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Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Terra Lucana" - video poetry that pays homage to Basilicata

Poetry that crosses images and becomes cinema
- By Sergio Ragone

Born from an idea by Sergio Ragone and Omar Gallo, and created by the award-winning director Giuseppe Marco Albano, in collaboration with photographers Mariano Silletti, Federica Danzi, Raffaele Contini, Pierangelo Laterza and Michele Lategana, with the original music by Robert G. Pellegrino , the texts by Sergio Ragone, the voices of Omar Gallo and Andrea Ramolo (for the international version), the video "Terra lucana" is an artistic homage to Basilicata, to its natural beauty and its humanity.

"We chose to make this video - Albano, Gallo and Ragone jointly declare - to try to give a new story to Basilicata. The choice of the shots of talented photographers, combined with the poetry of the words and the original music composed precisely for this work, has allowed us to overcome the usual and by now consummate narration of Lucanian places through the use of canonical images of Lucanian landscapes and the abuse of drones. For us the true soul of Basilicata, an extraordinarily rich land of beauty, is exactly in the poetry that in the language of art, photography and words, this is not a tourism promotion video but a tribute, through video art, to a territory, its history and the stories of its women and men. Our region has already made itself known to the whole world as a land of cinema and culture, for this reason we think it is more correct to tell it in this way by relaunching its cultural profil at national and international level. The video “Terra lucana” was in fact made both in the Italian and English versions, in order to be able to be conveyed also to a wider and international audience.

The video was produced by the Mediterranean Cinematografica. Watch it below on YouTube...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Roma 11:00" – The Tragic True Story of Desperation in a World of Poverty

There couldn’t have been a more perfect couple than Lucia Bosè and Raf Vallone in Giuseppe De Santis’ 1952 “Roma 11:00.” 

A tragic story based on true events, the film follows several young women in post-WWII Rome as they answer a job listing for a typist. When 200 women are in line on one staircase over several floors, a crack leads to the collapse of the entire staircase. Dozens were injured and one was killed. The tragedy spoke to the poverty and desperation that existed for so many Italians in the early 1950s before the ‘58 industrial boom began. 

Cesare Zavattini was one of the screenwriters. Elio Petri was the assistant director who interviewed many of the victims and cast a few in supporting roles. In addition to Bosè and Vallone, the film stars Carla Del Poggio, Massimo Girotti, Maria Grazia Francia, Lea Padovani and Delia Scala.

The film is set in Largo Circense 37, while in reality the collapse took place in via Savoia 31, in the Salario district, on January 15, 1951. The square with the palace was entirely rebuilt in the studio by the famous French scenographer Léon Barsacq.

Watch this :14 second clip I edited for Instagram. 

Lucia Bosè passed away in March at the age of 89 due to complications related to Covid-19. Her work in the early ‘50s before she got married and moved to Spain is exceptional. She had extraordinary beauty and such a unique way about her.

Click below to watch “Roma 11:00.”  It's available in the United States on YouTube, and fortunately, there are subtitles. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Actor Giancarlo Giannini Gets His Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

HOLLYWOOD, CA. June 17, 2020 — Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2021 Announced by Walk of Fame Chair Ellen K and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Rana Ghadban

A new group of entertainment professionals in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Live Theatre/Live Performance, Radio and Recording have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by the Walk of Fame Selection Panel of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. These honorees were chosen from among hundreds of nominations to the committee at a meeting held on June 15, 2020 and ratified by the Hollywood Chamber’s Board of Directors.  Ellen K, Chair of the Walk of Fame Selection Panel and Radio personality, announced the new honorees with Rana Ghadban, President/CEO for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.   The new selections were revealed to the world via the Walk of Fame Facebook page beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 18. “The Walk of Fame Selection Panel is pleased to announce 35 new honorees to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Selection Panel, made up of fellow Walk of Famers, hand-picks a group of honorees each year that represent various genres of the entertainment world,” said Chair and Walk of Famer Ellen K,  “The Panel has done an exemplary job in choosing very talented people. We can’t wait to see each and every honoree’s face as they realize that they are becoming a part of Hollywood’s history as we unveil their star on the world’s most famous walkway!” Ellen K added.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2021 are: In the category of MOTION PICTURES: Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Morris Chestnut, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zac Efron, Giancarlo Giannini, Shia LaBeouf, Jimmy Smits, Naomi Watts and a double star for Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. In the category of TELEVISION:  Nick Cannon, Courteney Cox, Marla Gibbs, Jenifer Lewis, Laura Linney, Judge Greg Mathis, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Sarah Paulson, Peter Roth and Christian Slater. In the category of RECORDING:  The Chi-Lites, Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott, Ana Gabriel, Jefferson Airplane, The Judds, Don McLean, Salt-N-Pepa, Trisha Yearwood and Charlie Parker (Posthumous). In the category of LIVE THEATRE/LIVE PERFORMANCE: Sarah Brightman, Luciano Pavarotti (Posthumous) and August Wilson (Posthumous) In the category of RADIO:  Big Boy   The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame Selection Panel congratulate all the honorees.

Dates have not been scheduled for these star ceremonies. Recipients have two years to schedule star ceremonies from the date of selection before they expire. Upcoming star ceremonies are usually announced ten days prior to dedication on the official website

Watch the official announcement...

It was also announced today that cinematographer Vittorio Storaro will receive a Nastro d'Oro for lifetime achievement at the upcoming Nastri d'Argento award ceremony that will take place on 6 July at the MAXXI - Museo in Rome.. Congratulations to two living legends!

Watch a clip from Storaro's appearance at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York in which he talks about his work on Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 "Apocalypse Now."

Watch these films starring Giancarlo Giannini...


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Celebrate the International Day of Italian Cinema with us!

Fellini's "Amarcord"
Today is the International Day of Italian Cinema and I’m sharing it via Zoom with three Americans of Italian origin who have been influenced by the culture and cinema of Italy. Each of us has gone to Italy to explore our origins and those trips have inspired our work.

Everyone is New York City-based, except for me. I am in western New York closer to Toronto than New York City. My guests are: 

Lucia Grillo, an actress and award-winning filmmaker currently adapting a book for television 

Taylor Taglianetti, the founder of The National Organization of Italian Americans in Film & Television (NOIAFT)

Giò Crisafulli, a filmmaker and Chief Entertainment Critic for the NOIAFT

Our common ground is that we’ve spent extended periods of time in Italy exploring the land of our origins and really taking in and learning about the good and the bad of our culture.. the bad being the difficult past that our ancestors faced, not just in the South but in all of Italy from the pandemics in the North during the middle ages to the battles in the South that created the poverty our ancestors eventually were forced to flee. 

I began the conversation talking about Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" and Francesco Rosi’s adaptation of Carlo Levi’s “Christ Stopped at Eboli,” which have both been decades-long learning tools about the land of my family's Italian origins in Basilicata.

I shared a bit about my experience growing up with the classic cinema of the 50s and 60s, and when I was in my 20’s, I wanted to discover the new cinema upon returning from a 6-month stay in Rome. The first movie I remember seeing was Lina Wertmuller’s “Ciao Professore” starring Paolo Villaggio and I think that’s what started my affection for the South.

We also talked about the cinema of Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Sica among others. Watch our conversation and feel free to share your favorite films with us on our social media platforms..

Stream these films that we discussed... Click here to watch a fascinating collection of interviews with Fellini on the Criterion Channel.



Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Ancient Heart of Basilicata Post-Covid

Sergio Ragone in Matera
"In the ancient heart of Basilicata, there is the future of Italy after Covid 19" - By Sergio Ragone

Cinecittà Studios announced today that a new chapter of the infamous Rome film school, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, will open in the ancient stone city of Matera, located in the region of Basilicata. So I thought this would be a good time to share a thoughtful commentary by journalist and author Sergio Ragone whose work we have featured often throughout the years. He writes about the coronavirus pandemic and how it impacted his region and what must be done to continue the progress the Lucani have made in the past decade to build and promote Basilicata.

There is an Italy that the narrative of this pandemic has cut out, useless to deny it. It is the Italy of small villages, of provincial cities, far from the red areas and from Milan that has lived, lives and suffers because of the Coronavirus. It is the Italy of small communities, of often forgotten places, which does not enjoy highly innovative services, roads and where the human element is the main element of resistance. Resistance to all the negative things that globalization has produced and that has cut this Italy out of the world. And there is an Italy in the South which, despite its excellent performance, is not told as a model for managing the emergency. We are talking about Basilicata, one of the first regions that recorded 0 in the number of infections and which, thanks above all to the adoption of healthy and respectful behavior by its inhabitants, is showing patience and intelligence in the fight against the invisible enemy. This Basilicata was the land of the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera, and is today the ideal place to build a safe and necessary restart to restart the engine of the national economy. Of course, mistakes have also been made in Basilicata and unfortunately many families mourn the death of women and men torn away too early by the virus' fury; just as the economic crisis that threatens to wipe out the legitimate ambitions of many people, companies, innovators and young people who had laid the foundations for a life project to be built in this piece of the South, but photography is making itself felt Lucana of these days bodes well for a passing of Phase 2 and a return, albeit slow, to a much desired normality. The Lucanians are well aware that the game is not over yet, but they have decided to manage the game and not allow the opponent to take too much field. It's not easy, but they don't give up on it.

Why isn't there a story about this positivity that doesn't hurt? Why, as always, the beauty and goodness of the Italian province is never presented to the world with all its strength and brightness? On the day when we still read terrible news of deaths and the number of infected is not so low as to let us breathe a sigh of relief, what is happening in Basilicata instead can be an example, a model to export and replicate in the Italian regions . The land of the Sassi of Matera and the boundless beauty of the sea that bathes Maratea and the Ionian coast, great cinema and successful television fiction has shown, once again, that it is only by adopting healthy, respectful behaviors and overcoming all selfishness that the most difficult challenges can be faced. It is not the first time this has happened, although this is the first time that we have all faced the risks and dangers of a pandemic; the Lucanians have already been able to demonstrate responsibility, tenacity and resilience on many other occasions in history, even the most recent.

In the region of the two names and the two seas, everything still has a genuine flavor, each word has a weight, each community has been able to preserve its memory and has treasured it. The green and yellow of its fields are authentic, just as they should be: all this not thanks to fortuitous coincidences but because the result of constant, daily work, the effort of the hands and the sweat of the forehead of those who live on the edge of dreams and it never gives up. These virtues deserve a stronger light, a bigger stage, an unprecedented visibility. This story deserves a story that goes beyond the stereotypes of shame that becomes a world heritage site and goes beyond that idea of peasant civilization, of which you are not ashamed, but talk about the progress, the innovations practiced, the talents that have blossomed here and have written important pages.

Italy today needs the ancient heart of Basilicata, it needs its virtues and its people to rebuild, regenerate, start again. There is a possible future that is being born in the South, let's not let it fade once again.

Click here to watch my 2018 documentary, "Return to Lucania," which offers a look into the socioeconomic evolution of Basilicata through the cinema made there.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Federico Fellini: A Look into the Life and Career of an Icon

A Fellini family portrait 
“The term became a common word to describe something on the surface you can say is bizarre or strange, but actually is really like a painter working on a film,” said Martin Scorsese when asked to define “Felliniesque,” an adjective inspired by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

The oldest of three children, Federico Fellini was born in the seaside town of Rimini in 1920. His father was a travelling salesmen, so his mother was left to do the bulk of raising the children. One can argue that Fellini was born for his destiny. “You could tell that even as a child, he was different and unique. He was very intelligent, well above average. He was always the one to organize things, direct the others, make up games. He could control the other kids with just a look, said Fellini’s sister, Maddalena, in an interview with journalist Gideon Bachmann. 

Not only was Fellini directing the children, he was putting on shows and charging admission. His mother, Ida Fellini, talked with Bachmann about the future director’s early fascination with creating a show. “At 10 or 11 years of age, he already showed a penchant for playing with puppets. He was already very keen on putting on shows for his friends. I’d buy him the puppet heads, and he’d put together costumes for them like a tailor. Then I bought him a little puppet theater. We had a huge terrace where he’d put on puppet shows for his schoolmates. He’d charge them a coin or two. They were his audience.” 

When Fellini entered his mid-teens and became part of a group of friends, he started frequenting the local cinema in Rimini, The Fulgor, which is still standing today and has recently been renovated in his honor. Those years influenced many of his films, inspired his caricature-drawings of actors and gave him a taste of the good life, earning money doing what he loved. 

“I think it was the summer of 1936. Federico was very good at drawing caricatures. He had this idea of posing as an English caricaturist by the name of Russell. We’d go to swank spots like the Grand Hotel here in Rimini,” recalled his childhood friend, Luigi Benzi. “He’d do very good caricatures, which we’d sell for five lire each. As soon as he’d drawn one, he’d take a break, and the five lire would quickly disappear. We’d do things like rent a carriage, and he’d buy a bag of candy, and we’d toss the candy out as we rode down the street. He liked to see little kids following behind, picking up the candy. By evening, all the lire he’d earned would be gone.”

Around the age of 16, Fellini started to send his illustrations with humorous captions to publications, including a Sunday edition newspaper called La Domenica del Corriere for which he was compensated. In 1937, he began to work for an artist in Rimini creating illustrations and caricatures, which were sold in the artist’s shop. That led to more caricatures for local movie theaters of famous actors in exchange for free admission to the movies for Fellini and his friends. 

Alberto Sordi in “The White Sheik” 
Fellini moved to Rome in the early 1940s. Upon his arrival, he drew caricature drawings for the satirical magazine, Marc’Aurelio and wrote sketches for EIAR, the public radio service in Fascist Italy. That’s where he met his future wife, actress Giulietta Masina, as she performed his skits. 

After the war, he began working as a screenwriter mostly with Roberto Rossellini on numerous films, including “Rome Open City” (1945), “Paisan” (1946) and “L’amore” (1948).

Fellini’s 1950 directorial debut “Luci del varietà” (Variety Lights) kicked off a prolific movie-making decade. He teamed up with Alberto Sordi in 1952 for “The White Sheik” and the following year for “I Vitelloni,” a highly autobiographical film that follows the shenanigans of a group of unemployed young men who roam around their seaside town of Rimini. Fellini based the story on his own group of high school friends, casting his younger brother in the role of Riccardo. 

Antonio Cifariello in “Agenzia Matrimoniale”
Also in 1953, he made a short video essay for Cesare Zavattini’s docu-fiction compilation, “L’amore in città” (Love in the City). A hidden treasure, “Agenzia Matrimoniale” is narrated by Fellini himself and tells of an experience he had during his early journalism days in Rome when he was reporting on an agency that arranges marriages. The busy streets of contemporary Rome in the 1950s serve as the perfect backdrop to this touching story about a young woman willing to marry a werewolf in order to be taken care of financially. Like most of Fellini’s works, it turned out to be somewhat of a case study on the human condition. 

During the mid-1950s, Fellini had a string of box office hits, which included two Oscar-winners for Best Foreign Language Film – “La Strada” (1954)  and “Le notte di Cabiria” (Nights of Cabiria) (1956) starring his wife and collaborator. It was just a warm up for the next two films that would define his career. 

Marcello Mastroianni and Aimee Anouk in "La Dolce Vita"
“In a way, it’s a sequel to “I Vitelloni.” Moraldo has come to the big city. He’s become a journalist, and he’s achieved a certain level of success. So the film is the tale of his adventures as a reporter, combined with parts of his private life,” explained Fellini during the making of “La Dolce Vita.”  He went on to say, “We’ll see Rome as we’ve come to know her in the past three or four years, this chaotic explosion of the city in every direction with its various characters- strange characters and strange encounters.” Of course, those encounters included the immortal image of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the Fountain of Trevi.

Perhaps the international appeal of “La Dolce Vita” and “8 ½” was the way in which Fellini presented Rome – with so much hope and enthusiasm for life, an immaculate city with newly built piazzas for enjoying and embracing “the sweet life.” Since there was always speculation as to how much of himself he put into his films, Fellini admitted that he was inspired by his own experiences when writing “La Dolce Vita,” telling an Italian journalist, “The film is autobiographical in the sense that it’s the sum of encounters I’ve had over the last few years. I’ve traveled the world screening my films. It’s a feverish life, if you will, a life that turns into publicity. My intention was to communicate a feeling of chaos, of disorder.”

The film was a huge success at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered. The president of the jury, Belgian author Georges Simenon, was wildly passionate about the film. “I had the distinct impression that I had seen an exceptionally vigorous piece of work that will leave an important mark in the history of cinema. What I had seen was unprecedented and alive. At the same time, I had discovered an artist rich in both strength and sensitivity,” Simenon revealed.

Fellini’s follow up feature film to “La Dolce Vita” was the Academy Award winning “8 ½.” A film about making a film, Fellini drew on aspects of his childhood, his years as a journalist and his career as a director. Marcello Mastroianni is in his prime as Fellini’s alter ego, Guido, a filmmaker experiencing a severe case of writer’s block. The symbolic eerie open, a dream sequence in which Guido is hyperventilating in a locked car during a traffic jam is symbolic for the director trying to meet a deadline for his producer but unable to freely create the material. From Saraghina on the beach to his wife to his mistress to a sequence in which Guido is trapped in a room with domineering women, Fellini examines his own relationships with the women in his life. Whether they have come and gone, are still next to him or a distant memory, the women he knew left a lasting and profound effect. He told Bachmann that he was trying to portray three levels on which our minds live: the past, the present and not the future, but the conditional– the realm of fantasy.

Fellini’s first color film came in 1965 with “Giulietta degli spiriti” (Juliet of the Spirits). The advent of technicolor gave way to a whole new world of creativity, and he spent the next decade making abstract, visually over-the-top films such as “Fellini Satyricon” (1969), “The Clowns” (1970), “Roma” (1972) and “Amarcord” (1973).

Perhaps a means of passage from his prime into his twilight years, acknowledging the values and social movements of the new generation, is the 1981 “City of Women.” Fellini was ahead of his time with this film as he explored and interpreted the new punk and feminist social movements of the period. Mastroianni stars as Snàporaz, a male chauvinist who makes a pass at a beautiful woman in the bathroom of a train as it’s arriving at the station. He exits the train as he sees her walking into an open field opposite the station. As he calls out to her, she turns around and snaps a photo of him while the train leaves the station without him. As he wanders through a forest, he stumbles upon a hotel filled with women. It’s a feminist convention and he is forced to address the disrespect he has demonstrated all his life towards women. Desperate to get back to the station, he catches a ride with a bunch of teenagers listening to punk music and is met with a game-changing detour.

Mastroianni in "City of Women"
The combination of Giuseppe Rotunno’s cinematography and Dante Ferretti’s set design is a feast for the eyes. As the title suggests, Fellini once again examines his relationships with the women in his life. From a scene in which his wife breaks down about the distance that has grown between them to a hallway lined with pictures and recordings of women from the past to a dance sequence with young, beautiful dancers and a mother figure next to him to young boys on a beach with the Saraghina figure to a final scene in which the true love of his life is revealed, Fellini appears to enjoy this never-ending quest for the significance of the female presence in his life. 

Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina in "Ginger and Fred"
As Rome always played a main protagonist in the films he made there, Fellini’s 1986 “Ginger and Fred” is no different. However, as those older films had an air of hope and wonder to them, presenting Rome as his pristine playground, the city was presented as the complete opposite in this last film he would shoot there. This transition to the new generation of Romans that began in “City of Women” comes full circle. Instead, we see a much more contemporary Rome, closer to that which exists today with overflowing garbage containers, old furniture littering the sides of the road and clandestine immigrants selling packs of tissues and trinkets. The nostalgic story of two retired dancers meeting after decades to perform on a tacky variety show is representative of the Rome in which Fellini found himself during the last years of his life– nostalgic for the sweet memories of the past while living in an unrecognizable present.

Roberto Benigni in "The Voice of the Moon"
The 1990 film, “The Voice of the Moon” starring Roberto Benigni and Paolo Villaggio was Fellini’s last film. It had some success in Italy but wasn’t distributed in the United States at the time. At this point in his life, he was having a hard time getting his projects financed and instead did some work for television.

In March of 1993, Fellini was presented with an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement by Mastroianni and Sophia Loren. The following June, he was admitted to a hospital in Switzerland for angioplasty. Two months later, he suffered a stroke while in his hometown of Rimini. He underwent some rehabilitation and was transferred to a Rome hospital to be closer to Masina who was also hospitalized at the time. Shortly thereafter, he had a second stroke and fell into a coma. He passed away on October 31, the day after the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. 

Fellini once offered this insight into the success of his films: “If you talk about life with sincerity without trying to lecture anyone, without being too heavy-handed in your philosophizing or in the messages you send– When you talk about life with humility and most of all, with a sense of proportion for things, I think that everyone will be able to identify with you, and make your story their own.”

Click on the images below to stream films available on Amazon Prime. Click here to browse the selection on the Criterion Channel. If you're in Rome, check out Dante Ferretti's homage to Fellini, "Felliniana - Ferretti dreams of Fellini," at Cinecittà. Click here for details.



-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the August issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Celebrate the International Day of Italian Cinema from Anywhere in the World

Rai Play is offering a great opportunity to celebrate June 20, the "International Day of Italian Cinema." All the David Di Donatello nominees plus numerous other cinema commemorations, including masterclasses and tributes to Federico Fellini, will be available to watch worldwide online until June 21, as part of the annual cultural event, Fare Cinema (Making Cinema).

Pictured is Veronica Spedicati’s David di Donatello nominated short film, “Il Nostro Tempo” starring Celeste Casciaro, Emanuela Minno and Franco Ferrante. One of the most beautiful contemporary films I've seen in a while, Veronica Spedicati's "Il Nostro Tempo" is a story about an unspoken bond between a father and daughter. Shot in an olive grove in southern Italy, the film perfectly captures the atmosphere of gentle breezes and dog days of a Pugliese summer near the sea. The film is available worldwide with Spanish and French subtitles. English subtitles will be added soon, although the story is easy to follow without them. Click here for a direct link to stream it on RaiPlay. It will be available until 21 June. 

Click here for access to the entire selection.

Friday, June 12, 2020

#Fellini100 – The Sweetness and Genius of Giulietta Masina

Fellini and Masina on the set of "La Strada"
As open-hearted and sunny as Federico Fellini was dark and complex, they were perfect counterpoints during a half century of marriage and professional collaboration. 

Nicknamed a “female Chaplin” and described by Chaplin himself as the actress who moved him most, Giulietta Masina confronted the tragedy of her characters with an eternal innocence and enthusiasm that gave Italians hope in the most challenging of times. 

Born in 1921 in San Giorgio di Piano, a commune north of Bologna, Masina was the oldest of four children born to a father who was a music professor and violinist and a mother who was a grade-school teacher. Her parents sent her as a child to live in Rome with her widowed aunt while she attended school there. As Masina took an early interest in gymnastics, her aunt saw in her a passion for performing and encouraged her to pursue acting. So after high school, Masina attended Rome’s La Sapienza University where she was active in the theater program during the 1941-1942 school year. Among the productions was Johnann Ludwig Tieck’s “Puss in Boots.”

In 1943, Masina landed the female lead in “Terzoglio,” a radio show about the adventures of newlyweds Cico and Pallina. The scripts were written by Federico Fellini. Not only did she achieve popularity with the show, she married Fellini. The show lasted until 1947 and their marriage endured for half a century.

Masina as Cabiria
Masina’s first big screen role came in Alberto Lattuada’s 1948 “Senza pietà” (Without Pity). Her performance earned her a Nastro d'Argento (Silver Ribbon) by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later, Fellini directed his first film, “Luci del varità” (Variety Lights) and cast Masina in the lead role for which she won her second Nastro d'Argento. Upon the success of that first collaboration, Masina was given a role in Fellini’s 1952 film “Lo Sceicco Bianco” (The White Sheik) starring Alberto Sordi. She played the role of Cabiria, a good-hearted prostitute, appearing in one scene. The character inspired her next collaboration with Fellini, the character Gelsomina in his 1954 “La Strada” and of course, Cabiria in the 1957 “Nights of Cabiria.” Both films won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

"At the Edge of the City"
Also in 1952, Masina had a part in Carlo Lizzani and Massimo Mida’s suspenseful, murder mystery, “Ai margini della metropoli” (At the Edge of the City). Masina plays Gina, the devoted wife of Mario (Michel Jourdin), an unemployed peasant accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Marcella. The layered, complex story and brilliantly written screenplay show a side of 1950s Rome that we rarely see in Post-WWII films, but sadly existed for the vast poverty-stricken population. This subject matter deals with the unspoken discrimination against those living in camps and land-shares who did not benefit from the post-war economic boom. A young, vibrant Massimo Girotti portrays a torn defense attorney who gets emotionally involved in the case, having a gut feeling that his client is innocent while the evidence continues to pile up against him. Gina goes through great lengths to track down the alleged witnesses and call them out on their false testimony. The entire film comes together in a spectacular final courtroom scene in which those wanting to lazily convict Mario are made to confront their prejudices. Masina gave a heartfelt, passionate performance that undoubtedly contributed to her rise in cinema during that decade.

Masina as Gelsomina
Fellini’s 1954 “La Strada” opens on a deserted beach as Gelsomina Di Costanzo (Giulietta Masina) is called by her young siblings to meet Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), a burly side show performer who arrives to announce the death of her sister, Rosa, his former assistant. As Gelsomina’s mother cries, she offers to replace Rosa with Gelsomina, pleading, “She’ll do what she’s told. She just came out a little strange.” Zampanò agrees, giving the family 10,000 lira (about $10.00), two pounds of salami, a pound of cheese and two bottles of wine. Although Zampanò is not kind to Gelsomina, she becomes attached to him and is hurt by his meandering and womanizing. So she decides to leave and enjoys a carefree, intoxicated evening running around a piazza, watching a tightrope walker (Richard Basehart), whose eye she catches after the performance. Before long, Zampanò finds her and she is partnered with him again. The pair joins a circus where she runs into that tightrope performer who turns out to be an adversary of Zampanò. There’s a moving scene in which Gelsomina is presented with an opportunity to leave Zampanò but questions what good it would do because she doesn’t believe that she’s of use to anyone. She says that she is sick of living and questions why she was born. She decides to stay with Zampanò, convinced that it’s her purpose in life. He continues his destructive behavior, only appreciating Gelsomina after it’s too late. Fellini said that he drew inspiration from his wife of five years at the time, explaining, "I utilized the real Giulietta, but as I saw her. I was influenced by her childhood photographs, so elements of Gelsomina reflect a ten-year-old Giulietta." The film won the very first Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. 

Watch this clip featuring Martin Scorsese talking about "La Strada"... (Beware of the spoilers in case you haven't seen the film yet.)

Masina had a small but poignant role in Fellini’s 1955 “Il Bidone” (The Swindlers) as Iris, the wife of Raul aka Picasso (Richard Basehart). Radiating the virtue and purity that Masina brings to all of her characters, Iris desperately urges her husband to cut ties with a crime ring that swindles already poor people out of their savings. She and Basehart had previously worked together on “La Strada,” and their ease in finding their natural chemistry transferred over to this film. They bring out a lightheartedness and simplicity in their characters, complimenting each other’s trait of innocence in the face of despair.

A scene from "Il Bidone"
Fellini and Masina’s next collaboration, the 1957 “Nights of Cabiria,” opens on the banks of a river in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. A young couple, Cabiria (Masina) and Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi) are taking a leisurely walk when out of nowhere, Giorgio grabs her purse, pushes her into the water and runs away. Some kids hear her calls for help as the current is whisking her away. The kids manage to save her. As soon as she gains consciousness, without showing any gratitude, she frantically looks for Giorgio and runs home all the while believing that she just fell in and Giorgio got scared and ran away. After some tough love from her best friend, Wanda (Franca Marzi), and time alone to think and ponder what could have happened if those kids didn’t jump in after her, she wises up and burns all of his belongings. From this point, Cabiria reveals little by little her childhood dream that prince charming really does exist. At one point, under the trance of a magician, she recalls the beauty of her youth with her long black hair, a distant memory due to the cruel streets where she makes her living. When a seemingly sincere man presents himself to her, he seems too good to be true, but slowly, Cabiria let her guard down and accepts his marriage proposal. That decision brings her to a cliff overlooking a lake, again with purse in hand, alongside a man she thought she knew. What happens next reveals her undefeatable spirit.

Masina won the Best Actress prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in addition to receiving her third Nastro d’Argento. Masina attended the Academy Awards ceremony alone because Fellini was working on a film at the time and did not believe they would win. She accepted the award, visibly shaken, and thanked Fellini and the film’s producer, Dino De Laurentiis.

Watch the trailer for "Nights of Cabiria"..

Renato Castellani’s 1959 “Nella città l’inferno” (And the Wild, Wild Women) stars Masina and Anna Magnani as Lina and Egle, women locked up for petty crimes in a Rome jail. The version available in the United States on Amazon Prime is dubbed in English, and much of the performances are lost in translation but it’s worth watching these two icons share scenes together. Masina’s character, Lina, undergoes a complete transformation during the course of the film as a reflection of Egle’s rough influence. Alberto Sordi makes a lively, over-the-top cameo as a notorious womanizer and conman. I recommend watching this on Amazon to understand the story and then watching the original version without subtitles on YouTube to experience the authentic, organic performances of three of Italy’s cinematic icons. 

Watch this clip of Masina and Magnani from “Nella città l’inferno”..

Masina joined her husband for another collaboration in 1965  on “Giulietta degi spiriti” (Juliet of the Spirits). The film marked Fellini’s first color project, an experimentation resulting in a kaleidoscope effect blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Masina is Giulietta, a housewife who deals with her husband’s infidelity by embarking on a psychedelic journey of self-discovery with a whole cast of characters. Masina’s performance earned her a David di Donatello for Best Actress.

Watch the original 1965 trailer for “Giulietta degi spiriti”...

During the late 1960s and ‘70s, Masina worked on projects for the small screen, including her own show, which ran from 1966 – 1969 and roles in several television series. In 1969, she had her first English-language role in “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” a comedy starring Katharine Hepburn.

In 1986, she teamed up with her husband once again for “Ginger and Fred.” Set in Fellini’s Rome of the bizarre and misfits, the film is a satire about two dancers who made careers during World War II imitating Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. They are reunited for a performance on a tacky and bizarre variety show. Masina plays Amelia Bonetti aka Ginger, a widowed grandmother who accepts the offer to show her grandchildren what she did during her heyday and to be reunited with her dance partner who still holds a special place in her heart. Pippo Botticella aka Fred is played by Fellini’s longtime screen alter ego, Marcello Mastroianni. He shows up at the last minute just looking to make a buck. Lifelong friends, it was the first time that Masina and Mastroianni appeared in a film together. The role earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress and her fourth Nastro d’Argento. 

Fellini was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars in 1993 by Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. In his infamous acceptance speech, he thanked all the people who had worked on his films over the course of his career, but named only one. “Let me make only one name of an actress who is also my wife. Thank you dear Giulietta and please stop crying!” The shot of her in tears gave testament to their lifetime of love. 

Watch the clip from the Oscars...

Fellini passed away in October of that year, just one day after the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. Masina passed away five months later from lung cancer on March 23, 1994. Their iconic cinematic collaborations have made their love immortal. 

All the aforementioned films are available on Amazon and/or the Criterion Channel. Below are direct links to stream the films available through Amazon... 



- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the July issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Ettore Scola's 'Trevico-Torino. Viaggio nel Fiat-Nam'

In 1972, Ettore Scola made a docu-fiction about the living conditions southern Italians were forced to endure upon relocating to the FIAT company’s Torino manufacturing plant. The title is, “Trevico-Torino. Viaggio nel Fiat-Nam,” which is a pretty harsh title giving its take on Vietnam. 

The film follows a young man, Fortunato Santospirito, from Trevico in the region of Campania to Torino in the region of Piedmont. Once he begins his new job, he is met with hostility there and in his home life, too. 

I found a trailer for the film on the AAMOD’s website (Audiovisual Archive Foundation of the Workers' and Democratic Movement), which has become a new fascination of mine after discovering it for the first time in April.

This clip is too epic not to translate and post. I wanted it to be under a minute so that I could post it in my IG feed, so I had to cut the original. This clip includes directors Gillo Pontecorvo and Mario Monicelli along with Alberto Sordi recommending the film. Unfortunately, the timecode is burnt into the video, but I managed to slip in the subtitles underneath. Sordi’s comments are funny, comparing contemporary Italian cinema to pornography.

Click here to view the original trailer. The actual docu-film is also available on YouTube thanks to AAMOD but there aren’t English subtitles, so it’s tough to follow at times. But the video speaks for itself. I added it to my original story on this website.

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...