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Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Legend of Alberto Sordi - Rome's Eternal Son

′′They will always judge you, whether you behave well or if you behave badly. So screw it and live as you want but above all don't listen to anyone.′′
 - Alberto Sordi

By giving his fellow Italians something to laugh about during tumultuous times, he emerged as his generation’s King of Comedy.

One of Italy’s best-loved personalities, Alberto Sordi played a pivotal rule in Italian cinema from the end of World War II to the postwar economic boom of the 1950s. During those tumultuous years, he gave his countrymen a hearty laugh when they might have otherwise cried. Former Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi perhaps said it best: “Alberto Sordi interpreted the feelings of Italians, especially in their most difficult and tough moments.”

Born in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome in 1920, Sordi grew up in a creative household. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father, a professional musician for the Rome Opera House. A young Sordi joined the children’s choir of the Sistine Chapel but was unable to continue after his distinctive low voice began to take form. In elementary school, he participated in theatrical performances with marionettes. As a teenager, he studied theater and discovered his natural talent as a comedian. He attempted to work with a theater company in Milan but couldn't shake his Roman accent and mannerisms, so returned to his hometown. He found work on radio shows and performed onstage doing comedy skits. In the late ‘30s, he began his film career working as an extra.

In 1942, he had a role in Mario Mattoli's "I tre aquilotti" (The Three Pilots). Set at the Royal Air Force Academy of Caserta, the film follows three students and close friends as they go through their schooling and face battlefield challenges in World War II. After more than a decade of paying his dues with small roles, he landed the lead in Roberto Savarese’s 1951 “Mamma mia, che impressione!,” which he also cowrote with Cesare Zavattini. Sordi’s performance impressed his friend Federico Fellini who cast him in the title role of his 1952 “Lo sceicco bianco” (The White Sheik) and as Alberto, an unmotivated mammoni in his 1953 follow-up, “I vitelloni,” which is considered Sordi’s breakout role.

Sordi rose to fame during an unprecedented time when he and so many of his colleagues were icons in the making. The films made during those years would define a unique and unparalleled time for Italian cinema. The majority of Sordi’s characters found themselves in unfortunate situations as they rode the wave of Italy’s booming economy. Sordi made a whopping 40 films from the mid to late 1950s.   Different versions of this deceitful but likable character appear in dozens of films.

In Steno’s 1954 “Un americano a Roma” (An American in Rome), he plays Nando Moriconi, aka Santi Bailor from Kansas City, a young Italian obsessed with American culture. In Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1956 “Lo scapolo” (The Bachelor), he’s Paolo Anselmi, an inveterate bachelor until he suffers an upset stomach one night and realizes just how alone he is. In Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1957 “Souvenir d’italie” (It Happened in Rome), he plays Sergio Battistini, the boy toy of a wealthy older woman who falls for a young traveler hitchhiking through Europe. And in Vittorio Sala’s 1959 “Costa Azzurra” (Wildcats on the Beach), he stars in one of a quartet of comedic love stories set in the French Riviera.

One cannot talk about Sordi and Rome without mentioning "Il medico della mutua" (Be sick, it’s free), which has become my favorite during that prolific 1950s - '60s period. Upon returning from Rome last December and seeing posters in a pharmacy for this film, I watched it and realized there was so much more to this actor than I had known. The film was made in 1968 when a 48-year-old matured Sordi was just starting to age perfectly. 

The “mutua” is the system under socialized medicine in which a population receives free healthcare. “Mutuati” is another word for patients, described in the film as “the most diligent visitor to doctor’s offices” and “unmatched in his consumption of prescriptions.” The opening scene takes you on a driving tour through Rome beginning at the banks of the Tiber River. The first lines out of Sordi’s mouth are “Avevo previsto tutto. Avevo programmato tutto” (I had foreseen everything, I had everything planned). The story is then recounted as a flashback of events leading him to collapse from exhaustion.  Sordi was quoted as saying “I observe and reflect real-life and ordinary people, and sooner or later that raises a laugh.” He didn’t just reflect them, though. He emphasized their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies and this is what made his films and performances so over the top funny. "Il medico della mutua" is a prime example. Then the closing shot at dusk with the terracotta shades of Rome's apartment buildings brings the film full circle. There is so much nostalgia in that shot.

Also in the late ‘60s, Sordi stepped behind the camera and made his mark as a director. He made 19 films and enjoyed a string of hits, which he directed and starred in, including “Io so che tu sai che io so” (I Know You Know that I Know), which costars Monica Vitti and follows the drama of a husband who discovers his wife’s affair and “In viaggio con papa” (Traveling with Dad), the hilarious story of a father/son road trip, which costars Carlo Verdone.

Sordi took a young Verdone under his wing, making him the most likely successor of the comedy genius. When I talked with Verdone at the 2005 edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, I asked about the comparisons to Sordi. “Sordi was a great actor. I was a spectator and a fan of his movies but he had a mask and the mask was unique, so you cannot imitate a mask. Sordi always interpreted one character; very Italian, cynical and funny but it was only Sordi,” he explained.

In a 1997 interview, reflecting on his mortality, Sordi confessed: "I think about death like everyone else but without anguish. I know that I will leave one day. However, I continue to live with the same enthusiasm as when I was young. Life is a gift too big not to enjoy. And as a Catholic, I believe in the immortality of the soul."

In 2001, Sordi was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued making appearances until December of 2002 when he was scheduled to appear at the Rome Film Festival to launch a retrospective of this work. He was too weak to attend and instead, recorded a heartfelt video greeting. Watch it below..

Two months later, he passed away during the night after suffering from pneumonia and bronchitis. The permanent tributes to him all over the Eternal City give testament to the lasting impact he’s had on his culture. In addition to his foundation, which fosters young filmmakers, there is a street named after him in Villa Borghese near the Casa del Cinema, and the Galleria Alberto Sordi near the Fountain of Trevi, which houses restaurants and retail shops, was named in his honor in 2003.

Below are his films available to stream on Amazon. If you don't need English subtitles, there are dozens of films and interviews available on YouTube. Click here to watch Alberto Lattuada's 1962 "Mafioso" on the Criterion Channel. Also, check out "The Sign of Venus," in which he had a supporting role. The 1955 comedy features a whole host of legends including Vittorio De Sica and Sophia Loren, and is available on Netflix. 




- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the October issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Chiara Mastroianni: The Scion of Screen Legends

Chiara Mastroianni in "Making Plans for Lena"
She is the daughter of two cinema legends, but she by no means lives in their shadows. With 56 films to her credit, Chiara Mastroianni has emerged as a versatile contemporary actress who brings heart, soul and infinite talent to every role she takes on.

Mastroianni was born in Paris in 1972 to Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. She inherited her parents’ stunning looks and penchant for performing, but she has managed to forge her own voice and identity. She has often shared the screen with her parents and such was the case with the role that launched her prolific acting career.

In André Téchiné’s 1993 “Ma saison preferee” (My Favorite Season), Mastroianni is a typical teenager named Anne. As her mother, played by Deneuve, deals with the responsibilities of taking care of an aging parent whose health is rapidly deteriorating, Anne tries to make sense of the chaos around her by forming a bond with her mother’s office assistant. Mastroianni embraced the nuances and intricacies of her character, earning a nomination for a César Award, the French version of an Oscar. 


The following year, she played Sophie Choiset in Robert Altman’s ensemble film, “Prêt-à-Porter” (Ready to Wear), headed by her father along with his Golden Age leading ladies, Sophia Loren and Anouk Aimée. Although the two Mastroianni’s didn’t interact in any scenes, they were framed together in one shot near the beginning of the film. Sophie Choiset is part of a news crew covering fashion week headed by correspondent Kitty Potter (Kim Bassinger) and takes over the mic when shallow Kitty is at a loss for words to describe the message of the week’s closing show.

Father and daughter presenting
"Three Lives and Only One Death"
at the 49th Cannes Film Festival
In 1996, she shared the screen with her father in Raoul Ruiz's "Trois vies et une seule mort" (Three Lives and Only One Death). The two played father and daughter. However, her character, Cécile, only found out at the end of the film when her father, a schizophrenic, was beyond the point of no return. There are several tender moments between the two, in particular, when she reaches over and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Watching them together, one cannot help but notice the striking physical resemblance. 

Mastroianni’s collaboration with director Christophe Honoré has had a huge impact on her career. Together, they have given voice to the plight of Generation X through their films, displaying a chemistry not unlike what her father shared with Federico Fellini.

Mastroianni absolutely shines in the title role of Honoré’s 2010 film “Non ma fille, tu n’iras pas danser” (Making Plans for Léna). Driven by profound unhappiness and inner turmoil, Léna leaves her husband, escaping with her children to the family’s country home. The weekend goes sideways when her husband shows up, setting in motion a gripping family drama. All the performances are outstanding: intense yet subtle. It’s a thought-provoking portrait of the toll stress can take on one’s mental health. Honoré manages to show the point-of-view of each generation of the family. It’s a thought-provoking portrait of life. The performances are outstanding­– intense yet subtle.

Deneuve and Mastroianni play mother and daughter in Honoré’s devastating 2011 “Les bien-aimés” (Beloved), which takes place over the course of three decades. The pair converge at the start of the film in a tender encounter during which they sing about the travails of love and then walk across a Paris bridge into the night. What begins as a rom-com-style musical turns into a deeply moving drama that celebrates life after loss. Mastroianni gives a heartfelt, intense performance as Véra, a woman struggling through an impossible love affair with an expat musician from New York. There is a storyline about the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, which was done delicately and tastefully and takes us back to the strangeness and surreal atmosphere of that day. The film is two hours long and by the end of it, you really feel like you just spent three decades with these people. This is a film that will stay with you long after it ends. 

Honoré and Mastroianni’s latest collaboration premiered in May on Lincoln Center’s virtual platform.  “Chambre 212" (On a Magical Night) is a fantastical tale of the consequences of infidelity. Mastroianni is brilliant; funny yet reflective as her character, Maria, a law professor, moves into the hotel across the street after revealing to her husband that she’s been having an affair with one of her students. She talked about her character during a live Q&A hosted by Lincoln Center. “It was wonderful to play such a character because she’s so free. I don’t feel like that at all. Not for conventional reasons, but just the idea of freedom, of doing something you want to do and I think that’s what makes her really cool because she could have been a character that is unbearable. So for me, it was wonderful to have the energy of that character,” she explained.

During the Q&A, she was asked if she ever rewatches her father’s films and if she has a favorite. “Yes, I do re-watch movies and I watch many interviews because movies are movies but interviews, he is being himself.” 
Regarding a favorite, she said, “It would be difficult for me to pick one performance because I think he’s always been so strong. I think of “8 ½” or “A Special Day,” the Ettore Scola movie with Sophia Loren, or “Drama of Jealousy” (The Pizza Triangle), an Ettore Scola movie again with Monica Vitti, or “Bell’Antonio.” It’s a big menu.” 

Watch the clip..

Many of Mastroianni's films are available on Amazon. “My Favorite Season” and 
"Three Lives and Only One Death" are available on YouTube.


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the November 2020 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Timeless Cinema of Giovanna Ralli

She rose to fame in the post-war films of the 1950s with her simple yet stunning beauty, quick wit and tough as nails persona. She held her own alongside Italian cinema legends like Vittorio De Sica and Alberto Sordi. Now in her 80s, she talks about the past with sweet nostalgia.

Born in Rome on January 2, 1935, Giovanna Ralli wasted no time getting into show business. She made her feature film debut at the age of seven in Vittorio De Sica’s 1942 “I bambini ci guardano” (The Children Are Watching Us). Six years later, she began her theater career, becoming an actress in Peppino De Filippo’s stage company. But it was the big screen where she found her home. A small role in Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada's 1950 “Luci del varietà” (Variety Lights), set her film career into motion. 


Among her early roles is Marcella in Gianni Franciolini’s 1955 “Racconti Romani” (Roman Tales). In the spirit of the post-war economic boom, the film follows four young men as they carry out schemes to make quick money. Of course, each scheme is a flop, which gets them into trouble with their better halves and law enforcement. Marcella is the temperamental fiancé of Otello (Antonio Cifariello) who works day in and day out at a fish market trying to make ends meet. With each new scheme, she becomes more stressed about finances and loses her patience until she finally gives Otello an ultimatum. Although there is a focus on the economic difficulties facing Rome’s population of workers, the film is a feel-good comedy and feast for the eyes from start to finish as it features the most beautiful and historic sites of the Eternal City.


Vittorio Sala’s 1959 “Costa Azzurra” (Wildcats on the Beach), a quartet of comedic vignettes set on the French Riviera, features a spry Ralli in the role of Giovanna. Married to Alberto (Alberto Sordi), the couple travels from Rome to answer a casting call. After Giovanna auditions, Alberto senses from the snobby director that she is not right for the role. When he answers a call from the director to meet with him, he suspects it’s a ploy to let Giovanna down easy when in reality, the director is interested in casting him. This leads Alberto to dream of becoming a famous actor. Giovanna has a bad feeling. She follows her gut and in the end, saves Alberto from himself. Ralli is sensational in this role and her chemistry with Sordi is undeniable. The two remained lifelong friends as she recently recounted on Italian television in an interview with journalist Mara Venier.


That same year, she had a small but key role in Roberto Rossellini’s “Il Generale Della Rovere” (General della Rovere). Set in 1944 Rome with historical footage interspersed, the film was adapted from the novel by Indro Montanelli, which is based on a true story. In order to avoid the death penalty for embezzling money from military families, Vittorio Emanuele Bardone/Grimaldi (Vittorio De Sica) is recruited by the Third Reich to go under cover in a northern Italian prison. Initially hired to impersonate the Italian resistance leader, General Della Rovere, who had been previously killed by German forces, he sympathizes with the inmates and becomes a martyr, refusing to betray them. Ralli plays the role of Valeria, Grimaldi’s girlfriend. She is a blonde femme fatale tired of being strung along by Grimaldi. When he asks that she pawn her jewelry to make up for money he lost gambling, she tells him to leave. Later, when he is picked up by German authorities, she is called in as a character witness and shows no pity.


Ralli in 2020 during an interview with journalist Mara Venier
Paul Wendkos’s 1970 western, “Cannon for Cordoba,” offered Rally the opportunity to act in an English-language role. Set during a 1912 battle against Mexican bandit revolutionaries crossing the border of Texas, the film follows the most dangerous, Hector Cordoba, portrayed by Italian actor Raf Vallone. Ralli plays Leonora, his ex-lover whose brother and father were murdered by him. She wants revenge and joins the American forces to get it. Vallone and Ralli are a sight to behold in the scenes they share. In all fairness, they weren’t given a great script but their scenes are truly captivating.

Ralli was married to attorney Ettore Boschi for 38 years until his death in 2013. In an interview with Il Messaggero, she recounted their relationship. “We both hated worldliness and in the evening, when he came home from work, we often ended up on the sofa, happy, after a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, in front of an old movie." 


She continued working through the years and in 2014, made her last film with Pupi Avati. Click on the links below to stream a selection of her films on Amazon.



Monday, October 12, 2020

Renato Carpentieri: A Supporting Actor Who Steals the Show

He was nearly 50 years old when he made his feature film debut. Some thirty years later, he is one of Italy’s most beloved character actors.  

Renato Carpentieri was born in 1943 in Savignano Irpino, a village in Campania. He originally set out to pursue a career in architecture but became passionate about culture and theater. During the mid-1960s and ‘70s, he helped to promote cultural events in Naples and co-founded a stage company there called Teatro dei Mutamenti where he participated as a director, playwright and actor. In 1980, he began to transition from theater to screen with two television mini-series. A decade later, he made his feature film debut in Gianni Amelio’s “Porte aperte” (Open Doors). 


In 1993, upon winning a Nastro d'Argento for best supporting actor for his performance in Gabriele Salvatores' "Puerto Escondido," he took on the role of Gerardo in Nanni Moretti’s cult classic “Caro Diario” (Dear Diary). The role proved to be his breakout film, broadening his acting range and showing a great talent for comedy that audiences hadn’t yet seen. The art of Carpentieri’s exceptional interpretation of Gerardo, an intellectual who prides himself on not having a television set, is the subtly with which he communicated the irony of the character. When Gerardo boards a ferry from Calabria to Sicily on the way to a writing retreat, he binge-watches a number of shows on a community television set, including an episode of the American soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which is very popular in Italy. The experience torpedoes him into a foxhole of shallow pop culture. He becomes obsessed and cannot stop trying to figure out the characters’ motives and situations, going so far as to ask American tourists for updates on episodes of the soap opera.


Through the 2000s, Carpentieri established himself as an older, wiser supporting character, someone who would often lend an ear to a young, troubled protagonist. Such is the case in Caroline Deruas’s 2016 “L'indomptée” (Daydreams), a mystical French film with an enchanting soundtrack by Nicola Piovani. Carpentieri is Carlo, a gardener who works on the grounds of Rome’s Villa Medici where a group of French artists and writers are enrolled in a residency program. He befriends a young photographer, Axèle, who witnesses sightings of a ruthless 17th century cardinal and the women he seduced who often met tragic ends. Carpentieri’s role is small but pivotal to the story. He brings his everyman appeal to a group of complex, troubled characters. Filippo Timi is brilliant in his role of the womanizing, murderous cardinal. 

In Valerio Mastandrea’s 2018 “Ride” (Laughing), Carpentieri interprets the role of Cesare Secondari, a retired factory worker who with two of his comrades is preparing to protest the unsafe working conditions that led to the death of a young man. His story runs parallel to that of the grieving widow and son, following the tender friendship between three senior citizens, one dealing with the repercussions of suffering a stroke. They are tormented, posing the question, “If they were still working at the factory, could they have prevented this tragedy?” They fear they’ve become useless in old age and all the progress they made for the factory workers of their generation faded when they retired. Cesare’s storyline has a twist at the end of the film, revealing why this case is so personal.

Adapted from Roberto Saviano’s novel by the same name, Claudio Giovannesi’s 2019 “La Paranza dei Bambini” (Piranhas) follows a group of Neapolitan adolescents who become deeply involved in the organized crime of the neighborhood, Sanità, in Naples. Carpentieri is Don Vittorio, a local mob boss under house arrest. When Nicola, the leader of the group approaches him to take over Sanità due to his confinement, he reluctantly agrees and provides the deadly weapons. The boys take charge and receive a huge payout. Grateful, they strike up a friendship with him, gifting him a huge flat screen tv and video game with the profits they made. “Now your time under house arrest won’t seem so bad. It’ll fly by,” Nicola reassures him. The group suffers a devasting loss but instead of learning a lesson, the tragedy only draws them further into the dark world of crime. 


Carpentieri is still very active in theater, having served as the artistic director of the Neapolitan stage company, Libera Scena Ensemble, since the mid-‘90s. His latest role is opposite Sophia Loren in Netflix’s newly released, “The Life Ahead,” directed by the screen legend’s son Edoardo Ponti. 

Stream Renato Carpentieri's films on Amazon...


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the December issue of Fra Noi Magazine

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Filippo Meneghetti’s "The Two of Us" is in the Virtual Cinema Line-up of the Hamptons International Film Festival

Filippo Meneghetti’s feature film debut, a French/Belgium production, will be available across the United States in the Hamptons International Film Festival’s Virtual Cinema, October 9 - 14. 

“Deux” (The Two of Us) follows two retired women living across the hall from each other. To the outside world, including Madeleine’s family, they are merely neighbors, but in reality the two have been carrying on a secret love affair for decades. When an unexpected incident intercedes in their previously blissful happiness, their carefully crafted story begins to unravel.  Click here to purchase tickets for the virtual screening. Click here to purchase tickets for a panel discussion on the challenges of contemporary filmmaking. Meneghetti will be on the panel along with three other filmmakers. 

Meneghetti was born in Italy in 1980 and studied Film Directing and Anthropology at the Sapienza University of Rome. In 2009, he made his documentary debut with “Maistrac: Lavorare in Cantiere.” Three years later, his short film “L'intruso,” won the Audience Award at the Angers Film Festival. "Deux" originally premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Discovery program.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Reflections on Two Contemporary Classics

"In viaggio con papà" 

I am working on an article that makes reference to Paolo Sorrentino’s "The Great Beauty," so I watched it again over the weekend. I really enjoyed Carlo Verdone’s scenes even more this second time around because the role is such an aberration for him. Being a soft-spoken, failed writer whose last line is “Rome has really disappointed me,” in my opinion, is so different from any of his other roles. I think it was brave of him to accept it. Watching it again, I felt that his presence (and also Sabrina Ferilli’s) added so much authenticity to the film.  

Browsing his projects and interviews on YouTube afterwards, I discovered that a complete version of Alberto Sordi’s "In viaggio con papà" was recently uploaded (but taken down shortly thereafter). As I’m on a Sordi marathon after writing my first in-depth article about him recently, I had to watch it. Even without English subtitles, what an experience. Seeing them work their magic together is simply mesmerizing. Sordi’s beautiful, powerful laugh is still resounding in my head today. I also loved seeing Rome in the 1980s. Although the traffic along the Lungotevere hasn’t changed much, it’s romantic to see Verdone and Sordi right in the middle of it. I really adore these two. 

Watch this hilarious clip..

"In viaggio con papà" is hard to find the United States. I watched it with the closed captions on and found it hilarious that they couldn't always keep up with the non-stop dialogue between Sordi and Verdone. This film is an absolute treasure. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Jasmine Trinca Makes Her Directorial Debut with 'Being My Mom'

It’s a scorching day in a deserted Rome: mother and daughter are walking non-stop, dragging a large suitcase. The couple seem to be seeking one another, fleeing from each other, inverting their natural roles in continuation. Until, with just one gesture, the unexpected epiphany of their love is revealed before them. And so begins a new chapter for actress Jasmine Trinca as a director.

"Being My Mom is a metaphorical walk in the existence of two women, a mother and her daughter, two protagonists of nothing but their lives. We are watching them by chance; two creatures participating in existence, inessential for the world but essential for one another. It is a study of the bright and obscure paths of maternity and progeny," explained Trinca.

The film, which stars Alba Rohrwacher and Maayane Conti, boasts an all-female cast and crew, and has already made the line-up of two film festivals- Giovanna Taviani's Salina DocFest and Australia's nationwide Italian Film Festival. We'll keep you updated on future virtual screenings. In the meantime, click here to read my interview with Trinca. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The First Edition of the Matera Film Festival is Underway

The first edition of the Matera Film Festival is underway in the ancient stone city of Basilicata. A four day event featuring films from all over the world as well as books and art installations celebrating film, the festival is a physical event with social distancing measures in place. The first three days of the event count as the official film festival with the fourth to feature works focusing on culture, not in competition.

The festival was created by local filmmakers who have been prolific in the international filmmaking scene that has exploded in recent years, inspiring the region’s nickname- “Basilicata: Land of Cinema.” Among them are actress Annarita del Piano, co-president (with Dario Toma) of the festival, actor and artistic director Nando Irene, creative director Silvio Giordano and producer Enzo Sisti who will serve as the honorary president. 


Sisti is responsible for bringing international crews to Matera, starting with Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” up to the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.” Among the many films he has worked on are Richard Donner's “Ladyhawke,” Steven Spielberg's “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Terry Gilliam's “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” Martin Scorsese's “Kundun” and “Gangs of New York,” Anthony Minghella's “The Talent of Mr. Ripley” and the Academy Award winner “The English Patient.” His latest projects are “Wonder Woman” and the production of the first VR film ever made “Jesus - the Story of Christ.” Both were shot in Matera.


The festival opened on Thursday with the exhibit "Sassi, Nuvole e Lupi" (Stone, Clouds and Wolves), an installation dedicated to the city of the Sassi and the comic series "Dampyr." The exhibition is divided into two spaces. The first will feature illustrations of scenes set in Matera, created for "Dampyr" by Alessio Fortunato and "Martin Mystere" by Giuseppe Palumbo. The second will feature excerpts from the book “Pasolini 1964 - Beyond Matera and the Mediterranean” by Palumbo, Maurizio Camerini and Alessandro Manna. The book combines illustrations by Palumbo with texts by Camerini and Alessandro Manna combined with unpublished photos by Mimì Notarangelo that were taken on the set of Pasolini’s film “The Gospel according to Matthew.”

Among the guests in attendance are actor Franco Nero, screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone, journalist and film critic Alberto Crespi as well as numerous regional actors who have had parts in various productions shot in the Sassi.


There are a number of interesting discussions planned with local artists, writers and filmmakers, including a masterclass on editing and special effects hosted by two renowned Italian filmmakers, Leonardo Cruciano and Marco Spoletini.


The four-day event runs through September 27. Follow this link to view the full program.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Release Date is Set for Sophia Loren's New Film

The date has finally been released! Edoardo Ponti’s new film starring his mother, Sophia Loren and actor Renato Carpentieri, will premiere on Netflix November 13, 2020 and there is already Oscar buzz for Loren's performance. 

Based on the novel "The Life Ahead" by Romain Gary, Ponti cowrote the screenplay with Ugo Chiti. The film follows Momo, a Senegalese orphan boy who is about 10 years old. He is cared for by an elderly Jewish woman named Madame Rosa, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz and later became a prostitute in Paris. In their Paris apartment building, Madame Rosa made a small hideout in a cellar where she keeps artifacts of her Jewish heritage. The young boy tells the story of his life in the orphanage and of his relationship with Madame Rosa as her health deteriorates.

Bookmark this link to stream "The Life Ahead" on Netflix..

In the meantime, let's revisit a few questions in my 2012 interview with Ponti on the occasion of his premiere for "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars" at the Tribeca Film Festival. We talked about this very special mother/son collaboration and what it was like growing up with two cinema icons for parents.

Let's talk about your family. What was it like growing up with two icons as parents? Did you feel like a regular kid, or did you feel that there was really something extraordinary about your household and your childhood?
It was extraordinary how ordinary my childhood was. That's from the intellegence of my parents. We were not a true Hollywood family. We had a group of friends that had nothing to do with film. We were raised to stay grounded and to never take anything for granted.


Your mother and your wife have had leading roles in your films. What are those collaborations like? 

My father produced many of my mother’s films, so working with loved ones is natural for us. They are actors that I admire and they are part of my family, so it's quite natural for me and it's helpful in finding the right words to communicate. The lines of communication are already well-oiled and open.


I grew up watching your mother in films. I've seen her interviews, cooked recipes from her cookbook, and adored her for as long as I can remember. Tell me something, please, about Sophia Loren; the mother, the person and the woman when the cameras are off.

What's amazing is how grounded she is. She never allowed us to be seduced by her success or believe in the glamour of her profession. She is a woman who lives for her family and for her own personal growth. She has an enormous appetite to work and to tackle roles that she has not yet tackled.  It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is.. and I truly do. She is an exceptional human being.


You've had several roles throughout your lifetime: the son of icons, brother, husband, father, filmmaker. Do you feel that any of those roles stand out in defining you? The sum of everything I have is the total of everything I've done. There is no question that the most important role is my role as father. In the end, I am putting into the world two people and I am responsible in helping them grow up and also giving them enough space to be become their own people. It's a big responsibility. 

Click here to read the full story. 

Click on the image below to stream Ponti and Loren's 2002 film, "Between Strangers" on Amazon Prime. Click here to stream it on Vudu.. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Contemporary Italian Cinema Coming to a Virtual Theater Near You

A number of contemporary Italian films will be available to stream in the coming months. 

Gianfranco Rosi’s new documentary "Notturno" will be available via the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18 and if you're in the US, on October 6, via the Virtual Cinema of the New York Film Festival.

Having just premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the documentary film was shot over a three-year period along the borders between Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan and Lebanon. Rosi gives voice to a human drama that transcends geographical divisions and time, with encounters and images of the life that is impacted by the continuous tragedy of civil wars, brutal dictatorships, foreign invasions and interference and living in the shadow of ISIS. We hear it in the mournful cries of mothers, in the stammering of permanently wounded children and in a play about the senselessness of politics performed by patients in a psychiatric hospital. Rosi presents us with different stories that go beyond the conflicts. 

Click here to purchase a ticket in TIFF's virtual cinema and here for the New York Film Festival. (Scroll down to the films available on the 18th) Click here to read a review by Indiewire.

Pietro Marcello’s long-awaited US premiere of "Martin Eden" will take place on October 16 in theaters and virtual cinemas. 

When unskilled laborer Martin Eden meets Elena, the daughter of a wealthy industrial family, it's love at first sight. The well-educated, refined young woman soon becomes an obsession for Martin who hopes that his dreams of becoming a writer will help him rise above his humble origins to be able to marry Elena. With determination and at the cost of great hardship, Martin sets out to get the education that his class has never allowed him to receive. Finding support in an older friend, left-wing intellectual Russ Brissenden, Martin soon gets involved in socialist circles, leading not only to political reawakening and destructive anxiety, but also a conflict with Elena and her bourgeois world.

Click here to read our interview with director Pietro Marcello.

Perhaps to coincide with the release of "Martin Eden," Marcello's acclaimed 2009 film "The Mouth of the Wolf" will open for a virtual theatrical release also on October 16 through Film at Lincoln Center and other theaters. 

The film follows Enzo as he returns to Genoa after a lengthy absence. He crosses the city in search of places he remembers from before but they have been inexorably changed by passing time. He finds Mary waiting for him at the small house in the ghetto of the old city. His life-long companion, she has been waiting for Enzo to return from the prison where he was serving time.

A great opportunity is being offered by the Centro Nazionale del Cortometraggio (Italian Short Film Center of Torino) and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Watch one short Italian film a week for 10 weeks free of charge! The 2020 edition of "10 Shorts Around the World" features ten Italian short films available to stream.
You can watch these films in the United States thanks to the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco. Click here to register on the institute's website.  Click here for more information on the program.

CINEDAY is a weekly event and there are only 300 virtual tickets available for each film.
The Istituto Italiano Cultura SF has resumed the film series, which features ten Italian contemporary films, available to the first 300 people who register. Tickets are free of charge but you have to register every Sunday. The first virtual screening filled up very quickly. Click here to register as soon as the links for each film become available.

Luca Guadagnino's much anticipated HBO series "We Are Who We Are" has just premiered. The coming-of-age series from follows two American teenagers as they explore their true identities while living on a military base in the seaside town of Chioggia, Italy. Click here to stream it.

We are also waiting on a release date for Edoardo Ponti's new film that will star his mother, the divine Sophia Loren along with veteran Italian actor Renato Carpentieri. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for details on the virtual screenings. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Federico Fellini's Niece to Present Short Film at the Rome Film Fest

Francesca Fabbri Fellini with Giulietta Masina and Federico Fellini
Photo from "Omaggio a Fellini con I Bislacchi di Artemis/Casadei
An interesting short film will be included in the program of the upcoming Rome Film Festival.

"La Fellinette," a debut short film by Francesca Fabbri Fellini, the maestro's niece, will be shown in commemoration of the centenary of Federico Fellini.

Born in 1965, Francesca Fabbri Fellini is a journalist and writer, and the last direct heir of the great director. Her 12-minute film has been described as "a fairy tale suspended between dream and reality made in mixed media, partly in cartoon and partly in live action." Fabbri Fellini says the film's inspiration came from a drawing that Fellini made for her when she was a child after a walk on the beach.

We'll keep you posted on when the film will be available internationally. In the meantime, click here to follow Francesca Fabbri Fellini on Facebook where she communicates the latest on her adventures with the film.

The Rome Film Festival will run October 15 - 25. Click here to visit the festival online. Click here to see the painting that inspired the film.

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