Academic journal article Post Script

Dante Spinotti

Academic journal article Post Script

Dante Spinotti

Article excerpt


Dante Spinotti has been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Achievement in Cinematography for LA Confidential (1997) and The Insider (1999). Among Spinotti's more than 50 other films are Crimes of the Heart (1986), The Comfort of Strangers (1990), True Colors (1991), Blink (1994), Nell (1994), The Wonder Boys (2000), Red Dragon (2002), Pinocchio (2002), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), and Flash of Genius (2008).

Spinotti's films with director Michael Mann include Manhunter (1986), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The Insider (1999), and Public Enemies (2009). He is now in pre-production on The Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in Brisbane, Australia, scheduled for release next year.

This interviews was conducted on June 7, 2009.

What are your earliest recollections of Vittorio?

Well, you know, from the 70s to the 80s, I was working in television, RAI (Radio Televisione Italiana), and Vittorio was doing all these amazing movies that were changing the way of lighting for cinema. Giovinezza, Giovinezza, The Spider's Stratagem, The Conformist, Apocalypse Now, Agatha. In fact, I told Vittorio once that if we could compare the history of lighting for movies to the history of religion, half jokingly and half seriously, we could compare his work to what Martin Luther did in--what was it? The 1600s, I guess.

In the sense that it was revolutionary and it was kind of subversive?

Revolutionary and not really subversive but in a way had the same importance. But the truth is that Vittorio had made a big revolution. His use of shadow and the meaning of shadow and very powerful sources, the single sources that were determining the light for a whole scene, that kind of strong brush work.

And, his ability of figuring out how to interpret the whole film, not just making beautiful light. His way of being able to theorize and construct a vision that had to do with the whole film.

And besides that, the work he was doing with Ernesto Novelli at Technicolor was also extremely revolutionary. The way he was bringing up the whites and the black and everything in between with this ENR process, which was basically changing the chiaroscuro of the rendition of the Kodak positive print. All these experiments.

And this success, this international success, made Vittorio a very important figure for me. I mean, his work is what inspired me to leave the safe haven of Italian state television at some point, which I think happened in 1980. You know, I was experimenting also while I was working in television, but Vittorio was kind of a star up there in the sky, sort of a guiding light, sort of the star over the manger when Jesus Christ is born. That was what Vittorio was in a figurative sense, of a metaphoric sense for me. He was that kind of a hero.

I was totally loving what he was doing because he was doing it, obviously, with very serious movie productions. He was taking care of movies which were extremely good movies. So this for me was a very strong inspiration. I was hoping that at some point I would find the motivation and the strength to abandon Italian television. I was already married and had a family with two kids, so I was thinking about it twice. When I finally met him, he was so nice, extremely wonderful. It was also very emotional for me because it was Vittorio who so inspired me to make such a daring professional change.

In fact, the second movie I did, La Subbibienza as a free lance, I had a chance to work at Technicolor [Rome], the legendary lab, and with Ernesto Novelli who helped Vittorio get those visions on the screen. And I remember Ernesto calling me when I was sending him dailies and saying, "This stuff is really good. It looks beautiful." And he also called Vittorio, telling Vittorio, "There's a guy here, a new guy who's coming from Milano, who is doing very well. …

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