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Monday, January 24, 2022

Cinematic Charmer Walter Chiari

The lightheartedness with which Walter Chiari graced the screen was a defining trait in his life. It led to dramatic professional successes as well as personal travails that seemed better suited for one of his movies.

Born Walter Annicchiarico in Verona to Pugliese parents on March 8, 1924, Chiari spent his teenage years excelling in sports, earning championships in boxing, bocce and swimming. During the early 1940s, he worked as a radio technician and bank clerk. While at the bank, he became known for his imitations of Adolf Hitler, which ultimately got him fired. That proved to be a blessing in disguise, motivating him to give acting a try. He started out in theater while maintaining side jobs as a cartoonist and writer.


At the start of World War II, Chiari enlisted in the Italian navy and contributed to the newspaper L’Orizzonte as a satirical cartoonist. In January 1944, he participated in an amateur stage competition in which he revived his imitation of Hitler. The performance was a hit and unofficially launched his acting career. Three years later, he landed the lead role in Enrico Scotti’s 1947 “Vanità,” and the following year, shared the screen with Alberto Sordi in Eugenio Devoto’s ensemble film, “Che Tempi.”

 

Chiari’s breakout role was as Alberto Annovazzi in Luchino Visconti’s 1951 “Bellissima” (Beautiful). Chiari’s breakout role was Alberto Annovazzi in Luchino Visconti’s 1951 “Bellissima” (Beautiful). The film follows Maddalena Cecconi (Anna Magnani) who answers a Cinecittà casting call for her 7-year-old daughter, Maria. After the Maria wanders off, she is spotted by Alberto, a handsome, smooth-talking talent recruiter. He becomes infatuated with Maddalena and convinces her to press on with her daughter’s auditions. Through this process, their lives are turned upside down. In a mad rush to train her daughter for the stage, Maddalena schedules a photo shoot for a professional headshot, enrolls Maria in dance and acting lessons, buys her a costume and pays off Alberto, who promises favors and preferential treatment. In the end, after witnessing first-hand the lack of morals within the film industry, Maddalena learns a valuable life lesson. Chiari calls on his natural finesse and happy-go-lucky quality to charm Maddalena and to give his character an air of indifference.

Chiari appeared in numerous films and stage productions throughout the ’50s, including Mark Robson’s 1957 American romcom “The Little Hut,” which starred Ava Gardner and David Niven. Chiari and Gardner fell in love during the making of the film and began a passionate affair.

 

The ‘60s also proved to be a prolific decade for Chiari. Among his many successes is Dino Risi’s 1964 feel-good film, “Il Giovedi” (The Thursday). The film takes place over the course of one Thursday when Dino Versini (Chiari) spends the day with his 8-year-old son, Robertino. Having separated from the boy’s mother, Dino has not been around for much of Robertino’s life and does not really know him. The boy whose mother is of upper class, proves to be wise and worldly beyond his years, teaching his father about honesty, integrity and responsibility. That one eventful Thursday spent together transformed the lives of both father and son.

In 1969, he married actress Alida Chelli but life was about to take a dark turn. Chiari’s recreational drug use was widely known within his film circles and was overlooked because of his profession. However, that all changed on May 20, 1970 when he was arrested in Rome on charges of cocaine possession and drug trafficking. He spent 70 days in jail, missing the birth of his only child, Simone. 

 

Chiari’s career did not rebound after his incarceration. However, he had success in an American production with Dino De Laurentiis as the executive producer. Based on the true story of mafia informant Joe Valachi, Terence Young’s 1972 “The Vallachi Papers” is a comprehensive account of the Cosa Nostra in America during the 1930s. The film boasts a spectacular international cast that includes Charles Bronson as Joe Valachi, Lino Ventura as Vito Genovese, Amedeo Nazzari as Gaetano Reina and Chiari as a hitman named Gap. The story is told from Valachi’s point-of-view as he recounts how he got involved with organized crime and the power transfers and bloodshed he witnessed along the way. Chiari is outstanding as a charming, confident jokester who becomes Valachi’s friend and confidant. His weakness for beautiful women ultimately does him in after he’s caught having an affair with the don’s wife.

 

Chiari continued to work in theater and film over the next two decades. He passed away on December 20, 1991 of a sudden heart attack. His son, Simone Annicchiarico, is a popular presenter and was cohost of Italy’s Got Talent. 


The aforementioned films are available to stream on Amazon. Click on the titles for direct links.


Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the February 2022 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Luisa Ranieri: A Contemporary Classic

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God” has advanced to the short list in the 2022 Oscar race. The film is available stateside on Netflix. One of the stars of the film is actress Luisa Ranieri as the eccentric, troubled Aunt Patrizia.

Luisa Ranieri

Born in Naples in 1973, Ranieri hit the ground running, finding her break out film just two years after starting her acting career. That project, a made for television movie on the life of Maria Callas in which she played the starring role, immediately made her one of the country’s most popular actresses.

After numerous supporting roles in both television and film, Ranieri scored the title role in Lodovico Gasparini’s 2016 miniseries “Luisa Spagnoli,” giving her another opportunity to portray a deeply complex character. The film follows the trailblazing entrepreneur who created the Perugina chocolate brand as well as a popular clothing line that still bears her name. 

“I was born poor like you and know how hard life can be.” That inspiring line was part of her speech to rally the female employees who were left to run her candy factory after the men were called upon to fight World War I. Spagnoli revolutionized the role of women in the workplace, providing them comprehensive benefits, allowing them to bring their children to work and offering them paid time to nurse their babies. After the men returned from the war, the women remained in their positions. The series also focuses on Spagnoli’s romantic life and sheds light on her love affair with pasta magnate Giovanni Buitoni. 

Luisa Ranieri as Luisa Spagnoli
Ranieri wholeheartedly embraces Spagnoli’s outgoing personality, courage and infinite creativity as she juggles running a business with being a wife and mother of three during the early 1900s. She radiates pride in portraying Spagnoli and takes command of every scene. Enchanting sets and a whimsical soundtrack, along with outstanding supporting performances by Antonello Fassari and Gianmarco Tognazzi, also play their parts in making the series both entertaining and informative.

At the other end of the spectrum is Fausto Brizzi’s 2016 comedy “Forever Young,” which tracks a group of friends and acquaintances ranging in age from 49-70 who can’t accept getting older. Ranieri plays Sonia, a 40-something single mother who advises her hairstylist, Angela (Sabrina Ferilli), to date a younger man. When Angela takes her advice, the two are not so pleasantly surprised to discover the young man is Sonia’s 19-year-old son. Ranieri shows off her talent for comedy while lending her character an introspective side. The film was a huge hit in Italy and features an exceptional cast delivering superb performances.  

"The Music of Silence"
Ranieri is also moving in a rare English-language role as the mother of the main character in “La musica del silenzio” (The Music of Silence). Directed by Michael Radford (“Il postino”) and based on Andrea Bocelli’s autobiography of the same name, the 2017 biopic delves into the Italian tenor’s life, from the loss of his eyesight to his love of music and rise to stardom. The main character of the film is Amos, the name Bocelli would have chosen for himself, as he explains at the outset.

Ranieri’s natural empathy comes through as she conveys the heartbreak of having to teach her son, with tough love at times, to be strong and make his way through a world filled with darkness. Ennio Fantastichini is wonderful in the role of a loving and outgoing uncle who urges Amos to embrace music, opera in particular. A beautiful soundtrack that includes Bocelli’s captivating voice accompanies much of the film.

Ranieri is married to fellow actor Luca Zingaretti, who is best known for his lead role in the popular television series “Inspector Montalbano.” The couple met on the set of Riccardo Milani’s 2005 miniseries “Cefalonia.” They have two children.

All the aforementioned works are available to stream on Amazon. “The Hand of God”  is available on Netflix. Click on the titles for direct links to stream them. The forceful performances, detailed set designs and excellent production values speak to the high quality of films coming out of Italy today and to why so many contemporary Italian films are available in the United States.

-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the January 2022 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

In Conversation with Enrico Vanzina

"When my father died, (Dino Riso) told me, 'If you need another father, I'm here for you.'"




Enrico Vanzina and his brother Carlo grew up during the Golden Age of Italian cinema with an iconic father who directed some of the most memorable films ever made. Stefano Vanzina aka Steno worked often with Mario Monicelli, Totò and Alberto Sordi, and brought us eternal classics like "Un Americano a Roma," "Piccola Posta" and Totò nella luna (Totò in the Moon).

Following in their father's footsteps, Enrico and Carlo made their feature film debut in 1976 with the comedy, "Luna di miele in tre." It would be the first film in a lifelong collaboration between the siblings until Carlo's untimely death in 2018. At the heart of those collaborations was Enrico as writer and Carlo as director. The two were known for their Christmastime comedies otherwise known as Cinepanettone. Enrico has recently taken on the role of director with the 2020 "Lockdown all'italiana" and the upcoming "Tre sorelle."


Italian Cinema Today contributor Sveva De Marinis talked with Enrico Vanzina in length about the inspiration behind his films, a few memories of the icons who shaped him, and the advice he gives young people embarking on a career in filmmaking. The original interview in Italian follows the English translation. Vanzina was so generous and eloquent with his answers, very little editing was done. 


Since our readers love Rome so much, and especially the most famous locations where Italian movies were set, what does Rome represent in your movies? And how is the evolution of the city expressed in them?


My bond with the city of Rome is very similar to the one (Ennio) Flaiano had, a love/hate relationship, meaning that I always want to escape from it but as soon as I leave I want to go back. It’s a weird bond. Rome is a very particular city, probably the most beautiful; there’s a sort of “permissiveness,” which is not “absolution,” that makes living there easier than in other capital cities, everything’s easier here; you can decide to go to a restaurant or to the movies, even just a few hours before and you wouldn’t have any problems. It works like a big town but it’s the capital. It’s a topic I know very well and that I’m passionate about. For 30 years I’ve written a column about Rome for “Corriere della sera” and being the son of the director of “Un americano a Roma” (Steno), I also have kind of a responsibility towards the city. I also think that one of the most amazing shots in Italian cinema is the ending of “Guardie e ladri" after Aldo Fabrizi arrests Totò. In the end, Totò drags Fabrizi away with him. They then walk towards Saint Peter’s cathedral…it was shot in a place that, in the '50s, when the movie was made, was almost completely empty, near Via Gregorio VII, and the camera shows you Saint Peter’s cathedral, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best shots in Italian cinema. It gives you an idea of how much Rome has changed throughout 40 years. Also in “Guardie e Ladri," there’s another important shot at the Acqua Cetosa when Aldo Fabrizi chases Totò; I’ve been doing rowing for years there, so that’s something that resonates with me. 


Watch the final moments of “Guardie e ladri".. 




The monumental Rome, luckily, hasn’t changed and that’s its strength. In other cities, maybe dictators and emperors called architects completely changed the face of it. In Rome, it’s not like that. Rome kept everything and that’s also why it’s so beautiful. When you walk across Rome, you can spot some ruins from the ancient times and, 100 meters ahead, you’ll see a baroque building or a medieval one or something from the Renaissance. There’s everything here. It’s like a lake in the African Savannah where all the animals go together to restore themselves at a certain time of the day. That’s what makes Rome so fascinating. It’s actually weird because, a few years ago, from a convention held by Paolo Meneghetti on the “Corriere della sera,” it came out  that me and Carlo are the ones who made the most movies about Milan. We wrote a lot about Rome, though. I’ve also written with my dad, probably one of the most well known Italian movies, “Febbre da cavallo,” and the Rome we describe there consists of a lot of the historical center. We’ve told a lot, we’ve shown the most famous places of Rome, but also the relatively new areas of Rome, such as Parioli. We've also shot in the suburbs, and we’ve always payed close attention to the dialogues. Someone from Balduina (one of the quarters of Rome) will speak in a way that is different from someone who comes from San Giovanni (another quarter of Rome). We’ve always considered the sociological aspect to be very important. We were convinced that using some images of a certain part of Rome could say a lot about our characters. 


Rome has changed a lot, but actually it hasn’t changed much. That’s probably because of the indolence of the administration. In the other capital cities, major public work projects were realized. Rome lacks of them; if a director wants to recreate Rome in the 1950s, he can easily do that, and that’s both good and bad because Rome will always keep that ancient atmosphere. That, for example, Milan doesn’t have. In Milan, you can easily show and represent the modern evolution. In Rome, it’s more difficult, but that’s also its charm. A big change arrived with Mussolini and the fascist architecture, like Eur, whose buildings and metaphysical structures have something De Chirico-like which was the last major public work project. Alberto Sordi, who used to live in Borgo Pio, would say that before the Fascism, to get to St. Peter’s Cathedral, you’d have to walk through a lot of little alleys and then, you’d end up in front of the Cathedral, and the feeling of amazement was similar to the one you get when you suddenly end up in Petra, in Jordan. Now we have Viale della conciliazione, which is very pretty too, but it gives away this surprise that you could get before. Same with the forum. Before, everything was a little hidden, and then you’d see the Colosseum. Nonetheless Goethe, Shelley and Stendhal, when they visited Rome had the same feeling of surprise and amazement.


Carlo and Enrico Vanzina on location in the US
You are among Italy's cinema legends, and you’ve collaborated with many other iconic figures from Italian cinema. Which collaboration impacted you the most?


Of course, the one with my brother. Among the 100 movies I’ve realized, 80 of them are (in collaboration) with him. That was a collaboration of intentions, we had the same point of view on life. With him it was easy, because he used to think the same things I used to think and vice versa. I've also collaborated with many many other wonderful people. Alberto Lattuada called me when I was 25 to write a movie based on the novel by Giuseppe Berto (“Oh Serafina!”). Two monumental figures of Italian culture trusted me with their work, and for me, being so young, it was a real honor. 


Another important collaboration, both on a work and a human level, was the one with Dino Risi. We made smaller movies together. When my father died, he told me, “If you need another dad, I’m here for you." That was wonderful. [I recall] his simplicity, his practical way of telling stories, his humor and also his vast knowledge.


I also worked with Lina Wertmüller and Gigi Magni. These are the people who make you understand that behind Italian comedy, there were highly intelligent and cultured individuals. People who did comedy didn’t think that it was a minor/less important genre. All the important writers I’ve worked with, the ones that did comedy, would have been able to teach college literature. The “Commedia all’italiana” was different from other genres. It could tell stories that were apparently simple but with a deeper meaning behind them. That’s why it’s different from the other comedies, both from the American one, the sophisticated comedy, and from the French one, which comes from Vaudeville. Our comedy deals with something dramatic, but it tells it in a light way, and this way, it gets deeper.

 

What do you think American and Italian comedy have in common? 


Flaiano used to say that every drama becomes a comedy as time goes by. Because of the tone of a screenplay, even the most dramatic one, after 20 years, if it’s not a masterpiece, it becomes redundant and fake. But comedy is created with a different premise; if something is funny, it’ll always be funny, and that’s how it is also for American movies. On the other hand, the actors in American comedies are far more manufactured . But the most perfect comedy ever is “Someone Like it Hot."


Italian actors and writers work in a totally different way. American actors usually use Stanislavskij and they tend to totally become the characters they’re playing, almost forgetting about themselves. Italian actors don’t work like that. If you think about Alberto Sordi or Totò, you can see that there’s always a little bit of himself in every character he plays. Also if you think about Mastroianni, they were always themselves. In their characters, there was always some of their humanity, and that goes for French actors too, like Jean Gabin. Most of the American actors play roles, but that is not true for all of them. Some actors, that work in other genres, for example, some dramatic ones, like John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart managed to keep themselves in every character.

 

What's your advice to writers just starting out?


I’d tell them not to start from a script but from a topic, a subject. When you start from a subject, it has to be something that maybe you can tell in a few minutes, and most of all, it has to be something that the writer knows. He should write many things about the reality that surrounds him. When you send a bad script to a producer, if he doesn’t like it after reading 10 pages, he’ll throw it out, something that maybe you’ve spent four months on. It’ll take just a few minutes to understand if he likes a subject. You always have to start from a subject.

 

Among the many movies you’ve made, is there one that has a special place in your heart?


People often ask me if there was a movie I would have loved to do but never have. I’ve done so many, that I think I’ve done everything I wanted to, but there’s only one small regret. With my brother Carlo, right before he died, we wanted to make an Italian western, spaghetti western, but we couldn’t do it because right now western movies are looked at in a suspicious way. We would have loved to make it with some Italian dramatic actors. It would have been interesting, but I don’t think I’ll do it in the future. 


For what concerns the movies I made, I’m like a dad with many children, and it’s often easier to get attached to the less successful ones. Among the most successful ones, I’d say “Sapore di mare” because thanks to it, we understood what we would have done next: ensemble movies where we mix humor and emotions. Among the least successful ones, “Il cielo in una stanza,” the first movie Elio Germano starred in. The plot was amazing, it would have been loved in the US. The other actor was Gabriele Mainetti, who is now a director. That movie is precious, a movie that is set in the past but in the present too. It wasn’t a huge success but I think it’s the most emblematic to understand what I would have done later in my career.

 

Who or what do you admire the most in the American cinema?


I consider American cinema, “THE” cinema. The US has created the best of the new craft of cinema that had just been created. I’m a huge American cinema lover. John Ford used to say that American cinema was Western above all because it was the genre that suited the American way of thinking, which is always moving, and always discovering new lands. 


I think that “Stagecoach” is the best movie of all time. I’ve shot many many films in the US. I love it there. When I was shooting a movie in Monument Valley, one day, we had to shoot a scene at dawn with many Navajo extras. On that occasion, I gifted myself by paying 100 dollars to a native to let me ride a horse, which is something I’m passionate about. I rode into the desert, to the dawn. It was one of the best moments of my life.


Carlo and I also did another movie (in the US), a generational comedy called, “Mai Stati Uniti." We shot a scene at Mount Rushmore because one of our favorite movies is “Death by Northwest." We are famous for our comedies but we’ve also realized some genre movies. For example, one of the most famous Italian thrillers, “Sotto il vestito niente,” is totally inspired by Brian De Palma’s work.

 

If you’d have to describe with one adjective your screenwriting style, which one would you use?


I’ve always tried to keep in mind the greatest masters of the cinematic craft, Billy Wilder, but also Hitchcock, and in Italy, the greatest of the Italian comedy like Age & Scarpelli. These are all directors and authors that have the ability to observe reality and talk about it with great simplicity. Another important thing that I got from them is the use of music. Cinema puts together music and images, and it’s crucial, as Dino Risi taught me. If you use the music in the right way, you immediately give your film context. Everything that you can tell with images, is better than to tell it with words. I don’t like “nervous” movies, I like movies where you can use less dialogue, and that’s basically the same thing that happened with silent movies. Movies are movement. Everything that you can tell with images is better than telling it with words. The number one rule is simplicity, and the other one is not to be judgmental. Italian comedy has always respected everyone’s reasons without completely absolving them. We shouldn’t do moralistic and manichean movies. Movies have to tell what life is really about, and in the end, life is its own judge.



Intervista, Versione Italiana..


Visto che i nostri lettori sono molto affezionati a Roma e soprattutto alla Roma dove sono stati girati alcuni film storici del cinema italiano, cosa rappresenta Roma nei suoi film e, inoltre, l’evoluzione della città ha avuto una corrispondenza nel suo modo di fare film?


Allora, io sono legato a Roma da un rapporto come quello di Flaiano, un po’ amore e odio, passo la mia vita con l’idea di scappare da questa città, ma appena me ne vado non vedo l’ora di tornare. C’è questo rapporto strano perché Roma è una città particolare, la più bella del mondo. C’è questo permissivismo, che non è assoluzione, un modo di vivere che rende la vita migliore che in altre città. Una modalità in cui è tutto facile, a New York se vuoi andare in un ristorante, a teatro devi prenotare molto prima. Qui all’ultimo momento decidi di andare a un teatro, a un ristorante, puoi farlo. È una grande città di provincia me in realtà è una capitale. Stabilito questo rapporto, io ho dei fondamentali all’inizio al riguardo. Da 30 anni ho una rubrica su Roma sul “Corriere della sera”. Quindi è un argomento che conosco molto bene e che mi appassiona. Ovviamente essendo il figlio del regista di “Un Americano a Roma” ho anche una certa responsabilità. Io penso che una delle più belle inquadrature del cinema italiano sia il finale di un film di mio padre e Mario Monicelli, “Guardie e ladri” quando Totò viene arrestato da Fabrizi che lo porta in carcere, alla fine Fabrizi vorrebbe non portarlo più ed è Totò che lo tira, meravigliosa. Questa scena è girata in un posto che all’epoca, negli anni 50, era straordinariamente vuoto, la zona dove ora è stato costruito tutto il complesso di Gregorio VII, e sullo sfondo si vede San Pietro. Quello dà l’idea di come in 40 anni questa città è veramente cambiata. Sempre in “Guardie e ladri”, l’inseguimento all’Acqua Cetosa tra Totò e Fabrizi, si fermano, si parlano, ricominciano a inseguirsi. Tutta quella scena è girata dove adesso io faccio canottaggio da tanti anni, tutta la zona sportiva dell’acqua certosa. Sono cose che mi colpiscono molto. La Roma monumentale, per fortuna non è cambiata, questa è la forza di Roma. Roma è la città più bella del mondo, perché nelle altre città di solito arriva un dittatore/un imperatore con un architetto che rifa tutto e butta giù la città. Roma invece, per indolenza, per intelligenza, ha mantenuto tutto. Nel giro di 500 m trovi una cosa dell’antica Roma, una cosa del medioevo, una cosa rinascimentale, una cosa barocca, una cosa del 700, fino all’architettura fascista. È come un lago della savana, in Africa dove tutti gli animali vanno a bere, stanno tutti uno vicino all’altro, a una certa ora del giorno. Questo rende Roma così affascinante. Da un convegno fatto da Carlo Meneghetti sul Corriere della Sera, è emerso che io e Carlo siamo state le persone che hanno fatto il maggior numero di film su Milano. Perché abbiamo fatto metà dei nostri film su Milano, poi in giro per il mondo e poi molti a Roma. Di Roma abbiamo raccontato tantissime cose. Inoltre io sono anche l’autore insieme a mio padre di uno dei film più conosciuti su Roma “Febbre da cavallo” , dove però c’è una Roma molto “centro referenziale”, si riferisce molto al centro. Noi abbiamo raccontato un po’ tutto, alcuni film, nella Roma di sempre, quella di Gigi Magni, Piazza Farnese, Piazza di Spagna, Via Giulia, la Roma più famosa. Ma abbiamo anche frequentato i quartieri della nuova Roma, della borghesia arrembante, Parioli, Fleming, Vigna Clara poi abbiamo fatto diverse scene in periferia, abbiamo sempre avuto una grande attenzione su Roma, avendo questa grande tradizione alle spalle. Noi addirittura sul dialogo facciamo una differenza. Se una persona è di Balduina parlerà diversamente da una di San Giovanni. Tutte le volte che c’è una scena su Roma, è significativa dal punto di vista sociologico, abbiamo sempre pensato che attraverso le immagini di una certa Roma si poteva caratterizzare molto dei personaggi. La città è molto cambiata ma è cambiata poco, in realtà, per indolenza. Non ci sono state delle opere tali da stravolgere la città, se si pensa a Londra, Parigi, invece Roma è rimasta orfana di grandi opere pubbliche. Se si vuole rifare una Roma degli anni 50, la si può ricreare perfettamente anche oggi, non ci sono tante cose che hanno stravolto la città, lo skyline, è stato fatto molto poco. Pregio e difetto, perché d’altra parte a Roma rimarrà sempre quella patina un po’ antica, che poi è il suo fascino, che per esempio non c’è a Milano dove invece puoi raccontare l’evoluzione moderna; a Roma è difficile. 

A proposito di questo, a un certo punto c’è una frattura con Mussolini, che introduce nel cuore della città alcune opere, architettura anche bella, al di là dell’ideologia. L’Eur è molto bello, ed è l’ultima opera di grande infrastruttura. Però il tutto ha creato anche dei problemi. Alberto Sordi raccontava che, era nato a Borgo Pio, vicino San Pietro, per arrivarci, prima del fascismo, si facevano delle stradine, e, poi di colpo, ti trovavi davanti San Pietro, un effetto straordinario, effetto come Petra in Giordania. Ora anche è molto bello con Viale della Conciliazione, ma rompe questo effetto di incantesimo che c’era prima. Stesso discorso per i Fori. Prima era tutto nascosto e poi arrivavi al Colosseo. È un po’ cambiato tutto. Il lato metafisico, De Chirichiano dell’architettura fascista, ha un suo fascino. Goethe, Shelley, Stendhal, i grandi viaggiatori, ebbero la stessa impressione di meraviglia. Oggi tutte queste cose le vedi da lontano. 


Lei è un monumento del cinema italiano, e ha lavorato con i più grandi del cinema italiano. Qual è la collaborazione che l’ha toccata di più?


Naturalmente quella con mio fratello, abbiamo fatto 80 film insieme, dei più di 100 che ho fatto io. È chiaro che quella era una collaborazione di intenti, una visione del mondo identica, anche come scelta stilistica. Indubbiamente con Carlo è stato qualcosa di semplice, perché quello che pensavo io, lo pensava lui e viceversa. Con altre persone ho avuto delle collaborazioni meravigliose, però. Ricordo il primo film che ho scritto, fu proprio Alberto Lattuada che mi chiamò per un film, sua opera prima, per un film tratto da un romanzo di Giuseppe Berto. Io a 25 anni fui chiamato per scrivere insieme a loro. Questa è una cosa che non dimentico, la generosità di due monumenti assoluti della cultura italiana, che si affidarono alla collaborazione di un ragazzo di 25 anni, fu una cosa molto importante. Poi ho dei ricordi meravigliosi, di Dino Risi, anche se ho fatto dei film minori con lui. È stata un’altra persona centrale nella mia vita, anche umanamente; quando morì mio padre, in chiesa mi disse “ se hai bisogno di un secondo papà io ci sono”, una cosa meravigliosa. La sua semplicità, il suo modo concreto di raccontare le cose, il suo umorismo ma anche la sua grande cultura. Poi ho lavorato con la Wertmuller, con Gigi Magni, tutti registi che ti fanno capire che dietro la commedia all’italiana c’erano persone di un’intelligenza e di una cultura superiore, oggi questo si è dimenticato. Chi faceva la commedia non pensava che fosse un genere minore, tutti i grandi scrittori, con cui ho anche collaborato, quelli che facevano la commedia, tutti i grandi eroi della scrittura del grande cinema italiano, erano persone che avrebbero potuto insegnare letteratura all’università. C’era questo rapporto con la cultura, che veniva presa con molta leggerezza; raccontare delle storie apparentemente leggere ma con un significato profondo. Anche perché la commedia all’italiana è diversa dalle altre, da quella Americana, la sophisticated comedy, da quella francese che viene dal vaudeville. La nostra tratta un argomento drammatico raccontandolo in maniera leggera, in cui quindi la profondità è maggiore.


A proposito di questo, cosa pensa che abbiano in comune la commedia italiana e quella americana?


Flaiano diceva che col tempo quasi tutti i film drammatici si avviano a diventare comici. Effettivamente, un film drammatico che non è un capolavoro, per una questione di tono, a distanza di 20 anni diventa ridondante oppure falso, invece la commedia parte da un presupposto incredibile : se una cosa fa ridere, fa ridere, e fa ridere sempre. I piccoli film di Stanlio e Olio fanno ridere ma come faceva ridere Totò. Totò faceva ridere negli anni 50 e fa ridere ancora oggi i ragazzi. Stesso discorso per il cinema americano. La commedia americana ha un tasso di costruzione sugli attori molto forte, nonostante il frutto della commedia più perfetta di tutti è “A qualcuno piace caldo”. 

Nei film italiani gli attori e gli autori usano un sistema completamente diverso. Gli attori americani usano metodi, tipo stanislavskij, che li porta a entrare totalmente nel personaggio, quasi dimenticandosi di loro stessi. Gli attori italiani no. Se si pensa per esempio a Sordi o a Totò, c’è sempre un po’ di loro, della loro umanità in tutto quello che fanno. Facevano tantissimi personaggi ma erano sempre loro, anche Mastroianni, o in Francia, Jean Gabin. Quindi, rimanendo loro stessi, portano un tasso di umanità personale molto forte. Ci sono anche degli attori americani comici che sono dei geni assoluti, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, però fanno dei ruoli, è diverso. Non tutti però. In America questo è successo con attori di altri generi, magari drammatici, hanno mantenuto loro stessi nei personaggi, per esempio John Wayne, Humpfrey Bogart, ma comunque non sono molti.



Se lei dovesse dare un consiglio a un giovane sceneggiatore, qual è la prima cosa che gli direbbe?


Gli direi di non partire dalla sceneggiatura ma dal soggetto.

Quando si parte dal soggetto, deve essere una cosa che magari si racconta in pochissimi secondi, deve raccontare qualcosa che lui conosce. Scrivere tanti soggetti di cose che lui conosce guardando la realtà che lo circonda. Quando tu mandi una brutta sceneggiatura a un produttore, una cosa su cui hai perso 4 mesi, dopo 10 pagine la butta; se invece il soggetto gli piace in tre secondi lo capisce e lo chiama e glielo dice che lo compra. A quel punto lui rimane attaccato a quel soggetto, inizierà a lavorare con altri sceneggiatori più esperti, da cui lui imparerà molto scrivendo insieme a loro. Ma bisogna partire dal soggetto.


Tra i moltissimi film che ha realizzato, ce n’è uno a cui è particolarmente affezionato?


Spesso mi chiedono se c’è un film che avrei voluto fare e che non ho fatto. Io ne ho fatti così tanti che grosso modo quello che avrei voluto fare l’ho fatto, e spero di continuare a farne ancora un po’. C’è solo un piccolo rimpianto; con mio fratello avremmo voluto rifare, prima che lui morisse, un western all’italiana, uno spaghetti western. Però non ci siamo riusciti perchè il western in questo momento viene visto con sospetto da tutti, però secondo me era una grande idea. Usare degli attori, anche drammatici, del cinema italiano per uno spaghetti western. Quello forse è l’unico rimpianto che ho, e non credo che potrò farlo in futuro. 

Tra i tanti film che ho fatto, sono come un padre che ha tanti figli. Spesso quindi si vuol bene a dei film che sono stati meno fortunati. Tra quelli più fortunati, quello che mi ha cambiato la vita è stato “Sapore di mare”. Con quel film io e Carlo abbiamo preso consapevolezza di quello che avremmo fatto dopo, film corali in cui mischiare sentimento e umorismo. È stato un film molto importante. 

Tra i film meno fortunati, quello che per me rappresenta ciò che io considero il cinema di commedia in Italia è “Il cielo in una stanza”, film di debutto di Elio Germano. Aveva un soggetto straordinario che si potrebbe benissimo esportare in America. L’altro coprotagonista era Gabriele Mainetti, che adesso fa il regista (“Jeeg Robot”, “Freaks Out”). Quel film è delizioso, è il sentimento, l’umorismo, il tempo, un film ambientato nel passato e anche nel presente. Andò così così, ma secondo me è il più identificativo di quello che poi ho voluto fare nella mia carriera.


(Quando mi parla di sapore di mare, a me viene in mente questa patina di nostalgia, ma una nostalgia bella e romantica. È un film che amo particolarmente, soprattutto la scena finale.

È un film costruito sulla scena finale, è un piccolo romanzo di formazione, semplice ma con tantissima roba dentro, anche involontariamente, e magari te ne accorgi dopo.)


Chi o cosa ammira particolarmente del cinema americano?


Io considero il cinema americano “Il Cinema”. È proprio l’istruzione di un paese nuovo che ha usato e capito meglio quell’arte nuova del cinema che stava nascendo. Io sono un fan sperticato del cinema americano. Come diceva John Ford “ il cinema americano è soprattutto il western” perché è il più consono al pensiero di  questo paese in movimento, che scopre territori, e penso che “Ombre rosse” sia il film più bello della storia del cinema. Io ho fatto molti film in America, mi piace moltissimo. Quando ho girato a monument valley, una mattina all’alba dovevamo girare una scena con un sacco di comparse navaho, non ho resistito ho dato 100 dollari a un indiano e galoppato su un cavallo, cosa che faccio e mi piace molto fare. Ho preso questo cavallo, all’alba, col sole che nasceva, mi sono messa a cavalcare verso ombre rosse, straordinario, uno dei momenti più belli della mia vita. E poi noi abbiamo fatto un altro film, una commedia generazionale “Mai stati uniti”, film che era un viaggio attraverso l’America. Abbiamo girato una scena al monte Rushmore perché “Intrigo internazionale” è uno dei film che io e Carlo amavamo di più. L’America ci ha portato delle suggestioni e ci ha aiutato per moltissimi film che abbiamo fatto. Noi siamo famosi per la commedia però abbiamo fatto molti film di genere, ma uno dei film thriller più famosi in Italia, uno degli ultimi più venduti al mondo, “Sotto il vestito niente”, ed è un film totalmente ispirato a Brian De Palma. Per cui noi siamo sempre stati molto influenzati dal cinema americano. 


Per finire, le chiedo: se lei dovesse descrivere con un aggettivo il suo stile di scrittura cinematografica, quale userebbe?


Ho cercato di tenere sempre a mente i grandi maestri, per esempio Billy Wilder, Hitchcok, e in Italia i grandi della grande commedia all’italiana, Age & Scarpelli e sono tutti registi e autori che hanno la capacità di osservare la realtà e raccontarla con grande semplicità e con un altro grande punto, che purtroppo spesso viene dimenticato: il cinema è qualcosa che non prescinde dalla musica, che invece è fondamentale. Questo me l’ha insegnato Dino Risi. Quando tu usi la musica in modo giusto contestualizzi il film subito. Tutto quello che si può raccontare con le immagini è meglio raccontarlo così piuttosto che a parole, a me non piacciono i film nervosi, mi piacciono i film dove puoi evitare il dialogo, pensa al cinema muto, il cinema è movimento, tutto ciò che si può raccontare con le immagini è meglio. La regola numero uno è la semplicità, e la seconda cosa è non avere moralismi, in un film non bisogna mai dire questo è buono questo è cattivo. La commedia all’italiana ha sempre rispettato, senza mai assolverla, la ragione degli altri, non bisogna fare dei film manichei moralisti. Bisogna fare dei film che raccontano com’è la vita film e, alla fine, la vita si giudica da sola. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Amedeo Nazzari: The Once and Future Idol

He’s been referred to as the “mustachioed matinee idol,” but a newfound interest in 1950s melodramas has made him an international art house legend.

Amedeo Nazzari was born Salvatore Amedeo Buffa on Dec. 10, 1907, in Sardinia. Assuming his maternal grandfather’s last name and moving to Rome during the 1930s to pursue a career in acting, he found an immediate place in theater but had a tough time breaking into film because of his towering height and slim build.

Nazzari landed small film parts during the mid-’30s before scoring the title role in Goffredo Alessandrini’s 1938 “Luciano Serra, pilota” (Luciano Serra, Pilot), about an American pilot attacked by Ethiopian soldiers. The film was awarded the Mussolini Cup for Best Italian Film at the 6th Venice International Film Festival and launched Nazzari’s silver screen career.

 

Although he rose to fame during tumultuous times, and was personally invited by Mussolini to join the Fascist Party, Nazzari managed to stay politically neutral and worked prolifically in postwar Italy. In 1946, he won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Ernesto in Alberto Lattuada’s “Il bandito” (The Bandit), the story of World War II prisoners of war sent home from Germany.

 

Raffaello Matarazzo’s 1949 “Catene” (Chains) was the first in a string of dramatic films appreciated by Italians while neorealism had its grips on the international audience. Nazzari plays Gugliemo, an honest, everyday man working as a mechanic. When a thief pulls into his garage after the getaway vehicle breaks down, Gugliemo’s life spirals out of control. The episode leads to a reunion between Gugliemo’s wife (Yvonne Sanson) and her aggressive ex-fiancé. Although she begs him to leave her in peace, he doesn’t let up and eventually presents her with a deadly ultimatum. The film is featured in a wonderful scene in Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 “Cinema Paradiso” in which the entire audience is in tears. 

Anna and Carlo just can’t catch a break in Matarazzo’s 1950 follow-up, “Tormento.” Nazzari and Sanson play lovers facing impossible odds. When Anna’s evil stepmother berates her in front of Carlo, he takes her away to live with him. Anna writes to her father for help but her stepmother does not give the letters to him. When Carlo asks his shady employer for an advance, a fight breaks out and Carlo is wrongfully accused of murder. Just as he is sentenced to prison for 20 years, Anna learns that she is pregnant. Despite Carlo’s incarceration, the two decide to marry. Anna gets by working odd jobs while caring for their daughter, Angela, but the demands of motherhood become overwhelming when Angela falls ill. Carlo’s lawyer reaches out to Anna’s father who is so devastated to learn that his wife hid his daughter’s letters, he suffers a fatal heart attack. Anna feels her only option to save Angela’s life is to ask for help from her stepmother. She agrees on the condition that Anna give up Angela altogether and check into an institution for wayward women. The tears flow as she leaves but there is some redemption in the end. 

 

That same year, Nazzari costarred in Giorgio Pastina’s drama, “Alina,” with Gina Lollobrigida in the title role as a desperate woman trying to make ends meet. When Alina’s father died, Paolo, a family friend, took her in. With intentions of curbing the town gossip, he married her. A much older man, Paolo falls ill and Alina is burdened with becoming the bread winner. Having no skills, she resorts to smuggling drugs over the France-Italy border. During one of her jobs, she meets Giovanni (Nazzari), a card dealer in a high society French supper club. After their initial meeting in which Giovanni mistakes Alina for a burglar and knocks her out, the two develop a kinship. When Giovanni helps Alina and her cohorts run from police, he realizes his love for her and pledges to stay in Italy if they reach the border alive. Nazarri had the opportunity to offer bits of comedy relief in “Alina” and he embraced it.

A small but memorable part in Federico Fellini’s 1957 “Nights of Cabiria,” a decade later along with supporting roles in Henri Verneuil’s 1969 “Le clan des siciliens” (The Sicilian Clan) and Terence Young’s 1972 “The Vallachi Papers” brought Nazzari some international exposure before his death in 1979. 

 

Six of Matarazzo’s dramas featuring Nazzari are available to stream on Criterion Channel. The others are available to stream on Amazon. Click on the titles for direct links.


-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the December, 2021 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Rare Interview with Pasolini on Location in Basilicata

Photo by Domenico Notarangelo
I recently found a rare interview with Pier Paolo Pasolini on location in Basilicata while he was shooting “Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo” (The Gospel According to St. Matthew). The interview was posted by Rai Teche. The journalist also interviews Alfonso Gatto, a poet who was cast as St. Andrew. 

Pasolini shot in Basilicata (Barile and Matera) because of the structures and landscapes that he says reminded him of Bethlehem and Jerusalem and because of the simplicity of the people. He mentions here that the Albanian presence, which probably accounts for the closeups and casting of locals, was a factor in choosing the location of Barile.


He also explains that he made the film simply because St. Matthew’s writings moved him. He left the text unchanged, deciding not to add his own interpretation or spin. 


What a gift this journalist gave us. I just took a few soundbites and added subtitles to them. Click here to watch my subtitled, edited version. Click here to watch the complete interview in Italian on Rai Teche. 


Below is the complete text of my subtitled, edited version.


Once again, the Sassi of Matera is the background for a film. After Lattuada, Zampa and Brunello Rondi, Pier Paolo Pasolini has come here to shoot “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” 

Pasolini, let’s start with the obligatory question. Why did you choose Basilicata for this film?
I chose two or three places in Basilicata. One is Barile, a town of Albanians. I needed a place for Bethlehem. Another location is Matera because it reminded me of Jerusalem.

Is this the true, authentic Gospel or did you add a modern twist?
No, it is the Gospel. I followed word for word the text of St. Matthew. I didn’t add a single syllable to the dialogue. 

Why out of four Gospels, did you choose St. Matthew?
The reason is purely coincidental. In October of 1962, I was in Assisi exactly the day when Pope John XXIII arrived in Assisi. All of the events and confusion surrounding the Pope’s visit caused a traffic jam. So, I was forced to stay at home with my guests who belong to the Pro Civitate Christiana of Assisi. So, held up inside with nothing to do, I picked up the Bible on the table and started reading. I began with St. Matthew because it was the first, and then came the trauma of the story. Then I read the others but the intense trauma that gave me the idea of the film came from St. Matthew. So I stayed loyal to that first feeling of inspiration.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Alida Valli: Timeless Talent

Alida Valli was born Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg in Pola, Istria, on April 29, 1921. Christened a baroness, she became a movie star at the age of 15.

Valli made her screen debut as a lead in Mario Bonnard’s 1937 comedy “Il feroce Saladino.”  In an interview featured in Mimmo Verdesca's 2020 documentary, “Alida Valli: In Her Own Words,” she explained how her last name was changed to Valli. “The writer Amedeo Castellazzi and the director Mario Bonnard found it (Valli) in the phone book. Because Altenburger was a foreign name, it was a bit too long, and so Alida Altenburger didn’t sound right,” she explained.

Valli entered the film industry during a period in which Italy’s Fascist government was working on the construction of Cinecittà while producing its own propaganda films. Known as Telefoni Bianchi (White Telephones), the films of this era imitated American comedies and featured upper-class families, opulent art deco sets and the namesake telephones, which were a symbol of the well-to-do.

 

A fair-skinned girl with bright green eyes, Valli was a perfect fit for the genre, and her talents as an actress made her an instant star and a household name. Although she was on top of the world in the years leading up to World War II, heartbreak was waiting in the wings. 

 

When her first love, Turin aviator Carlo Cugnasca, was sent off to Africa at the beginning of the war, the couple exchanged dozens of love letters. In their writings, they confided their fears and dreams along with the hopes of seeing each other again soon. Sadly, that reunion would never happen. Cugnasca was killed in 1941. The death of her young love had a lasting impact on Valli, and she never forgot him. In 1968, she named her firstborn Carlo.

 

After signing a contract with American filmmaker David Selznick, Valli appeared in a number of successful international films during the ’40s. Among them were Alfred Hitchcock’s 1947 murder mystery “The Paradine Case”; Irving Pichel’s 1948 drama “The Miracle of the Bells,” in which she starred opposite Frank Sinatra; and the one she’s probably best known for internationally, Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir classic “The Third Man.”

 

Considered the greatest British film of all time, “The Third Man” is based on true stories about the black market in Vienna during the period preceding the Cold War. The storyline tracks American novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who arrives in Vienna to meet his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Martins is informed that Lime was hit by a car and died on the scene. Sensing that something is not right in the witness accounts, Martins begins his own investigation, which leads him to Lime’s former lover, Anna Schmidt, portrayed by Valli.

The chief investigator presents Martins with proof of Lime’s shady dealings. This includes having sold diluted penicillin on the black market, which led to the death or serious illnesses of children. Shortly thereafter, Martins finds out that Lime’s death was staged and begins to work with the police to bring him to justice.

 

Anna was in love with Lime. Although she learns about his nefarious dealings at the same time as Martins, her feelings don’t change, and she tries to discourage Martins from working against Lime. Anna feigns indifference, but you can see the pain in her eyes as she ponders tender memories of Lime. While Vallicomfortably inhabits the film noir genre, her performance is very contemporary and might have been delivered by any of today’s great actresses.

 

Upon returning to Italy in the ’50s, Valli was cast in Luchino Visconti’s 1954 “Senso,” a tragic story of unrequited love set in the 19th century during the Italian-Austrian war of unification.

 

Countess Livia Serpieri (Valli) is unhappily married to an older aristocrat. When she meets the young, handsome Austrian officer Franz Mahler (Farley Granger), she immediately becomes infatuated, and the two engage in a secret love affair. Before long, it becomes clear that Franz is only using her for her money. The affair is abruptly halted by the war, but that doesn’t stop Franz from hustling one last payout to bribe army doctors into keeping him from battle. Livia relents and gives him a sum of money meant for the Italian partisans fighting the Austrians, with dire consequences.

When Livia meets up with Franz again, she finds him drunk in the company of a young prostitute. Valli is a wonder to behold in this scene. Her heartbreak is palpable as she sits across from this young woman in Franz’s apartment, both of which were paid for with her money. The expressions of disbelief and horror on her face as the scene unfolds are the marks of a true artist. The lush technicolor cinematography, complementedby Valli’s long red hair and green eyes, at times seems like a painting. Visconti’s assistants on this masterpiece were artists in their own right: Franco Zeffirelli and Francesco Rosi, with Giuseppe Rotunno working the camera.

 

From the 1940s through the ’70s, Valli had her share of personal travails. She married, filed for divorce and reconciled with Oscar de Mejo. The couple had two sons before calling it quits in the 1950s. She rebounded with jazz musician and composer Piero Piccinio, best known for the lively soundtracks that accompanied Alberto Sordi’s films in the ’60s. That relationship brought years of torment after Piccioni was named as a suspect and later acquitted in the mysterious 1953 death of a young woman on the outskirts of Rome. Valli then married director Giancarlo Zagni in the ’60s, but they were divorced by 1970.

 

In the following decades, she worked with many of Italy’s cinematic auteurs, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento. She also enjoyed a standout career on the stage.

In 1995, Valli co-starred in John Irvin’s comedy “A Month by the Lake,” a sort of coming-of-age story for older adults. Valli embraces the role of Signora Fascioli, the proprietor of a luxury hotel on Lake Como frequented by wealthy tourists during the summer just before World War II. Signora Fascioli is a vivacious, warm caregiver who makes sure everyone is safe and taken care of, and celebrates their comings and goings. It was a natural role for her in a period of her life when she was considered both a role model and an artist with experience and wisdom. The perfectly cast film co-stars Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox, with Alessandro Gassman and Uma Thurman in strong supporting roles.

 

Valli worked right up until her death in 2006, making 10 films in the ’90s and early 2000s. Her timeless performances in so many different genres stand the test of time. It was her versatility that kept her relevant through so many decades of cinema. Her grandson, Pierpaolo De Mejo, is carrying on her acting legacy with his stage career in Italy.


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the November 2021 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Politics of Roberto Andò's Cinema

Born in Palermo in 1959, Roberto Andò began his career as a documentary filmmaker and went on to direct for the stage. In 1990, he worked as a liaison to Francis Ford Coppola during the filming of “The Godfather: Part III.”

A decade later, he made his feature film debut with “Il manoscritto del Principe” (The Prince's Manuscript), which was produced by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso). Andò’s international breakout film came in 2013 with the comedy “Viva La Libertà,” the story of a politician who disappears after polls show him behind in an upcoming election. In an effort to keep the disappearance quiet, his aide (Valerio Mastandrea) comes up with a scheme to have him replaced by his twin brother who suffers from bipolar depression. Overcoming the obstacles, he wows the public, quickly turning the poll numbers around. Veteran stage and screen actor Toni Servillo is brilliant playing both brothers. 

 

Andò’s next film carried the political theme, this time in the form of a thriller. “Le confessioni” (The Confessions) weaves money, power and politics to give a contemporary portrait of the effect of capitalism throughout the world and how a select few economists, lacking in moral ground, are worsening the lives of the weak for their own benefit. A monk (Servillo) is at the center of a suspicious death and through his silence and wisdom, calls out the corruption. Given the timeliness of the subject matter, the film was wildly successful worldwide and generated lively discussions wherever it was shown.


"Le confessioni"


“There was the idea to put together different worlds talking about how politics has become completely concentrated. The other is the idea to have a central character to shape different aspects,” explained Andò in our interview when the film premiered in New York at Lincoln Center’s annual series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. He went on to describe Servillo’s character, “You can't understand who he is or where he's from. Of course he is a monk. You see that but he appears like a visitor and then he’s disappearing in the same way. He creates an atmosphere of mystery but with empathy and a sense of pity.”

 

Addressing the relevance of the film, Andò touched on the way in which money can have adverse effects when controlled by a select few. “What was interesting for me is that today, we are in a particular moment in our history. And we see that we have a world, a lot of money but in very few hands. This is something that is creating a lot of problems everywhere. But the movie is not an essay, so the idea was to have a group of people involved in politics during the meeting that are obliged to react to something unexpected,” he said.

 

“Viva la libertà”
Both films demonstrate the ease with which Andò and Servillo work together. He credits that ease to the generational similarities between the two. “We are the same age. We started at the same time with theater. So, I can relate well to him. He is always the first actor I think of for a story because he always brings something new to cinema.” He added, “Toni is perfect to tell this kind of story. He has this face in which you can also read something that is unsaid.”

 

Andò believes the film was received so well around the globe because the story is relatable regardless of where one lives. “I think it's a moment which is happening also in Italy, in Europe, in London. We have seen Brexit. There is this paradox. They don't have any protection from economics. Now that everything is completely separating, they are obliged to invent politics, to do something that is a real strategy. What is interesting in the movie is that everything is in relation to these people and the fact that in this hotel, there is a tragic event, completely unexpected. What is interesting is the reaction from everyone. 

 

“The Confessions” is available to stream on Amazon and Tubi. “Viva la libertà” is available on Tubi. Andò’s new film, “Il bambino nascosto,” the story of a child of Camorra and his piano teacher, premiered out of competition at the Venice Film Festival in September.


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the October 2021 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Transforming Childhood Memories into a Filmmaking Career

 

Manuela Filomena was born in a small town in Irpinia called Ariano Irpino, located in the region of Campania. Her bringing up contributed to her choice of professions. “Like most Italian families, Sunday has always been a holiday to share with grandparents, aunts and uncles. Perhaps hearing their stories, sharing the work week, and exchanging ideas unknowingly fed my imagination and pleasure in storytelling,” she told me in a recent interview. 

That pursuit led her down a long and varied path of international education, which began in England at Loughborough University where she studied art and design. During those years, she took film classes and discovered that editing was the part of the process she enjoyed most. She also developed an interest in writing. Her final project was a short film on environmental issues called “ A prayer for Earth,” which was shown at the university.

 

While pursuing an M.A. in film and television at the University of Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples, Fiolmena reached an academic and professional turning point. She was mentored in theoretical and practical filmmaking, which gave her the chance to hone her skills in shooting, editing and post-production while deepening her understanding of the creative process of storytelling.

 

“My final project, a short film “Goodbye Agnes,” was supervised by the Italian documentary film director Gianfranco Pannone who taught me to see the innate cinematic elements of daily life,” she explains. The film premiered at the 2018 Med Film Festival in Rome. It was awarded Best Editing at the Las Vegas International Film Festival and received the Award of Commendation at the Canada Short Film Festival.

 

The enchanting 13-minute film follows Enzo, a young man who does something special for Agnes, a young pharmacy worker for whom he is developing feelings. This act of kindness requires a bit of mischief, which, in turn, gets him into trouble with the authorities. But his benign intent and sincerity not only move Agnes, they inspire the investigator assigned to his case. 

 

A  Scene from “Goodbye Agnes”
Featuring panoramic vistas, inviting shots of the charming towns and warm, nostalgic light, “Goodbye Agnes” was shot between Filomena’s hometown of Ariano Irpino and nearby Trevico. “The idea came from a narrative challenge. Gianfranco Pannone had asked me to make as a final project, a short film whose theme was the sea,” she explains. She went on to say, “I reasoned with the idea that the sea could represent the place to be reached, the desire of the two protagonists and therefore not show it visually (as a directorial choice) and sew a story that could tell of the moment when the protagonist decides to invite the young woman for a trip out of town.”

 

Filomena is currently a Ph.D. candidate in comparative studies at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). During her first semester, she organized the second edition of the Italian American Film Festival held annually as a supplement to an Italian course taught by Dr. Ilaria Serra. “The theme of identity was an element that united the three films of this edition,” Filomena recalled. “During the course Italian America: Translating Identities, I studied the phenomenon of Italian immigration to the United States between 1880 and 1920, which led to the consequent creation of an Italian-American identity.”

 

Filomena finds her Ph.D candidacy a challenging and stimulating path. “Studying for me has always been a sort of therapy. The possibility of bringing stories to the big screen is not only a desire but also a way to express my point of view, how I see the world, how I see myself in others.” she said. She wants to dedicate her research to examining the intergenerational, female centered conflicts, giving space and voice to otherwise marginalized debates about women's issues. “I would like to investigate the similarities between the individuals (mainly women) across cultures but also aspirations and dilemmas, showing women not as isolated individuals but as socially located within the wider family and community."

 

Several of Filomena’s projects are available on her Vimeo channel, including her short film, “Goodbye Agnes.” Go to https://www.fau.edu/artsandletters/llcl/italian/italian-film-festival/ to check out FAU’s Italian American Film Festival.


-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the September 2021 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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