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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Giuseppe Rotunno

 

Giuseppe Rotunno, born in March 1923, is an Italian cinematographer. Sometimes known as ‘Peppino’ Rotunno, he was director of photography on over 40 films. He won a British Academy Award for All That Jazz in 1980.

Film:  All That Jazz  / Director: Bob Fosse / Year: 1979

Film: All That Jazz / Director: Bob Fosse / Year: 1979

Rotunno forged a strong artistic bond with fellow Italian director Luchino Visconti. ‘In certain ways, Visconti was my father in my job,’ Rotunno has said. ‘I did many films with him from 1951 on, first as a camera operator, and later as a director of photography. I had that relationship for work, for life, forever.’

Film:  The Leopard  / Director: Luchino Visconti / Year: 1963

Film: The Leopard / Director: Luchino Visconti / Year: 1963

When working with Visconti, an article in The American Society of Cinematographers by Ron Magid stated:

Visconti's desire to use three cameras in the cramped laundry location where Rocco worked was particularly challenging, but Rotunno had the opposite problem while shooting the lush palazzo of landowner Prince Salina (Burt Lancaster) in The Leopard (1963). The climactic hour-long banquet scene, in which the Prince faces his decreasing power and influence in 19th-century Sicily, is considered one of cinema history's great setpieces, and was shot under strenuous circumstances.

The sequence was filmed with three cameras in widescreen Super Technirama, within a real palazzo illuminated by thousands of candles. ‘To create the atmosphere, we studied all the painters of the 19th century and earlier,’ Rotunno said. ‘Although it wasn't very realistic, Visconti felt that the quality, density and direction of the candlelight represented the richness of the place.‘

Film:  The Leopard  / Director: Luchino Visconti / Year: 1963

Film: The Leopard / Director: Luchino Visconti / Year: 1963

Rotunno's most famous collaboration was with Federico Fellini - he was director of photography on eight of his films. Fellini approached the cameraman to work on a film about a musician, The Mastorna Journey, but then became ill. ‘I stayed with Fellini for a year, doing all the things you do for a friend who is very sick,’ said Rotunno. ‘The film was postponed, but Fellini told me I couldn't leave him.’

He went on to shoot a string of classics for Federico Fellini. Their partnership resulted in several acclaimed films, including Roma, And the Ship Sails On, Casanova, and Amarcord. 

Film: And the Ship Sails On / Director: Federico Fellini / Year: 1983

Film: And the Ship Sails On / Director: Federico Fellini / Year: 1983

Film: City of Women / Director: Federico Fellini / Year: 1980

Film: City of Women / Director: Federico Fellini / Year: 1980

When reviewing Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen  (1988), Hal Hinson of the Washington Post stated:

His assault on the senses is relentless; he never lets up, never gives us a chance to catch our breath. Visually, the film is miraculously, almost perversely dense. The director gives "Munchausen" the antic personality of a cartoon, but Gilliam's fantasies aren't light. His dream universe has gravity. If it's a place where men ride through the sky on cannonballs and sail to the moon, it's also one where the flesh sags.

Film: The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen / Director: Terry Gilliam / Year: 1988

Film: The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen / Director: Terry Gilliam / Year: 1988

With thanks to cinematographers.nl from where some of his quotes were taken.

Read more about Rotunno here.

 
FilmTom SilverComment