Carlo di Palma - Italian Master of Cinematography

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Carlo Di Palma, who has died aged 79, was one of those Italian cinematographers who, like the masters of light of the Renaissance, gained the respectful title of maestro . He first won international recognition in 1964 as director of photography on Michelangelo Antonioni's first colour film, The Red Desert, and worked on the same director's Blow Up (1966), filmed in London. Later, in New York, he was cinematographer for 11 Woody Allen films, from Hannah And Her Sisters (1986) to Deconstructing Harry (1997).

Di Palma was born into a poor Roman family; his mother was a flower seller on the Spanish Steps. After showing an early interest in photography, he was a non-credited assistant on the sets of two pioneering neo-realist films, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1943) and Rossellini's Paisà (1946). 

He worked as an assistant cameraman to one of the first maestri of postwar Italian cinematography, Gianni Di Venanzo, and, in 1956, was his cameraman for the film that Francesco Rosi co-directed with Vittorio Gassman of the actor's stage performance as Edmund Kean. Hearing of his death, Rosi said that, with his use of colour, Di Palma had "opened a new chapter in the history of the cinema". 

His first credit as cameraman had been in 1954, on a routine costume picture. His first critical attention, as director of photography, was for Florestano Vancini's The Long Night Of '43, which won the best directorial debut award at the 1960 Venice Festival. A tormented love story about a married woman (Belinda Lee) and her former boyfriend (Gabriele Ferzetti, the actor from L'avventura) during the first months of Mussolini's puppet fascist republic of Salo, it featured the camera work of Di Palma's nephew Dario, capturing the foggy greys and whites of writer Giorgio Bassani's Ferrara. 

Di Palma undertook the photography for two other directors making significant debuts in the early 1960s, Elio Petri and Giuliano Montaldo. Pier Paolo Pasolini, who had been one of the scriptwriters of Vancini's film, asked Di Palma to be his cameraman for the trial tests for his directing debut, Accattone, though another cinematographer shot the film. 

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Di Palma had met Antonioni when Di Venanzo was shooting Il Grido and Le Amiche, and, in 1963, they got together to study the possibility of making The Red Desert in Technicolor. The film was shot at locations around Ravenna, where, that winter, there was often unwanted sunshine, and Di Palma had to explain to Antonioni that the artificial fog he had chosen played havoc with the colours of the interiors. Visiting the set, I found Di Palma engaged with technicians in painting the grass yellow. "Michelangelo loathes the greens," he explained. 

Less revolutionary, but equally stunning, was the use of colours in Di Palma's next chore for Antonioni. For a segment of The Three Faces (1965), his photography did something to convey the inner qualities behind the inexpressive face of the rather pathetic ex-Empress Soraya of Iran's screen test. 

More important, of course, was Blow Up, where photography was at the centre of the story. After using a deep-focus lens on The Red Desert to obtain two-dimensional effects, in Blow Up Antonioni told Di Palma he wanted "to lengthen the perspective and give the impression of space between people and things". Di Palma loved this kind of challenge, and was able to help the director get the effects he wanted. 

On the set of The Red Desert, a relationship had developed between him and its star, Monica Vitti, who felt the need for a change in her private, as well as public, image. Under his guidance, she moved towards comedy, and it was in The Girl With A Pistol (1968), by the top-notch Italian comedy director Mario Monicelli (for whom Di Palma had already been director of photography on the visually dazzling, medieval comedy L'armata Brancaleone, 1965), that Vitti was turned into a box-office comic star to rival the likes of Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi. 

The relationship with Vitti led to Di Palma's debut as a director, with another comedy for the actor, Teresa La Ladra (1972). He went on to direct her in several other lighthearted films but, though professionally competent, they did not turn him into an auteur. His mastery of visuals - in another film for Vitti's comic talents - was better served in 1970 under the more inspired direction of Ettore Scola, Dramma Della Gelosia. 

In 1981, Di Palma worked on Bernardo Bertolucci's Tragedy Of A Ridiculous Man and, once again, with Antonioni on Identification Of A Woman (1982). Later in the 1980s, he began his 10-year collaboration with Woody Allen, which he described as "the most enjoyable period of my professional life". 

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He was director of photography when Allen was exploring his European-style auteur fetishes, to which Di Palma was able to add some authentic visual thrills, as in such titles as Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and the last one they did together, Deconstructing Harry, in which one suspects that Di Palma might have contributed to the wonderful gag of Robin Williams as the actor "out of focus". 

In the 1980s, Di Palma married Adriana Chiesa, admired in international film industry circles as an exporter of Italian films. As a couple, whether in New York or Rome, they had many friends. She nursed him through his final illness. 

· Carlo Di Palma, cinematographer, born April 17 1925; died July 9 2004

The Colours of Life - Water & Sugar Documentary Film currently taking bookings for:

Event Cinemas, Havelock North Book Tickets

Globe Theatrette, Napier Book Tickets

Opening Night Photos - Nelson

Cinema Italiano is back, bringing masterpieces of Italian film to the fore - DENIZEN


Fans of world cinema rejoice, for the much applauded Cinema Italiano is coming back to Auckland for its fourth edition, bringing with it a sublime collection of inspiring comedies, documentaries, dramas and time-honoured classics. This year sees renowned beer brand Peroni once again taking the role of sponsor, while Studio Italia will this year have the naming rights — both brands that champion Italian innovation like no other.

Combining traditional masterpieces with modern Italian cinema, this year’s lineup sees some of the best films the festival has ever offered. There’s No Place Like Home, with its esteemed ensemble cast, depicts the breakdown of a raucous 50th wedding anniversary into a tangle of tension, when an unexpected turn of bad weather strands the large extended family on an island. For lovers of old movies, renowned Italian classic 8 ½ will retell the beloved story of fictional director Guido Anselmi, while fans of comedy should carve out time for My Big Gay Italian Wedding, a humorous adaptation of the hit off-Broadway play of the same name. 

This year also sees the festival branching out further to deliver the cinematic offerings to a much wider audience, with a full list of the participating venues found here. Undertaking an extensive tour of the country, stopping at the likes of Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Matakana, and Arrowtown, the festival will finally touch down in Auckland on the 17th September.

This year’s Cinema Italiano Festival opens in Christchurch on the 11th June. It will arrive in Auckland on the 17th September and continue through until the 30th at the Bridgeway Cinema. For dates, bookings, tickets and more information, click here.

Words by Mina Kerr-Lazenby

Vacation like an Italian


The smartest travellers know the golden rule of travel: Go where the locals go. And in Italy, in the summer, that means the sea. But not just any beach. They’re headed to ones where the Mediterranean is at its best. Where the air smells like lemons. Where the piazzas are blindingly white and the water is cerulean blue. And the spaghetti alle vongole renders you speechless. We spoke to a few Italians, got them to reveal their summer-vacation secrets, and rounded up the three places that have made an art out of dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing. Choose your destination, and learn to vacation like an Italian. There’s a refreshing Peroni & Campari soda waiting for you.


La Maddalena, off of northern Sardinia, is one of the most secluded archipelagos in Italy. It’s not easy to get to, but if you make it, you will be rewarded with clean, sandy beaches; water as warm and blue as a bathtub (some claim it’s the cleanest in the world); and people-watching to rival Milan’s poshest neighborhoods. The main island of La Maddalena is the most developed—not skyscraper-developed, but developed in the sense that you can find excellent pasta. And it could still be Italy’s best-kept secret. There aren’t that many attractions to explore in the town itself; this is the place where Italians truly come to unwind. On the southwest side of the island is Cala Francese, a stunning bay marked by a granite quarry from the nineteenth century. The beach here is small, but there are hidden pockets between rocks where you can find some tranquility. At the end of the day, head near the main piazza for an afternoon of shopping along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, a pretty street lined with restaurants, cafés, and local boutiques.


Cefalù doesn’t have the name recognition of Palermo, but its food, history, and beauty are every bit as inspiring as the Sicilian capital’s. There’s a little bit of everything in this ancient fishing town—but the crashing waves and stunning architecture top the list of reasons to come. Start at the Duomo di Cefalù (covered shoulders and no bare legs, per favore). From the stairs of the cathedral, wander down to Corso Ruggero for wandering and shopping and eating panelle (mashed, fried chickpeas). Afterward, head down the narrow side street and spend the afternoon at the Museo Mandralisca, a small and eclectic museum. Below the town is Cefalù’s long, beautiful beach—you’ll see the bright fishing boats coming and going and bringing in dinner. But before the sun sets: Get a table on the terrace of Al Porticciolo and order fried mullets, prawns, bucatini with sardines, and whatever else the fishermen brought in that afternoon.


Hotel Il Pellicano is arguably one of the most iconic—and certainly one of the most luxurious—hotels in the world, and if you’re staying there, well, lucky you. Now, while everyone dashes off to Porto Ercole, you will want to steer away from the tourists and follow the well-heeled locals to Porto Santo Stefano in Monte Argentario. This is where the wealthy Italian aristocrats come—by yacht, by Maserati—to tuck away in secluded villas. 

(If you do make it to Porto Ercole, head to Gelateria Creola for a few scoops of stracciatella—there’s a reason this place is always crowded.) 

Like so many beaches in this corner of the world, the beaches on Monte Argentario are hard to get to but worth the effort. Cala Piccola is the most family-friendly and can be reached by road, but true Italians would probably hire a boat with a skipper who can help find a more private cove. Just saying.

A Woman's Work: An Italian Film Mogul's New Series on "Nowness"

If you haven’t been following “Nowness” you really should - it is a retreat of beauty in the maelstrom of the Internet. In our era of information overload, or everything overload, Nowness is a video channel renowned worldwide as a benchmark of excellence in video. Today, as we celebrate La Festa della Donne, we invite you to look at a video series by Ginevra Elkann titled ‘A Woman’s Work’. After beginning her career on the movie sets of Bernardo Bertolucci and Anthony Minghella, Italian film distributor and Good Films founder Ginevra Elkann made her name by introducing NymphomaniacStill Alice and Dallas Buyers Club to her native country. 

Known for her cloud of dark curls, understated style, and entrepreneurial acumen (unsurprising given that she is a member of Italy’s storied Agnelli dynasty), Elkann showcases a new, subtler type of modern trailblazer – one that prefers a quieter approach to influencing global culture.

As a co-founder of Asmara Films, Elkann’s support of independent cinema includes Iranian drama Frontier Blues, and White Shadow, a story about witch doctors and Tanzanian albinos. The producer, who is also president of La Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, the Turin-based family art foundation, resides in Rome with her husband, Giovanni Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona, and their three children.

To watch the video click here

Opening Night in Wellington

Opening Night in Arrowtown

Opening Night in Auckland

"Sicilian Ghost Story" - a beautiful Italian crime film you need to see

Sicilian Ghost Story is in Italian with subtitles, but don’t let that put you off - this is a truly marvellous, heart-wrenching watch. It’s based on a true story which I recommend not looking up before you see it for the full impact of the ending. 


In short, it tells the story of Giuseppe, a Sicilian boy who was abducted in 1996 by the mafia as leverage over his father, who was co-operating with the police. It’s also about Giuseppe’s girlfriend, Luna, and her quest to get to the bottom of his unexplained disappearance.

One of things that's so remarkable about the film manifests in the opening shots, which bring us from a dark, echoey cave into modern-day (or 1990’s) Sicily. But the gothic, “ghost story”, unreality stays with us in the aesthetic telling of a story grounded in real events, as the film blends fantasy and real tragedy. That intro gives us a long time before we hear the first words, and the film only does part of its “talking” through the spoken word.



The cinematography is fantastic -it's a beautiful film. The shot composition is astonishingly crisp and precise in what it wants to highlight or illustrate, and the colours of the film are absolutely stunning, sumptuous and elevated beyond plausible vivacity, lending to that fantasy feel.  Sicilian Ghost Story is fantastic at contrasting beauty with brutality, fitting for Southern Italy with its mafia underbelly, and this contrast has a noticeable ebb and flow between the two extremes, giving the film a fantastic shape.

The film is deeply charming and endearing, and utterly immersive in presenting the perspective of the child characters most of the time. The world is mysterious and often out of focus when we are brought to new locations, creating an atmosphere which can actually make you really nervous for Luna’s safety with out resorting to the unsubtle strategies of Hollywood horror.


The retelling of real events, particularly ones of such gravity and impact on the lives they affected, is a sensitive task and the directors (Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza) seem to be keenly focussed on portraying the damaging consequences of violence without giving the audience the catharsis of displaying violence itself, an effort for which they must be applauded.


It’s noticeable that towards the end the pacing stumbles a little in telling the end of the story and drawing numerous threads together, but every moment is worth it, particularly the climax. While early in the film images are allowed to speak for themselves, this effect is magnified in the ending and not wanting to spoil it, the effect is heart-stopping.


The Questionaire with Paolo Rotondo - as reported by The Sunday Star Times

Best known to NZ audiences for his work on Shortland Street, Paolo Rotondo has had a successful career spanning theatre, film and television, as an actor, writer, director and producer. He made his feature length directorial debut in 2014 with the poignant drama Orphans and Kingdoms

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What are you plugging right now?

My two passions are in full swing right now — cinema and theatre. I am artistic director of the Cinema Italiano Festival (The Italian Film Festival). In theatre, a play I wrote by the name of Kororāreka: The Ballad of Maggie Flynn is touring around the North Island.

What's your idea of perfect happiness?

Shooting a film in an exotic location near a sparkling warm sea with my wife and kids on set. Waiting for the heat of the day to pass by frolicking in the water before eating interesting new foods and hearing live music played by locals.

Which living person do you most admire?

My beautiful wife for putting up with me.

What's your most embarrassing moment?

Walking into a closet by accident after delivering an impassioned speech in a crowded lecture theatre.

What is your most prized material possession?

An antique sailing chest that belonged to my father and his father before that and so on ...

What is the most adventurous thing you have done that has taken you out of your comfort zone at the time?

Scuba diving with sharks on purpose, obviously pre-kids. 

What gets your back up?


If you could time travel, where would you go and why?

The Roman times, I'm sure I've been there before and I may feel at home.

What life lesson would you pass on to your children?

Listening is more important than speaking at times.

What job would you do other than your own and why?

I would have loved to be an architect. It is such a diverse craft that requires, art, science and philosophy.

If you were given three wishes that a magic genie could grant, what would they be?

The power to work to my fullest potential, universal kindness, next level consciousness for humankind.

  • The Italian Film Festival) which is touring nationwide and opens in Auckland on August 30 at Bridgeway Cinemas. Kororāreka: The Ballad of Maggie Flynn is touring New Zealand from August 24.

Ferragosto and "Palio"

Ferragosto and "Palio"

 The Roman Emperor Augustus so enjoyed late summer that he claimed as his own the month we now call by his name. 

Augustus ordered month-long festivities, called feriae augustus, which included games, races and rituals to honor the goddess Diana, who was worshiped as queen of the fields as well as of heaven and earth. Augustus was equally enamored with the beguiling island of Capri, which he appropriated from the municipality of Naples in exchange for the nearby island of Ischia.

With the rise of Christianity and the suppression of pagan feasts, August 15 became a religious holiday commemorating the assumption or lifting into heaven of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Over the centuries various communities developed special ways of honoring the Madonna.  In the Sardinian town of Sassari,  for instance, men carrying elaborately decorated wood columns dance through the streets. 

Messina’s townspeople construct La Vara, a fantastic sixty-foot-high pyramid from which stars, clouds and figures of saints dangle. At one time young boys dressed as angels and apostles were hoisted into the air by rings attached to La Vara. As part of the ceremonies a young girl representing the Virgin Mary freed a prisoner. 

According to a Neapolitan legend, local fishermen once pulled a portrait of the Madonna from the sea, and their king ordered a church built around it at the beach.  On August 15, which became known as the Festa della Nzegna, everyone was tossed into the water. The night before, the faithful ate only watermelon, but the next day they feasted on sumptuous desserts.

In the late  Renaissance, Rome’s governors flooded the splendid Piazza Navona for festivities that included fake fish splashing in the water and young boys diving for coins. As darkness fell, candles and torches glistened, and Romans enjoyed lavish dinners called sabatine (little Saturday feasts).

Times have changed. Now a national holiday, Ferragosto marks the height of the Italian vacation season. In cities and towns many restaurants and shops close.  The term “ferragosto in città” describes, not just the emptied towns, but any bleak or unhappy situation. As millions flock to the beaches, seaside villages host daylong festivities that often end with spectacular displays of  fireworks (fuochi d’artificio). 

The summer celebrations continue throughout August, including:

    *The Palio (horse race) in Siena on August 16. Just as they first did in 1656, race horses (cavalli) and their bareback riders representing the city’s contrade (wards or neighborhoods) whip madly around the edges of the Piazza del Campo. The prize of a silk banner goes to the first horse to cross the finish line with its head ornaments intact -- with or without its jockey.  You can watch a documentary of this ancient horserace in our Festival in one of our remaining locations of Auckland, Wellington, Whakatane, Matakana, Cambridge so keep a look out on our website.

    *A torchlight procession commemorating the "Miracle of the White Madonna" in Portovenere in Liguria

    *A three-week festival with costumes, processions and music to celebrate La Fuga del Bove (The Escape of the Ox) in Montefalco in Tuscany.

    *Elaborate historic processions to commemorate La Perdonanza (The Pope's Pardon)  in L'Aquila in Abruzzo.

    *Venice Film Festival in late August.

    *Settimane Musicali di Stresa (musical weeks) in Stressa on Lago Maggiore in late August.

    Buone feste!

Words and Expressions

Ferragostano -- of/related to Ferragosto  

L’estate -- summer

Festeggiare -- to celebrate

Andare in ferie -- go on holiday