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Gavin Power

The Influence of Vittorio Storaro

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I'm a final year film student specialising in cinematography, currently writing my dissertation on Vittorio Storaro, and i am interested in finding out how Vittorio Storaro has influenced other cinematrographers and filmmakers.

 

Whether it be aspects within his films, if so which and why?

 

Personal encounters with him, and any advice he gave you

 

Or his influence with technological advances... such as ENR process....storaro selection filters...Univisum 1:2....or anything else.

 

Any comments will be appreciated,

 

Thanks.

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If you're looking at Storaro, I think an interesting approach to the paper would look at the aspects of his work that have been very influential (lighting, camera movement) compared to the theories he would like to be influential but perhaps are not (Univisium format, color theory).

 

In terms of research, I would recommend "Writer of Light" from the ASC press, probably the "Last Emperor" DVD from Criterion, and there's a great interview with him on the Criterion DVD of Fellini's "8 1/2" . There's also the multi-volume "Writing with Light" book which is very expensive but probably essential if you're serious about the topic.

 

Also, if it needs saying, citing an internet message board as a source probably won't cut for an academic paper. Good luck with the project.

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Also, if it needs saying, citing an internet message board as a source probably won't cut for an academic paper. Good luck with the project.

 

I'll follow that up with his contributions are too numerous to enumerate... tho pretentious in theory at times...

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There was a screeing of Caravaggio about a year ago that I saw him in person. He was hanging out in the lobby before the screening but I was too intimidated to shake hands, even though he seemed very friendly to folks that were chatting with him.

 

A Q&A followed the film. I don't remember anything specific that he said, I just remember that his answers were very inspiring. I would say he avoided being too technical; for example if you asked him what filters he used he probably wouldn't answer it directly and instead talk about quality of light and a cinematographers role as an artist.

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Barry Salt suggest in the book "Film Style: History & Analysis" that Storaro's contribution was to make low-key, single-source, high-contrast lighting become the dominant lighting style of the 1980's & 1990's, rather than the occasional technique. Of course, he was part of a low-key trend that included Gordon Willis and the movies directed by Ridley Scott and other Brit commercial directors of the 1970's -- however, I think Storaro's influence on other cinematographers is undeniable. "The Conformist" (1970) was highly influential. Of course, Storaro will freely admit his inspirations for "The Conformist", including the work of Gregg Toland, but also the Italian cinematographers of the 1960's. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

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Guest Tim Partridge

Actually, while I agree that the colour THEORY tirades of Storaro are (as Mike W indicates) what he'd like to be known for influentially, I do think Storaro's big contribution is colour related, and much moreso directly to mainstream pop culture. As a bold (usually primary), expressive, glossy, proudly coordinated and unnatural colourist, Storaro had a direct influence on DPs like Jeffrey Kimball and also IMO John Bailey and Stephen Goldblatt, and also directors such as Adrian Lyne and Tony Scott, certainly as far as graphic colour tinting of the image goes, not just in that bold, primary coloured lighting, but maybe even moreso for his graduated filter work that we see everywhere now. CAT PEOPLE (the remake), FLASHDANCE, TOP GUN, JACOB'S LADDER being the obvious examples, and then you've got the rest of the 80s, particularly MTV for garish video style, which went on to influence Michael Bay and whoever today. Dare I say it, but I think to a younger generation who haven't seen the CONFORMIST, REDS or even APOCALYPSE, I think most of them would consider Storaro's style 80s MTV derived because of what came afterwards. Something like the movie DUST DEVIL I think takes Storaro influence to an extreme, 80s synonmous level.

 

Storaro's heightened use of contrast, especially in lighting I think also rubbed off on the 80s and onwards. He kind of brought noir lighting back but with virtually no (obvious) fill, especially on movies like CONFORMIST and even REDS. Infact those latter two movies are less about the colour and more about the venetian shutters and long shadows, etc.

 

You also have purer Storaro disciples like Swalomir Idziak on THREE COLOURS, again with that characterisitic grad work particularly, but of course he also ended up with the most acclaim for his work on BLACK HAWK DOWN, which reads more like a second generation Storaro influence (in the wake of Top Gun and Jerry Bruckheimer). I'd even say TV shows like CSI are very Storaro influenced too, again with the hyper colour coordinated, stylised photographic design.

 

I agree with David's feeling that nothing happens in a vacuum. After everything about Stoaro as colourist above, I still think other films, even the likes of SUSPIRIA also added up to that look in the same way.

 

I'd also say Storaro's heightened use of contrast as well as his later use of ENR seems a very probable influence on Darius Khondji. Infact, I'd almost suggest a passing of the baton there in terms of popular modern influences for cinematographers today. I'm also going to but in there and say that most of the more unsubtle and bold DI work being done today definitely takes it's cues from what Storaro was doing with colour (incamera) decades ago. This was also true when earlier forms of electronic post in the late 80s.

 

Personally, I think it's a great pity that Storaro's style nowadays is associated with MTV, glossy action films or anything generally heightened or stylised, almost as though that's about all that approach is generically accepted for. Most of the Bertolucci/Coppolla movies he originally shot were very real world set, historical recreation movies as well! It seems 90% of movies these days are shot with a very naturalist/realist aesthetic with tons of softlight, almost documentary level. Too many are missing the point and modern cinema is poorer for it.

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I can only speak for myself. Vittorio Storaro is my absolute favorite DP. Apocalypse Now is a text book on how to light for mood and emotion. EVEN back when I FIRST saw the film in the 80s, I thought to myself "this guy (not knowing his name at the time because i didn't pay attention to those things back then) has captured a nightmare on film!" My actual dreams often looked exactly like that, dark with vivid colors. The stage on the river with the bunnies and the Do Long bridge scenes just blew me away and even today when I watch the film it takes me a few days to get over it's intensity. I had NEVER seen anything like it before or really since. It is the MAJOR inspiration for the lighting design and planned look of my current film project Blood Moon Rising. I don't know if this will help you but I had to include my thoughts on the off chance they would. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly

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Whenever I've worked a few too many corporate gigs, done a few too many AC or grip gigs, I like to put on Cinematographer Style or any DVD extras from any of his films and listen to pretty much anything he has to say about cinema. He always reminds me that despite the business, it is still a very influential modern artform. And deserves to be considered likened unto any other great evolution in art.

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One other though I just had, it's probably not coincidental that Vittorio Storaro is my favorite cinematographer AND that he's Italian. There is a style in Italian cinema that is inspirational to me. When I look back on films that have REALLY inspired me visually, I keep coming up with names like Fellini, Leone, Mario Bava (OH Mario Bava ;) ), Dario Argenta, Franco Zeffirelli, Bertoluchi, Roberto Rolleselli. I love a lot of French films, Hong Kong cinema, Russian films, Scandinavian cinema, Spanish and Mexican film, Some Japanese films and of course American, British and Canadian films but there is just SOMETHING about the Italians that can take even pedestrian fare and turn it into visual art.

 

You look at the work of Mario Bava or Dario Argenta. These were basically nothing more than low budget horror films and they're stunning, visual masterpieces of composition, lighting and style yet there is no pretense to the work as is sometimes evident in French new wave films or Russian epics. Even in German Expressionism, there is a sense that the artist wants you to feel the work that went into the piece. But in Italian cinema, the art just seems to flow naturally, without comment on it's self, simply as another element of the film. The only other example of this I can think of is American Film Nior, which ironically enough was inspired by German Expressionism but never seemed to acquire the self commentary. It's style, like Italian cinema, in general also was never meant, or I think even consciously considered, to be felt by the audience but simple existed as a necessary element of the genre that was not even expected, but just happened to be there as a way of telling the story. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly

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The most images that you will find in any film, you can find in "The Conformist" and Vittorio Storaro's work on that film is incredible. I also learned a lot on how to use color when shooting scenes to create moods through his work and mainly, the color red which is a color he knows how to use well and I discovered how to make different shades of red appear in one scene and compliment each other and create totally different moods.

 

-Scott

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CAT PEOPLE (the remake), FLASHDANCE, TOP GUN, JACOB'S LADDER being the obvious examples, and then you've got the rest of the 80s, particularly MTV for garish video style, which went on to influence Michael Bay and whoever today. Dare I say it, but I think to a younger generation who haven't seen the CONFORMIST, REDS or even APOCALYPSE, I think most of them would consider Storaro's style 80s MTV derived because of what came afterwards. Something like the movie DUST DEVIL I think takes Storaro influence to an extreme, 80s synonmous level.

 

 

Personally, I think it's a great pity that Storaro's style nowadays is associated with MTV, glossy action films or anything generally heightened or stylised, almost as though that's about all that approach is generically accepted for. Most of the Bertolucci/Coppolla movies he originally shot were very real world set, historical recreation movies as well! It seems 90% of movies these days are shot with a very naturalist/realist aesthetic with tons of softlight, almost documentary level. Too many are missing the point and modern cinema is poorer for it.

 

I apologize if this is another “necropost”, but I just couldn’t resist: what exactly would this MTV imagery be that was so much influenced by what Storaro did?

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Necro-posts are so fun! All kinds of gems to be mined in the crypts, I mean, archives down below.

 

Probably films and music videos by the likes of Ridley and Tony Scott, Adrian Lyne, David Fincher, etc. Lots of smoke, diffusion, silhouettes, hard edge lights with saturated color gels, warm soft tungsten keys on dimmers, neon, wet streets, super wide and super telephoto lenses, leggy young ladies running in flowing clothes in slow motion. The usual 80s stuff.

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Oh, I see. I mean, it’s not that that haven’t crossed my mind, but, for some weird reason, I kept thinking “What does The Hills have with Vittorio Storaro?! :blink: ” I tend to associate MTV with reality shows these days, even though it is clear that the above was a reference to the 1980s at that network.

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Clearly a generational thing, for people closer to my age, we remember those 1980's and 1990's music videos on MTV and VH1 and never got into the reality programming on those channels.

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