Thursday, January 17, 2008
While HAREM is arguably one of Nastassja's lesser films from her best period, it is at the very least a gorgeous looking production. This is in no small part due to the lovely photography of acclaimed cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis, an artist who worked with many of the great film directors in the world throughout his career.
De Santis was born in Italy in the spring of 1927. The future Oscar winner got his start in film as an assistant cameraman with one of his earliest jobs being among other things a Steno horror-comedy. After a decade of working in this capacity the obviously talented De Santis graduated to the role of cinematographer on the 1965 production THE MOMENT OF TRUTH, directed by famed Francesco Rosi.
After working with Rosi that first of many times, De Santis' career took off and he quickly became one of the most in demand DPs in Italy. His big international break came when he was hired on by Franco Zeffirelli for his legendary 1968 film of ROMEO AND JULIET. De Santis became known for his inventive lighting techniques and the breathtaking way he could shoot actors, specifically women.
De Santis won a well deserved Oscar for his work on Zeffirelli's production and within a couple of years after he had already worked with everyone from Vittorio De Sica to Federico Fellini. It was a grand time in Italian cinema history and De Santis was a key part of it.
The sixties closed with De Santis' stunning work on Visconti's THE DAMNED, another project that would acquire him a lot of justified acclaim. He would work with the great Visconti again on another amazing productions, such the masterful DEATH IN VENICE (1971) and the lovely THE INNOCENT (1976) where he got a chance to shoot Laura Antonelli.
The seventies were an amazing time for De Santis and he continued to work with some of the world's most important directors including Robert Bresson, Joseph Losey, and Ettore Scola. His work with Bresson was particularly mind blowing as he shot both LANCELOT OF THE LAKE (1974) and THE DEVIL PROBABLY (1977). The latter film would mark a change for De Santis as Bresson demanded a more earthy and gritty style of photography which in turn would influence much of De Santis' work afterwards.
De Santis' work in the eighties isn't as notable as the seventies but that has more to do with the quality of films being made rather than the photographer's talents. By 1984 he was stuck shooting John Guillermin's disappointing SHEENA with Tanya Roberts. The similar looking HAREM would follow it and while it is not among the best projects De Santis took on his camera clearly loves Nastassja and his photography always keeps the disappointing film interesting.
De Santis health began to fail in the late eighties and his work became less and less prolific. He passed away just after his 69th birthday in the summer of 1996. His final project was, fittingly enough, a film directed by Francesca Rosi entitled THE TRUCE (1997).
Pasqualino De Santis was a rare talent and his work made all of the productions he shot noteworthy. His finest work with some of the great European directors remains awe inspiring, and his photography of some of the most beautiful women in screen history (including Nastassja) is one of the reasons God saw fit to invent cinema. May he rest in peace...