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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Life and Art of Marcello Mastroianni

A legendary actor who influenced cinema across the globe, Marcello Vincenzo Domenico Mastroianni was born in 1924 in Fontana Liri, a mountainous area  of Lazio, located about an hour from Rome. 

Mastroianni spent his childhood near the Eternal City experimenting with acting in stage roles at his local church. During his teenage years, he took odd jobs in Rome, including bit parts in movies. Then during World War II, he was forced by German soldiers to work at a labor camp in northern Italy. He managed to escape, taking refuge in Venice until 1945. During the post-war period when war-torn Italy was recovering from the devastation it had just endured, Mastroianni returned to Rome and landed a job as a clerk with a British film company. During off-hours, he would get together with local actors to hone his craft. Then in 1947, he landed his first significant acting role in Riccardo Freda’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables.

Within a decade of that first role, he became an international celebrity, with lead roles in some of the greatest films ever made, such as Big Deal on Madonna Street and in Federico Fellini’s blockbusters, La Dolce Vita and 8 ½. Mastroianni starred in more than 100 films, many times alongside fellow cinema icons like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Jack Lemmon.

La Dolce Vita set the stage for the destined partnership with Fellini that produced iconic roles in 8 ½ (1963), City of Women (1979), and Ginger and Fred (1985). Each role called on his exceptional ability to transform himself into virtually anyone as the characters ranged in diversity from a tabloid columnist to a film director with writer’s block to a retired tap dancer. He credited this skill to his roots in theater, explaining, "I made theater very important in the beginning of my career. Theater actors like to change character roles. They don't like to always do the same thing."

Although he romanced dozens of leading ladies on the big screen, Mastroianni found his cinema soul mate in Sophia Loren, co-starring with her in a dozen beautiful, classic films. The majestic duo is such a pleasure to watch. The two actors share an unspoken chemistry and ease. Soon after teaming up, they became the epitome of the perfect Italian man and woman in love. A few of their masterpieces include Vittorio De Sica's Marriage Italian Style and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow as well as Dino Risi's The Priest's Wife. Loren recently spoke of Mastroianni at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, while being honored for her extraordinary career, saying, “He was an amazing man with a great sense of humor and when we got tired, he would begin to tell jokes. It was 20 years of work and fun.”

Another of Mastroianni’s leading ladies was his daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, whose mother is the French actress Catherine Deneuve. The two starred in Raúl Ruiz's Three Lives and Only One Death in 1996. His performance earned him the Silver Wave Award at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. Then, the curtains were drawn with his final film, Voyage to the Beginning of the World, which was released posthumously in 1997.

Life imitated art in terms of romance throughout Mastroianni’s life. He married fellow actress Flora Carabella in 1950, and stayed married to her until the day he day he died. However, that didn’t stop him from having a lifetime of affairs, with his onscreen leading ladies,  including actresses Anouk Aimee, Claudia Cardinale, Lauren Hutton and Ursula Andress. He was involved in a serious relationship with Faye Dunaway, whom he met while shooting A Place for Lovers in 1968. The actress wanted to marry and build a life with him, but his catholic faith kept him from divorcing his wife. The relationship lasted for three years, until Dunaway finally gave up and left him. Mastroianni didn’t stay singe for long. Shortly after his break up with Dunaway, he began seeing French actress, Catherine Deneuve. The two stayed together for about four years and during that time worked together on four films. In the late 70’s, he became involved with Italian author and filmmaker, Anna Maria Tatò. They remained together until his death in 1996.
Mastroianni died at his home in Paris at the age of 72 from pancreatic cancer. The Eternal City paid tribute to the actor by turning off the Fountain of Trevi and draping it in black. The fountain was a key backdrop in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Paying Tribute to Giuseppe “Pino” Mango through one Filmmaker's passion for Basilicata

The Ionian Coast of Maratea in Basilicata
I have great pride in my Lucani origins. It’s a pride that runs deep through my soul and I only realized that depth when I visited for the first time in 2002. I met my cousins and walked the narrow streets my great grandparents once walked. After visiting, I felt truly to have gone home. 

Whenever I want to feel the nostalgia and warmth of the people.. or the clouds lingering over the mountains, I lose myself in the music of Giuseppe “Pino” Mango with his unique voice and regional instruments that bring me back to the land of my heart. Today, the world lost this amazing artist, but his music will live on in those who appreciate his unique talent for creating not only a song, but a memory and an atmosphere.

We mourn the untimely death of Basilicata’s renowned singer and songwriter, Mango, by revisiting my 2012 interview with an innovative filmmaker whose passion is writing about our beloved southern Italy.

Michelangelo Frammartino

A scene from Le Quattro volte
His style of filmmaking may be ahead of its time, but the message that drives his creativity stems from the theories of an ancient Greek philosopher who lived some 2,500 years ago.

Michelangelo Frammartino's work is based  on the connection between man and nature. The foundation of this connection dates back to about 570 – 495 BC when the ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras lived. He believed that our soul is reincarnated four times into the bodies of humans, animals, minerals and vegetables until it ultimately becomes immortal. This theory was the basis for Frammartino's 2010 film, Le quattro volte (Four Times). The film is insightful and poetic in its message and visual landscape. It is raw and direct in its depiction of the connection between man, animals and nature. The New York Times described the film as "an idiosyncratic and amazing film so full of surprises - nearly every shot contains a revelation."

A scene from Alberi
Frammartino's film, Alberi (Trees) was recently featured at the Tribeca Film Festival as an installation. The film tells the story of an old ritual that took place in the village of Satriano in Basilicata during Italian Carnevale when the men of the village would cover themselves in leaves, transforming into mystical walking trees. The ritual started during the middle ages but was eventually abandoned by younger generations. Frammartino recaptures the ancient rite in a reenactment that won over New York audiences. According to Frammartino, “Basilicata is home to numerous arboreal rites. Trees are not just figures in the background, they are protagonists, they are the center, what gives meaning to the festival and above that, to life. I found this to be incredibly interesting.”

I caught up with Frammartino while he was in New York promoting his new film. He told me about this connection to nature and how his education in architecture influences his work.

 The Ionian Coast of Caulonia in Calabria
You come from the north, but your films were shot in southern Italy; Basilicata and Calabria in particular. What is your fascination with this part of Italy?
I was born in the north, in Milan, but my family is from Calabria. Both my parents come from a small town on the Ionian coast called Caulonia. This is where I spent my summers as a child, and where I experienced a sense of freedom and deep fusion with nature and everything around me.

Nature is an important part of your work. Tell me about this attachment that you have to nature and how it helps you to express yourself artistically.
We men tend to consider nature solely as a nice background to our events, or in the best cases, a resource at our disposal. We tend to forget the origins of nature and that it is deeply related to other species. I love to work on this unspoken bond. With this philosophy, I am more challenged to "shoot" and film scenes more creatively.

Isola di Capo Rizzuto  in the province of Crotone, Calabria
In your film, Le quattro volte, what is the significance of the number four? Why four times?
Approximately twenty-five hundred years ago, the first philosopher, Pythagoras lived in Crotone in Calabria. A phrase that is attributed to him reads as follows:
"There will be four of us in the next life, embedded one inside the other. Man is a mineral because he consists of salts, water and mineral substances. Man is a vegetable, because as a plant eats, breathes and reproduces, so does he. Man is an animal with imagination, memory and knowledge of the external world. Man is also a rational being, because he has will and reason. We have four distinct lives in us and we should live four times."

A scene from Alberi
What inspired you to make your latest film, Alberi and tell the story of this ancient ritual?
I discovered these arboreal cults during the making of Le quattro volte and I was very fascinated by them. So I began to do research in Basilicata where they originate, and I found this wonderful mask belonging to the hermit of Satriano di Lucania. It was a perfect fusion of man and nature. I was never in the presence of something that so deeply represented our connection to the land and to the world.

You studied architecture in college. Does that background influence your films?
I find that there are many elements in common between these disciplines. For example, the idea of a narrative can be found in both. A movie is a place where the viewer enters and spends time, and you can say the same about a building.

Do you plan to continue with this theme of nature in your future projects?
Sure, there is the possibility that Alberi could evolve and become a feature film.

Michelangelo Frammartino's 2010 film, Le quattro volte is available through Amazon. We will keep you updated on the availability of his latest film, Alberi.

Purchase Le Quattro Volte on

For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs by Mango, Mediterraneo ...


Bianco e azzurro sei
con le isole che stanno lì
le rocce e il mare
coi gabbiani
Mediterraneo da vedere
con le arance
Mediterraneo da mangiare
La montagna là
e la strada che piano vien giù
tra i pini e il sole
un paese
Mediterraneo da scoprire
con le chiese
Mediterraneo da pregare

Siedi qui
e getta lo sguardo giù
tra gli ulivi
l'acqua è scura quasi blu
e lassù
vola un falco lassù
sembra guardi noi
fermi così
grandi come mai
guarda là
quella nuvola che va
vola già
dentro nell'eternità

Quella lunga scia
della gente in silenzio per via
che prega piano
sotto il sole
Mediterraneo da soffrire
sotto il sole
Mediterraneo per morire

Siedi qui
e lasciati andar così
lascia che
entri il sole dentro te
e respira
tutta l'aria che puoi
i profumi che
senti anche tu
sparsi intorno a noi
guarda là
quella nuvola che va
vola già
dentro nell'eternità

Mediterranean Sea

White and azure you are
With islands standing there
The rocks and the sea
With seagulls
Mediterranean Sea to see
With oranges
Mediterranean Sea to eat
The mountain over there
And the road that softly comes down
Between the pine trees and the Sun
A town stands
Mediterranean Sea to discover
With churches
Mediterranean Sea to pray

Sit down here
And glance down there
Between the olive trees
The water is dark, almost blue
And up there
A hawk flies
It almost seems it is looking down at us
Standing still
Largest than ever
Look up there
That cloud that goes
Flies down
Into eternity

That long line
Of silent people along the road
Praying softly
Under the Sun
Mediterranean Sea to suffer
Under the Sun
Mediterranean See for dying

Sit down here
And let yourself go like this
Let the Sun
Enter you
And breathe
As much air as you can
The perfumes that
You smell too
Scattered around us
Look up there
That cloud that goes
Flies down
Into eternity

Sunday, December 7, 2014

50-Year-Old Monica Bellucci Named Next Bond Girl

Update 22 July 2015
New Spectre trailer released...

Monica Bellucci is set to be the next Bond Girl, and at age 50, this wife and mother has broken Hollywood barriers.

Born in Umbria in 1964, Monica Bellucci is one of the most recognizable Italian faces in international cinema today. But Bellucci didn't always have her sights set on the spotlight. She went to college to study law and modeled to pay her tuition. Her success in the fashion world coupled with the offers that were pouring in to appear on the big screen eventually turned her head, forever altering her course.

Bellucci made her on-screen debut in the 1990 television movie, Vita coi figli. Just two years later, she scored her first American role in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. Since then, she has been working virtually non-stop on both continents.

In addition to her native language of Italian, she speaks fluent English and French, which has made for a smooth transition from Italian to international cinema. Stateside, she has acted in blockbusters such as The Matrix-Reloaded, The Passion of the Christ and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. She has also appeared in several French films, and is married to French actor Vincent Cassel.

The role that really called on Bellucci's acting skills and proved that she was more than just another pretty face was Giuseppe Tornatore's 2000 film, Malèna. In it, she took on the title role of a beautiful widow in small town Sicily during World War II. Her character contends with the men of the village constantly chasing her while the women torment her out of jealousy.

Although she loves her craft, these days she is content with skipping red carpet appearances to stay home with her family. She was recently quoted as saying, "I am at a stage in my life where, if I don't go out, I don't feel I'm missing something. I get bored surrounded by people smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol. And I'm not so interested now in going to premieres or being photographed on the red carpet. I want to be with my daughter."

Motherhood hasn't slowed Bellucci down professionally, as she continues to advance her career on both sides of the Atlantic. Due to her international appeal, many of her films are available in the United States. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Roma e Genova: Omaggio a Pietro Germi..

Nell’anno del centesimo anniversario della nascita di Pietro Germi (14 settembre 1914), e del quarantennale della sua morte (4 dicembre 1974), il Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia- Cineteca Nazionale ha organizzato un convegno di due giorni presso la sede di via Tuscolana 1524 (2 e 3 dicembre) per ricordare il regista, e un’altra giornata di studi in collaborazione con l’Università degli studi di Genova (11 dicembre), nella sua città natale.

Germi è uno dei registi italiani più conosciuti e amati nel mondo, autore di grandi successi internazionali e vincitore tra l’altro di un Oscar per la migliore sceneggiatura (Divorzio all’italiana) e della Palma d’oro a Cannes (Signore & signori). I maggiori studiosi italiani faranno il punto sul cinema di Pietro Germi, leggendone il legame con il neorealismo e la commedia all’italiana, con la sinistra e il mondo cattolico, con i generi dal western al noir al mélo. Si ripercorreranno tra l’altro i rapporti con le fonti letterarie, l’interesse per il Sud e per l’evoluzione della famiglia italiana, ma anche la peculiare fisionomia dell’attore Germi in film propri e altrui.

Il pomeriggio di mercoledì3 dicembre, a ricordarlo ci saranno testimoni, amici, registi e critici: i figli, l’aiuto regista Francesco Massaro, l’attore Lando Buzzanca e Carlo Verdone. Nell’occasione verranno mostrati alcuni rarissimi documenti filmati (provini,trailer, tagli di censura) e cartacei (sceneggiature) e fotografici conservati negli archivi della Biblioteca “Luigi Chiarini” e della Cineteca Nazionale.   

 La CSC-Cineteca Nazionale inoltre rende omaggio a Pietro Germi organizzando anche la rassegna “Signore e signori… Pietro Germi al cinema Trevi da martedì 2 a sabato 6 dicembre

Da Cinecittà news...

Gianni Di Gregorio's New Film and Ennio Fantastichini's Last Role

Gianni Di Gregorio's Lontano Lontano ( Citizens of the World ) premiered at the Torino Film Festival in November and opened in Italy ...