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DP Italo Petriccione utilizes ARRI lenses and lights for a journey through time and color


DP Italo Petriccione has been a part of more than 50 feature films since 1986. Over the years, he often joined forces with director Gabriele Salvatores on set and beyond. I started working with him on Marrakech Express' in 1988 and since then our collaboration has never stopped, says Petriccione. If we add that our friendship has now exceeded half a century, there is no need to emphasize our professional understanding. For a long time, I've been trying to get Gabriele to use black and white. As a young man I was passionate about photography and I used to shoot and print strictly in black and white. With Il ritorno di Casanova ( The Return of Casanova ), Petriccione finally succeeded in convincing director Salvatores to implement this special color design. The new film, starring Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Toni Servillo, and Sara Serraiocco, features a story in two different time periods-one captured in color, the other one in black and white.

Copyright Indiana Production S.p.A

The Return of Casanova features a story with two different time periods and color designs

The Return of Casanova is set in two time periods. How did you manage the visual style?

The film tells the story of Oscar-winning director Leo (Toni Servillo), who, having finished shooting his last film, is in the grip of anxiety, frightened by the return to his complicated daily life. Age and fears are the same as those of the protagonist of his new film, a mature Casanova (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), who also suffers from his life declining due to the passing of time. As old age approaches, his capacity for seduction vanishes, just as the aging director's hold on the public vanishes; audiences are now attracted to a young director who is popular with critics. They are two mirror characters with the same anxieties, who see the youth of others as a constant threat to their status. Although separated by almost three centuries, the two are very close emotionally. Gabriele and I discussed for a long time about how to interpret the different time periods. In the end, we decided to use color for the costume scenes and black and white for the modern-day scenes.

Copyright Italo Petriccione

DP Italo Petriccione and director Gabriele Salvatores have worked together on projects for more than 30 years

Were you given any particular references?

For the color part, with its candlelit atmospheres, the sumptuousness of the locations and costumes and a density of the image inspired by film, we had Barry Lyndon in mind, but not only. For the contemporary part, characterized by a dry, etched black and white, with strong contrasts and declared compositional symmetries that revive the discomfort of everyday life, we drew inspiration from the black-and-white cinema of Gordon Willis with Woody Allen or that of Martin Scorsese. Another reference were the beautiful images of great Italian DPs of the 1950s and 60s, such as Leonida Barboni, G.R. Aldo, Peppino Rotunno, and many others of that fantastic era of our cinema.

Copyright Indiana Production S.p.A

Captured in color: The costume parts of The Return of Casanova

How many weeks of shooting did you do for The Return of Casanova ? Which locations did you choose?

With a budget of seven million euros, we shot five weeks in the Veneto region, between the provinces of Verona and Venice, and four in Milan. An important set for environments and days of shooting was Villa Dionisi in Cerea, a beautiful eighteenth-century mansion with a large park where we set many interiors and exteriors of the costume part.

Copyright Italo Petriccione

DP Italo Petriccione had nine weeks of shooting for The Return of Casanova at different locations in Italy

Were there any particular practical difficulties in filming at certain locations?

There is a scene in which Casanova returns to Venice at dawn in a gondola, and one in which the director is visiting the Venice Film Festival. Shooting in Venice is complicated in itself but having a whole scene at dawn, and, whats more, with an eighteenth-century setting, made everything even more difficult. We only had about 40 minutes to shoot before we would be invaded by tourists and boat traffic. We had to follow Casanova who, in a gondola, admired his Venice after years of exile. In the end, we finished shooting just in time, using a support boat on which a modular crane was mounted and a second camera on land to film the passage of the gondola from the bridges and between the streets. Once the last take was over, all hell broke loose among the tourists, vaporettos, and cruise ships! We then filmed the finale of the modern part on the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival. There, in addition to a strict protocol with cameramen and assistants in suits and ties and a meticulous police check, we had to adapt to the situation. A part of the shoot was rebuilt after midnight when the screenings were over. I had a Chroma Key put in the big screen that showed the film trailers and I had the collaboration of the festival's lighting manager, who allowed me to turn off or adjust the existing system, to which I made small additions.

Copyright Indiana Production S.p.A

In one scene of the film, Casanova returns to Venice at dawn in a gondola

What lenses did you use?

For the contemporary shots I used ARRI Signature Primes on large format, while for the costume parts I used a series of vintage Cooke Pancro on Super 35 format. To differentiate the two eras with color and black and white, using sensor formats and lenses with such different optical designs seemed the right approach to me. I was familiar with the Cooke Pancro, since I had shot my first three films with it. The Signature Primes struck me for their refined optical quality and the wonderful bokeh they create in the focal planes. The black-and-white part gave us great satisfaction. Th
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