This is my homage to a great Director of Photography,Dante Spinotti AIC ASC ,he’s the one of few reason that I start to trust in the power of images, learning to watch and apply that in my passion for photography. Cinematography is one of greatest and important aspect of film industry(with the Editing) and I really love this world, is a sort of Enthusiasm that will never fade! Enjoy !
Last week,American Cinematographer‘s last poll ask me “What were the 10 Best-Shot Films of 1998-2008″It was not so simple make this short list..10 movies..not enough,anyway,I leave out some great films as John Toll’s Thin Red Line ;Chris Menges Dirty Pretty Things;Guillermo Navarro’s Pan’s Labyrinth & Dion Beebe’s Miami Vice,I’m trying to list what for me was stunning,look for a mix between landmarks and originality and I hope to have do some good choices,all that DVDs are on my shelves,menawhile I’m thinking that 2007 was just a ordinary year for the cinematography and I skipped any choices in that year…Enjoy!
OUT OF SIGHT Elliot Davis 1998
THE INSIDER Dante Spinotti A.S.C. 1999 Super 35MM Kodak Vision 500T 5279-VISION 250D 5246 – Panavision Camera and Lenses
THE CELL Paul Laufer 2000 SUPER35MM Kodak Vision 200T 5274 Panavision Platinum – Pan Arri Primos Lenses – Arriflex 535B Arri 435 Cooke S4 Lenses
ALI Emmanuel Lubezki A.M.C. A.S.C. 2001 SUPER35MM Kodak Vision 200T 5274 Vision 500T 5279 Fuji S-F 500T 8572 Panavision XL-Millennium-Panastar (High Speed)-Sony SP900(HD)-Michael McAllister Lipstick Cameras
UNBREAKABLE Eduardo Serra A.F.C. 2002 ANAMORPHIC 2.35:1 Kodak Vision 350T 5277-Vision 500t 5279 Panavision Millennium-GII-XL Anamorphic Primos and Zoom
KILL BILL VOL 1 Robert Richardson A.S.C. 2003 SUPER35MM (3 Perf) 2.35:1 Mix of Kodak Film stock EXR-Vision and Double X-Panavision Platinum and Primos Lenses
COLLATERAL Dion Beebe A.S.C. Paul Cameron A.S.C. 2004 ANAMORPHIC 2.37:1 HD Thomson Grass Valley Viper – Sony Panavised 24p HDW-F900 Zeiss Digiprimes Panavision Millennium,XL,Pan Arri 435 Primo Lenses Kodak Vision 500T5279 And Vision 2 500T 5218
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA Dion Beebe A.S.C. 2005 2.40:1 ANAMORPHIC Kodak Vision 2 500T 5218 Vision 200T 5274 Print on Kodak vision 2383,Panavision Platinum ,Millennium and Gold II Lenses E and C Series
DECEPTION Dante Spinotti A.I.C. A.S.C. 2008 2.40:1 HD Panavision Genesis -Panavision Millennium,XL Panavision Primos and Super Speed,Angenieux Lenses Kodak Vision 500T 5229 Print on Premier Vision 2393 and Vision 2383 Digital Intermediate
CLOVERFIELD Michael Bonvillain A.S.C. 2008 1.85:1 HD Sony Cinealta F23,Thomson Grass Valley,Panasonic AG-HUX200 and AGHSC 1U Zeiss Digiprimes and Digizooms ,Canon HD EC lenses,Print on Kodak Vision 2383
Try to imagine of being able to travel backwards in time carrying with you one of the best high definition camera available on the professional market and, once joints in years 30’s, to begin to resume the moments and vivid colors of those times. Public Enemies is written by Michael Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman and come from the bestseller of Bryan Burrough (the Italian edition published by Sperling Kupfer) ; this book narrates of a country, the States, during the crisis of `the
29, while the bands of brave cold blood’s gangster are running with fast car through the citie’s roads armed of powerful and automatic weapons ,heisting banks and destroying keeping books loans like modern Robin Hood. These guys act in that way are destined to be confronted with the reaction of Washington and at times baby FBI with head a young person and unscrupulous director, Edgar J.Hoover (played by Billy Crudup) and the agent Melvin Purvis (a stoic Christian Bale). A epic as well as bloody-thirsty confrontation that will carry icone of the imaginary US collective like the nobleman John Dillinger (Johnny Deep with an interpretation that goes beyond the reliability of the personage), Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) ; Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) behind the slabs or often with their name carved over a tombstone. There is not a nostalgic translation of the facts but the search of the authenticity, of the realism meant also like a refusal of the subjects of conventional beauty,but Polly Hamilton interpreted by Leelee Sobiesky and Marion Cotillard in the role of Billie are both splendid and refusal of every idealization in favor of a more pragmatic approach, often with an accent on the humble life or the quotidianity , with a resumptions that’s for help us to render tangible what we are observing. This is the type of visual concept ,HigDef avant garde of sonorous visual authenticity/(powerful and defined sounds effects .45 ACP Tommy Gun included) and novelist dogma which Michael Mann, collaborating with Dante Spinotti, has intentionally required for Public Enemies; the dosed use of the classic conceptualized lighting system, typically named Hollywood’s Lighting, that take form on the use of powerful Beebe Night Lights for the nocturnal ambush to the hut of Little Bohemia ,scene set in the forests of the Wisconsin,and use of other lights form for give priority to the use of the practical natural light/already existing in location and available for any determined scene; so PE is being full of nocturnal scenes of action, so the conceptual key for this film is give by the readiness of the digital cameras in the reading of the shadows , totally and positively different regarding if compared to Film emulsion and this has allowed a dynamic use of the filmic grammar obtaining a modern film with hyper realistic look that does not get lost in romantic classicism and that it succeeds to conserve to Mann his solid trademarks also starting from the use of music, symphonic and ambient score by Elliot Goldenthal, music and use of the music that take the “your breath” for how proper it is,as always happens in all the Michael Mann’s works ,anyway about this factor I have already have a wide analysis in my other pages .So back to visual things the GOOD and expert Italian director of photography Dante Spinotti here to its fifth hard job with Michael Mann (Manhunter,the Last of the Moichans, Heat and The Insider) composed Public Enemies in format 2.40:1 using HD camera Sony F23, excellent for sharpness and depth of field (but also used the F950 model with T950 adapter) in coupling to the small (but great) Sony EX1 for inner takes inside the cars, Spinotti used set of lenses Carl Zeiss Digiprimes and zoom Fujinon HAe10x10 (T1.8) while for some other scenes he shot in super 35mm with film Kodak Vison 3 500T 5219 using film cameras ARRI 435, 235 with the splendid optical spherical Cooke S4 nearly to give a tribute to the past of Manhunter(and Joe Dunton Hardware) – “With digital cameras, there aren’t any steadfast rules, and I believe that gives me a huge amount of freedom,” he concludes. “The medium is romantic, interesting and beautiful, but it also looks real. And there’s so much you can do in post! Film has a certain kind of quality that cannot be matched by digital technology, but at times, the advantages digital has over film are important for the language and the contents of the story you’re telling, and that determines your choice.
Other task like dress the characters goes to costume designer’s Colleen Atwood (already costume designer in Manhunter) ,work does in excellent way because it transform everything in to “woven narrative” probably accomplished by a casting at least fabulous and I recap this concept with the” face ” of the character of Charles Winstead (interpreted from the amazing Stephen Lang). The production design, carefully splendid, is by Nathan Crowley (Dark Knigh,Batman Begins, Escape from L.A WTFK.) while in phase of pre-production the research’s work in location (how lights hits some building during the hours of day)sees engaged, like always, the Bravo photographer Gusmano Cesaretti he is also in dresses of Co-producer. There is who has compared Michael Mann to an author who prepares itself as Rembrandt and executes like Picasso others like Caravaggio that then is transformed in a Kandinsky, but what is the painting if not the main source through the cinema expresses itself visually? Interesting and true concept because in observing some of they works I have understood the visual process of Michael Mann.,he is the father of a identification’s cinema (the scene of the Biograph Theater is a magum opus), he start to revolutionized it with ALI, he stylized this skills with Collateral and Miami Vice , and come now with the Hi Def as contemporary phenomenon, witness of the change of visual forms, and now with this story carried in to 30’s works to the perfection and that clean our preconception born from the repertory of grainy, dirty images, sometimes sepia or black white images (Mann cites that images with a editing game during the extradition to Indiana State scene), and far away from the reasoning that who it has lived those times and places has lived them to colors and in the high definition of our eye.
“Before I started working with him, he was described to me as ‘a director who prepares like Rembrandt and executes like Picasso,’ and I felt that was pretty insightful.”Dion Beebe ASC ,Aug.2004 American Cinematographer Hell On Wheels
Dante Spinotti, Mann’s cinematographer on four of his films, described the director’s visual processes in the following way. “It’s a little like being in front of a Caravaggio scene and changing it into a Kandinsky painting.”  The Kandkinsky-like qualities Spinotti is evoking are Mann’s intoxicating passion with the painterly, expressive, plastic possibilities of the cinema, with the way that framing, colour and light can transform a room in a house or a street at night. But while images in Mann’s films can sometimes be abstracted, expressive or surreal they are almost always tied to a character’s point of view, or the mood of the narrative, and always linked to emotion and affect.
“MICHAEL MANN Cinema of images by Anna Dzenis”
…BELOW THIS IS WHAT I FEEL
The Keep-The Last of Moichans
The Keep-The Insider-Public Enemies
With all the respect for who make this job,I would try to write some lines because the amazing night sky during the romantic dialogue between Eady and Neil really bring me to some of what I saw shoot on HD recently,HD really could quick the process but
belong to another time;according me the results really anticipated the future and that’s a great example of how film can deal with digital process,so that’s what I mean be Pioneers…
Inspiered by HOT SET by Les Paul Robley AC Jan 1996
“Like no Other Art Form,Film lives on Reality “ The More you believe an act happening on the screen the more you believe the story and the more successful the communication will be the storyteller and the audience” Dante Spinotti says…
Shot on Anamorphic format remarking how the bigger area of negative help to reduce grain for Michael Mann ‘s Heat Dante Spinotti ASC AIC uptaked Kodak 500 ASA 5298 Stock,pushed one stop for night exteriors and interiors but due the high quality low grain and colour the same stock hadn’t change due late day shooting,that’s been a great advantage when a movie is shot entirely on location.Rated at 800 ASA when using particular long lenses the light didn’t need to be increasead dramatically because the stock really work great.
HEAT was shot on Panavision Panaflex Camera at T2 with Panavision’s Primo Lenses(among 75mm),Super Hight Speed T1.4 50 mm Lenses,E SERIES 100mm/180mm at T 2.8,400 mm at T 3.5 and [11:1 and 5:1] Zoom lenses at T 5.6
“…a long romantic night scene between Robert De Niro and actress Amy Brennemann on a terrace overlooking the Hollywood Hills,the dialogue makes reference to ocean of city of lights lying all around them. Spinotti suggested to Michael Mann that they shoot the sequence against the greenscreen to maintain the sharpness and brilliance of the backgrounds ,and still add the night sky with its veil-shaped winter clouds . He was also concerned about the exposure and in obtaining a consistent look over the number of days of shooting.”
“..I basically shot the skies at T2 on Primo lenses ,pushed one stop and shooting at 4 frames per second. I then shot the city lights at 12 frames per second ,pushed one stop at T2.Then with a simple lighting ,and again with specific camera angles and heights, we shot two stand-ins against greenscreen. We then moved to postproduction.”
At Encore video we put togheter a number of shots that combined background plates of the Clouds,the city lights and sky.[They were shot with varying focal lengths] ,say, a 100 mm and a 50 mm lens, creating a strong ,romantic pictorialism. We also composed using more traditional combinations of lenses.The two profile side shots which carry focus from the foreground characters to the background seem to be a visual key that really delivers what the scene has to sell”
“Michael Mann wanted to photograph the actors against greenscreen at the actual location on both nights of scheduled shooting.To control the light coming from the city and the house behind Spinotti first lit the actors without greenscreen at level of T 4.7 in order to maintain some sharpness on their faces. The greenscreen was then brought in and lit to key level before the crew and was to shoot.
The Advantage [in using the digital process] is quite evident Dante Spinotti Points out. ”You can go through a number of takes to have the best performance from the actors ,without a change in the brightness of the background.”
IN FACT AS I WROTE IN THIS ARTICLE MANY TIMES AGO..
My sister Sabina had the brilliant idea to make one of best present of this Christmas so I get this Film on DVD ,probably one of most multi-named film that I remember, The Tourist-Deception-SexList/Omicidio a Tre
Crew,Plot and expecially The female cast including Michelle Williams,Maggie Q and Natasha Henstridge should had been a must for many connoisseurs but I wasn’t able to watch it when came out on theaters due sudden lanzyness and the unexpected quick programmation in my area. Formerly I was lucky to had read in to American Cinematographer Issue of May 2008(Article Kink and the city by Jon Silberg) a brillant review about our Dante Spinotti AIC,ASC Alias Herr Kleiner alias Mr. Moretti’s work on cinematography (if you havent understand he’s also playing a very short Cameo)
The story ,a really well done psychological luscious thriller,with Hitchcockian’s dye ,and a great soundtrack is develop as great chess game where Queens Bishops and Kings are playing theirs fatal moves on a outstanding chessboard named New York City and its multi-million dollar deals.
Since first shoots the Eye of Dante is tangibile ,outstanding camera movments,symmetrical forms and games,real light( in any conditions),wrap light and colours and unexpected depth of field in dark situations ;any takes remind me what I saw in to The Insider and also in to Collateral shot by Dion Beebe ACS,ASC (cabs ,sodiums street lamps,white marble ‘s Scenes)and thats probably is what mean be associated cinematographers.
With a special mention to the director Marcel Langenegger whom trust on that The use of Panavision© Genesis Digital cameras with sensitivity set close to 1000 ASA gave a surreal overexposed look that really works with the story tell & fascinate me.
In the middle of 80’s,starting his early career as Freelance in RAI Italian Public Tv ,Dante Spinotti (born in Tolmezzo, Udine, August 1943),flyed in to Carolina U.S. where the producer Dino De Laurentiis had the pleasure to present him to Michael Mann.
The Producer whom bought the rights about the Thomas Harris Book Red Dragon show his intention to produce a feature with the Italian DOP and the young Chicago native Director (born on Feb 1943).
After a short technical meeting where Dante Spinotti showed any of his works to Michael Mann obtained from the Director a safe “green light” and any week later the Manhunter’s preproduction started.
Michael Mann’s carefulness lay one of its roots in to a previous deep search into criminology world ,this kind of preparation is reflected very in to pre-production works and settings , works that required many weeks of tests and started from lightings to equipment choices.
Dante praising Michael’s discipline , know how and competence, put his choices over Eastman film stock, processed later by Technicolor labs using Zeiss camera Lenses 18mm,25mm,35mm,50mm,85mm,135mm T 1.4 (transmission factor),going with Super 35 to 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio , the first feature on Super 35 shot with Joe Dunton Camera BL III’s(modified Arriflex BLIII), and some of the cinematography seem inspired at the “Year of the Dragon’s” Look shot by Alex Thomson BSC , British cinematographer whom worked with Michael Mann on THE KEEP(1983).
Super 35 use spherical lenses, this kind of lenses have a better reaction in low lights levels, so are faster smaller and lighter if compared to anamorphic lenses, either Super 35 negative can be use for produce high quality release in any aspect ratio, as the final frame will be extracted and converted from the lager full frame negative, in this case Anamorphic format 2.35:1
The higher depth of field by night and the lighter weigh of spherical lenses permitted a better handling on Steadycam shoot and this was not a secondary factor to Manhunter’slook
Every aspect of Red Dragon isn’t casual ,every thing got a design that define a sense of noxious ,distorted and madness ,every colours from the romantic blue showed in to the real house of the artist Robert Rauschenberg(October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) ,from the violet light coming to sink and melting to the neutral white of the bricks take up with the symmetry of the bars in Lector’s cell passing by through Richard Meier ‘s High Museum of Atlanta used for Graham’s Panic scene; to the green ‘s madness of Dolarhide ;every camera’s angles and every locations are built for create a sense of terror , meanwhile everything is connected with the story and its dynamics ,included thoughts , interiors ,moments and emotions.
With these concepts ,been made many original solution takes as shot from car’s trunk for give a certain stylistic cut during a car chase . Michael Mann gave to the Production Designer Mel Bourne(multi nominated by Academy and Thief’s Production Designer) the hard task to make real his ideas .
This work been easy because Mel has the pleasure to work with a Director with a great sense aesthetic as good eye and eager to take his chances, factors that ,at the end ,make things better never addicted to banality and ever well congenial and exciting.
Under a congenial purple’s Sky at the first light of Dawn started the shoots for the final confrontation in Dolarhide’s house ,this build been inspired to a certain American’s Modernism of 40’s/50’s and was built close the Cape Fear river,where certain climactic condition (mist) create a unique atmosphere .This scene involved many cameras settings with different speeds,24 Fps,36 Fps,72 Fps,90 Fps, either involved hardly stunts and special effect crew but at the end in post production earned an amazing editing.
On A real Flight during a troupe’s transfer from Chicago to Captiva Florida , the crew grab cameras sound and lighting equipment on hand baggage and this situation allowed to made the shoot of the scene where Will Graham is sleeping ,dreaming about his wife while unwary he is leaving free to view some photos about the transformation in to artistic products ,cruel homicides by Tooth Fairy(Tom Noonan),upsetting a little girl sit close him, during all this mess the camera linger, contrasting the mad contents of the sequence, over a wonderful sky kissing the airplane’s wing. This scene were set while the steward served the dinner .
The continuous search of realism and details are also vivid on the scenes set in to Washington D.C.,on the background the Edgar Hoover Building and his Arcs(But Could be The Smithsonian American Art Museum) , Spinotti catch one of most beautiful sequence of the film; Michael Mann wanted real Swat Agent for the scene set into a Car Park named THE JOGGER, scene that had his real moments of tension and postponed on next night due a real gunfight happened between police and robbers one block next.
Stronghold of the contemporary Cinema that with is formula has influenced all the recent productions of genre, productions more and more convicted that our monsters our fear have human’s faces,one thing is certain Manhunter is the exception that confirm the rule that for obtain certain results the monstrosity (citing the authors) can have a meaning not nearly negative.