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Monday, June 10, 2019

Fabrizio Corallo's Insightful Documentaries on Two Cinema Icons

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Fabrizio Corallo was hand chosen by the family of Vittorio Gassman to make his latest documentary Sono Gassman! Vittorio King of Comedy. The film, which Corallo just presented at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, is a followup to his acclaimed documentary on one of Gassman's frequent collaborators, Dino Risi. The pair made 15 films together.

With Fabrizio Corallo at the MAXXI Museo, Rome
I spoke with Corallo while he was in New York. He talked so enthusiastically about both of his works, explaining that he was a journalist in Rome long before he became a filmmaker. So, he had personal knowledge and insight into the psyche of each of these giants of Italian cinema. When speaking about Gassman, I could hear the pride in his voice when he talked about the family's desire to have him direct the documentary. He didn't hesitate to take on the project. All he had to do was look inside himself for the essence of the film. "I was lucky to know Gassman. I was a journalist and we spent a lot of time together with friends and colleagues. He would tell fascinating tales about his experiences. I learned nearly everything I know about him just by being his friend."

Sono Gassman! Vittorio King of Comedy highlights the comic abilities of this otherwise intellectual Shakespearean actor who made the transition from theater and neorealism to the commedia all'italiana genre. The documentary was made with the same love and affection for his friend and colleague as his 2016 film on Dino Risi. Both feature intimate interviews showing a keen sense of humor the two shared, which inadvertently made them both icons.

In Dino Risi Forever, Risi spoke of his memories working with the likes of Sophia Loren, Ettore Scola and Dino De Laurentiis. He spoke of his passion for writing screenplays, "Writing was something that I really enjoyed." And Scola spoke of his collaboration with Risi. "I started working with Dino and I did about ten films with him in all." Risi spoke in depth about his friendship and collaboration with Vittorio Gassman, describing his first impression of Gassman upon as "A cocky yet likable young man from Rome with a swaggering air."

I saw the film at the MAXXI Museo while I was in Rome attending the Festa di Cinema (Rome Film Festival). Having covered mostly contemporary cinema during the last decade, I learned a lot from Corallo's documentary and it was poignant seeing this maestro now in his twilight years recall the Golden Age of cinema with an entertaining mix of humor and nostalgia. There were countless laugh-out-loud moments as Risi recounted his early days chasing girls and then reflecting on the Roman ladies who lunched. He also revealed interesting facts about shooting scenes of his films, including how he shot the Rome scenes of Il Sorpasso on August 15, Ferragosto, to capture the actual empty streets of the city.

The documentary was followed by a compelling Q&A in which some of Risi's most influential films were discussed by his colleagues Elsa Martinelli, Lino Capolicchio and Andrea Occhipinti. They talked about the making and legacies of Il sorpasso, Una vita difficile, I mostri and Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman). These are films that will never be forgotten because they document the lifestyle and social trends of post-war Italy. Not only are they artistic masterpieces, they are lessons in history.

Many of Gassman's and Risi's films are available to stream online. Click here to stream Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street on Criterion Channel.

Stream Bitter Rice, Il Sorpasso and Rhapsody (with Elisabeth Taylor) on Amazon...


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