Ace Italian cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who was instrumental to the making of masterpieces such as Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard” and Federico Fellini’s “Amarcord,” but also worked in Hollywood and was an Oscar nominee for Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz,” has died. He was 97.
Rotunno, who was nicknamed Peppino, died on Sunday in his Rome home, his family announced without disclosing the exact cause.
Born in Rome on March 23, 1923, Rotunno started his remarkable six-decade career as a still photographer at the Italian capital’s Cinecittà Studios in 1940 before being recruited in 1942 to serve as a newsreel cameraman with the Italian army where he cut his teeth as a cinematographer.
In 1943 at age 20, with World War II still raging, Rotunno was hired as an assistant DP by Roberto Rossellini for the 1943 war film “L’Uomo dalla croce” (The Man with a Cross), a drama about a military chaplain.
After the war, Rotunno got his first gig as cinematographer on Dino Risi’s 1955 comedy “Scandal in Sorrento,” starring Vittorio de Sica and Sophia Loren, before going to work with neo-realist master Luchino Visconti, whom he considered his mentor, on “White Nights” (1957), “Rocco and his Brothers” (1960) and lavish Sicily-set costumer “The Leopard” (1963) starring Cardinale and Alain Delon.
Rotunno’s collaboration as director of photography for Fellini started with “Satyricon” (1969) and spanned eight films, comprising among others “Roma” (1972), “Amarcord” (1973), “Casanova” (1976), “City of Women” (1980) and “And The Ship Sails On” (1983).
“And now he too has left us, the last of the greatest from the days of Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini,” said Laura Delli Colli, who is the niece of another great Italian lenser, Tonino Delli Colli, and also president of the Cinema for Rome foundation.
“He leaves behind the rigor of an extraordinary life, a lesson that will continue to foster the Great Beauty of cinematography that the entire world will continue to look up to Italy for. A legend, like they used to make them, born of a history of tenacity and incredible simplicity. Grazie,” she added in a Facebook post.
Besides working with many other Italian masters — such as Mario Monicelli, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lina Wertmuller, Antonio Pietrangeli and Dario Argento, to name only a few — Rotunno also had a prolific parallel career in Hollywood from early on.
In 1958, Rotunno worked as cinematographer on Ava Gardner-starrer “The Naked Maja,” directed by Henry Koster; in 1966, he lensed John Huston’s “The Bible.” In 1971 he worked with Mike Nichols on “Carnal Knowledge.”
Rotunno was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA Award in 1980 for Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz.” That same year, he worked with Robert Altman on “Popeye” and subsequently worked with Terry Gilliam on “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (1988) and on Sydney Pollack’s “Sabrina” remake in 1995.
Rotunno’s last film as DP was 1997 Marcello Mastroianni doc “I Remember, Yes, I Remember” directed by Anna Maria Tatò.
In 1966, Rotunno became the first non-American admitted to join the American Society of Cinematographers.
He was honored in 1999 both by the ASC and by Poland’s prestigious Camerimage festival dedicated to cinematography with lifetime achievement awards.
From 1988 Rotunno taught at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia film school until 2013 where he supervised the meticulous restoration of several works he was instrumental to, including “Rocco and his Brothers” and “Amarcord.”
Rotunno is survived by his wife Graziolina Campori Rotunno, his daughters Tiziana, Paola and Carmen, and seven grandchildren.
(Pictured: Giuseppe Rotunno with actor Donald Sutherland)