Celebrating the Visions of Vittorio Storaro

Rather than try and describe in words the ongoing legacy of Vittorio Storaro in honor of his birthday, let’s instead revisit a few of the indelible visual memories he has given us. May there be many, many more to come.

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How Robert Altman Drove the Cinema Bus into Seventies Glory and Beyond

The musical became Nashville, the private dick, The Long Goodbye, and the psychodrama, Images. Thieves Like Us was the deglamorized gangster flick, California Split the chaotically atmospheric gambling pic. The language of American film had begun to evolve again, after a very long nap.

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Vilmos Zsigmond – Images from a Renegade Camera

He broke every rule in the standard cinematographers’ catechism – and caught much flack for it early in his career. Then people began to catch on. This was a new visual language, an impressionistic wash that Zsigmond applied that elevated the films – and the directors he worked for – into a unique category, all their own.

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Testament (1983) – When the Worst Happens

The secret to Littman’s film is that there is no proselytizing. We don’t see the bomb explode; we don’t know the political circumstances or which megalomaniac (elected or dictator) started the deluge. We only see things from the point of view of the innocent who pay for the folly with their lives.

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Heat and Dust (1983) – Gender Imbalance Spans Time & Space

Heat and Dust was Merchant/Ivory’s biggest hit to date internationally. Britain was in the throes of nostalgia for the period of Raj India – Lean’s A Passage to India was about to break on the big screen and, on TV, The Jewel in the Crown would dominate.

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The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)

Hot off the success of his now-classic anti-war epic, Peter Weir took on the adaptation of Christopher Koch’s potboiler about a collision between romance, journalistic obligation and revolution, The Year of Living Dangerously, which would become his last purely Australian effort.

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Star 80 (1983) – Bob Fosse’s Last Roar

Bob Fosse directed only five films and this, the one with the odd licence plate title, was his last. The dancer/choreographer/screenwriter/director had a penchant for the underbelly of society, particularly from a show business perspective, and all five of his films reflect that and benefitted from the resulting edginess he achieved. Sweet Charity was about a […]

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Robert Altman’s Streamers (1983) – Deployment into Oblivion

Streamers was a far cry from ’83 box office hits like Jennifer Beals, lady welder/dancer, seeking respect by getting buckets of water dumped on her in Flashdance or the Star Wars version of Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Return of the Jedi, but I’m certain that was precisely the way Robert Altman wanted it.

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Rewind 1983: The Right Stuff

It’s all there, from the big moments on the launch pad that played-out on the international stage to the small moments like chasing your love on horseback through the desert. Intimacy and grandeur, the key elements in the classic epic filmmaking, share the screen equally as if to remind us that all heroes do not necessarily make it to the TV screen.

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Would That it Were So Simple – Hail Caesar! (2016)

This time around, the brothers are the Boy Scouts who prank by soaping the windows of an institution and then set fire to a bag of dog poop at the front gate. They appear to be on a lark, having some harmless fun, until a stomping-out of the flames reveals the contents of the bag.

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Loopiness Unleashed – Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen’s may have produced more highly praised films in their brilliant run, but none have the breezy celebration of pure idiocy as this comedic confection that allows top drawer performers to explore their inner fools.

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Cate Blanchett – Ten from a “10”

Every generation has one, maybe two, if they’re lucky. So solid are their statures that when they are tagged with just a first or last name, a stream of images and sound bites cascades in one’s memory. Streep, Redgrave, Signoret, Christie, Hepburn, Garbo and Bergman. Add to that, Blanchett.

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Genre Blast: Family Matters & the Ties that Bind

If society can be considered the organism, the family is the structural adhesive that holds the cells of that organism together. As every organism is bombarded daily by threats and external pressures, the family is where these challenges are met and dealt with; problems are examined and the family unit adapts, and the organism evolves. Things can get dicey, however, when the adjustment that works for the family does not exactly jive with society’s expectations, and this makes for inimitable drama onscreen.

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The Original MegaStar – Rudolph Valentino

The son of a widowed mother who did poorly in school but was blessed with good looks leaves Italy at the age of 18 in search of a better life – and ended up creating the blueprint for the “rags-to-riches” legend of which Hollywood is so fond. Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina […]

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Last Tango in Paris and the Context of Memory

What started with I am Curious Yellow in the late 60s begat 1971’s challenging jamborees such as A Clockwork Orange, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Ken Russell’s The Devils. 70s auteurs pushed the envelope without remorse – or fear. To experience Last Tango in Paris in the same context in which it first appeared is simply impossible now, but we were ready back then.

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Charlie Chaplin Birthday Salute: Still Relevant After All These Years

More often than not, art can reach that part of the human psyche impervious to hard news or political posturing. We salute the “little tramp” for his prescience and determination, and post this as an amusingly serious reminder that the world has not evolved all that much in the past 78 years.

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A Birthday Toast to Emma Thompson

It’s one thing to have “actor, author, screenwriter, and activist” on one’s resume; its quite another to continue to realize them as competently as Emma Thompson. Well, perhaps “competently” is a bit of an understatement.

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The Insider – Blowin’ Smoke at Big Tobacco

Millions more people have died of ailments caused by cigarette smoke than by all terrorist attacks in every country since time began, so when Michael Mann opens his film about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffery Wigand (Russell Crowe) with CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) preparing a 60 Minutes interview with Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, cleric and cheerleader for suicide bombers, Mann had me at “hello.”

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Julie Taymor’s TITUS: Guess Who’s Going to be Dinner

The bard was not only brilliant at loftier themes like self-awareness, politics and the contemplation of the many forms of love, he could also mash-up horror, sex, violence, torture and cannibalism with the best of them – then and now. And he does it all in iambic pentameter, the playwrights’ equivalent to Ginger Rogers doing everything her partner does, only backwards and in heels.

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