 1974 novel: Dennis Hopper lying on a pool table, taking one Polaroid picture after another of himself, each snapshot dropping onto his still figure.

Seven years later, Mr. Wenders and Mr. Müller teamed up on “Paris, Texas,” the story of a drifter (Harry Dean Stanton) looking to reunite with the wife and son he left years earlier, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the opening scene, much of which Mr. Müller shot from a helicopter, Mr. Stanton emerges from the desert: a solitary figure walking purposefully, wearing a rumpled gray pinstripe suit, knotted tan tie and red ball cap. He roams for miles, drinks the last drop of water from a jug, then enters a dark, dusty building. After gobbling some crushed ice, he collapses on the floor.

“It’s indeed a beautiful film, one that will surely convince doubters that Müller is one of the cinema’s best cameramen,” the critic and film professor Holly Willis wrote in Variety. “He gives the story a surface polish that hints of Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe Americana paintings.”

When Travis, Mr. Stanton’s character, enters the peep show where his much younger wife (Nastassja Kinski) works, he sees her through a one-way mirror. She cannot see him. They speak by telephone, but he does not identify himself.



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