Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC Visualizing a Movement

by Yuri Neyman, ASC 
Global Cinematography Institute - www.globalcinematography.com  

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Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC Visualizing a Movement

Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC (1920-1966, Rome) was a distinguished Italian cinematographer. He was one of the leading Italian post-war cinematographers with the unique distinction to be part of the neo-realist, post neo-realist and modern schools in Italian Cinema.

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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"Le mani sulla città" ("Hands Over the City") Dir: Francesco Rosi
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

 After studies at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia he began his career during World War II as a camera assistant to Aldo Tonti, Otello Martelli and others, working on the films of directors such as Visconti, De Sica, De Santis and Rossellini. Given his training in the "flat" documentary style favored by these filmmakers, to the surprise of many he developed in Il Grido (1957) with Antonioni the very special b/w look based on the mid-scale tonality, almost without extreme black and white which created what is now considered classic Italian black and white post-neo-realism cinematography. He became a well noticed director of photography known for his ability to use lighting and camera techniques to convincingly suggest a diversity of atmospheres and feelings.

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"La Notte" ("The Night") Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

Gianni Di Venanzo collaborated with several notable directors, working on films directed by such luminaries as Michelangelo Antonioni's L'amore in città (Love in the City), Le Amiche (The Girlfriends), Il Grido (The Cry), La Notte (Night) and L'Eclisse (The Eclipse); Francesco Rosi' Salvatore Giuliano and Le mani sulla città (Hands Over the City); Federico Fellini's 8½ and Giulietta degli spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) along with many others distinguished Italian directors.

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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

Working with Antonioni he also developed a style of exquisite framing in 1:1.66 format (Italian Cashe), which enriched his capability for photographing multifaceted and shifting of actors. He applied the same principle when he worked with Fellini later on. Fellini's 8 ½ can be seen as Di Venanzo's change of style, and this new style helped the spectator to steer this multipart collection of fantasy, reminiscence, imagination and actuality.

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"La Notte" ("The Night") Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"Il Grido" ("The Cry") Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

Di Venanzo's roots in neo-realism helped him a lot in his work with Francesco Rosi in "Hands over the City", where the newsreels sensation of neorealism is overwhelmingly evident. The important Italian directors of films that Di Venanzo lensed became essential in their achievements to Italian and World Cinema, in part due to Di Venanzo's visual work.

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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

10th Victim (1965) photographed by Di Venanzo in volatile and fiery pop art colors and constructivist-like framing and compositions tells the tale of a futuristic society in which war has been outlawed, only to be replaced with The Big Hunt, in which players sign up for a round of ten officially sanctioned killings, taking turns as both victim and would-be assassin.

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"La decima vittima" ("10th Victim") Dir: Elio Petri
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"La decima vittima" ("10th Victim") Dir: Elio Petri
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC

Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC was praised by all his directors and peers for his care about the style of images and technical perfection. He is also remembered by his ability "... to establish a rapport with each director; a facility for sensing the particular textures they sought after; and sheer tenacity in getting those precise effects onto celluloid." Despite his unfortunate and premature death at 45, he did not disappear into an undeserved obscurity in film history. His style, lighting, framing and composition surpass his passing and continue to inspire, encourage and stimulate newer generations of cinematographers.

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"8 1/2" Dir: Federico Fellini Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC
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"Il Grido" ("The Cry") Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
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Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC (L) with Director Michelangelo Antonioni (R)
on the set of L'Eclisse (1962)
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"L'Eclisse" ("The Eclipse") Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC