PAUSE IT: What do you see? A young boy stands amid a golden field. There is a tranquility to this agrarian scene as the child looks back and invites us to join him. But look closely. Is this a 19th century painting or a photograph? In fact, it is a 20th century film, director Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900. It’s sunset, and the light has begun to exhibit those enchanting qualities that cinematographers like to call the “magic hour” — those fleeting moments right after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is at its softest and the shadows are faint. The magic hour (sometimes referred to as “the golden hour”) is a favorite technique called upon by cinematographers the world over. Like the great painters of old, these masterful technicians take the tools of their craft — a camera and an exposed strip of celluloid — and wield them to produce art, harnessing and controlling the light to make painstakingly beautiful frames for the viewer to enjoy. And rarely has any cinematographer accomplished this feat better than the great Vittorio Storaro (A.S.C., A.I.C.). Frequently cited as one of the very best cinematographers of all time, it is here in Bertolucci’s 1900 (their epic follow-up to their two other joint masterpieces, The Conformist (1970) and Last Tango in Paris (1972)) that he shows you why. Posed in an almost painterly-like manner, the still recalls artists such as Andrew Wyeth or Winslow Homer. Virtuosic, spellbinding, indelible — this is, as Storaro is fond of saying, “…writing with light.”
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Burt Lancaster, Alida Valli, Sterling Hayden Cinematography by: Vittorio Storaro
Available from Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
May 24, 2017