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How do you deal with the fact that people living in countries with different cultures might interpret the same colors in different ways?
Storaro: Each color has a specific wavelength of energy, which we perceive the same way that we feel vibrations. Even if they aren't consciously aware of it, the audience can feel a difference between high and low wavelengths of energy. They are reacting to that feeling in addition to what they see on the screen.
How did you and Beatty decide upon a 1.85:1 aspect ratio for Bulworth?
Storaro: It was the right canvas for telling this story. I also used the older Technovision lenses and shot 99 percent of Bulworth with the Eastman [EXR] 5293 film because it is clear and sharp with no noticeable grain. Those decisions were based on the story and the mood we wanted to create. After this film, I shot Tango in Univision format [2:1], using the newer Technovision lenses and a combination of 5293 and Kodak Vision 500 film.
How would you characterize this picture as a drama, comedy or something else?
Storaro: It is a romantic film, a search for truth, and it is also a drama, since the assassin can appear at any time. Bulworth decides that he wants to live, but the man he paid to hire the assassin dies, so that suspense is there. Warren wanted his character to appear to be totally unpredictable. He also wanted the images to be realistic and believable, so the audience would feel as if they were watching the story happen on television. You want them to believe that what they are seeing is really happening, but of course, nothing is realistic in a movie since you select the angle, lenses and lighting.
You said this movie has to feel believable and realistic. How did that jibe with the symbolic use of colors?
Storaro: In a movie like Dick Tracy, you have permission to use unnatural colors, because it is a fantasy. In Bulworth there is a balance between believability and some very surrealistic visual elements that are justified by the story. [Production designer] Dean Tavoularis, [costume designer] Milena Canonero and I have worked together on different films, so it was an easy collaboration. We discussed these issues, and they built believable color elements into the sets and costumes.
How did you handle lighting in situations where the camera was constantly moving?
Storaro: I have been controlling light with a dimmer board since 1982, when I shot One From the Heart with Francis [Coppola]. It provides an incredible opportunity for the actors and cameras to move freely, and it allows me to express myself without restraints. I used an AC generator for the first time [in 1986] when I shot Peter the Great in Russia. It is much more reliable, and the cables are less [cumbersome]. During planning for Bulworth, we scouted locations, and usually had the art department make sketches for the riggers. At that stage of the production, you have to anticipate where the actor might make spontaneous moves, or the director might change a direction. If you anticipate the possibilities, you can change the light [interactively] during a shot. Is the main advantage of using dimmer controls an ability to do more complex lighting as the actors move through a set during sophisticated moving shots?
Storaro: You can do whatever you can imagine. In The Last Emperor, there is a long, dramatic scene in a conference room. The actors are seated around a table, and no one is moving. We used the dimmer to create the impression that time was passing and the sun outside of a window was setting. The dimmer board can also save time between setups. The gaffer, control board operator and I would arrive, and everything would be ready for us. The early dimmer consoles were made for the live theater and television. We designed a new dimmer board for Tango. DeSisti Lighting [in Italy] made it for our use.
Is it easier doing your fourth film with a director than the first one?
Storaro: It is like we are making one long movie together, and each time we add some new things to our vocabulary. Warren knows how I think, and I understand him.
Isn't it very difficult working with an actor who is also directing the film? That must be particularly true on this picture, since Warren is in almost every scene.
Storaro: Warren was doing four jobs on Bulworth, and that required incredible energy. One advantage today is that we have the video tap, so he can judge his performance on the monitor. Yes, it is difficult, but this film involved so much of Warren's personal vision that I don't see how another director or another actor could have seen and done things exactly the way he did.
Did you use any diffusion or filtration?
Storaro: No, absolutely not. Warren and I discussed this, and we agreed that it was important for the audience to see [Bulworth] as he is, without creating a sense that he is hiding behind something at this moment of his life. The viewers shouldn't see him as Warren Beatty.
Did you use the ENR process during the making of prints?
Storaro: I have used ENR for every movie I have made since Reds. It allows you to retain more of the silver in the print film, and which gives you deeper, more saturated blacks. It is an alternative to making Technicolor release prints. I am hoping that the lab is ready to use the imbibition system for making Technicolor release prints in the United States when Bulworth is released. Once you have the choice of making true Technicolor release prints, I think there will be no reason for using ENR.
Why do you prefer the title of "cinematographer" to "director of photography" in the credits?
Storaro: Because we aren't directing. That is Warren's job. We are writing with light and motion to tell a story. That distinction is very important.
Have you ever been tempted to direct?
Storaro: People have asked if I was interested in directing since The Conformist. My answer is always the same. Thank you very much, but I don't have a need for the power that a director has. I like being a cinematographer. My total instincts, my knowledge and everything I have learned [is combined]. My wish for myself is that step by step, I am learning more about one specific area of creativity writing with light and motion.