Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

Luca Coassin’s masterclass on Giuseppe Rotunno

Honoring the great Italian master of cinematography, Giuseppe Rotunno, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award “Golden Camera 300” at the 38th edition of ICFF “Manaki Brothers”, Luca Coassin, a former student of Rotunno and a current jury member of the main competition, held a masterclass in the Small Hall of the Cultural Center in Bitola.

Through several documentary photographs and highlights from his films, Coassin uncovered the secrets of the character and the craftsmanship of one of the most important Italian masters of cinematography, Giuseppe Rotunno, mainly talking about his work with the legendary Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini. He also uncovered details about the work with the directors Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Bob Fosse, the actors Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon and many others. 

Speaking about Rotunno’s character, as a student and as a friend, Coassin revealed that Rotunno looks like a child even at 90 years old, but when on set he was always full with authority and the crew was very respectful towards him with a certain dose of fear. Recalling his student days, Coassin remembered what Rotunno taught them about the camera being in the service of the story and the script, while he put all his knowledge and experience in the function of a more detailed rendering of the film story and the portrayal of the characters’ personalities. Coassin emphasized that Rotunno is a master of the close up, but that his shots contain plans that carry several actions simultaneously.

In the course of his career, Rotunno was not immune to experiments and he often worked with unusual film formats besides 35mm, as well as 65 mm, 70mm and others; he also experimented with visual effects that the technology of the time could not produce. An interesting fact that Coassin mentioned was that Rotunno was one of the first cinematographers to use a digital camera for shooting a film.

When talking about the collaboration with the directors Visconti and Fellini, he noted that Visconti was a perfectionist who went into great detail when developing characters and certain shooting details in his films, while with Fellini, although he often had in mind surreal situations, he said they could understand each other with simply a look.

That is why one of the most important advices he gave to his students were to train their eyes so they can easily and rapidly solve the difficult situations with the light and make-up during a shooting and to develop a feeling of how to film close ups with the actors.

When talking about the essence of his work with light, he often said that mankind has created great music for centuries with only 7 notes. The same applies to the work with the camera and the capture of light rays, regardless of whether it’s black and white or film in color.