Friday, January 31, 2014

Rocco Papaleo: Basilicata Coast to Coast

Born in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, Rocco Papaleo has been working in cinema, television, theatre and cabaret for three decades. He's a familiar face to Italians and a naturally funny person whose jokester ways have made for many funny skits on variety shows and television series while his keen acting skills have made him one of Italy's most beloved character actors.

Papaleo grew up in Lauria, a small city located in the province of Potenza in Basilicata. He moved to Rome when he was 18 years of age. Although acting seems second nature to him, it was not his chosen field. He originally majored in mathematics and planned on becoming a teacher. He had a change of heart after he saw how much a friend who was studying acting enjoyed her craft. It was not long after that change of heart that Papaleo starting working in the industry. He spent the first part of his career on stage and on the small screen and then moved to feature films in the '90s.

Basilicata Coast to Coast
Papaleo has been a star and popular figure in Italy since the beginning of his career, but the success of his 2010 film, Basilicata Coast to Coast, extended his appeal to international shores. The film documents the journey of four down-on-their-luck musicians and a journalist as they make their way on foot to a music festival on the other side of the region. The film is Papaleo's love letter to the Italian region in which he was raised, and if you know anything about Basilicata, you will appreciate the references that are made in this film, which include Basilicata's hero freedom fighter Carmine Crocco, its wine, Aglianico del Vulture, its patron saints, its traditions and its beautiful rolling countryside. Basilicata Coast to Coast made its North American premiere in 2010 at the film festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts the annual festival, which showcases the most innovative films in contemporary Italian cinema. I talked with Papaleo and asked him where he found the inspiration to make a film about a group of people walking across an entire region. "I like walking and I think it's very interesting for a man to walk to find a relationship with the earth and I think it's the most authentic contact to have with the earth. Each of the characters in the movie had his or her own problem, so I felt that walking was a good way for them to re-examine their lives and search for answers."

È nata una star?
In 2012, he teamed up with fellow comic, Luciana Littizzetto for the hilarious story about parents who discover their son is secretly appearing in pornographic movies. È nata una star? was co-written and directed by filmmaker Lucio Pellegrini and also stars Pietro Castellitto, the son of Sergio Castellitto and his wife, novelist Margaret Mazzantini. The role showcases Papaleo's genius comic timing, and some of his scenes will have you crying with laughter. His chemistry with Littizzetto is undeniable and the two beloved Italian comedians are a match made in heaven for this wildly funny scenario.


Un boss in salotto
The following year was also a prolific year for Papaleo. He once again stepped behind the camera to write and direct the comedy, Una piccola impresa meridionale. The film stars Barbora Bobulova who goes through great lengths to protect her politically incorrect family from the curiosity and gossip of the town. In the end, it's a story that demonstrates the strength of unity. He also co-starred in the 2014 New Year's Day release, Un boss in salotto in which he plays the role of Ciro Cimmaruta, a long lost brother with ties to the mafia who shows up at his sisters doorstep, immediately joining the family. Again, Papaleo manages to deliver a most hilarious performance, but also shows us the sentimental side of this petty criminal, especially as he gets to know his adorable niece and nephew.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MOMA & Guggenheim - NYC exhibiting Italian Art through Design & Futurism



There are two fantastic exhibitions on display in January and February in New York City.. The continuing exhibit of Italian Production Designer Dante Ferretti at MOMA.. and a new exhibit opening in February at the Guggenheim, which will present an overview of Italian Futurism. 

Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema
Until February 9, 2014

Dante Ferretti. Ferretti Labyrinth exhibition design. 2013. Mixed media. Courtesy the artist
Since 1969  has served as the production designer on over 50 feature films, 24 opera productions, and over a dozen television, museum, fashion, festival, and publication projects, working with the likes of fashion icon Valentino and directors Liliana Cavani and David Cronenberg, among others. His career-defining work has been done in collaboration with filmmakers Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini, and Martin Scorsese. In Italy, North America, and Britain, he has also created designs with directors Luigi Comencini, Marco Ferreri, Elio Petri, Sergio Citti, Mario Camerini, Franco Zefferelli, Ettore Scola, Dino Risi, Marco Bellocchio, Luigi Zampa, Franco Brusati, Luciano Salce, Tim Burton, Brian DePalma, Terry Gilliam, Julie Taymor, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Martin Brest, Neil Jordan, and Anthony Minghella. He has received the Academy Award, the British BAFTA, and the Italian David Di Donatello.

Held in conjunction with the film exhibition Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen 




Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe


February 21–September 1, 2014



Giacomo Balla, Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore), 1913–14. Oil on board, 54.5 x 76.5 cm. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

















The first comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism to be presented in the United States, this multidisciplinary exhibition examines the historical sweep of the movement from its inception with F. T. Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto in 1909 through its demise at the end of World War II. Presenting over 300 works executed between 1909 and 1944, the chronological exhibition encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater, and performance. To convey the myriad artistic languages employed by the Futurists as they evolved over a 35-year period, the exhibition integrates multiple disciplines in each section.





Saturday, January 11, 2014

Neapolitan Director- Toni D'Angelo brings Naples to New York City


Promoting new Italian cinema; that is the mission of the N.I.C.E. Film Festival (New Italian Cinema Events) and organizers choose cutting edge filmmakers who tell powerful stories about the issues facing their generation. The N.I.C.E. Film Festival takes place on both coasts of the United States with screenings in New York City and San Francisco.

I attended the 18th edition in New York City a few years back when among the new crop of filmmakers was Toni D'Angelo. Toni is no stranger to my readers. I first wrote about him way back in 2005 when he was in the very early stages of planning his first feature film. One can say that he was just following in the footsteps of iconic father, the beloved Neapolitan singer and actor, Nino D'Angelo. Toni called on his father's experience as an actor by casting him in his first feature film. The two proved to be a great team as they delivered a touching portrait of Naples with its beauty, its problems and its rich history. Una notte follows a group of 40-somethings who reunite after the tragic death of a close friend. After attending the funeral services, they spend the rest of the night catching up and visiting their old familiar places that they frequented when they were young.

I talked with Toni D'Angelo that year at the N.I.C.E. Film Festival.  He told me what inspired him to write this story and what it was like to work with his father.
 
With Toni D'Angelo at the N.I.C.E. Film Festival in NYC 2008

You just celebrated the North American premiere of Una notte here in New York at the N.I.C.E. Film Festival.  How has your film been received?                                               
New York has been a great surprise for me.  Most of the audience has been American, and they tell me afterwards that this is a story that can take place anywhere, not just in Naples.  So, it can also be a New York story!

Who collaborated with you on the screenplay?                                                    
I collaborated on the script with a very close friend of mine, Salvatore Sansone.  I told him that I wanted to talk about the defeat of our friends, the defeat of the upper middle class.  I wanted to talk about the destruction of Naples because of its current ruling class.

The movie, like its name, was filmed during the night.  Why did you want this story to take place at night?                                                                                                                         
Well, I believe that during the night, people are what they really are. During the day, people have to act professional and more correct.  During the night, you can portray the real condition of a man.

When I watched the film, I felt like it was a celebration of friendship, but also a love letter to Naples- its streets, its people and its magic...but also with its problems and the sadness its people feel for the things that are wrong. Is this how you felt while creating the screenplay?
Yes, exactly. I love Naples so much that I cannot stand to see it so destroyed, as is situation right now.  This film is my declaration of love for Naples. If you were born in Naples, you are Neapolitan, even if you live or grow up in another city.  In my case, I’ve live in Rome since 20 years, but I still feel Neapolitan. 

What was it like to direct your father?
My father is one of the best Italian actors that we have, but directors don’t really use him in original roles. Unfortunately, he always ends up playing the same role. So, this was a nice change for him.  It was easy to direct him. He was like a child who was learning something new about cinema. This independent style of filmmaking is new to him, so he was curious and eager to understand it.  I didn’t just want an actor for this role.  More importantly, I needed to have a face with which to describe the good side of the city; and who better than Nino D'Angelo, the clearest face of Naples to interpret this role.

Did he offer any advice, or did he just sit back and let you be the director?
He just worked as an actor. He respected me and the other actors.

His character is a very wise man. Did he improvise at all? Or did you write all of his dialogue?     
I wrote everything in the screenplay, but I told my father to feel free to improvise where he wanted while keeping the sense of what I wrote.

When you created the characters, did you already have any of the actors in mind?
Yes, I actually chose the actors before and I wrote the story thinking of them.

Is this film, Una notte, what you had hoped for it to be?
I am the director, producer and perhaps the distributor, too. It’s already a miracle that the film was even made and that it’s being shown around the world. I want the best for “Una notte” the best because I really love it.

What lessons did you learn in making your first film that you will apply to your next. For example, is there anything that you will do differently?                                                      
I would not change anything about Una notte. This is the power of the film. It’s a very poor film, meaning that it was made with very little money.  If I had more money to make it, it probably would not have been the same film.

What are you working on now?
I have more than a project in the works, but. I am being cautious because the second film is more important than the first. But I think that a good movie is not only the story, stories are similar and the same story has been told over and over.  What makes a great movie is the style in which you decide to tell it.

Check out my review of Toni D'Angelo's new film, Filmstudio, mon amour, which premiered at the 2015 Festa del Cinema in Rome.


- Jeannine Guilyard
 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Roberto Rossellini- Father of Neorealism

Fascist Italy during World War II was a dark period for Italian policy, and an even darker one for the future of Italian cinema. As the battlefield took over Italy, Cinecittà, their version of Hollywood, was shut down. By 1944, the studio had stopped film production altogether and was instead used as a refugee camp for Italians who fled the south. Since the compound at Cinecittà housed most of Italy’s movie sets and sound stages, the country’s filmmakers were left with nothing. So, what did director, Roberto Rossellini do? He took his cameras to the streets to document the human suffering of post-war Italy, and neorealism was born.
  
Neorealism is a style of filmmaking that uses real life situations and mostly untrained actors to tell character-driven stories that do not rely on special effects, formatted scripts or complicated camera angles. The director does not manipulate the audience. The characters do with their eyes, their struggles and their emotions as they are on a constant journey searching for the truth. Rossellini’s first documented attempt using this new technique was a film called Roma, citta apertà. The film showed the terror of Rome under German occupation. Rossellini was not trying to start a new style of filmmaking. It was just his way to work outside the studio as Cinecittà was out of commission. However, a new style was indeed born and all of Rossellini’s work that followed carried the same theme of truth. He felt that reality was far more interesting than fictitious, contrived stories. It seemed like he made a career out of separating himself from artists and in a way, considered himself more of a documentary director than a movie director. Rossellini used the camera as eyes, the eyes of the desperate characters that felt defeated by the economic crisis following World War II. His films told the story of the civilian and showed the way people suffered. 

Rossellini's post-war trilogy of neorealistic films includes Roma, città aperta, Paisa and Germania anno zero. The films were not commercial successes at first and critics were harsh in their reviews. However, Rossellini stayed true to his vision because the call to make films the way he wanted to, with an unyielding sense of truth and reality, was stronger than him. In the end, he gave up fiction all together and just made documentaries.

In 2005, the director's daughter, Isabella Rossellini paid tribute to her father at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. There, she presented a short film that she wrote  about her father and his contribution to Italian cinema. My Dad is 100 Years Old features a cast of characters who played important roles in her father's life and career. Among those characters are Federico Fellini, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and Roberto Rossellini's longtime love, Ingrid Bergman. Isabella said that part of the reason why she made the film was to express the complication of having a father who was also a genius. In the film, her father was represented as a large belly that wiggled as he spoke. There was no face, only a chest and stomach. The choice to portray her father in such a way sparked public criticism from her sister. However, Isabella defended her choice, saying that when she was a child, she rested her head on her father's belly, and the thought still gave her a sense of comfort. She also found the belly funny and wanted to add a bit of comedy to the film. 

Watch My Dad is 100 Years Old..


Roberto Rossellini was a true artist in the sense that he didn't see himself as an artist and considered the integrity of his subjects more important than the commercial success of his films.


Basilicata in the Spotlight at the 2019 Los Angeles Italia - Film Fashion and Art Fest

Actresses Marianna and Angela Fontana will be presenting their new films at next month's Los Angeles Italia - Film Fashion and Art F...