August 02, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of Io e Te (Me and You)by Bernardo Bertolucci

Io e Te (Me and You) was one of the film I was been waiting for to watch this year because it represents Bertolucci's (Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor, Stealing Beauty...) come back to  directing after Dreamers, the movie he shot before the illness that kept him away from set for almost 10 years.

The plot. A problematic 14 year old boy hides himself in a basement instead of going on a school trip. His solitude is broken by the arrival of her drug-addicted-sister in law: they'll live together for a week during which they'll try to help each other.

Cinematography: Fabio Cianchetti
Camera: Arricam LT, Arricam ST
Lenses: Cooke S4
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Fuji Eterna Vivid 500 8547

Fabio Cianchetti (The Tiger and the Snow,  Terraferma, Dreamers) is an experienced Italian cinematographer who already worked with Bertolucci in his last films. As he did it with Dreamers, Cianchetti seems to have understood deeply the meaning and the atmosphere Bertolucci wanted for his last work. The story the Italian director tells in Io e Te is quite simple but the characters are like an abyss that makes you shiver every time you look into it. Cianchetti made a good job to transmit this concept visually. The choice of film combined with Cooke lenses goes in this direction: the old S4 series has less sharpness but far more organic look than every other lens, creating a natural feeling. 

The focal length used throughout the film helps to achieve this feeling too; almost the entire story develops inside a narrow basement (rebuild in a studio of course): to enhance the solitude of the characters focal lengths above the 50mm are used while wide angle lenses are used for exterior shots as for expressing the distorted reality the characters live in. The way of lighting is natural too. Light is always justified and comes from visible light sources in the scene, like the window of the basement or light bulbs in the ceiling, and scenes are lit so brilliantly well that you could hardly say that they were lit with artificial light

But, in my opinion, the best part of Cianchetti's work is the way he let the light and shadows fall into the scenes and the use of colours. Te characters of Io e Te are full of fears, doubts, sorrows, loss, darkness... The Italian cinematographer managed to project this mishmash of feeling visually trough shadows. Shadows become more than important: shadows are the unconscious, by not lighting something you deliberately want to hide it; characters have many things their unconscious  wants to keep hidden till a spill of light finally uncovers it. And the spill of light that illuminates the scene, or a part of it, often comes from the right side of the screen: most of the problems the two young characters have have their origin in their absent and  unconcerned father (who is really the third character of the film because his presence is heavily felt); a light coming from the right side of the scene symbolizes the paternal figure.

Another quite interesting way to highlight the character's emotional disturbances is the way Cianchetti combined in the same scene lights of different colour temperatures. This creates a nice visual contrast, basically between blue and orange: sometimes lighting different parts of the scene with different colours and sometimes using an orangish rim light with a bluish key light. As a colour, orange is associated to  family, to the preparation for life, to teenage years; while blue is the colour of freedom, of leaving the familiar nest, it is a colour close to stability... Again, nice way of expressing the contrast of feelings, definitely inspired by Storaro's use of colours but without his mastery (I'm thinking about the scene in the restaurant where the daylight film stock is used in interiors with tungsten lights without the 80A colour conversion filters, resulting in a scene with a strong orange cast - probably to visually contrast the dialogue mother and son are having?-).

Cianchetti`s cinematography is brilliant and interesting: he managed to express visually a story which is at the same time simple and profound, connecting perfectly with Bertolucci's ideas and the result is a film in the more pure Bertolucci's style, throughout which the director's vision and poetry can be seen and enjoyed. Welcome back maestro, the Cinema  industry missed you!

No comments:

Post a Comment