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Greg Traw

Vittorio Storaro

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Storaro reminds me a lot of Leo Tolstoy: half artist/half mystic, long-winded and could probably start a religious cult if he wanted to. Does anyone agree with me on this or have anything to add?

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Storaro reminds me a lot of Leo Tolstoy: half artist/half mystic, long-winded and could probably start a religious cult if he wanted to. Does anyone agree with me on this or have anything to add?

 

I only understand about half of theories. He has a big new interview in AC this month, if that's not what prompted this thread in the first place.

 

His body of work is so awesome, though, that I take it for granted he knows what he's talking about with all these wild theories of his.

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I'll have to check that interview out. I stopped getting AC for the time being to save some money but that would be well worth it.

 

I've always hated the pompous personality he seems to project in interviews (he may be different in person or working, I wouldn't know) but his work backs it up. I am not one to gush about people, but it's hard not to like a guy that has probably had a more formative effect on modern cinematography than could even be measured or charted out. The thing I most like about him is that he rarely talks about the technical when it isn't necessary. He is past that and thinks about why he would do something and the effect it could have on an audience. I hope I reach that kind of mastery of the medium someday. It should probably be every cinematographer's goal.

 

I would very much like to read the books he wrote (These ones. I didn't remember the set being quite that expensive.). Even if his theories are not practical or I don't end up agreeing with them, they would certainly be a good, interesting cerebral exercise. Has anyone read them?

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I'll have to check that interview out. I stopped getting AC for the time being to save some money but that would be well worth it.

 

I've always hated the pompous personality he seems to project in interviews (he may be different in person or working, I wouldn't know) but his work backs it up. I am not one to gush about people, but it's hard not to like a guy that has probably had a more formative effect on modern cinematography than could even be measured or charted out. The thing I most like about him is that he rarely talks about the technical when it isn't necessary. He is past that and thinks about why he would do something and the effect it could have on an audience. I hope I reach that kind of mastery of the medium someday. It should probably be every cinematographer's goal.

 

I would very much like to read the books he wrote (These ones. I didn't remember the set being quite that expensive.). Even if his theories are not practical or I don't end up agreeing with them, they would certainly be a good, interesting cerebral exercise. Has anyone read them?

 

 

yeah man, I've gone through writer of light... really interesting book. It is a pretty cerebral approach to the craft though. There's a great interview with Storraro in an AC from 2002, I think. Talks about Apocalypse Now and The Conformist. Really amazing read. Check it out.

 

Bobby Shore

DP

LA/Montreal

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I really like his segment in Visions of Light because he concretely yet vividly decribes his color theories used in The Last Emperor and his approach to lighting The Conformist, which remains one of my most favorite photographed films.

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I can't wait until "Caravaggio" gets released

 

They planned to air it on Italian national television in May, but they decided to wait for the fall so they could cut a theatrical version. Last thing I've heard is that they had the world premiere in New York in June during "Open Roads: New Italian Cinema" at Lincoln center: the theatrical cut is 120 minutes long, the one we'll get on tv first is 200 minutes long. The only link I could finf (in english) is to a review based on the NY screening: http://www.newyorkcool.com/archives/2007/J...m-openroads.htm

A few months ago I went to the two biggest rental houses here in Rome (Panalight and Technovision) with a friend of mine and it was somehow very cool to see the boxes of equipment with the "Caravaggio" label on them, and the metal Univisium plaque on the side of a 535 :-)

 

Storaro is some sort of a national hero around here, the only cinematographer whose name people out of the industry knows. I never worked with him, though I was lucky enough to work on a short film were some of "his" anamorphic lenses (from Last Emperor) were used..that's the "closest" I got to the man. :D

 

Chris, i know those books are expensive but they're worth every cent if you love Storaro's work. Besides, what about checking at the library or at some local college?

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I popped 'The Conformist' in the other day. The radio broadcast scene has to be one of the greatest displays of color palette control ever put on celluloid!

Edited by Greg Traw

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There's an old BBC documentary about Storaro floating around - I saw it years ago when a former teacher of mine lent it to me on VHS. I'll hunt around and see if I can find it somewhere - it was very indulgent but extremely interesting to see him explain and demonstrate his ideas and beliefs.

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I got to chat briefly with Storaro yesterday at the Panafest. As we were talking, two film students stepped up to talk to him, and Storaro asked them if they knew who Caravaggio was and they both shook their heads. He was smiling when he said it, but his response was along the lines of "How can you be a cinematographer if you've never heard of Caravaggio?"

 

It was one of those moments where you are a bit appalled by the U.S. school system these days if someone reaches the age of twenty and has never heard the name Caravaggio...

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It was one of those moments where you are a bit appalled by the U.S. school system these days if someone reaches the age of twenty and has never heard the name Caravaggio...

 

David, I'm afraid you'd get the same answer here in Italy as well, which in theory is even sadder...

 

What shocks me though is that they were cinematography students: years ago a quite famous Italian cinematographer, when asked by a young guy about what to do to become a DP, replied: "begin with Uffizi and Louvre". :D

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While they don't necessarily teach art history in the schools before college, when I was about ten years old, my hero at the time was Leonardo DaVinci -- I wanted to be a scientist-artist, combine the two disciplines.

 

Don't know how that obsession developed, but it seems that there is (or was when I was a kid) what is called "common culture", the things that most people in a culture tend to commonly know that they don't necessarily teach in school, like the works of famous painters, composers, and writers. Famous battles, the old kings & queens of Europe, Greek / Roman / Norse mythology, etc. So how someone gets to college age and has never heard of Caravaggio or Monet or Rembrandt, etc. beats me.

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While they don't necessarily teach art history in the schools before college, when I was about ten years old, my hero at the time was Leonardo DaVinci -- I wanted to be a scientist-artist, combine the two disciplines...................... So how someone gets to college age and has never heard of Caravaggio or Monet or Rembrandt, etc. beats me.

That mystifys me too, I used to relish living in Chicago when a kid and being able to hang out at the Art Institute of Chicago, particularly in the old Sloan Wing with all those incredible Lautrecs, Picassos, and the big Seurat.

 

I also was lucky enough to get a chance to see some fantastic private collections, one belonging to a couple who threw a Merce Cunningham cast party at their large duplex apartment with large walls each devoted to ONE artist in the rank of Klee, Miro, Picasso, etc. They bought a large Rauschenberg Op-Art work (he had created a lot of art for Merce's dances) to place on an easel in their apartment's entrance hall just for the party. My then girlfriend's folks had a good collection - I often slept overnight on their living room sofa underneath a Picasso blue period. They weren't particularly rich, her father had been an art dealer in Amsterdam before WWII and bought a lot of then new art work. Marc Chagall and he were friends and he had several Chagall's that were well known enough to be in books and described as being in a "private collection in Chicago".

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I do feel for these 2 students a bit though, they must have been mortified! I guess the "common culture" these days doesnt include a basic grasp of art history, as cinematography students they must have had a few lectures on Italian art surely?

 

 

 

I have to ask David what was Vittorio like?

 

Kieran.

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I got to chat briefly with Storaro yesterday at the Panafest. As we were talking, two film students stepped up to talk to him, and Storaro asked them if they knew who Caravaggio was and they both shook their heads. He was smiling when he said it, but his response was along the lines of "How can you be a cinematographer if you've never heard of Caravaggio?"

 

It was one of those moments where you are a bit appalled by the U.S. school system these days if someone reaches the age of twenty and has never heard the name Caravaggio...

 

I was with some friends yesterday at Panafest, I tried to talk to you David but i think you were caught up in a lot of conversation with fellow DP's. We spoke to Storaro and he we asked him how his cinematography in the opening scene of the conformist helped to tell the story. He gave the most amazing reply, and i really respect him for that. I thought he may not have had even 5 seconds for us.

 

I'm off to see Carravagio tonight at the Aero theatre. And also, It is a bit saddening that those students have never heard of Carravagio, like Storaro said, he was a film maker without knowing it.

 

I love his paintings, I would love to know what Storaro 'see's' when he looks at one of Carravagio's paintings.

Edited by Jamie McIntyre

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While they don't necessarily teach art history in the schools before college, when I was about ten years old, my hero at the time was Leonardo DaVinci -- I wanted to be a scientist-artist, combine the two disciplines.

 

Don't know how that obsession developed, but it seems that there is (or was when I was a kid) what is called "common culture", the things that most people in a culture tend to commonly know that they don't necessarily teach in school, like the works of famous painters, composers, and writers. Famous battles, the old kings & queens of Europe, Greek / Roman / Norse mythology, etc. So how someone gets to college age and has never heard of Caravaggio or Monet or Rembrandt, etc. beats me.

 

I'm happy to say I have heard of all of them. Carravagio was a style that the director wanted on a short film i shot.

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When I spoke to Storaro, I mentioned to him that I often have stage fright and never speak to him when I have the chance at these events, because he's one of my heroes (truth is, even this time, I find myself with nothing to ask him, etc. -- I almost know his works too well to have any questions!) -- hearing that, he grabbed my hand very warmly, a brotherly clasp. It was very touching. He's a real class act.

 

What I still learn or "get" from Storaro, beyond technique, is his passion for the art of cinematography and of cinema. He reminds us of why the things we do matter, that art matters.

 

Technique-wise, he's never been as baroque or complicated as someone like Conrad Hall (other than the elaborate use of dimmers) -- he's always favored a bold, strong, simple approach to the lighting: whether sharp or soft, he often uses a single dominant lighting effect to the scene that draws your attention to the drama of the moment. This is one reason why, I think, he doesn't use a lot of fill light or diffusion on the lens. He wants a certain "clarity" of action and meaning in his lighting.

 

It reminds me of a famous phrase from Virgil's "Aenied" (I took six years of Latin and have forgotten most of it...); "Fortune favors the bold." I try to recall that now & then when I shooting, because of my tendency towards playing things safe.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it isn't necessarily hard to copy Storaro's lighting set-ups... but that won't make you a Storaro! Beyond the technique, there is that intellect and passion, that sensitivity towards drama and story.

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When I spoke to Storaro, I mentioned to him that I often have stage fright and never speak to him when I have the chance at these events, because he's one of my heroes (truth is, even this time, I find myself with nothing to ask him, etc. -- I almost know his works too well to have any questions!) -- hearing that, he grabbed my hand very warmly, a brotherly clasp. It was very touching. He's a real class act.

 

What I still learn or "get" from Storaro, beyond technique, is his passion for the art of cinematography and of cinema. He reminds us of why the things we do matter, that art matters.

 

Technique-wise, he's never been as baroque or complicated as someone like Conrad Hall (other than the elaborate use of dimmers) -- he's always favored a bold, strong, simple approach to the lighting: whether sharp or soft, he often uses a single dominant lighting effect to the scene that draws your attention to the drama of the moment. This is one reason why, I think, he doesn't use a lot of fill light or diffusion on the lens. He wants a certain "clarity" of action and meaning in his lighting.

 

It reminds me of a famous phrase from Virgil's "Aenied" (I took six years of Latin and have forgotten most of it...); "Fortune favors the bold." I try to recall that now & then when I shooting, because of my tendency towards playing things safe.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it isn't necessarily hard to copy Storaro's lighting set-ups... but that won't make you a Storaro! Beyond the technique, there is that intellect and passion, that sensitivity towards drama and story.

 

This is exactly what he explained to us. We approached him, introduced ourselves and told him we were trying to recreate on of his scenes. This scene was the opening of 'The Conformist' with the red and white light source dimming in and out simultaneously. We asked him how he only managed to cast one shadow with 2 light sources; His reply was along the lines of ''It doesn't matter about the stupid shadows, it's what you are trying to convey which is important. Who cares about shadows? In that scene I was trying to convey the bridge between 'pre-consciousness' and 'consciousness'. You see, red light is the first colour of the spectrum and this represented the characters 'pre-consciousness', the white light represented the 'Consciousness'. The red light is strong at first, but as he becomes 'normal' and begins to reach consciousness, the red light fades away with the white light becoming dominant.''

 

I was in awe as he was explaining this.

 

Right after he finished explaining he hit my friend Markus (he posts here) and said something i don't remember. It was so funny, yet very touching.

 

I had such a great day at Panafest . I wish i had the chance to meet you David.

 

Maybe tonight at 'Carravagio'. :lol:

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Yes, he flicked Markus in the forehead and said "If it's not in here (hand on heart) then it doesn't matter!" Gave us a big smile and disappeared back into the crowd as we all took it in haha. He is a class act indeed :)

 

He pretty much explained to us that the technical aspect of photography comes so far after the interpretation and emotion you have as a cinematographer towards the story.

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Question: How can we add more light to the shot?

 

Answer an average cinematographer would give: Either raise the light level or open the iris.

 

Answer Storaro would give (Italian accent): First we must feel the emotion that the light is giving us as it surrounds and engulfs the spirit of the truth we are trying to dramatize. The light must pull us in, seduce us to our weakest and raise the sacred to the most powerful. Only then can we truly know the hearts and souls of humanity and can apply it. It comes from you; it comes from me, Vittorio Storaro. The beauty of it; yes, the absolute beauty of it...

 

Moral of the Story: Storaro is far more talented than I will ever be...

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2:1 Univisium probably was ahead of its time in some ways, it is a lot easier now to create and show 2:1 images with digital distribution (though usually boxed or bordered within standards like 16x9, 1.85, or 2.40.) Recently you had "Tomorrowland" and "Jurassic World" using the 2:1 ratio so it may catch on after all. It's a good format if you also have to release an IMAX version.

 

I also think that way back when something could have been done, 2:1 should have been the standard for HDTV. This would have allowed 1.85 and 2.40 movies to get more equal use of the pixels on screen, similar to how the max DCP container is 1.9 : 1 for 1.85 and 2.40 movies, either using max height of the DCP package or max width.

 

The issues I have (or had) with Univisium are:

 

(1) Human nature would probably have never allowed a single aspect ratio for cinema and TV to become implemented -- we had it in the beginning with 4x3, but once you opened the Pandora's Box of widescreen formats in the 1950's, there was no way to go back. Today, if you made 2:1 the standard, some filmmaker would want to do something different, either wider or less wide. That said, I think a lot of modern movies could be shot and shown in 2:1.

 

(2) I had some issue with Storaro's past movies shot in 1.85 or 2.40 anamorphic being cropped to 2:1, like the Criterion blu-ray of "The Last Emperor" is. The image just doesn't look composed for 2:1, it feels cropped on the sides now.

 

(3) On the flip side, a number of Storaro's 2:1 movies haven't been properly released in 2:1, such as his "Dune" mini-series, which is only available in 16x9. That just shows how hard it is to get distributors to respect non-standard formats once it leaves the hands of the filmmakers.

 

So in the long run, instead of unifying everything under one aspect ratio, 2:1 becomes one more aspect ratio to add to all the others. A nice one, hopefully it will catch on, but I don't see it replacing all the others.

 

Today it is a bit silly that we finish theatrical movies at 2048 or 4096 pixels wide but we have to downsample them slightly to 1920 or now 3840 (UHD). There's no good reason for that small difference. I think the DCP approach of a 1.9 : 1 container (or let's just round it up to 2:1) should be implemented for both cinema and broadcast.

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Don't forget about "House of Cards" in 2:1. Though I guess on Netflix there is more freedom of aspect ratios since you don't have to care about projection etc.

 

(Wasn't "Tomorrowland" 2.2:1?)

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