The cinema, the journey, the finding of inspiration through dream images. The care of Vittorio Storaro’s photography accompanied by the direction of Bernardo Bertolucci.
Two big masters and 3 collector’s movies selected for this article. A travel to distant places, in a past that evokes nostalgic beauty and stories of other times.
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
Based on the famous novel by the writer Paul Bowles, in this film Bertolucci tells the story of two rich Americans from New York. A couple in crisis who decide to take a trip through the dunes of Algeria, in the Sahara desert, to try to give a new meaning to their relationship.
The characters, played by Debra Winger and John Malkovich, take us through an unprecedented journey, in the era of French colonialism. A journey of discovery, in front of the wide and suggestive landscapes of North Africa, painted by the photographic eye of Vittorio Storaro.
A metaphor of life, with an author’s photography.
The Last Emperor (1987)
Perhaps one of the best films of the Italian director Bertolucci, winner of 9 Oscars. A part of the history of China, taken from the autobiography of Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Throughout his life, all the events that led to the collapse of the Chinese empire are traced.
The small emperor experiences the transition from monarchy to republic, the invasion of the Japanese and the years of imprisonment under the Soviets and the Maoists. Tied to a majestic past, but forced to live a life in the shadows, in a new reality: far from the privileges of the court.
Vittorio Storaro marks the stages that the character goes through using different color palettes, warm and cold, highlighting his passage through time. An excellent use of photography in a unique setting, within the walls of the Forbidden City. Bertolucci is the first western director to access this place with permission from the Chinese government.
The result is a spectacular film, with great attention to detail. A masterpiece of cinema.
The film is developed in 4 parts, during the seasons of the year. The passage of time that shows the dramatic changes in Northern Italy at the beginning of the 20th century, during the rise of the fascist regime. Told through the stories of two characters of different social origins: Alfredo, son of rich landowners and Olmo, of peasant origin.
The story begins in the summer: in the childhood of the protagonists, played by Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu. It then moves to the autumn, where the two meet again as adults. Winter is marked by cold colors and the rise of fascism. And finally spring, with its bright colors, which marks the end of the Second World War.
The movie is based on the historical settings of the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Mantua. As always, Storaro’s photographic direction is impeccable.
I hope the list is of your interest. The analysis of these cinema masterpieces is an important step in the study of photography. In these movies, nothing is left to random and you can learn a lot about the use of light, colors and composition.
There are hundreds of old and new titles marked by a spectacular use of photography. If there are any that have impressed you in particular, let me know in the comments below!