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Storaro is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential cinematographers of all time. He has worked with many important film directors, in particular Bernardo Bertolucci, with whom he has had a long collaboration. His philosophy is largely inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's theory of colors, which focuses in part on the psychological effects that different colors have and the way in which colors influence our perceptions of different situations.
He first worked with Bertolucci on The Conformist (1970). Set in Fascist Italy, the film has been described as a "visual masterpiece."
The first American film that Storaro worked on was Apocalypse Now (1979). Director Francis Ford Coppola gave him free rein on the film's visual look.Apocalypse Now earned Storaro his first Academy Award.
He worked with Warren Beatty for the first time on Reds (1981), and ended up winning his second Academy Award.
Storaro won a third Academy Award for The Last Emperor (1987), directed by Bertolucci. Three years later he received a nomination, but did not win, for the Beatty film Dick Tracy.
In 2002, Storaro completed the first in a series of books that attempt to articulate his philosophy of cinematography more substantively.
He was cinematographer for a BBC co-production with Italian broadcaster RAI of Verdi's Rigoletto over two nights on the weekend of 4 and 5 September 2010.
Woody Allen's Café Society (2016) was the first film that Storaro shot digitally. He used the Sony F65 camera.
With his son Fabrizio, he created the Univisium format system to unify all future theatrical and television movies into one respective aspect ratio of 2.00:1. As of 2020, this unification has not happened, and the universal replacement of 4:3 televisions by large, wide-screen displays greatly reduces the need to modify scope-ratio films for home theater presentation.
Storaro is known for stylish, fastidious, and flamboyant personal fashion. Francis Ford Coppola once noted that Storaro was the only man he ever knew that could fall off a ladder in a white suit, into the mud, and not get dirty.