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Monday, November 11, 2019

Elio Luxardo's Portraits on Display at Rome's Casa del Cinema

Curated for the Rome Film Festival, the photo exhibit, Luxardo e il cinema, consists of images of iconic protagonists during the infamous Golden Age of Italian cinema, including Alberto Sordi, Sophia Loren, Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida. All the works, which will remain on display until December 1, belong to the 3M Foundation archive, a permanent cultural research and training institution and proprietor of a vast photographic archive of about 110,000 images.

Through this exhibition, created in collaboration with Daniele Luxardo, nephew of the famous photographer, and curated by the photo critic Roberto Mutti, Fondazione 3M pays tribute to the great faces of Italian cinema. As a lover of cinema, Elio Luxardo had learned on the set to use lights in an innovative way to enhance faces. In his shots, the photographer manages to bring out the characteristics of each of his subjects, emphasizing the irony of one look and the seductive strength of another.

Elio Luxardo was born in 1908 in Brazil to parents of Italian origins. He initially established himself as a documentarian, learning the craft of photography from his father, a professional photographer. Moving to Rome, he enrolled at the Experimental Center of Cinematography with the dream of becoming a director. However, he left school almost immediately to enter the Sem Bosch photographer's studio and took over the business, quickly establishing himself as a portraitist. Precisely in this capacity, the photographer was appreciated by the Cinecittà stars for his ability to seek beauty in faces and bodies, and to create shots that were never repetitive.

The Luxardo e il cinema exhibition will be open to the public until December 1, 2019. Click here for more information.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Isabella Rossellini Pays Tribute to David Lynch

Three iconic women of Italian cinema took part in the Governors Awards on October 28 in Los Angeles. Sophia Loren gave a heartfelt tribute to her longtime friend and collaborator, director Lina Wertmuller, who received an honorary Oscar for her tremendous body of work that includes classic films like Seven Loves, Swept Away and Il Professore. Isabella shared the stage and translated Wertmüller's acceptance speech.

Rossellini gave her own tribute that evening to American director David Lynch. She told the story of how the two met at a dinner when Lynch brought up the script that he was working on. Helen Mirren had turned down the lead role, and he was wondering if perhaps Rossellini would be interested in checking out his script. Well she did and the rest is history. That 1986 film, Blue Velvet, instantly became a contemporary classic and has remained a masterpiece of American cinema.

The thriller co-stars Kyle MacLachlan and Dennis Hopper. Set in a a small North Carolina town, the film follows a creepy series of events following a bizarre discovery made by a local college student. Lynch created a surreal world inside this film and it would go on to set the stage for the acclaimed television series and films that he made throughout the 1990s, which include Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive.

Check out Rossellini's tribute and click on the link below to stream the film..

Watch Blue Velvet..

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Interview: Director Pietro Marcello on 'Martin Eden'

Adapted from the novel by Jack London, Martin Eden is the story of an unskilled laborer. When he meets Elena, the daughter of a wealthy industrial family, it's love at first sight. So as not to feel inferior to Elena's upper class lifestyle, he sets into motion his dreams of becoming a writer, hoping that it will help him rise above his humble origins. The steps he takes in achieving his goals turn out to change his life and his perspective. He experiences a "political awakening" and questions Elena's bourgeois world.

The film made its world premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and was recently shown at the New York Film Festival. That's where our NYC correspondent Lucia Grillo caught up with the director, Pietro Marcello. They talked about his Italian adaption of an American novel and why he immediately had actor Luca Marinelli in mind to play the title role.

Tell us about the challenges of adapting a book for cinema..
It was a very free transposition of Martin Eden. The Italian Martin Eden tells the story of Naples, of the south of Italy. The European Martin Eden was like a free passage because we don't have the culture of the sea. We don't have an Atlantic Ocean or a Pacific Ocean. We have Pasolini and Carlo Levi. We have another kind of literature. We have the Mediterranean style. Our Martin Eden is more of a Countryman, more of a peasant, more southern- Martin Eden of the South. A book is a book in the sense that it (the film) will never be able to rise so high as in the novel. Together with the screenwriter Maurizio Braucci, we tell a story that is universal, that could be adapted anywhere. It’s a story of redemption, that of Martini Eden, an archetype like Hamlet or like Faust.

What would you like for the audience to take away after seeing this film?
I would like the film to be seen by young people who can understand the possibility of redemption, the redemption of all of those who have not had privileges and experiences that were formed in schools but through everyday life. This is a bit of a metaphor for Martin Eden. It’s a film about the twentieth century and is the story of Martin Eden, and of those in the twentieth century.

Martin Eden suffers after having a political awaking. He suffers from anxiety.
Yes because it's a very contemporary story in the sense that it's a bit of Jack London's story- because Jack London becomes a victim of the cultural industry, modern mass literature. And Martin Eden himself represents this becoming a victim of himself who no longer relates to reality. This is why he becomes a hero. We are with him while he breezes through life but when he becomes a writer, he becomes confused and falls victim to his own individualism, and his vision of the world.

What was it like working with your lead actor?
It was extraordinary. I thought of Luca Marinelli from the first moment because I needed a person capable of being able to transform himself into the film inside this parable of a sub-proletariat to become a writer. Luca Marinelli was the right person for this.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on distribution in the United States.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Sophia Loren Honors Lina Wertmüller

On this first "Female Filmmaker Friday" in November,  I’d like to pay tribute to two iconic women filmmakers who shared a tender moment this week at the Governors Awards in Los Angeles. Sophia Loren payed tribute to director Lina Wertmüller in recognition of the long overdue honorary Oscar that she received this week.

I subtitled the beginning when Sophia talks directly to Lina. I find the exchange so sweet and sincere as Lina is truly moved by the words of her longtime collaborator and friend. It’s such a relatable moment between these two great women, one 85 years of age and the other 91. How many old friends do we care deeply about but just don’t get the opportunity to see? It’s a beautiful moment and gave me the chills the first time I saw it. 

Watch Lina's acceptance speech...

The film that Sophia is referring to is called Blood Feud. It’s a suspense film that stars Loren along with Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini. It was made in 1978 and is actually available on Amazon. Below is the link.. Buona visione!

Click here to read more about Lina Wertmüller.

11th Annual Italian Movie Award Ceremony - NYC

The guests have been announced for this year's Italian Movie Award ceremony that will take place in New York on November 19. Among them are John Turturro, Claudio Bisio, Paola Cortellesi, Valentina Lodovini, Massimiliano Gallo, My Brilliant Friend actress Ludovica Nasti and New York Public Relations extraordinaire Sally Fischer.

The event returns after the successful 10th edition, which garnered a crowd of 32,000 spectators in the historic city of Pompeii last August and of course, following the great success of last year's awards ceremony in New York. The 2018 edition was broadcast by the Mediaset Iris networks, Extra and Mediaset Italia, exceeding a million listeners in Italy and abroad.

This year's event in New York will be held at the Frank A. Bennack Theater of The Paley Center for Media in Manhattan at 52nd St and Fifth Avenue. Renowned artists of national and international cinema are expected. One of the most anticipated awards of the night will be handed out to New York native, Italian-American actor and director John Turturro.

At the end of the event, a fundraising dinner will be hosted by Gnoccheria Wall Street's restaurateur Michele Juliano in support of "Research Against Cancer" by the Sbarro Health Research Organization (, directed by the researcher and oncologist Antonio Giordano. The dinner will take place on November 19 at 9.30pm at 100 Broad Street in New York. Tickets for the exclusive menu cost $200 per person and are tax deductible. To participate, you must book your spot by November 15. Participants will receive an exclusive invitation for the awards ceremony. Click here for details on both events.

Below is a list of the nominees..

Best Feature-length Film: “La Paranza Dei Bambini” by Claudio Giovannesi; “Il Traditore” by Marco Bellocchio; “Martin Eden” by Pietro Marcello; “Il Sindaco del Rione Sanità” by Mario Martone; “5 E’ Il Numero Perfetto” by Igor Tuveri. Best Documentary: “Arrivederci Saigon” by Wilma Labbate; “Selfie” by Agostino Ferrente; “Io, Leonardo” by Jesus Garces Lambert; “Diabolik Sono Io” by Giancarlo Soldi; “Dafne” by Federico Bondi. Best Short Film: “Anna” by Federica D’Ignoti; “Im Baren” by Lilian Sassanelli; “Frontiera” by Alessandro Di Gregorio; “Roba Da Grandi” by Rolando Ravello; infine “Goodbye Marilyn” by Maria Di Razza. Best TV Series: “L’Amica Geniale” by Saverio Costanzo; “Suburra” (2° stagione) by Andrea Molaioli and Piero Messina; “Gomorra” (4° stagione) by Francesca Comencini e Claudio Cupellini ; “The New Pope” by Paolo Sorrentino. “Made In Italy” by Luca Lucini e Ago Panini. Best Location: Comune of Matera for “007-No Time To Die” by Cary Fukunaga; Comune of Firenze for “Six Underground” by Michael Bay; Comune di Maiori (Salerno) for “Tenet” by Christopher Nolan; Comune di Torino for “The King’s Man – Le Origini” by Matthew Vaughn; Comune di Napoli for “Maria Maddalena” by Garth Davis.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Renowned Costume Designers Discuss Italian Cinema

“Doing Dustin Hoffman’s costume for ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ I realized he wanted to look pretty and Marcello Mastroianni was all over billboards so I thought Ratso Rizzo would see himself in a white three-piece suit.” -Ann Roth

An enchanting evening was had in New York tonight with some of the biggest names in costume design, and our NYC correspondent Lucia Grillo was there for the stories, nostalgia and insight. Among the guests were designers Carlo Poggioli (The Young Pope, The New Pope, Loro, Youth), Ann Roth (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient, Mamma Mia) and Donna Zakowska (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Kate & Leopold) with Piera Detassis, Eugenia Paulicelli and James Muyskens.

Lucia shared a few memorable quotes from the evening. Scroll through her photos and check out the films that were discussed. 

“The last costume I made that I loved was the bathing suit for Jude Law in ‘The New Pope’.” -Carlo Poggioli 

“When you think of Galliano or Dior, they always go to history. So “Italians are coming” was 1800s but it was camouflage for fashion.” -Donna Zakowska on the Fiat 500 commercial

“I made all of Jude’s clothes here but they had to have the feel of Italy.”
-Ann Roth on ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’

“I did Fellini’s last films. With Fellini, we didn’t have the the short schedule we have now. We would work for months and the producers understood. But now everything is so tight.” -Carlo Poggioli

Monday, October 21, 2019

Michele Diomà and James Ivory's New Film to Premiere in New York

It's just been announced that director Michele Diomà's new film, Dance With Me Again Heywood!, starring novelist James Ivory, will make it's world premiere in New York as a Special Event at the 2019 edition of N.I.C.E. (New Italian Cinema Events).

Heywood is a poet who works several jobs to make a living. He was a florist for a while and he's been working as a video editor ever since he moved to New York. Heywood lives a lonely life with two homeless men as his only friends until an expected encounter rocks his world. One morning, he meets a woman suffering from "Moon Butterfly Syndrome”, a condition that makes her invisible to everyone except carriers of the syndrome, such as Heywood. The two start seeing each other, often to go waltzing in secret on a Manhattan rooftop. At the same time, Heywood starts wondering whether he'll be able to ignore the prejudice cast upon him by people who could only see a man talking to himself in the streets, while in fact he was with the invisible woman. Will Heywood have the courage to be himself? This dilemma represents Heywood's challenge and the very core of this New York fairy tale, a film that combines two narrative threads while honoring the history of cinema thanks to the presence of James Ivory.

Diomà will be in New York to present the film on November 20. We will keep you posted on the venue and complete lineup of N.I.C.E. as soon as they become available. Click here to read my 2017 interview with Michele Diomà.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pierfrancesco Favino on his Portrayal of Tommaso Buscetta

Actor Pierfrancesco Favino is no stranger to American audiences. In addition to the Italian blockbusters that have made it to our shores, including Gabriele Muccino’s The Last Kiss, Roberto Ando’s The Confessions, and Ferzan Ozpetek’s Saturn in Opposition, he’s had significant parts in numerous American productions. Among them are Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons, Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna and a stint as Christopher Columbus in Night at the Museum. He even gave us a tour of Rome via his Vespa for CBS This Morning during the papal conclave of 2013. In every character that he becomes, Favino brings his signature humility and grace making his characters vulnerable yet strong in their convictions and above all, unforgettable.

His latest film made its American premiere at the 57thNew York Film Festival in October and is Italy’s entry for the Academy Awards. Directed by Marco Bellocchio,Il Traditore (The Traitor) is the true story of mafia informant, Tommaso Buscetta. The role is arguably the most important of Favino’s career. “It’s a story of a man who wants to die in his bed. It’s a tragic journey of a man,” Favino told us while he was presenting the film in New York. 

Tommaso Buscetta was born and raised in Palermo. The youngest of 17 children, he was the only member of the family to get involved with organized crime. He quickly moved up in the ranks and went beyond the confines of Sicily to work in Brazil and New York during his dealings with the Gambino crime family. Everything changed in 1982 after two of Buscetta’s sons were murdered. He was overcome by grief and decided to break the code of silence. He did it during the tumultuous 1980s when the violence of the Cosa Nostra crippled Palermo. Referred to as the Maxi Trial, Buscetta’s testimony eventually led to the incarceration of some 400 mafiosi. 

Our New York City correspondent Lucia Grillo sat down with Favino while he was there presenting the film at the 57th New York Film Festival. She talked with him about his portrayal of Buscetta and also about his upcoming projects.

What compelled you to take on this role?
Well I really wanted to do it so the first thing I did was try to convince Marco to take me. I was not offered the movie. I really did my best to be in the movie… because of him, because of Marco Bellocchio and because of the character and the meeting between these two big figures, Buscetta and Bellocchio. I was very curious to see how he would have handled that kind of man and mafia movie, which is something he’s never done. So I knew it would have been a great opportunity for me as an actor.

He did it in a very unique way. Watching the film, I was thinking of people who are not familiar with the story- would they realize the impact of Buscetta and this entire trial and the mafia rite because it doesn’t start with the violence. So for those of us who do know the story, we can follow but then it’s absolutely clear what the impact was on the people.
Well in the end, of course, there are different levels and one is the historical level and then there’s the personal level and I think that’s what people can empathize with. In the end, it’s a story of a man who wants to die in his bed and wants to survive, which is archetypical. It’s a tragic journey of a man. Then of course, there are all of the ingredients of the mafia movie but I really like the way Marco portrayed it because those people are not glamourous as we’re used to seeing. There’s nothing cool about them. Gunshots are real gunshots. There’s nothing that is action movie-driven. It’s more of a very unique way of looking at the inner life of this man and I think this has something that everybody in the world can watch and understand.

It’s kind of like here where we have mainly African American youth when they get to the age of 30, it’s a celebration because there’s so much violence in inner cities still that if they reach age 30, it’s the exact same thing.
Well, I wasn’t born in Sicily in the 20s, so I can’t really know what it was like and why he decided to embrace mafia because he doesn’t come from a mafia family, so he wanted to build to belong to the mafia but violence is everywhere. I don’t know what you think about it. Violence is everywhere. We’re surrounded by violence and aggressiveness and so it is something that we can recognize and we all want to be part of something but at the same time, we all want to be oneand this is another aspect of this story. He wants to be recognized for what he is and not for what he belongs to. Then he does not accept things that are changing around him and he’s loyal to what he believed in. There’s a subtle anguish that he always feels and I think that makes him a compelling character when you watch the movie.

Watch Lucia Grillo's interview with Pierfrancesco Favino..

 It's interesting too because these men are not necessarily sociopaths where they love. And he is portrayed as someone who didn’t really care about his children but there’s that moment, that scene after his children are killed, his adult male children, and he’s lamenting. For a moment, I was thinking I can’t feel for him. I wanted to feel for him but I couldn’t and I was expecting something lofty to come from him. Can you talk a little bit about that scene?
Well as I was telling you, there are different aspects. One is the fact that you belong to mafia. The other is that you have children and I’m a father, too, so when I imagine for a second that that might happen to me, I suffer over that. It’s something that I can empathize with or sympathize with. But then at the same time, he’s guilty and he will always be guilty. So as you were saying, you embrace his feelings but you don’t really get to be with him until the end, which is what we wanted to do. In my research, I understood that he was a family man. You know when you talk about abandoning children, think about all the people that go abroad to work and leave their children and then they see them after four or five years especially if you belong to that kind of mafia. It wouldn’t have been possible in his mind that his best friend would have betrayed him. So that was a kind of revolution because mafia promised the people belonging to their criminal organization that nothing would have harmed their children or their families. So that was like the last evidence of the fact that things were changing. So when that happened, it made him crazy. It's enough to listen to the actual recordings of him crying over this. He did it truly so we didn’t really invent that moment. He was a very sentimental man believe it or not.

I believe it. I’ve known people who were apparently as you said.
You’re Italian, you’re origins are Italian. You know how important family is for us. You understand the investment we make in that kind of idea of a tribal group and for us it’s something that is very touching. And then for anybody who has children, even coming from other cultures, will understand what it means for a father to lose his children especially if he’s guilty of having abandoned them or left them behind.

Did you feel a responsibility to the legacy of Buscetta?
I felt a responsibility for history. I felt a responsibility for the legacy of Falcone more than the legacy of Buscetta to be honest. I wanted to speak to the family but it wasn’t possible and of course whenever you portray somebody that’s really existed, the first audience you’re addressing are the people who might have been keen or part of his family. But then in the end, this man also became a public figure. So when you deal with a public figure, you are free to imagine or make up what his life might have been. I don’t think there’s anything disrespectful (in the film) in terms of talking about his life and his family. It’s all been confirmed by a documentary that you can find on Netflix now where his children and his wife decided to appear and talk about him. So if you look at the documentary, if you compare it with the movie, there is nothing that is different in the story of this man. The idea of his life is not far at all from what they wanted and what they've said in the documentary. So we managed to be loyal to his legacy I think. 

And you have a couple of movies coming out..
Yes, there’s a movie I made last year that’s going to come out in Italy in January that’s about Bettino Craxi, an Italian politician in the 80s and then a movie I made with Gabriele Muccino. It’s the fourth movie we made together and that’s going to come in February. And now, I’m shooting a movie that I’m coproducing and that’s the third movie of a young director. His name is Claudio Noce and I’m playing in it as well.

And that’s in Calabria?
That’s in Calabria, your region of origin! Yes, and as soon as I get back, I’m going there to continue shooting.

Are you going to be speaking in Calabrese dialect?
A little bit, yes!

The documentary that Favino referenced, Our Godfather: The Man the Mafia Could Not Kill, is available on iTunes and Netflix. Follow us on 
Twitter and Facebook 
for updates on the release date of The Traitor in America. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Ermanno Olmi and Pier Paolo Pasolini Masterpieces at the Eastman Museum

The Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York will host two screenings of Italian classic films.

Ermanno Olmi's 1978 film, The Tree of the Wooden Clogs, will be shown as part of the Labor Film Series. The film reflects Olmi's deep understanding of the rhythms of life and labor of northern Italy’s peasants and his commitment to them. Winner of the Palme d’Or, the film depicts the seasonal cycle of work on a small farm in late nineteenth-century Lombardy, capturing the social structure and events that shape the characters,  portrayed by non-actors. The screening will take place on Friday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m.

The following week, Pier Paolo Pasolini's heartbreaking 1962 film, Mamma Roma, will be shown. Featuring the iconic Anna Magnani, the film is the tragic story of a mother living in the poor suburbs of Rome trying to make ends meet by working as a prostitute. The film will be shown on Thursday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Both screenings will take place at the newly renovated Dryden Theatre. Click here to visit the Eastman Museum online.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Beginning of the Mafia Movie Genre in America

With Italy’s entry for the Oscars being Marco Bellocchio’s story of a Sicilian mafia informant, I thought I’d do a few posts about the genre of mafia films. 

Have you ever thought about what started the craze for mafia-themed movies in America? That was one of the questions I explored in my 2018 documentary, Return to Lucania.. When I sat down with actor/director Pif on two occasions, he told me so much about the differences in how the Sicilian mafia (Cosa Nostra) is portrayed in American films versus how it was in real life. 

Chatting with Pif at Lincoln Center's annual film series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

In this clip from my documentary, Pif talks about how so many mafiosi ended up in America. I was initially asking him about the organized crime group Black Hand, which had a pretty strong presence here in Rochester, New York from 1910-ish through the 50s. They were known to level houses with bombs if they didn’t get their “protection money” and in one case, killed and dismembered a 33-year-old Sicilian man named Francesco Manzello who was suspected but not proven to have been involved in the death of one of their family members. It’s a fascinating story. Google “Barrel Murder” Rochester, New York or click here to read an in-depth article, but beware, the images are very graphic. 

Pif said that he didn’t have first hand knowledge on the Black Hand in America but talked about the Mussolini years and how the dictator claimed to have solved the problem of Italy’s mafia when in reality, he just shipped many of its members off to America. 

Then I take a look at the very first known American film of the mafia genre whose star was from my ancestral region of #Basilicata, which I had mentioned at the beginning of the film, was the location for several of Luigi Di Gianni’s early documentaries. 

Here is the copy from the script…
“When we think of who immigrated to the United States, it was a lot of people who were very desperate and that would have included certain criminals. A little later on from the period you're talking about when Mussolini was in power, Mussolini set out to defeat the mafia under Prefect (Cesare) Mori. At that time, members of the Sicilian mafia claimed they were going to leave saying that they were anti-fascist but that wasn't really the truth. Then Mussolini declared that the mafia had been defeated for once and for all.”
The rise of Nickelodeon age of cinema in 1900 and the packed movie houses that featured these short films, proved that audiences wanted to see dramatic stories. With the success of the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, it was just a matter of time before a story about organized crime made it to the big screen. 
In 1906, The Black Hand, which stars Robert Vignola, who was born in Lucania, not far from the scenes of Luigi Di Gianni’s documentary films, tells the story of an Italian butcher whose daughter is being held for ransom. Set in New York City, the 10-minute film is known to be the first of the mafia genre.

Click here to watch my documentary, Return to Lucania.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Shooting Underway for the Manetti Brothers' 'Diabolic'

Moi with the Manetti Bros in NYC, 2012
Cineuropa is reporting that shooting is underway for the Manetti Brothers' new film Diabolic, which follows the adventures of the famous Italian comic book hero- a fascinating, steely-eyed thief created in the 60s by Angela and Luciana Giussani. The all-star cast includes Luca Marinelli, Miriam Leone, Valerio Mastandrea, Claudia Gerini and Serena Rossi.

Written by Michelangelo La Neve and the Manetti Bros., who penned the story alongside Mario Gomboli, the film will tell the darkly romantic story of Diabolik and Eva’s first meeting, set in the fictitious state of Clerville in the 1960s. The movie will be shot between Courmayeur, Bologna, Milan and Trieste.

“Diabolik is the dream that we’ve been chasing since the very beginning”, the two brothers explained when announcing the film to attendees of the Giornate Professionali del Cinema event in Sorrento, back in December. “We’re in seventh heaven and thrilled to be bringing this project to the big screen. We’ll do everything we can to do it justice”. Meanwhile, CEO of RAI Cinema Paolo Del Brocco commented: “We can’t wait to see the Manetti brothers get to work on this idea, which is a perfect fit for the two most pop directors in Italian film”. He went on to predict “an innovative and amazing, all-Italian film”.

The film will be released in Italian cinemas in 2020.

Elio Luxardo's Portraits on Display at Rome's Casa del Cinema

Curated for the Rome Film Festival, the photo exhibit, Luxardo e il cinema , consists of images of iconic protagonists during the infamous...