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Friday, September 4, 2015

72nd Venice Film Festival: Interview- Actor Paolo Mazzarelli from 'Italian Gangsters'

Italian Gangsters - Like we’ve never seen them before

Whether it’s the Camorra of Naples, the ‛Ndrangheta of Calabria or Cosa Nostra of Sicily, we are accustomed to seeing cinematic stories of organized crime running rampant in the south of Italy. Director Renato De Maria changes things up and presents us with a highly entertaining account of organized crime that plagued Italy’s northern city of Milan during the difficult years following World War II.

In a wildly creative, innovative film that the Hollywood Reporter describes as “Director Renato De Maria’s most entertaining film to date”, Italian Gangsters focuses on a group of notorious bandits and crime bosses that emerged from the rubble of post-war Italy, when Milan was just about leveled. These bandits came from struggling, working class families, many belonging to the Communist party, and openly opposed to the wartime fascist ideology.
Utilizing archival news footage, newspaper clippings, scenes from feature films by Marco Bellocchio and Michelangelo Antonioni, gripping music, reenactments and narratives by top Italian actors, Renato De Maria presents us with one of the most creative films I have ever seen. Even if you’re not a fan of gangster-themed films, the pace, the complexity and the underlying history of the film will keep you totally engaged and on the edge of your seat.

Actors Andrea Di Casa, Aldo Ottobrino, Francesco Sferrazza Papa, Sergio Romano, Paolo Mazzarelli and Luca Micheletti become the infamous gangesters- Horst Fantazzini, Pietro Cavallero , Enzo Barbieri, Paolo Casaroli, Luciano De Maria and Luciano Lutring. The characters were drawn from the actual writings and confessions of the gangsters themselves. Each actor puts his own twist on his character, creating six fascinating, charismatic protagonists.
I was especially moved by Paolo Mazzarelli’s interpretation of gangster, Luciano De Maria. The performance was very natural and Mazzarelli found the perfect balance of portraying De Maria while adding his own gestures and personality. In doing so, he humbled the character without taking away his bold, eccentric qualities. I also appreciated the story that he recounted- the robbery of via Osoppo in Milan. It was a carefully orchestrated robbery of an armored car that was carried out in the hustle and bustle of the city. It would go on to be one of the most-talked about, most-examined armed robberies in Italy’s history. However, it’s something that most Americans have never heard of, so for this reason, I found it interesting. In reading about the heist, I learned it was the inspiration behind two highly-acclaimed crime comedies- Mario Monicelli’s I soliti ignoti (The Big Deal on Madonna Street) and its sequel, Nanni Loy’s, Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (Fiasco in Milan). Both films were huge commercial successes and starred iconic actors Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni and Totò.

Paolo Mazzarelli as Luciano De Maria
Reading about the heist made me even more curious, so I contacted Paolo Mazzarelli, the actor that portrays this fascinating character, Luciano De Maria, and asked him to shed some light on De Maria and the robbery of via Osoppo.

Our interview was done in Italian, so I am including both versions.
What did you do to become Luciano de Maria? Tell me about your research.
There are not many written records on Luciano De Maria. So, I just tried to give life, humanity, rhythm and irony to the words the writers gave me for my character- words which alone created a varied and vivid portrait.
Che cosa hai fatto per diventare Luciano de Maria? Raccontami la tua ricerca.
Su Luciano De Maria non esistono moltissime testimonianze scritte. Ho cercato semplicemente di dare vita, umanità, ritmo, ironia alle parole che gli sceneggiatori mi hanno regalato per il mio personaggio, parole che da sole ne facevano un ritratto variegato e vivido.
What qualities of yourself did you give to this character?
I tried to give my bandit an irony and a boldness that, in part, are also characteristics of my own personality. De Maria, like the other bandits featured in the film, played around with his persona, giving it a fictionalized and romantic image. Today, that type of bandit no longer exists, so it was fun and exciting to enter this world and tiptoe around as an actor.
Quali sono le qualità di te stesso che hai dato a questo personaggio?
Ho cercato di dare al mio bandito una ironia e una sfrontatezza che, in parte, sono anche caratteristiche della mia personalità. De Maria, come altri banditi raccontati dal film, giocava col proprio personaggio, con una immagine romanzata e romantica di bandito che, oggi, non esiste più. E' stato divertente ed eccitante entrare nel suo mondo in punta di piedi, come attore.

Your character tells the story of the robbery of the armored vehicle on via Osoppo in Milan. It’s been referred to as "the most sensational robbery ever recorded in Milan". What made that robbery of 27 February 1958 so epic?
There are two things: the huge amount of money stolen, and the fact that the whole operation was carried out not only without hurting anyone, but without firing a single shot. From the point of view of a bandit, it was an absolutely perfect job. After all these years, and not only in Milan, people still remember that robbery. 
Il tuo personaggio ha raccontato la storia della rapina del camion porta valori di via Osoppo a Milano. E’ stata chiamata, “la più sensazionale rapina che mai la cronaca milanese abbia registrato”. Qual è il motivo, che ha reso quella rapina di 27 feb 1958 così epica?
Due cose: l'enorme quantità di denaro rubato, e il fatto che tutta l'operazione sia stata svolta non solo senza ferire nessuno, ma addirittura senza sparare un colpo. Dal punto di vista di un bandito, un lavoro assolutamente perfetto. Al punto che di quella rapina, a Milano e non solo, c'è ancora memoria a distanza di tanti anni.

At any time during his life, did Luciano de Maria express remorse for the crimes that he committed?
I don’t know if he ever really expressed remorse. Surely, the 20 years imprisonment that he served was a long period of reflection and perhaps then, he questioned his actions as a criminal. But there’s really no way of knowing if he traveled that path to clear his conscience.
In quale momento, durante la sua vita, Luciano De Maria ha espresso rimorso per i crimini che ha commesso?
Non lo so. Non so neanche se abbia mai davvero espresso rimorso. Sicuramente i 20 anni di carcere che si è fatto saranno stati un lungo periodo di riflessione e magari anche di messa in discussione del suo operato criminale, ma io non ho elementi per sapere che percorso abbia fatto la sua coscienza.
Italian Gangsters will be available online until September 8th through the Venice Film Festival’s Sala Web program. 

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