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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Italian Cinema's Match Made in Heaven

The professional collaboration and friendship between actors Marco Giallini and Valerio Mastandrea goes back decades. The two began working together more than 20 years ago on the television show Infiltrato.  More recently, director Paolo Genovese has paired the actors in his last two feature films, Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers) and The Place, both of which have screened in the United States to great reviews. I caught up with Genovese in June while he was presenting The Place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual film series Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. I asked him about this most magical collaboration of two immense talents of contemporary Italian cinema.

Watch his response (in Italian with English subtitles)...

He mentions at the end that he would like to make a movie just with them. Apparently, he is not the only director with that idea. Simone Spada is at work on his second feature film Domani è un altro giorno (Tomorrow is Another Day) with a cast of two- Marco Giallini and Valerio Mastandrea. The film is currently listed as shooting, with the screenplay adapted from the movie Truman by Cesc Gay.

After listening to Genovese's personal account of the two, check out the clips below and watch them work together beginning from the most recent collaboration to the oldest.

Since I added scenes from Genovese's 2017 The Place and 2016 Perfetti Sconosciuti to his response, lets's begin with the 2009 television show Buttafuori.

Here is the complete filmography (let me know if there is anything I missed) and clips from a few of their films and television appearances...

Il grande salto (2018)
Director: Giorgio Tirabassi

Ogni maldetti Natale (2014)
Directors: Giacomo Ciarrapico, Mattia Torre, Luca Vendruscolo

Buttafuori (2009)
Television series

Basette (short film, 2008)
Director: Gabriele Mainetti

Amatemi! (2005)
Director: Renato De Maria

Il Ragno La Mosca (short film, 2005)
Directed by Emanuele Scaringi

Odore della notte (1998)
Director: Claudio Caligari

Infiltrato (1995)
Director: Claudio Sestieri

For more information on Paolo Genovese, Marco Giallini and Valerio Mastandrea, check out a few of my previously published articles on them:

Marco Giallini (Profile)

Valerio Mastandrea (Interview)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Mystic Cinema of Alice Rohrwacher

Update December 2, 2019

This week, the Museum of Modern Art in New York will kick off a retrospective dedicated to the work and collaboration of sisters Alice and Alba Rorhwacher. The lineup includes 18 films with the sisters in attendance to introduce them. The retrospective runs December 4-18. Click here for more information.

Alice Rohrwacher

She’s one of Italy’s most promising directors and now she is teaming up with Martin Scorsese to present her latest work on Netflix. 
The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2016 artist in residence is the Tuscan native director Alice Rohrwacher. Born in Florence in 1981 to an Italian mother and German Father, she attended Torino University where she graduated with a degree in Classic Literature. Her first jobs after college included writing for theater and playing music. She entered the film industry as an editor of documentary films before directing her first feature, Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Body), the tale of a teenage girl painfully assimilating into the culture of southern Italy and the Roman Catholic Church. The film premiered in Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, and was then selected for a number of international film festivals before being released in the United States. 
Rohrwacher’s second feature, Le meraviglie (The Wonders) centers on a family of beekeepers living in stark isolation in the Tuscan countryside. The dynamic of their overcrowded household is disrupted by the arrival of a silently troubled teenage boy taken in as a farmhand while a reality TV show (featuring a host played by Monica Bellucci) is intent on profiling the family. Both intrusions capture the attention of the eldest daughter, Gelsomina, who is struggling to find her purpose in the world. Rohrwacher gracefully conveys her adolescent sense of curiosity and confusion. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered and features her sister. Italian A-lister Alba Rohrwacher.
In 2015 she directed The Djess, a short film commissioned by Prada as part of its women’s-only label Miu Miu. The ninth installement of the “Miu Miu Women’s Tales,” the film was shown in the Venice Days section of the Venice Film Festival. Also starring her sister Alba, “The Djess” features a stunning designer dress with crystal beads, which practically comes alive with emotion. The dialogue is presented as a made-up language and pokes a bit of fun at the world of high fashion with its temperamental models and hysteric paparazzi.

Watch The Djess on YouTube.. 

The common trait that Alice Rohrwacher’s films have in common is their sense of fantasy. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric lighting or the long, complicated silences between her characters. Whatever the process, she consistently succeeds in achieving a surreal atmosphere and this is the trademark and signature style of her work. She also tends to tell stories from the point-of-view of innocence, whether it be a child or teenager. In accepting her awards and talking about her work, she comes across as humble and grateful for the success she has had.
“I can’t imagine a better gift than to spend time in New York, take part in the events at the New York Film Festival, and to have the time to research in local archives and libraries for my next film,” said Rohrwacher upon being named the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Artist in Residence. The program was launched in 2013 by Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Film Society of Lincoln Center as an annual initiative designed to support filmmakers at an early stage in the creative process against the backdrop of New York City and the New York Film Festival. During her residency, Rohrwacher worked on writing her third feature, Happy as Lazzaro, about the adventures of a man living on the margins of his society who can seemingly travel through time. The Film Society of Lincoln Center Deputy Director Eugene Hernandez describes Rohrwacher as “a distinctive filmmaker with a warm, infectious spirit.”  
In addition to filmmaking, Alice Rohrwacher directed her first opera, a new version of La Traviata for Teatri di Reggio Emilia that premiered in November of 2016. Netflix will release Happy as Lazzaro in the U.S. on November 30. Click here to read the full story on IndieWire.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nanni Moretti's 'Santiago, Italy' Named Closing Film of 2018 Torino Film Festival

Photo by Storyboard Media
Nanni Moretti's new film, Santiago, Italia will close the 36th edition of the Torino Film Festival in November.

The docufilm, which features interviews and archival footage of the months following the coup of 11 September 1973 that ended the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile, focuses on the role played by the Italian embassy in Santiago, which gave shelter to hundreds of opponents of the regime of Pinochet, allowing them to reach Italy.

The film will be released in Italy on December 6. Click here for more information on the Torino Film Festival screening. The festival runs November 23 - December 1.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Luigi Comencini: A Master of Commedia all'italiana

He was one of the masters of the popular post-WWII genre of filmmaking, Commedia all’italiana. Now, his daughters are carrying on his legacy.

Born in 1916 in Salò, a town located near Lake Garda in northern Italy, Luigi Comencini studied architecture in Milan. He began his shift to filmmaking in the mid-1940s as a photojournalist  documenting the ruins and reconstruction of his native North and the Po Valley. Combining his architectural knowledge with his keen eye, he created telling photographs of the post-war years that chronicled the devastation of poverty on children in particular. 

He transitioned to filmmaking in the late 40s with his first feature film, Guaglio, which follows a young priest after his luggage is stolen in the Naples train station. The film was a hit, paving the way for some major talent to sign up for his second project, L'imperatore di Capri (The Emperor of Capri). Released in 1949, the comedy stars the beloved Neapolitan actor Antonio De Curtis better known as Totò and was produced by the iconic Carlo Ponti. The plot of the story centers around on a beautiful young woman who mistakes Totò’s character, a waiter, for an Arab prince.

Comencini’s next hit was his 1953 comedy Pane, amore e fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams) starring Vittorio De Sica, Gina Lollobrigida and Marisa Merlini. De Sica plays a veteran police officer charmed by two of the town’s women: a midwife closer to his age and a women old enough to be daughter. Gina Lollobrigida gives an explosive performance as a rebellious, free-spirited woman always on the move. Her simple yet extraordinary beauty is second only to her talent for acting as also for singing as she does in a couple scenes. Vittorio De Sica is also a sight to behold as he cannot help but generously show off his smile whenever he’s in Lollobrigida’s company. The film is interestingly considered a “neorealist pink” film, meaning the end of the neorealist period was approaching as a result of the improving conditions in Italy.

Comencini was very active in the 50s and 60s making a movie practically every year, sometimes two. He worked steadily through the 70s, utilizing the great actors of that decade, Nino Manfredi, Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi. One of those films being the 1974 comedy Lo Scopone Scientifico. Starring three legends of cinema: Bette Davis, Silvana Mangano and Alberto Sordi, the film was shot on location in the poor Borgata neighborhoods of Rome and follows an unlucky husband and wife team as they try to beat a millionairess at cards. Both Sordi and Mangano earned David di Donatello awards for their performances. The film is an example of Commedia all'Italiana at its best.

In the 80s, Comencini began to phase out of cinema. His 1984 television series Cuore was a big hit and featured his grandson, Carlo Calenda, son of Cristina, who is now a political star in Italy’s Democratic Party working in the Renzi and Gentiloni administrations. 

Luigi Comencini passed away in 2007 at the age of 90, but his cinematic legacy lives on in his daughters Francesca and Cristina. The two are prolific authors and filmmakers in their own rights, telling compelling stories from a woman’s point-of-view. Cristina’s 2005 film La bestia nel cuore (The Beast in the Heart) adapted from her own novel, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Both Cristina and Francesca have presented their films at festivals throughout the world, including Lincoln Center’s annual Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. 

Chatting with the Comencini sisters at MAXXI Museo in Rome
In 2016, Cristina and Francesca along with their sisters Paola and Eleonora participated in an exhibition honoring their father’s early photography. The photos were the subject of a book, Luigi Comencini. Italia 1945-1948, which features 50 photographs taken by the director during those years right before he ventured into filmmaking. Comencini’s daughters were the featured guests of an interesting discussion in which stories and memories alternated with sequences from their father's films personally chosen by each one of them. Francesca's comments and memories in particular were funny and endearing. She seems to have inherited his sense of humor.

Luigi Comencini’s Bread, Love and Fantasy is available on DVD through Amazon.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Matilde Gioli: Destined to Act

Matilde Gioli and Matteo Martari in a scene from 2Night
When she answered a casting call, Matilde Gioli’s just wanted to make a few extra bucks to support her university education. Months later, she was offered a starring role in one of Italy’s most successful contemporary films.

Born in Milan in 1989, Gioli studied at Beccaria High School and then graduated in Philosophy at the State University. “I never thought of becoming an actress. When I was at university, I worked various jobs. I was 21 years old. One day my mother found an announcement: they were looking for extras for a film by Paolo Virzì. So I went to audition. I did not expect anything," she explained in a recent interview with Forbes Magazine in Italy. She didn’t hear anything for four months. Then one day, she received word that Virzì wanted to meet her for a another audition. “The following day, he offered me the role of Serena Ossola in the film Human Capital. From there my career started.”

Matilde Gioli and Giovanni Ansando in a scene from Human Capital
Virzì’s 2013 Human Capital begins at the end, as a cyclist is run off the road by an SUV. As details emerge of the events leading up to the accident, the lives of the privileged and detached Bernaschi family intertwine with the Ossolas, struggling to keep their comfortable middle-class life. Gioli’s character, Serena Ossola, a free-spirited, independent thinker, gets into trouble when she falls in love with a young man, Luca Ambrosini, played brilliantly by Giovanni Anzaldo, who is on probation for a crime he didn’t commit. As he is facing another injustice, Serena stays by his side. The adults that surround the two are so dysfunctional and immersed in their own self-created dramas, it is up to Serena and Luca to find their own solution. When the parents inevitably get wind of what’s going on, they only make matters worse, just as the two suspected.

Although the film is graced with veteran talent, the scenes between Anzaldo and Gioli are electrifying. The strong chemistry between the two young actors combined with Virzi’s articulate direction made stars out of both of them. Since that breakout role, Gioli has appeared in 10 films and has received numerous awards, including the “L'Oréal Paris Award for the Cinema” during the 73rdVenice Film Festival. 

Ivan Silvestrini’s 2016 film 2Night premiered at the Rome Film Festival in the Alice nella Città program, a series of films dedicated to young people. Cleverly scripted, the films has only three speaking roles: Him, Her and Her Ex. Gioli of course takes on the role of “Her,” one of two young strangers who meet at a nightclub in Rome. The couple is only interested in a one-night stand, but the logistical problems of contemporary Rome put a dent in their plan. Over the course of the seemingly never-ending night, the conversation deepens, revealing an intellectual intimacy that captivates them both and brings them close together on an emotional level. The film was a stepping stone for Gioli, proving she has the talent and capacity to carry a film in a starring role. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Only for the Weekend. Directed by Gianfranco Gaioni who goes by the alias Director Kobayashi, the films is a loud, action packed comedy. The director is not aiming for political correctness as he pokes fun at a few stereotypes Italians have for the American culture. The film opens with beautiful shots of the Las Vegas skyline, and then follows a heist in which a briefcase full of cash is stolen. Towards the end of the film, the thief turns up in Milan looking to capitalize on the stolen goods.  When a recently fired copywriter addicted to psychiatric drugs get dumped by his frustrated wife, he runs into an old bully from high school that gets him mixed up with some petty thieves way in over their heads with this professional from Las Vegas. Gioli’s character, a local dominatrix whose clients pay to do her housework, is called in to help. 

Gioli currently has two films in production, including Giovanni Veronesi's remake of the Three Musketeers.

Human Capital and Only for the Weekend are available on Amazon.

- Jeannine Guilyard

In Conversation with Director Cecilia Pignocchi

Filmmakers Arthur Couvat and  Cecilia Pignocchi It’s unusual for a first-time filmmaker to be recognized by a high-profile, international fi...