Thursday, July 17, 2008
Shooting Kinski: Sabastiano Celeste
Despite never receiving the acclaim or stature of many of his peers, Cinematographer Sabastiano Celeste (a photographer who often works under the name of Nino Celeste) has had an adventerous and sometime daring career in his forty plus years behind the camera.
After working throughout the early sixties as a camera operator attempting to break through in Italian cinema (with a Pier Pasolini short being among his earliest credits) he didn’t get his first proper cinematographer credit until 1970 with Valentino Orsini’s Corbari. This flawed but interesting political feature starring Giuliano Gemma and Tina Aumont kick started a career that has continued steadily up till this day.
While he would continue to work as camera operator on some more Pasolini productions, Celeste really made his name as a cinematographer on more exotic genre fair for directors like Bruno Corbucci and Umberto Lenzi . Genre favorites like Corbucci’s The Cop In Blue Jeans (1976) and Lenzi’s Violent Naples (1976) showed Celeste as an expert at capturing a gritty urban feel while his work on Mario and Lamberto Bava’s Venus of Ille (1979) and the great 1986 Italian Horror film Spider Labyrinth showed him as more poetic with his photography than might have been previously imagined.
By the eighties Celeste found himself working more and more in comedy (with films like the Carmen Russo vehicle My Wife Goes Back To School from 1981) and softcore erotic fare (the late period Laura Gemser Black Emanuelle entry 1982’s Emanuelle, Queen of the Desert probably being the most well known). By the time he shot Nastassja in In Camera Mia in 1992, he was mostly working in television productions (including Lucio Fulci’s Sweet House of Horrors from 1989) with the odd theatrical gig thrown in for good measure.
The bits and pieces I have seen of In Camera Mia show Celeste’s photography as competent if not overly memorable, although since I have yet to see the full film with a good print it is hard for me to accurately give a verdict. Directed by Sergio Martino’s older brother Luciano, In camera Mia would do little for anyone involved, including Nastassja or Celeste.
Since In Camera Mia, Celeste has continued working for both the big and small screen. The Martino film would mark the only time he would photograph Nastassja. His most recent credit is an Italian TV series entitled Agrodolce.