Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC was honoured in Portugal

Last December, Vittorio Storaro spent a few days in Portugal, invited by the Portuguese Academy to be part of the Students Sophia Awards which the Academy holds every year in December to praise and show student works. The Academy took the advantage to honour Vittorio Storaro by attributing with the Life Time Achievement Award. The Portuguese Society of Cinematographers AIP has also joined the ceremony to praise Vittorio with a deserved homage by giving him as well the same award.

            The three days spent with Vittorio was a boundless joy which culminated with a fantastic masterclass given by the master to a full crowd which filled the theatre at Belem Cultural Centre

Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC Life Time Achievement Award 
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Invited by the Portuguese Academy of Cinema and by the Portuguese Society of  Cinematographers the prestigious cinematographer Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC was honoured by receiving from both institutions the Life Time Achievement award. On the left side is the Academy’s award and on the left the Golden Spectra from AIP.

as part of the Academy Student´s day. The audience was mixed between scholars, cinematographers, and many others who were curious about the mastery of Vittorio. They were not disappointed after listening the legendary cinematographer talking about his journey into light and colour for an hour. The journey which he described his career explaining it thought the significance of colours and emotions was a superior moment of learning, apprenticeship and artistry. Vittorio Storaro rescued the audience emotionally and got back a standing ovation.

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Before the poster of «Apocalypse Now» José Manuel Costa (left) Director of the Cinematheque, Paulo Trancoso (centre) president of the
Portuguese Academy of Cinema and Tony Costa aip President of the Portuguese Society of Cinematographers pose for the photo.

              For those who already know and follow Vittorio ‘s career and his speeches know that he has been coherent and consistent all through these years about his philosophy of applying colour, lighting, composition and his inspirational sources. But it seems that no matter how well we know it, no matter how many times you hear it, seems to be new again. No matter the number of ties you have hear it and read it seems always to be the for the first time. That is special about Vittorio. His capacity to transmit a positive energy and very inspirational.

              To be with Vittorio Storaro is like to be with a professor full time. Every conversation, every deviation falls instantly into art. A future project is motive enough to talk about an historical event, or biblical event or about a piece of art. The conversation can fall about a painter and most of the times with the Italian renaissance period artists. Like Leonardo da Vinci who he admires most along with Caravaggio’s work, amongst others.

              After the masterclass Vittorio gave several interviews to general newspapers and tv channels. The Portuguese media gave him special coverage, maybe more than a dozen newspapers, magazines and tv channels which is not usual for a cinematographer. But Vittorio has gained the statute of star deservedly and that is one of the great legacies that Vittorio will leave for cinematography and cinematographers, taken the profession of cinematographers out of the shadow.

             After so many interviews, taking pictures Vittorio still had some energy and answered a few of our questions. The interview was conducted by Mário Costa aip.

 Vittorio give us your view about co-authorship for cinematographers.

In Italy in 1941 legislators decided who were entitled to be authors or co-authors of a film. It was decided that authors should be, first the script writer, because it is considered literature, so writing is recognized as work of art for more than a century and second the music as well. With the rest of the collaborators they were a bit undecided and they put everything on the director’s shoulder. Of course, the director is like the maestro of an orchestra. He is the main author. The director is the one who decides about style, concept of the picture but not necessarily to be a

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Giving his MasterClass at the Academy of Portuguese Cinema.
During the Sophia Prizes for film students.

production designer or a cinematographer or an editor so in practice there are other several co-authors. One of the most important ones is the cinematographer, because is the one which is more connected with the recording, developing, printing to conserve the images, we are the responsible of that area. Cinema is an expression of images, so without images there is no cinema. The writer, the musician, or the director can write a romance or a novel, they can do a theatre play, but they can’t do a film without images and its absurd that we cinematographers do not have co-authorship. That’s the fight that I have. Looking in at film for instance Woody Allen’s films who I am working with lately he has worked with several great cinematographers, Gordon Willis, Sven Nikvist, Darius Kondji, Carlo di Palma, each one has his own look according to the person and now Vittorio Storaro give a different look of everyone else, but the director is the same. Why each film is different? Because the cinematographer is different, so it happened the same with Fellini, Antonioni and with any other director so in my opinion we should have recognition and we have to be very clear that there is no competition with the director or whatsoever and why? For one simple reason, because we are like an orchestra we play with our personality in the different departments like art direction, costumes, editing, but we need the final approval of the director.

Why each film is different? Because the cinematographer is different

We can propose our personnel view only with the agreement of the director. Once I present my idea to any director and he approves I do my performance accordingly. At the end at colour correction the director can place his views too but once is finished nobody should touch the cinematography. The prints should be all the same, projected with the same technical aspects and nothing should be altered because we are responsible for the body of the film. There is no conflict on the set or in post-production between  about co-authorship, because we are co-author and the director is the main author.

What about using Black and White Photography?
When I was a student studied mainly photography and cinematography and in that time, they were teaching us in black and white. There was no teacher with knowledge to tech colour at that

mijo kovacic
 Naïve painter Mijo Kovacic

time. When colour first arrived, they thought that colour was only appropriate for musicals, comedy and technicians were scared to use colour in shade and drama should be filmed in black and white, so I did my first film in black and white because it was a

My quest was to know the meaning of colour in using it for emotion and passion.

dramatic film based in a story passed in 1940. But soon after that film I felt that I needed to express myself in colour. I was lucky enough to know some naïve paintings because my school didn’t pass me knowledge about painting. My first introduction to paintings were naïve painters. I got to know the Yugoslavian artists like Miko Kovacic. They painted colour on glass. I was enchanted to see so strong primary colours. My quest was to know the meaning of colour in using it for emotion and passion. Only after Apocalypse Now I decided that I wanted to know the reason which colour means how can I use colour in a symbolic way or in dramatic way. I stopped filming for a awhile and began searching into philosophy and I realized what I was doing and from that moment I became more aware about the meaning and the significance of colour.

What did you find in the great masters Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci?
There is a major different personality between both painters. Of course, Leonardo was not only a painter was also a polymath. But the differences in painting were obvious. Leonardo was looking for perfection, looking for balance, he would spend years in one

Leonardo was looking for perfection

painting in particularly he was connected with the chance with penumbra finding the balance between darkness and light so to him the kind of difference should be very soft from one part of the other part of the face. The contrast had to be very subtle that’s why his search for perfection in composition and also in light harmony. Caravaggio was about conflict he had a very difficult childhood. He lost his father when he was 6 years old and he was 12 his mother sent him to Milan to learn painting under Simone Peterzano to have initial training in painting. This separation from his mother at such an early age hurt him. At that time pupils and masters used to leave together and there is probably a chance that he was sexual abused when he was very young and that certainly has marked his life. When he was 18 his mother died losing all connection with the family. He returned to Rome where he had a poor life. He starved, he lived in the outskirts of Rome in a tomb. This has maybe affected him strongly. He may have taught that in his life he was already dead. So this has maybe affected him so to speak and justifies the fact that he was in constant conflict with everybody. One day he got the chance to decorate the Capela San Luigi dei Francesi and he did an impressive work of art by painting several paintings depicting

Caravaggio was about conflict

the life of Saint Matthew. I have no idea where he got the idea to paint this beam of light crossing the whole painting dividing this obscurity in humanity and divinity, dark and light, past and future, unconscious and conscious, I have no idea where the idea to use the beam of light. But practically he showed to us that using symbols he made a great revolution in visual arts. By finding out that I was shocked, and I realized I was very well knowledgeable in technology but was very ignorant in visual art and I from that moment on I changed my life. I studied, read, did everything that it was possible to know more, and more about art and expression. That finding marked my life.

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Caravaggio – “Saint Matthew” cycle: “The Calling of Saint Matthew” “Inspiration of Saint Matthew” and “The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.”

 Explain to us the use of Univision compared to actual digital formats.

You know Cinema made several decisions connected with the space. If you consider that we are looking in a certain way in front us we consider reality, only if you remove one portion, no matter how big, no matter composition this kind of portion gives you the chance to make a composition inside. This becomes visual art. So that is very important. So originally, we started to have an almost square format when sound came we got 1.37, with television we kept more or less the same aspect ratio. Cinema has been a bit different, more panoramic, the French made a proportion 1.66 to fit TV the, Americans decided to go for 1.85 if shot in 65mm would be 1.21, if you shoot in anamorphic would be 2.35. Recently new TV decided not to continue with the old format and adopted a more panoramic view and now uses 1.78, how many numbers? The difference is so tiny between one to the other which creates a great confusion. Any panoramic in 1:85 or cinemascope, or 70mm when they go to a 1.78 aspect ratio on Tv the format must be chopped, which is terrible. Cinema is an expression of images. If you alter the composition of the image you alter the film itself. One day I was in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan watching one of the incredible paintings that I saw in my life which is Leonardo da Vinci’s the «Last Supper». How mesmerizing it is, how beautiful it is. When I was looking at it I had the feeling of perfection, balance, having Jesus in the centre making him become a human being. Balanced all around in proportion with the elements surrounding him. But what kind of proportion was it applied? 2 time for one time 2:1. It’s so simple, so perfect. All these numbers because different companies want to have the property of the format but has nothing to do with art, nothing to do with our expression. Why a new format for television in 1.78? Nothing to do with panoramic, cinemascope or any other format. So, I took the decision to use Univision – unica visione – without any change between what we film what we show on theatre, television, DVD, or wherever. We don’t have to chop to show on TV we have to respect the audience they are supposed to watch exactly the way we capture it. I began using the format in agreement with Carlos Saura in 1998 in the movie «Tango». It has been 19 years that I use this system that makes me feel so comfortable. Every time I go for a job I explain it to every director. If they approve I can do the movie if they don’t I don’t accept to make the film. We should follow the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, very simple, the 2:1 ratio gives the perfect proportion and the right balance.

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There was no more time to talk. We would have loved to keep on going but Vittorio was already very tired.