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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Pietro Marcello’s 'Martin Eden' likely to premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival


The Toronto International Film Festival just announced that its Closing Night Platform film will be Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden. The film will also be shown at the New York Film Festival, which will be its U.S. premiere.

Pietro Marcello’s highly anticipated film, Martin Eden, is being mentioned as a likely selection for the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

Starring Luca Marinelli, the film has been called "a loose adaptation" of Jack London’s novel. "Like the characters of Hamlet and Faust, Martin Eden is a somewhat failed hero," the director explained in an interview with Cineuropa. "We transposed the novel into modern-day society and into a story which takes us through different time periods."

The cast also includes Marco Leonardi, Vincenzo Nemolato, Rinat Khismatouline, Pietro Ragusa, Aniello Arena, Lana Vlady, Jessica Cressy and Carlo Cecchi.  Martin Eden will open in Italian theaters on September 4, a date which suggests the film’s likely participation in the Venice Film Festival.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Conversation with Francesco Grillo: Italy's Newest Rising Star

The practice of using non-professional actors is nothing new in Italian cinema or even world cinema for that matter. Perhaps the first known Italian filmmaker to cast her fellow towns people was Neapolitan actress and producer Francesca Bertini with her 1915 silent film Assunta Spina. Of course, Vittorio De Sica made it famous with his neorealist epics, Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves. Contemporary directors have embraced the century-old tradition in numerous films over the years, including Matteo Garrone’s 2008 Gomorrah, Francesco Munzi’s 2015 Anime nere, and Jonas Carpignano’s 2017 A Ciambra, just to name a few.

Those films went on to be huge international successes. The latest to follow suit is Mimmo Calopresti’s Aspromonte - La terra degli ultimi, which will premiere as a Special Event at the Taormina Film Festival in July. Adapted from Pietro Ciriaco’s book, Via dall'Aspromonte, the story sheds light on southern Italy’s severely depressed economy and remoteness during the 1950s, which in many cases cost people their lives. Calopresti’s diverse ensemble cast includes internationally renowned actors Marco Leonardi and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi; Italy’s beloved character actors Sergio Rubini and Marcello Fonte; upcoming actor Francesco Colella, who American audiences will recognize from FX’s Trust and newcomer Francesco Grillo.

Set in the Aspromonte region of Calabria, some scenes were shot in Africo, which you may remember from Munzi’s Anime Nere. However, the bulk of the film was shot in nearby Ferruzzano, which is a stunning mountainous region with centuries-old structures and dense forests. The location is featured on the Calabria Film Commission’s website as one of the region’s most sought after natural movie sets. 

Ferruzzano, Calabria (Photo Courtesy of the Calabria Film Commission)

I spoke with child actor Francesco Grillo about the film and his role in it. Born in the Calabrian village of Locri, this is his first role in a movie. The experience has been so positive, he has decided to change his non-professional status by enrolling in drama school. Fiercely proud of his Calabrian roots, he talks about the beauty of his region and how this life-changing role came about. 

(La versione italiana è sotto)

Tell me about your town and region.. the traditions and the way of life.
I live in a beautiful village in the province of Reggio Calabria. It is called Benestare, (which literally translates to stay well). It is indeed really good as the name suggests. It is an ancient village, that especially in summer, resembles such. In fact all the emigrants return.
On the sign of the village, there is the phrase "Paese di Gesso" (Country of Gypsum) because the oldest houses in the country are built in plaster.
For the patronal festival, which is in October, these houses are repopulated with lights, traditional foods and displays of ancient crafts.

In America, we often hear about the poverty and the dangers of Calabria. Tell me about the beauty.
Often we talk only about the ugly part of Calabria, which I believe is everywhere, but thanks to this beautiful film, you'll understand how beautiful the region is.
The villages, the breathtaking views, (few places in the world, I believe, offer views of mountains overlooking the sea) nature, respect for others, poetry and traditions.

Director Mimmo Calopresti and Francesco Grillo
How were you chosen for this role in Mimmo Calopresti's film?
I was chosen for this film in a way that still seems very strange even to me.
Two years ago, a family friend took me to a casting call held in my area by casting director Lele Nucera, for the film "The Miracle" by (Niccolò) Ammaniti. I went through the next phase but I wasn't chosen for the role, and I thought that the adventure had ended there, and that every other part would be linked to that specific casting call, but it wasn't.
In September 2018 (then a year later), a poster for a casting call had announced a role for an important film, but that day we forgot to go.
Two days later, my mother received a call with news that the director wanted to meet me, and from then on, after a succession of meetings with the director, we arrived at the final selection. Then a few days later, my mother was told that I had been chosen for the role of "Andrea". We already knew what role it was because we had read the book "Via dall'Aspromonte" by Pietro Criaco, on which the film based, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine what I may have felt.
I still don't know how to describe what I feel, but I know that this experience has given me so many emotions.

Tell me about your character, Andrea.
Andrea is a strong but reflective child. In fact, he reflects many facets of my own personality. The whole story is seen through his eyes. He admires his father, Peppe (Francesco Colella in the film) immensely. He sees him as the leader of his commune, and is proud of him. He does not accept that his father surrendered, and this makes him grow quickly to take control of the situation. I can't say anything else, but I love this character very much and I hope you will love him too.

Have you always wanted to be an actor or was it an unexpected opportunity that came up?
I don't know if I wanted to become an actor. Perhaps being a little bit shy, I didn't imagine that I could pass the test, but I know that after having had this wonderful experience, it would be my dream to be able to continue.
However this film has made so many people dream in my land, and I believe it will remain the film of the people of Calabria.

What are your interests other than acting?
I love fishing and riding. I played football, but I left to go to drama school.

You are still young, but what is your dream during this moment of your life?
My dream would be to continue this path, and I'm beginning by studying theatre to improve myself.

The film will premiere at the Taormina Film Festival on July 2 at 8:45pm in the Teatro Antico. Click here for more information

L'intervista in Italiano

Parlami della tua cittadina e della regione .. le tradizioni, la cucina e il modo di vivere..
Vivo in un bellissimo paesino, in provincia di Reggio Calabria, si chiama Benestare, e si sta veramente bene,come dice il nome stesso, è un borgo antico, che soprattutto in estate, assomiglia ad un villaggio,infatti tutti gli emigrati ritornano in paese.
Sull’insegna del paese, c’è scritto “PAESE DI GESSO”, perché le case più antiche del paese sono costruite in gesso.
Per la festa patronale, che è ad ottobre,queste case si ripopolano con luci, cibi della tradizione, ed esposizione di antichi mestieri.

In America, spesso sentiamo della povertà e dei pericoli della Calabria. Raccontami della bellezza.
Spesso si parla solo della parte brutta della Calabria, che credo ci sia ovunque,ma grazie anche a questo bellissimo film,capirete quanto è bella.
I borghi, i panorami mozzafiato, (pochi posti nel Mondo credo, regalano viste di montagne a picco sul mare) la natura, il rispetto verso il prossimo,la poesia e le tradizioni.

Come sei stato scelto per questo ruolo nel film di Mimmo Calopresti?
Sono stato scelto per questo film, in un modo che ancora sembra stranissimo anche a me.
Due anni fa, un amico di famiglia mi portò ad un casting tenuto nella mia zona, dal casting director Lele Nucera, per il film “Il Miracolo “ di (Niccolò) Ammaniti, e all’epoca passai la fase successiva ma non fui scelto per il ruolo, e pensavo che l’avventura fosse finita lì, e che ogni Provino fosse legato a quel casting specifico,ma non fu così .
A settembre 2018 (quindi un anno dopo), girava la locandina di un casting per il ruolo di un film importante, ma quel giorno ci dimenticammo di andare.
2 giorni dopo,arriva una chiamata a mia madre da un numero che non conosceva,che diceva di avermi proposto per questo film, e che il regista vorrebbe incontrarmi, e da lì in poi,dopo una susseguirsi di incontri con il regista, arrivammo alla selezione finale, e dopo qualche giorno, un’altra chiamata, comunicò a mia madre che ero stato scelto per il ruolo di “ANDREA”, e noi conoscevamo già di che ruolo si trattava perché avevamo letto il libro “VIA DALL’ASPROMONTE” di Pietro Criaco,a cui è ispirato il film,e le lascio immaginare cosa posso aver provato.
Ancora non so descrivere cosa provo,ma so che questa esperienza mi ha regalato tantissime emozioni.

Raccontami il tuo personaggio..
Andrea è un bambino forte,ma riflessivo,infatti mi rispecchia in molte cose.
Tutta la storia viene vista attraverso i suoi occhi.
Ammira in modo smisurato il padre, Peppe (Francesco Colella nel film). 
Lo vede come il leader del paese,ed è orgoglioso di lui.
Infatti non accetta di vedere il padre arrendersi,e questa cosa lo fa crescere velocemente per prendere in pugno la situazione.
Non posso dire altro, ma amo molto questo personaggio e spero lo amerete anche voi.

Hai desiderato essere un attore o era un'opportunità per lavorare su questo film fatto nella tua regione?
Non so se desideravo diventare un attore, forse essendo un pochino timido,neanch’io immaginavo di poter superare la prova del ciak, ma so che dopo aver fatto questa bellissima esperienza, sarebbe il mio sogno poter proseguire.
Comunque questo film ha fatto sognare tantissima gente nella mia terra, e credo rimarrà il film della Gente di Calabria.

Quali sono i tuoi interessi oltre alla recitazione?
Io amo pescare ed andare a cavallo. Giocavo a calcio, ma ho lasciato per frequentare la scuola di recitazione.

Sei ancora giovane, ma qual è il tuo sogno in questo momento della tua vita?
Il mio sogno sarebbe continuare questo percorso,e sto studiando nella scuola di recitazione “LocriTeatro” proprio per migliorarmi.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tribute to Franco Gasparri at the Casa del Cinema - Rome

A photo exhibit dedicated to actor Franco Gasparri, a heartthrob of the 1970s, is underway at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

The exhibit opened in May with a documentary by his daughter Stella, a tireless promoter of her father's work. The exhibit consists of 150 photos chosen by the actor's family.

Born on Halloween 1948, Gasparri began his film career as a teenager in the early sixties taking on small parts and supporting roles. He appeared in films of the Italian Peplum genre such as Goliath against the Giants (1961), Sansone (1961) and The Fury of Hercules (1962).

A symbol of masculine perfection, he was known for his trademark male tresses, Greek God-like profile and green eyes. He enjoyed widespread popularity as an actor during the launch of fotoromanzi, a form of comicstrip storytelling that uses photographs rather than illustrations for the images.

Gasparri rose to cinematic stardom in the mid-seventies with a police-themed trilogy of films in which he played the lead role of Mark the policeman, an ambitious narcotics agent. Directed by Stelio Massi, all three films were successful at the box office and were part of the "poliziottesco" popular trend at the time.

Gasparri became paralyzed after an accident in 1980 with his infamous motorcycle, the Kawasaki 900. He spent nearly 20 years in a wheelchair before passing away in 1999 at the age of 50. The idea of the exhibit was conceived, organized and supported by Gasparri's family and in particular by his daughter Stella to mark the twentieth anniversary of his death.

The exhibition runs until July 3, 2019. Click here for more information.

Mimmo Calopresti's 'Aspromonte - La terra degli ultimi' to Premiere at the Taormina Film Festival

Aspromonte - La terra deli ultimi will premiere on July 2nd as a Special Event at the Taormina Film Festival in the ancient theater of Taormina. Written by Mimmo Calopresti with Monica Zapelli (writer of I Cento Passi) and with the collaboration of Fulvio Lucisano, the story is adapted from the book, Via all'Aspromonte, by Pietro Ciriaco.

The ensemble cast includes Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Marcello Fonte, Francesco Colella, Marco Leonardi, Sergio Rubini and newcomer Francesco Grillo. Set in Africo, a small village perched in the Calabrian Aspromonte valley, the film is set in the late 1950s as a local woman dies during childbirth because the doctor fails to arrive on time due to the remoteness of the village. The men, exasperated by the state of abandonment, go to protest to the mayor. They get the promise of a doctor, but in the meantime, led by Peppe, they decide to unite and build a road themselves.

Click here for more information about the film. Click here to visit the Taormina Film Festival online.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Fabrizio Corallo's Insightful Documentaries on Two Cinema Icons

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Fabrizio Corallo was hand chosen by the family of Vittorio Gassman to make his latest documentary Sono Gassman! Vittorio King of Comedy. The film, which Corallo just presented at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, is a followup to his acclaimed documentary on one of Gassman's frequent collaborators, Dino Risi. The pair made 15 films together.

With Fabrizio Corallo at the MAXXI Museo, Rome
I spoke with Corallo while he was in New York. He talked so enthusiastically about both of his works, explaining that he was a journalist in Rome long before he became a filmmaker. So, he had personal knowledge and insight into the psyche of each of these giants of Italian cinema. When speaking about Gassman, I could hear the pride in his voice when he talked about the family's desire to have him direct the documentary. He didn't hesitate to take on the project. All he had to do was look inside himself for the essence of the film. "I was lucky to know Gassman. I was a journalist and we spent a lot of time together with friends and colleagues. He would tell fascinating tales about his experiences. I learned nearly everything I know about him just by being his friend."

Sono Gassman! Vittorio King of Comedy highlights the comic abilities of this otherwise intellectual Shakespearean actor who made the transition from theater and neorealism to the commedia all'italiana genre. The documentary was made with the same love and affection for his friend and colleague as his 2016 film on Dino Risi. Both feature intimate interviews showing a keen sense of humor the two shared, which inadvertently made them both icons.

In Dino Risi Forever, Risi spoke of his memories working with the likes of Sophia Loren, Ettore Scola and Dino De Laurentiis. He spoke of his passion for writing screenplays, "Writing was something that I really enjoyed." And Scola spoke of his collaboration with Risi. "I started working with Dino and I did about ten films with him in all." Risi spoke in depth about his friendship and collaboration with Vittorio Gassman, describing his first impression of Gassman upon as "A cocky yet likable young man from Rome with a swaggering air."

I saw the film at the MAXXI Museo while I was in Rome attending the Festa di Cinema (Rome Film Festival). Having covered mostly contemporary cinema during the last decade, I learned a lot from Corallo's documentary and it was poignant seeing this maestro now in his twilight years recall the Golden Age of cinema with an entertaining mix of humor and nostalgia. There were countless laugh-out-loud moments as Risi recounted his early days chasing girls and then reflecting on the Roman ladies who lunched. He also revealed interesting facts about shooting scenes of his films, including how he shot the Rome scenes of Il Sorpasso on August 15, Ferragosto, to capture the actual empty streets of the city.

The documentary was followed by a compelling Q&A in which some of Risi's most influential films were discussed by his colleagues Elsa Martinelli, Lino Capolicchio and Andrea Occhipinti. They talked about the making and legacies of Il sorpasso, Una vita difficile, I mostri and Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman). These are films that will never be forgotten because they document the lifestyle and social trends of post-war Italy. Not only are they artistic masterpieces, they are lessons in history.

Many of Gassman's and Risi's films are available to stream online. Click here to stream Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street on Criterion Channel.

Stream Bitter Rice, Il Sorpasso and Rhapsody (with Elisabeth Taylor) on Amazon...


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Pietro Germi and Criterion Channel's Treasure Trove of Cinematic History

I just got around to subscribing to the Criterion Channel tonight and I saw the most fascinating documentary about actor/director Pietro Germi with a beautiful clip of actress Franca Bettoja talking about her husband Ugo Tognazzi. 

Bettoja is Maria Sole and Gian Marco Tognazzi’s mother. She described Ugo when he would work on a film that Pietro Germi was directing. “I saw Ugo for the first time in "L'immorale" (The Climax). He was always extremely disciplined and professional. Maybe he didn’t know everything but he had a good memory, so he never used to study the script at home. He’d read it and then go to it. I remember that when he had to be on Pietro’s set, he was like a schoolboy. Woe to any driver that would show up late! He was very careful. They both were. Ugo and Pietro respected each other but it was more than that.” 

Renée Longarini and Ugo Tognazzi in Pietro Germi’s "L'immorale" (The Climax)

The documentary is a treasure trove of old interviews… Claudia Cardinale, Mario Monicelli, Stefania Sandrelli, Carlo Verdone with young versions of Daniele Luchetti and Paolo Virzì. 

Claudia Cardinale speaks with nostalgic affection about Germi, who passed away in 1974 at the age 60, while Verdone gives special insight into Germi’s legacy on Italian cinema, saying that “(Germi) was the first true creator of the ensemble film.” He goes on to explain how Germi’s ensembles differ from the ensembles that Federico Fellini created in his early works. “In Fellini’s, the subtleties were hidden in throwaway lines and little gestures. I'm referring to the scene of the crew on the beach in the "Lo sceicco bianco" (The White Sheik) or to "I Vitelloni," a great ensemble film. But Germi created the ensemble comedy.”

The documentary is called “Pietro Germi: The Man with the Cigar in His Mouth” and is available online at

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...