A masterclass with Luca Bigazzi
Seven David di Donatello awards, seven Nastri d’Argento, and his signature in the Academy Awards winning The Great Beauty: Luca Bigazzi is, simply, one of Italy’s most acclaimed award-winning directors of photography in the Italian contemporaneous – but not only – film industry. His cinematographic career began in 1983 with Paesaggio con Figure by Silvio Soldini, and from that moment he began an artistic fellowship with the director, that will bring him to win his second David di Donatello, in 2000 for Bread and Tulips. In 2014 he won his seventh David for The Great Beauty and in 2022 he was nominated once again for Ariaferma. He has been working with Mario Martone, Giuseppe Piccioni, Ciprì e Maresco, Paolo Virzì, Daniele Lucchetti and Abbas Kiarostami.
In 2004, he started to edit the photography for and work with director Paolo Sorrentino and won several prestigious awards: in 2005, he won the David di Donatello for The Consequences to the love and in 2012 he won the Best Director of Photography award for This Must Be the Place at Nastri d’Argento film award; in 2014 he was prizewinner for the Best Foreign Language Film The Great Beauty and for the Best Film at the European Film Awards for Youth in 2015.
Luca Bigazzi’s career moves between the transition from analog to digital. His first work was with Silvio Soldini, and it was filmed when he was only 23, in a black and white format and with a 16 mm, and nowadays he does not regret his past experiences, even if on several occasions he said he long prefers to use digital technology. Digital video is indisputably better and offers great possibilities. Bigazzi takes as an example lighting, one of the key factors involved in effective cinematography. As he said, if in the past a room was illuminated by several lights, today with the digital technologies with just a single light, incredible results can be achieved. In his films he gives great importance to light that he considers as a specific expressive instrument: for example, in the film Il Divo the dark moments are extremely marked compared to the very light moments, and this paraphrases the story itself, which is all about lights and shadows.
Luca Bigazzi’s working method can be summarized in few simple words: lightness, gentleness and speed. He understands the film’s needs and prefers the soft lights, he prefers neon lights because they are more flexible and they give the film a natural spotlight. In his work, he loathes anything that makes you waste time, depriving the director and actors of their space. Moreover, the genius of his work is driven by continuous development and changes and he is always available to understand the needs and fit the lights for the film.
Despite cinema being his first love, he worked for two drama television shows directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The first was The Young Pope in 2016, the story of the controversial pontificate of Pio XIII (interpreted by Jude Law), a very complex and contradictory character, extremely conservative in his choices but ready to challenge the established traditions and practices of the Church, feeling compassion for the poor and weak people. He also worked for the sequel The New Pope in 2020, where Jude Law is again the main character: Pius XIII. The Young Pope is the first – currently the only – Italian television series to be nominated at the Golden Globe and the Emmy, thanks to Luca Bigazzi’s nomination for best Photography.
Luca Bigazzi has proved, through the years, to be a great cinematographer, who has worked with the most important directors and to be able to innovate himself in every film.
On the cinematography by Luca Bigazzi
Speed, meticulousness, disregard for established rules, remarkable predisposition to adapt even to the lowest budgets: these are, beyond an undeniable talent, the characteristics that have made Bigazzi become the most important cinematographer of Italian cinema in the last thirty years.
Alessandro Aniballi, Quinlan
La sperimentazione fotografica innovativa e curiosa delle nuove possibilità offerte dallo sviluppo della tecnologia di ripresa e di manipolazione dell’immagine tipiche di Bigazzi, il suo utilizzo creativo delle sorgenti di luce naturale e i giochi di contrasto creati nelle sue riprese – artifici caratteristici della fotografia di The Young Pope – sono caratteristiche fondamentali delle sue riprese. (…) Ma è grazie alle sue suggestive inquadrature che l’espressività e il pathos della scena si rivela allo spettatore. La capacità di Bigazzi di “piegare” la luce al suo scopo espressivo senza ricorrere a fonti luminose artificiali, e contemporaneamente di catturarla in riprese e contrasti quasi caravaggeschi, è il fattore fondamentale dell’attività artistica di Bigazzi come operatore di macchina. Bigazzi’s innovative and curious photographic experimentation with the new technology developed for shooting and manipulating images, his creative use of natural light sources and the contrast effects created in his shots – characteristic artifices of The Young Pope – are key features of his filmmaking. (…) But it is thanks to his evocative shots that the expressiveness and pathos of the scene are revealed to the viewer. Bigazzi’s ability to “bend” light to its expressive purpose without resorting to artificial light sources, and at the same time to capture it in almost Caravaggesque shots and contrasts, is the fundamental factor of Bigazzi’s artistic activity as a camera operator.
Rosario Sparti, minima&moralia
Bigazzi usa la luce come strumento espressivo (…).In [un] esterno-notte, Bigazzi raggiunge un’intensità e un’autenticità davvero non comuni. Ricordandoci che spesso, al cinema, il fatto di credere o non credere a quello che vediamo dipende in larga parte proprio dalla luce. Bigazzi uses light as an expressive tool (…).On [an] night exteriors, Bigazzi reaches a truly uncommon intensity and authenticity. Reminding us that often, in cinema, the fact of believing or not believing what we see largely depends on the light.
Gianni Canova, welovecinema.it