'No Subtitles' to premiere in Classics sidebar

Tribute to cinematographers Kovacs and Zsigmond

CANNES -- James Chressanthis, director-producer of "No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos" finds it moving that his tribute to legendary cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond will premiere as part of the Cannes Classics sidebar Thursday.

"Laszlo shot 'Easy Rider,' an ultra-low-budget, counterculture film that was a favorite with critics and fans at Cannes in 1969. That was the film, which finally opened doors for Laszlo in Hollywood. It is a perfect return to the place that launched the career of Laszlo Kovacs and then, in turn, his artistic brother Vilmos Zsigmond. They became legends in their own time."

With the support of the pair, Chressanthis, who is also a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, spent two years documenting their remarkable story and friendship.

Kovacs and Zsigmond were born and raised in small towns in Hungary during the Nazi occupation and subsequent imposition of a repressive communist regime by the Soviet army. Zsigmond had just graduated from the Academy of Film and Drama in Budapest, where Kovacs was still a student, when a revolt broke out against the communist regime. They borrowed a camera and film from the school and documented fighting on the streets.

Zsigmond and Kovacs then made a perilous trek on foot, carrying thousands of feet of unprocessed film across the border into Austria. They arrived in the U.S. as political refugees in 1957.

In the U.S., the pair went on to become two of Hollywood's most influential cinematographers. Kovacs' body of work includes "The King of Marvin Gardens," "Paper Moon," and " Shampoo." Zsigmond earned an Oscar for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and additional nominations for "The Deer Hunter," "The River" and "The Black Dahlia."

"The story of their life is more dramatic than 'The Deer Hunter,' " Chressanthis said.

The film is not narrated. Rather, it is told through excerpts from interviews with Kovacs -- which were shot before he died in July -- and Zsigmond.

There also are excerpts from more than 50 hours of interviews with such figures as Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Donner, Dennis Hopper, Bob Rafelson, Barbra Streisand, John Williams, Peter Fonda, Jon Voight, Owen Roizman and Haskell Wexler.

Chressanthis mixed numerous formats including Super 16mm, various HD formats, 35mm stock footage and archival footage.

Chressanthis had no production company backing the project when he began. "But I had tremendous support from every corner of this industry," the helmer said. "Last May, NC Motion Pictures came on board with critical financing," he said, and he received additional support from cinematographer Anka Malatynska and editor/co-producer Elisa Bonora.

Kian Soleimanpour, Zachary W. Kranzler and Tony Frere produced the film along with Chressanthis. Jimmy Conroy II and David Kaminsky executive produced.

"My only regret is that Laszlo didn't see the film finished," Chressanthis said.