“Cafe Society” opens in the US this Friday, July 15. It should be seen twice. First for the story, acting and directing. The second time for the art of the cinematography. Every frame a Rembrandt…er…a Storaro.
The film was directed by Woody Allen with cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC. It was the first digital motion picture for both. Woody Allen has directed 47 films on film. Vittorio Storaro has shot 58 films on film.
This is a period piece, bringing us back to another Golden Age. In “Midnight in Paris,” it was the 1920s of Hemingway, Porter, Fitzgeralds, Stein and Dali—then the 1890s of Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Gauguin. In “Cafe Society,” it’s 1930s Hollywood and New York. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) goes to work for Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a Hollywood agent. This being a Woody Allen film, they both fall for the same dame, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who is Phil’s secretary. The light is golden, sun-drenched, radiant. Inevitably, Bobby returns to New York to run a nightclub with his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll). Like an opera, the lighting and compositions move to this world of lavish interiors, nightclubs, society.
The cinematography is spectacular. Although Vittorio will be the first to say that the most important thing in a film is the idea (story, concept), his cinematography is like watching paintings that move.
Anthony Lane, film critic at The New Yorker, seems to agree. Today (July 9), he wrote, “If this film has a secret, it dwells in the cinematography—by Vittorio Storaro, no less, who shot ‘The Conformist,’ ‘Last Tango in Paris,’ and ‘Apocalypse Now.’ He worked with Allen on a segment of ‘New York Stories’ (1989), but ‘Café Society’ marks their first full-length collaboration, and the result is ravishing to behold—more so, I think, than any Allen picture since Gordon Willis filmed ‘Manhattan’ in black-and-white. No one has delved more fruitfully than Storaro into the depths of color, exploring its contribution to political and physical extremes, and you could argue that Allen should have summoned him sooner.”
The premiere of “Cafe Society” was at Cannes on May 11. It was released in France that week. There was a special screening on June 3 at Paramount Theater during Cine Gear.
If you haven’t already, Download FDTimes’ 13-page PDF interview with Storaro “Passage from Film to Digital.”