Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, the Colours of Life review – radiant tribute to a cinematic maestro

Cinema’s magic is the running theme of this warm documentary about the life and works of visionary cinematographer Carlo Di Palma

4933The cinematographer Carlo Di Palma is the subject of this intelligent and deeply cinephile documentary tribute presented by his widow, Adriana Chiesa (Di Palma died in 2004). It’s a film to remind you of the almost miraculously collaborative nature of cinema, but also the radiant personalities of individuals.

Di Palma emerges as a master of light and colour, someone who started out in the Italian neorealist cinema after the war, brilliant at working with whatever light was available on location. His working maxim was “la luce, la luce, la luce” (light, light, light). Di Palma made his breakthrough working with Michelangelo Antonioni, creating marvellous images for Blowup and Red Desert. For years he was the DoP for Woody Allen and this documentary argues that it was Di Palma who brought a cosmopolitan, Europeanised look to Allen’s New York – it demonstrates the micro-energies of a travelling shot he devised for the restaurant quarrel scene in Hannah and Her Sisters.

Despite many years in New York, Di Palma remained intensely Italian, where a technician is an artigiano, an artisan, a term that includes the word art. There is great richness and warmth in the comments from directors and admirers, including Allen, Ken Loach, Nikita Mikhalkov and Mira Nair.

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