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Tonino Guerra (1920-2012): A Sad Loss for World Cinema

23 03 2012

Screenwriter Tonino Guerra (1920-2012)

I just received news today that Tonino Guerra passed away this past Wednesday after some months of illness.  A storyteller and screenwriter of the highest degree, Guerra’s work with directors ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni to Federico Fellini to Andrei Tarkovsky have provided the backbone and structure to a wealth of wonderful films in World Cinema.

Born in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy on March 16, 1920, Guerra was a survivor of an Italian concentration camp during the second World War.  It was here that he began writing, which after the war, blossomed into a successful career in film and television.  Guerra fashioned himself as a tool for the directors with which he worked, often times helping them structure and pen their own concepts and stories, rather than presenting a completed script of his own accord for production.  Working in this manner is quite different from how most screenwriters prefer to work, many wanting as little bother from the director as possible.  However, in Guerra’s method, the beautiful stories and ideas of such iconic directors as Fellini and Antonioni were able to fully come to fruition and soundly transfer from mind to celluloid image.

Among Guerra’s noted works were Antonioni’s L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Blowup and The Red Desert; Fellini’s Amarcord (a personal favorite of mine); Theo Angelopoulos’s Landscapes in the Mist and Eternity and a Day; and Tarkovsky’s late entry Nostalgia, among many others.  Well awarded during his long and prosperous 50 year career, Guerra received three Academy Award nominations, those being for Amarcord, Blowup and Casanova 70.

I try not to write posts about every celebrity who passes, as many get more than their fair share of Rest in Peace articles in the news and blogosphere; however, for Guerra, whose work is largely in foreign cinema and possibly lesser known to many American audiences by name, I wanted to pay dues to a true icon in the motion picture industry.

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Remembering Steve Jobs and Preserving His Legacy

6 10 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I know this will likely be one of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of blog posts regarding the passing of Apple co-founder and figurehead Steve Jobs yesterday.  Jobs passed away at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer.  Unlike many other posts, however, I’m not going to recount a biographical essay of Jobs’s life or historically chronicle his time with Apple.  What I want to look at is what he gave us and the legacy that will continue even after his passing at such a young age.

When I think of Jobs, the word that most comes to mind is: visionary.  This was a man, whose sometimes ego-maniacal persona in regards to business, pushed products that were from the deepest points of his imagination.  Unlike many other companies whose primary creative decisions come from a web of corporate “suits”, Apple’s vision was dreamt largely from one mind and then implemented by the many departments of the corporation.  During his tenure at Apple, the company continuously released products that were 2-3 years ahead of their time, paving the way for the next generation of media consumption.   Since 2000, Apple has strategically eliminated nearly every form of popular tangible media.  With iTunes and the iPod, mp3’s have taken over the compact disc market; with the iPhone, the first integrated touch sensitive smart phone with heavy application reliance revolutionized the cell phone market; and with the iPad, tablet hardware has come to a forefront, replacing the laptop computer in many homes and just now is becoming a favored educational tool for schools around the globe.

For the first 20 years of home computing, advances were minimal in design and functionality of the systems.  However, in just over 10 short years since Apple’s introduction of the iPod and all-in-one iMac computers, Apple has effectively changed how we interact and experience many forms of media on a day to day basis, from movies, to watching television, to music, and beyond.  Being a hands-on entrepreneur, Jobs’ position in Apple has been crucial to its success in the world market.  Under his leadership, the company grew from a secondary contender in desktop computing to the largest technology company in the world.  Knowing of the severity of his illness, I’m sure Jobs has laid out a very concrete game plan for the future of Apple; one that will, hopefully, keep his vision and spirit alive, much like that of the pioneering legacy of Walt Disney.

It will certainly be a lonelier place in the technological world without Jobs’s vivacious enthusiasm and keynote addresses.  Yet, what he was able to show us could be done when you have a dream and a vision, will hopefully be preserved by not only Apple, but serve as a precedent for young minds and inventors to come.





R.I.P. Gunnar Fischer (1910 – 2011)

12 06 2011

Gunnar Fischer (1910 - 2011)

Legendary Swedish cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away yesterday at the age of 100.  Fischer’s lighting and camera techniques brought to life some of Ingmar Bergman’s most iconic films from the director’s early period.  Though not as well known as future collaborator Sven Nykvist, Fischer’s style and visual eye has dazzled cinema-goers for nearly 60 years, though his general recognition remains mostly silent.

Born in Ljungby Vasternorrlands Lan, Sweden, on November 18, 1910, Fischer originally studied painting at Otte Sköld.  Following his education, he enlisted as a chef with the Swedish Navy, before turning to a career in cinema at Svensk Filmindustri. His first film credit was as assistant camera on Smålänningar in 1935, and his first feature as a director of photography came in 1942.  He worked with several international directors including Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer and British director Anthony Asquith.  However, his most endearing and remembered artistic partnership was with Bergman from 1948 to 1960.

The fruits of Bergman and Fischer’s collaborations include such films as Harbor City, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician and their final collaboration, The Devil’s Eye.  Like many fellow Swedish cinematographers of the era, Fischer was a master of practical lighting and operated his own camera on all his films.  Such classic images as Max von Sydow playing chess with Death or the wide dancing chain on the hill side from The Seventh Seal still move and touch viewers of all generations.

Bergman and Fischer went their separate ways after The Devil’s Eye in 1960.  Bergman went on to form another strong artistic partnership with cinematographer Sven Nykvist which lasted through almost the rest of the director’s professional career.  Fischer continued shooting feature films until 1979 when he retired.  In retirement, he continued to be close to his craft by serving as an instructor of cinematography at several prestigious Scandinavian universities.

An interesting article and interview regarding Fisher’s time working with Bergman from the Washington Post in 2008 can be found here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020100903.html








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