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Vittorio Storaro

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I'd also like to get my hands on a copy of that bootleg " The Conformist".


I got my copy off of Ebay, the seller was "piodrom". The quality is good considering, letterboxed with English subs, probably from a good VHS tape.

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Here is an example of Storaro using tungsten Jumbos to create late afternoon light in daytime exteriors:






You can see when they track into this insert, the multiple shadows caused by a large multi-bank light:





I'm not sure I understand, Dave. You mean he shoots daylight stock, outside, and uses a huge tungsten jumbo, (allowing the color temp to go orange) to simulate a late noon look?


That's pretty interesting.



Got it...thanks. *jots down..."something to try in the future"*


I don't know why David is so surprised, but I'm glad. I always thought this was possible and widely done. :)


What I don't like about that scene on the porch is how you can see it's fake when you look at those trees and sky in the background. It doesn't work. You can see the multiple shadows even in the first image from the scene.


Darius Khondji spoke about a similar thing he does – I presume he means a soft source inside and a Molebeam and another, soft, source alongside each other outside for the streak of sunlight:


I noticed an occasional beam of hard light in your soft lighting.

Khondji:I love using Molebeams in day interiors. I usually carry 6Ks or 4Ks. I’ll put a Molebeam outside and create a streak of very hot light alongside the soft source. You immediately get the feeling of very real sun. It looks beautiful.

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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The scene works wonderfully in motion; it's only in a bunch of still frames that you have time to analyze the shadow patterns. Besides, real sunlight is sometimes broken up by passing through very high leaves and branches of a tree, it is not always "clean".


The other issue is that we can't always shoot at the right time of day, so cut some slack for people who attempt to create something different.


Plenty of other movies have also used Dinos and other big multi-bank tungstens for a sunset effect in daytime. Look at Paul Cameron's work in "Swordfish".


There's no need to pit Storaro against Khondji.


Molebeams are fine for a smaller set-up or on a set, to hit one person, etc. but you can't like a broader area like the side of a house with a Molebeam, it doesn't have the spread. You could try a bunch of Molebeams but then you're back into the same multi-shadow problem of a Dino or Jumbo.

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No, no, don't get me wrong. :) I really liked it for a first few minutes after I saw it. Then I somehow noticed something didn't work for me, and it was the clash of that greenery behind them and the pale blue sky, which made it not seem organic and as if they were lit by powerful car lights or something like that.


I really didn't mean it the way you interpreted it, as a sort of a put-down or something. I love it when people do stuff to recreate the effect of real sunset. Or sunrise. I know it's not always possible to have the desired sunlight for all sorts of reasons.


And I just brought in Darius not to pit him against Vittorio, but to somehow expand on the fake-Sun-creation effect people try to do for various occasions, such as the one Darius mentioned, the sunlit interior.

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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I don’t get what he’s saying.


The high wavelength values told him “what grade of Kelvin” to use for what?


He speaks of tensions between sunlight and artificial light. But if the soon was low in daytime, it, too, had a low colour temperature. Then the contrast between the Sun and the light bulbs wouldn’t be so pronounced as what I’m getting as an impression from what he’s saying. Or perhaps the colour temperature wouldn’t be so low? He says the sunlight was warm and that the artificial light was orange.


Since he says that each shop and each apartment were lit with artificial energy, I presume that at the time most of that light, at least for apartments, was coming from incandescent light bulbs. The shops might have been lit by the same light (but perhaps to a lesser degree) and perhaps by sodium-vapour lamps as well.


I wonder what kind of contrast he is talking about.

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It's just an incorrect use of the term "high" for wavelength since he was referring to the warmer color temperatures of tungsten-lit stores in overcast winter daylight conditions -- redder wavelengths are not higher but longer (and the kelvin values are lower than for daylight). He's basically saying that what he observed in reality informed him as to what color temperatures to light his sets for and how to color-correct the images (i.e. balance day exteriors so that a tungsten lamp looks orange as opposed to what he did for "The Conformist" in Paris where he balanced the film so that daylight was blue.)


The sun is lower in general in the winter but the color doesn't get near tungsten balance until late in the afternoon. But in general, when you see "Last Tango in Paris", the tungsten lighting is warmer than the overcast winter daylight. He says that the sunlight was warm (when the sun was out) and the tungsten-lit stores were orange, meaning warmer than the daylight.


If you've seen the movie, all of this is pretty clear.

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Thank you. :)


I haven’t (seen it). I’ve obviously known about the film for a long time, but the subject matter is unappealing, and eventually I will just have to force myself to watch it.


It’s funny that this interview should pop up here at this time, since just some weeks ago I was reading Pauline Kael’s famous review of the film. The way she describes the colours alone makes you want to watch it:


The colors in this movie are late-afternoon orange-beige-browns and pink—the pink of flesh drained of blood, corpse pink. They are so delicately modulated (Vittorio Storaro was the cinematographer, as he was on The Conformist) that romance and rot are one; the lyric extravagance of the music (by Gato Barbieri) heightens this effect. Outside the flat, the gray buildings and the noise are certainly modern Paris, and yet the city seems muted.



But the comments below are telling.


Perhaps The Sheltering Sky is much more a film for me, if there are quite a lot of desert shots when the Sun was low.


But here are a few other things I wanted to ask about Storaro. He is very dedicated in his interviews about thumping the message home that his lighting and other cinematography-related choices are there to help in telling the story and how he is there to realize the director’s vision, and not impose his own choices. However, I was wondering does he have a specific approach when it comes to contrast, does he like softer or harder shadows, does he like to diffuse and bounce a lot, does he prefer single or multiple sources. Stuff like that.


As for his colour theory, does he always equate a certain colour with a certain mood or intention or is that film-dependent? For example, I read that in The Last Emperor he chose orange for the beginning of the film for the Forbidden City and the imperial family, yellow for the young emperor’s personal growth and realization of personal identity. Then green comes when the personal tutor enters the picture – green is the colour of knowledge. What is the situation with other films? Are certain colour always tied to a certain theme?

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Often Storaro's lighting feels single-source with minimal or no fill, like a Caravaggio or Rembrandt painting, but that light may be very hard or soft depending on the mood he wants to achieve. The Japanese occupation scenes in "The Last Emperor" have a lot of hard lighting, creating a somewhat sinister film noir feeling. But sometimes the light is soft or hard just because the source they are simulating is soft or hard.


Symbolic meanings for specific colors are often story-dependent, so green may mean one thing in one movie but another in another movie. But generally he tries to use the colors according to some general psychological principles regarding the emotional energy of the colors, i.e. redder colors are more emotional, colder colors are more intellectual, green being somewhat transitional between the two. But it basically is story-based.


"Dick Tracy" is an interesting case because the yellow of Dick Tracy's trench coat was established by the comic books, so Storaro decided that yellow represented the sun, a positive light, and his cohorts would be in that sphere of influence, orange, red, etc. This meant that he wanted the villains to be the opposite -- violet, purple, blue, etc. But production designer Dick Sylbert felt that the main villain Big Boy Caprice looked like Hitler and designed his scenes around the colors of the Nazi flag, red and black. So the color symbolism does not strictly track -- Warren Beatty called the results something like a vegetable soup that everyone contributed to.

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