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‘Jessica Jones’ DP Finds the Poetic Realism of Noir with RED Dragon

Cinematographer Manuel Billeter outfitted the camera with Panavision PVintage lenses.

Netflix’s Jessica Jones shows a darker, grittier side of the Marvel universe–one that features a damaged female superhero as its lead, and a noir look and tone that was inspired by the likes of The Third Man, Touch of Evil, and Taxi Driver.

“I could picture it instantly. The pace was perfect for noir,” director S.J. Clarkson tells ICG Magazine. “It’s a great character-led piece, and a great female character at that: damaged but strong, not a victim, but not a bunny-boiler either.”

“When I first read the script, the tune of Lili Marleen came up in my head, the voice of Marlene Dietrich – in her low and throaty contralto, limited but yearning, vulnerable yet powerful,” adds cinematographer Manuel Billeter. “When I met with S.J. Clarkson for the first time, we had instant visual alignment. A cinematographer and a director have to get inside each other’s heads.”

Photo by 

Myles Aronowitz/Netflix.

Per Netflix’s directive, the series was shot on 4K. Billeter chose the RED Dragon with Panavision PVintage lenses. “They’re not as flawless, sharp or flat as newer lenses so they helped me tell the gritty noirstory with more poetic realism,” Billeter says. “I had to be careful not to shoot too wide open, as otherwise they get too soft. I mostly shot them at T2, and at a deeper stop on the rare occasions that we went longer than 35 millimeter.”