Monday, July 30, 2007

Shooting Kinski #7: Vittorio Storaro

To paraphrase one of Nastassja's later film, talking about the work of Vittorio Storaro is a bit like dancing about architecture. Some things have to be seen to be believed and Vittorio's greatest works for directors like Bertolucci, Argento, and Coppola have some of the most amazing photography you will ever see in cinema.
Halfway through the shooting of ONE FROM THE HEART, with everyone's nerves near shot Nastassja and Vittorio blew up at each other in a moment of frustration that has been well documented in many interviews over the years. Nastassja would speak of the incident to a British journalist over a decade later while promoting ONE NIGHT STAND. She would say, "I saw the rushes and I looked terrible, the lighting was so dark and the camera was the wrong angle. I said, how can an audience believes this guy sees me and goes crazy for me? And Vittorio Storaro said, 'You! I thought you were an actress! You're like all the other stupid people who only care about how they look.' And because he is so great you're not supposed to say anything. But I told him, 'Wait a minute. This situation demands I look great. Excuse me.' He never forgave me."
Regardless of the problems the two had together, Storaro's photography in ONE FROM THE HEART is one of its most lasting assets and in the final product Nastassja does indeed look great. Coppola gave him an incredible difficult assignment and Storaro managed to deliver a film that looked like no other.
Storaro was born in Rome in 1940. His father was a projectionist and he began studying photography before he was even in his teens. In his early twenties he got some work as an assistant camera man including what would prove to be a life altering job on Bernardo Bertolucci's BEFORE THE REVOLUTION in 1964.
He began his work as a cinematographer right around the time of his work on BEFORE THE REVOLUTION and shot a handful of films before ending up photography Dario Argento's first feature, the legendary BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PlUMAGE(1969). The wondrous work he did on that and his friendship with Bertolucci led to THE CONFORMIST (1970), a masterpiece that would cement his position as one of the most striking photographers in the world.
He would continue to do astounding work with Bertolucci on the films, THE SPIDER'S STRATAGEM (1971), LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), 1900 (1976), LUNA (1979), THE LAST EMPEROR (1987), THE SHELTERING SKY (1990), and LITTLE BUDDHA (1993). Throughout his career he has also worked with a variety of directors and photographed some of the world's most beautiful women including Stefania Casini, Laura Antonelli, Charlotte Rampling, Florinda Bolkan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Isabelle Adjani, and currently Paz Vega in the upcoming DARE TO LOVE ME.
Francis Ford Coppola greatly admired Storaro's work with Bertolucci and hired him for his 1979 feature, the masterful but nightmarish to shoot, APOCALYPSE NOW. The film would be the first of several he would photograph for Francis and they included, along with ONE FROM THE HEART, TUCKER, THE MAN AND HIS DREAM (1988), and LIFE WITHOUT ZOE (1989) from NEW YORK STORIES. ONE FROM THE HEART and APOCALYPSE NOW remain two high points of originality and perseverance for the talented Storaro.
There are many pages dedicated to and interviews with Storaro online so here are a couple of links for those interested.

It is a shame that Nastassja and him had their falling out on ONE FROM THE HEART as they have never worked together again. She is as magical looking as the film's much heralded set design and stages. Storaro's painting with "light AND motion' suited her and Coppola's film very well, I am willing to bet their falling out was due more to damaged nerves more than anything else.

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