Portrait of a Free Man, Luciano Tovoli, AIC, ASC

By Dominique Maillet

La Lettre AFC n°250

Eclectic and determined, enthusiastic and rebellious, from the start of his career Luciano Tovoli upset the habits and traditions of the profession with his mix of verve, self-confidence, and occasional ingenuity. He has what is sometimes called “character”.

Just after his graduation from the Centro Sperimentale in Rome, his first mentor happened to be a convinced autodidact, Vittorio de Seta. This major documentary filmmaker was preparing to film the shepherds of Sardinia (Bandits of Orgosolo) and was looking for a co-worker. Their meeting was meant to be, and it was the beginning of Luciano Tovoli’s atypical career, when at the age of 23, he already demonstrated his singular style.
Although he was young, he already admired all the right people. He never met the person he most admired, photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson, who he said was capable of “transforming reality by the organization of lines,” for he believed “you must not destroy a myth”. His two Masters in terms of image were Gianni de Venanzo, the cinematographer of Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Cry, and G.R.Aldo, a former set photographer hired by Luchino Visconti for The Earth Trembles.

With de Seta, Tovoli worked on black and white cinematography ; with Antonioni, who brought him along to film China, he discovered colour. “The documentary nourished me and the colour detached me from reality,” he would later say. “My transition to fiction was a way for me to revolt against colour,” as colour was something that he would always see as problematic. He shared Antonioni’s opinon that “films are coloured, but aren’t films in colour” !
Obsessed by lighting, he took over 50,000 photographs of sunrises all over the world (a fantastic source of inspiration). Luciano Tovoli refuted the notion of genre in cinema, and advocated for a spontaneous lighting that went beyond the realistic and unflaggingly attempted to devise a new language for each movie. He knows that in order to tell a story and create an emotion, one needs to use all the means at one’s disposal, and that in order to attain true pleasure in creation, one needs a certain dose of liberty.
More than ever, Luciano Tovoli is a free man.

3rd Caméflex – AFC, from 7-11 February 2015,
Cinéma Grand Action – 5, rue des Ecoles - Paris 5e

Caméflex AFC 2015 at the Grand Action, in partnership with the Grand Action, K5600 Lighting, Panavision Alga, and Ymagis and the support of the CNC, the CST and the San Sebastián Film Festival.