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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cinema Greats- Giuseppe Rotunno and Franco Zeffirelli honored this week

The beauty about Italian cinema is that its past continues to flourish while new filmmakers emerge creating their own masterpieces and future classics. When I talk to the contemporary filmmakers, they always give credit to their predecessors, acknowledging and respecting the foundation those maestros painstakingly built.

This weekend, two beautiful stories have come out of Italy, paying tribute to two icons of the past.. and the really special part of this is that both filmmakers are still living and very involved with the new generation of Italian filmmakers.

The 2015 Masters of Light at TDC is celebrating legendary cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno with screenings of five of his films "illustrating his artistry and genius" .. and the announcement of a museum dedicated to the work of Franco Zeffirelli was just made in his hometown of Florence.

Giuseppe Rotunno

Rotunno is one of the most prominent cinematographers of all time. Throughout the decades, he has collaborated on great masterpieces of cinema alongside directors such as Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti and Terry Gilliam. His debut in film dates back to 1943, as a camera assistant on L’uomo dalla Croce by Roberto Rossellini.  In 1956, his debut as a cinematographer working alongside director Carmine Gallone on Tosca (1956), Le notti bianche (1956) by Luchino Visconti and Montecarlo (1956) by Sam Taylor.

At the end of the 50s, Rotunno shoots La grande guerra (1959) by Mario Monicelli and Policarpo, official writing (1959) by Mario Soldati, for which he’s awarded, respectively, with Best B&W Cinematography and Best Color Cinematography at the 1960 Silver Ribbon Awards.

In the 60s, signature large films like Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960) by Luchino Visconti, for which he won the Silver Ribbon for Best B&W Cinematography. Again with Luchino Visconti, he shot an episode of Boccaccio ‘70 (1962), Il Gattopardo (1963), winner of the Silver Ribbon for Best Color Cinematography, and Lo straniero (1967). In those years, he also worked with Vittorio de Sica on Ieri, oggi, domani (1963), John Huston on The Bible (1966), that earned him a Gold Plaque for Best Cinematography at the David di Donatello, and started his collaboration with Federico Fellini on Toby Dammit (1968), followed by Satyricon (1969), for which Rotunno won  another Silver Ribbon Award for Best Color Cinematography.

Federico Fellini's Amarcord
The collaboration with Fellini continued on Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973), Casanova (1976), Prova d’orchestra (1978), La città delle donne (1980) and E la nave va (1983), the being the latter awared both at the Silver Ribbon and David di Donatello for Best Cinematography.

Rotunno also served as cinematographer for Julia & Julia (directed by Peter Del Monte, 1987), the first feature shot using high definition television taping techniques, then transferred to 35mm film for theatrical release.

With All That Jazz (1979) by Bob Fosse, Giuseppe Rotunno earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography and won a BAFTA Award.

In 1999, Rotunno’s extraordinary achievements in the art and craft of cinematography were underlined by three prestigious awards: a Golden Globe Career Award, a Golden Frog Award for Lifetime Achievement at Camerimage (1999), and the International Achievement Award from the ASC – American Society of Cinematographers (1999).

For 20 years, Giuseppe Rotunno has been the Head of Cinematography at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Italy’s national film school, influencing new generations of Italian cinematographers through his unique and charismatic method.

In 1966, Giuseppe Rotunno was the first non-American cinematographer admitted to the ASC – American Society of Cinematographers. He has also served as President of AIC – the Italian Society of Cinematographers, of which he has been nominated Honorary Member in 2014.

Franco Zeffirelli

Franco Zeffirelli was born Gianfranco Corsi on February 12, 1923 in Florence. He is a prolific filmmaker, who has worked as director, designer and producer of opera, theater, film and television. He is revered for his "authentic details and grand scale" of his opera productions and film adaptations of Shakespeare.

Zeffirelli attended the University of Florence to study architecture, but while there he became involved with the university’s theatre company. His studies were interrupted by Germany’s occupation of Italy, and he became a Partisan, serving as an interpreter for the Scots Guard. When the war was over, he went to Rome to pursue a career in theatre.

In 1946, he joined Luchino Visconti’s Morelli-Stoppa Company as an actor and stage director. After working with Visconti on La terra trema (1948; The Earth Trembles) and other films, Zeffirelli began to concentrate on stage design. His first major design for opera was a production (1952–53) of Gioachino Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri for La Scala, Milan. He worked on a number of other opera and theatre productions—including the operas La traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Bohème, Tosca, Falstaff, and Carmen - from the 1950s through the beginning of the 21st century. 

He also began to direct films. Among his major films are three Shakespeare adaptations: a richly produced The Taming of the Shrew (1967), with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor; Romeo and Juliet (1968), in which he for the first time featured teenage actors in the title roles; and Hamlet (1990), with Mel Gibson. His later films include Jane Eyre (1996), Tea with Mussolini (1999), and Callas Forever (2002). He continued to film operas such as I Pagliacci (1981), Cavalleria rusticana (1982), Otello (1986), and La Bohème (2008), working in several roles, including director, producer and  costume designer.

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