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Monday, November 18, 2019

Women Filmmakers in the Spotlight at the Rome International Film Festival

I saw a very intense short film last night at the Rome Independent Film Festival directed by a woman and starring a woman. L’Attesa (The Wait) follows a mother who is frantically trying to locate her son after she hears about a terrorist attack in London where he is studying abroad. 

The film is 24 minutes long and is carried entirely by actress Lucianna De Falco. Her performance was so subtle yet intense, you could not help but think of Anna Magnani. De Falco is a character actress who has appeared in numerous movies over the years and has worked with the likes of Lina Wertmuller, Ferzan Ozpetek, Carlo Vanzini and Paolo Genovese. One of her more recent roles was in Ammore e malavita by the Manetti Brothers. 

The short film was directed by a 23-year-old Neapolitan writer/director named Angela Bevilacqua. This is her second film. She actually made her first when she was just 17. The Theater of Memories premiered at the 44th edition of the Giffoni Film Festival. She published her first novel two years ago. 

I was blown away when she was introduced as the director of this film last night because she is so young. I find it amazing that a 23-year-old can write and direct the part of a middle—aged mother so precisely and sensitively. Angela Bevilacqua is a great new talent that I am sure we will be hearing much more from in the future. 

We talked with both women last night and will publish those interviews as soon as we get them translated and subtitled. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In Conversation with Talia Shire

She has immortalized two of the most memorable characters in American cinema and now she’s promoting her new film that mirrors issues facing the working class.

Talia Shire became a household name in the 1970s with her role as Connie Corleone in "The Godfather" and Adrian Balboa in "Rocky"– two characters that went on to experience tremendous growth in the sequels of both films. 

Shire and her brother, collaborator and director Francis Ford Coppola grew up in a family that embraced the arts. Their father Carmine Coppola was a renowned flutist and composer. He often took his children on the road when he performed. So there was always that creative energy and sense of adventure present in their childhood and adolescent years. 

“What you have to understand is that Francis is probably the greatest writer. He and Mario (Puzo) did Shakespeare and the Greeks. So people who love "The Godfather" are really listening to literature. He went on and did what Shakespeare did because Shakespeare was always interested in power,” explained Shire when I sat down with her at the Buffalo Film Festival in October while she was attending the screening of her new film, "Working Man."

“In the case of 'The Godfather,' it’s true art. I saw that movie at Radio City. Francis was behind me. It was monumental. Those movies are monuments. There’s nothing like them. There is him and everybody else. He was a theater major and when you’re a theater major, you realize that there are 2500 years of dramatic literature and there’s something about that that is nice to have when you’re writing a film and give it to great actors. So he did that.”

Connie Corleone was introduced to us as a battered wife and soft-spoken little sister in this family of giants. After the death of her husband and abuser, she began to emerge as a stronger voice, a voice of opposition, the voice of a woman who was tired of being bossed around and told what to do. She eventually came full circle and inevitably joined the family business. Meanwhile in the Rocky films, Shire was going through a similar type of evolution with her character, the beloved Adrian. The shy, timid girl next door with glasses became a force, a beacon of strength and stability for Rocky Balboa, an everyman’s hero who achieved his dream through old fashioned hard work and dedication. Shire revealed during our conversation that although Sylvester Stallone created her character, the two collaborated on developing Adrian throughout the sequels. 

Tell me about the arc of Adrian from the first one and then into the sequels.
Sylvester is a movie star of enormous proportions. So he changed and therefore, I had to change. I had to make my hair blond. We were changing.

How much of that change was you and how much was him? 
What he wrote, and I have a great love for what he wrote, was a partner, a true partner for a man and what a woman can deliver. And here’s where certain groups make a mistake.. But you’re not a feminist. I am for emancipation and enormous freedom to use feminine intuition. I happen to know that, as a woman, we can play with our children. We can make the guy feel like a million dollars because God gave you those energies. But he (Stallone) made that. He needed a partner to tell him the truth. Now that’s all Sylvester. It was supposed to be the greatest love affair ever, and in a way it was. But she was a partner and she told the truth. We discussed it. We discussed what that could mean in a moral issue, especially with Rocky V, which was the end. 

Shire went on address why Rocky was never able to love another woman, even though he tried. “He was never unfaithful. He loved her. And even when we talked about the death of Adrian, and I was really sensitive about that because I knew about death and loss, and how he could bring that forward into their child, he was quite tortured because there was a little hint that he could have another relationship but he didn’t do it. He couldn’t go on to have another love affair because that exploration didn’t work. What he had with Adrian was mythical and once it becomes mythical, you’re stuck.”

She has worked with her share of cinema legends. The one I was most curious about was Marlon Brando. 

All of the principle actors from "The Godfather".. you have all become icons of your generation. What was it like for a bunch of young actors to work with Marlon Brando an icon of the generation before you, the generation you grew up watching?

He was a master actor, a well-trained actor.

Were you all watching and learning from him?
Yes because we worshipped him. I knew that he had studied not with Strasburg. He was not a Strasburg student ever. He was always Stella Adler who was very technical and really artful. Marlon Brando was a genius, a highly intelligent man. But he did two things which were funny for a bunch of actors watching him. One thing is he wore wax in his ears and that’s because there is a thing called active listening in acting. Listening is the same as talking. So he wanted to listen to you, to focus. So we all tried it and of course, we couldn’t do it. But he was very technical and very artful. In the scene at the end with the fruit, that’s very Marlon Brando doing what Stella Adler would say. You think I’m a monster, well I am and I frighten.. He did that. So it was a lesson. Also, he didn’t waste energy. You know, you waste energy being on a film set for 14 hours. So when he wasn’t shooting, he was either sleeping or pretended to or he had a book. He knew that he had to bring that dynamite. What we were always struck with is here he’s playing the Godfather but when he went home at night, he was a young man and he was the most beautiful young man that you can imagine. So it was watching somebody, but it wasn't (Lawrence) Oliver’s approach, who was a theater actor. It was Brando. You could see that he was artful and every moment was understood. It was improvisation but he was a very disciplined actor. He understood space.
Barbara Stanwick said to me over lunch (isn’t it great that I can tell you that), she said to me, “You know, it’s only this when you’re acting,” meaning it’s only this space. It’s not over here, it’s not over there. And that frame comes in sizes and you can only do so much. When you begin to understand that, you begin to understand editing and you know what that is. That’s what it was. He wasn’t ever improvising outside of that knowledge. Back to Stella Adler.. She was brilliant at the master class of what is the spine of the piece, what we are all doing, and she was his teacher. That’s what he was doing.

Did you fall in love with him a little? 
You can’t not swoon because there’s a sexual energy. But that’s his charisma and that’s what you see on the screen. He came at a unique time. You know, he had the male and female energy that we talk about. I think it was Martin Luther King. It was one of those walks, and who was there? Marlon Brando. He gave a shit about the other guy.

In 1989, just one year before the release of "Rocky V" and "The Godfather Part III," Shire teamed up with her brother for "New York Stories," an anthology film that consists of three vignettes directed by Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. Coppola’s segment, Life Without Zoe stars Shire opposite Giancarlo Giannini as Upper East Side parents trying to balance their socialite lives with parenting their daughter. Giannini plays a world renowned flutist, a character that Shire says was inspired by her father. “There’s a lot of my father in there. He was a great flutist with this little girl. My brother was writing about Carmine.” 

Her latest film, "Working Man," was shot on location in Chicago and follows Allery Parkes, a factory worker as he deals with the loss of his job after his plant closes. Shire describes the film as “A fascinating piece about maybe the suicide of a factory, which didn’t have to happen, which is what we’re all dealing with. These things don’t have to happen.” She plays the role of Iola Parkes, Allery’s wife, and shines once again as the nurturer, the good woman who offers support to the man she loves. Perhaps art imitates life beyond the factory closure as Shire plays nurturer in real life to four sons who have all taken creative paths. So this is a role that she is comfortable with on and off camera. 

We met for this interview near the Buffalo International Film Festival where Working Man was screening. We had breakfast together and Shire revealed to the waitress right away, "I'm vegetarian." A lifelong vegetarian myself, I asked her about this at the end of our conversation as the interview was wrapping up. "My son Jason is a vegan. People didn’t realize the misery that animals were going through. Also, this is just a fact- the amount of antibiotics being given to cows and so forth is what created the problem with antibiotics in us- the resistance. It doesn’t help with the suffering of animals to have so many just for slaughter. No chicken should be mistreated with their beaks cut off. So it was really just having to do with the suffering. That was my feeling. And we don’t even need it. The so called fake meat is delicious and frankly, I never liked all those little cartilages. It doesn’t help this planet on any level. Should every egg be cage free? You’re damn right. Nothing should have an ugly death. Nothing and no one. So don’t eat animals. They’re your friends."

Having grown up watching her beautiful, complex characters grow and evolve and continuing to watch them for three decades, Talia Shire has always been a familiar, friendly face. Now, hearing how her thoughts and convictions on animal welfare are so close to my own, it made the experience of meeting her even more poignant. They say to never meet your idols, but in this case, I am sure glad that I did.

As for the future, she is always evolving. “The best definition of evil that I heard was something that goes backwards or involution. There’s only evolution. We can’t go backward. We have to be open to the excitement of diversity, so that’s where I’m headed.”

- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the January issue of Fra Noi Magazine.

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.

Watch a clip from my interview with Daniele Luxardo at the Casa del Cinema..

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 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 we caught up with the director, Pietro Marcello. He 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.

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...