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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Federico Fellini's Niece to Present Short Film at the Rome Film Fest

Francesca Fabbri Fellini with Giulietta Masina and Federico Fellini
Photo from "Omaggio a Fellini con I Bislacchi di Artemis/Casadei
An interesting short film will be included in the program of the upcoming Rome Film Festival.

"La Fellinette," a debut by Francesca Fabbri Fellini, the maestro's niece, will be shown in commemoration of the centenary of Federico Fellini.

Born in 1965, Fellini is a journalist and writer, and the last direct heir of the iconic director. Her 12-minute film has been described as "a fairy tale suspended between dream and reality made in mixed media, partly in cartoon and partly in live action." Fabbri Fellini says the film's inspiration came from a drawing that Fellini made for her when she was a child after a walk on the beach.

We'll keep you posted on when the film will be available internationally. In the meantime, click here to follow Francesca Fabbri Fellini on Facebook where she communicates the latest on her adventures with the film.

The Rome Film Festival will run October 15 - 25. Click here to visit the festival online. Click here to see the painting that inspired the film.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Actress Paola Lavini on her Role in Giorgio Diritti's 'Volevo nascondermi'

Italians made their way back to the cinemas over the weekend and one of the most popular films to see was Giorgio Diritti's "Volevo nascondermi" (Hidden Away), the story of tortured artist Antonio Ligabue.

The son of an emigrant Italian mother, Ligabue was deported to Italy from Switzerland where he spent his childhood. He lived a life of solitude in a shack by the river for years. Meeting the sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati provided an opportunity to express himself through painting, the beginning of a redemption story in which he feels art is the only way to form his identity. “El Tudesc,” as people called him, was a lonely, introverted and often mocked and humiliated man. He became an imaginative artist who painted a fantasy world of tigers, gorillas and jaguars on the banks of the Po River. Ligabue’s art is a “fairy tale” from which a wealth of diversity emerges and his work over time has proved to be a gift to collective humanity.

"Volevo nascondermi" premiered in February at the Berlin Film Festival just before the world paused for the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the film has received a whole slew of nominations and awards.

Actress Paola Lavini plays Ligabue's love interest, Pina. Lavini is no stranger to Italian Cinema Today. We've met up with her numerous times in Rome at film festivals and cafés just to catch up over cappuccino. I asked her about her experience working on this film.

The Italian version follows..

Tell me about this character Pina and her place in this story.
Pina is a beautiful woman who approaches Antonio Ligabue out of opportunism, but with sincerity and tenderness. She meets him when he is already famous.

What did you do in terms of research to prepare for the role?
I called to mind many things about my grandmother from my Emilian origins. I looked at many paintings by Ligabue and watched many of his films to understand his world.

Tell me about your collaboration with Elio Germano.. 
It was fantastic. He is an extraordinary actor and a genuine person. It is exciting to work with good actors. They inspire you to give your best.

..And with Giorgio Diritti. What was your experience shooting with him?
I have been following Giorgio Diritti for years. I love his filmography. I love his style of directing and the way in which he makes decisions. I love his poetics. He is attentive to everything and everyone.

Paola Lavini in a scene from "Volevo nascondermi"
During the film, did you develop an appreciation for the art and struggles of Antonio Ligabue?
Absolutely. I also started painting again. I picked up the canvas and gave free rein to my imagination. I didn't know him very much and instead I looked at all his paintings with a keen eye, trying to emulate the desire for redemption he had through his art.

What do you feel is the importance of this film to the legacy of Ligabue?
Through this film, we discover Antonio’s real life, even before Ligabue–the little Antonio and then of the adult Antonio with his difficulties in showing affection. His life began in a ‘wrong’ way, perhaps, but he could right those wrongs through his painting. I believe that Antonio Ligabue is still little known as a painter and this film could be a way to make him known more, as he deserves, in Italy and in the world.

We'll keep you updated on when the film will be released in the United States. In the meantime, watch Lavini in the AMBI Pictures 2016 film "All Roads Lead to Rome," a romantic comedy set in Italy that stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Raoul Bova and Claudia Cardinale and in the 2005 HBO series, "Rome" in which she plays the ill-mannered trophy wife, Phyllis. Click here to watch the series on HBO Max.

Intervista in Italiano

Raccontami questo personaggio Pina.
Pina è una bella donna che si avvicina ad Antonio Ligabue per..opportunismo, anche se con molta tenerezza. Lo conosce quando lui è già ricco e famoso .

Cosa hai fatto in termini di ricerca per prepararti al ruolo?
Ho attinto molte cose da mia nonna, dalle mie origini emiliane e mi sono guardate molti quadri di Ligabue e tanti suoi filmati per capire il suo mondo

Lavini and Elio Germano in a scene from "Volevo nascondermi"
Parlami della tua collaborazione con Elio Germano 
Fantastico. Attore straordinario. Persona vera. E' stimolante lavorare con attori bravi. Dai il meglio

E con Giorgio Diritti... 
Inseguo Giorgio Diritti da anni. Amo la sua filmografia. Amo come dirige e le facce che sceglie. Amo la sua poetica. E' attento a tutto e a tutti.

Durante il film, hai sviluppato un apprezzamento per l'arte e le lotte di Antonio Ligabue?
Siiiii. Mi sono rimessa anche a dipingere. Ho ripreso in mano la tela ed ho dato libero sfogo alla mia immaginazione. Lo conoscevo poco ed invece ho riguardato con occhio attento tutti i suoi quadri, cercando di carpire il desiderio di riscatto che aveva attraverso la sua arte.

Qual è l'importanza di questo film per l'eredità di Ligabue? 
Attraverso questo film, scopriamo la vita vera di Antonio, prima ancora di Ligabue. Del piccolo Antonio e poi dell'Antonio adulto. Delle sue difficoltà negli affetti, della sua vita cominciata in modo 'storto', forse 'sbagliato,  e che lui ha saputo invece rendere 'vincente' attraverso la sua pittura. Credo che Antonio Ligabue sia ancora poco conosciuto come pittore e questo film potrebbe essere un modo per farlo conoscere di più, come merita, in Italia e nel mondo.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Solemn Day in Italian-American History

August 23 marks the anniversary of two solemn events in Italian-American history... the untimely death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino in 1926 and one year later in 1927, the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Below are clips from my 2018 documentary, "Return to Lucania," in which I spoke of these cultural icons still so relevant today. Follow this link to watch the documentary on Vimeo..

On August 23, 1926, silent film star Rudolph Valentino passed away in New York City at 31. He had been admitted to the hospital on August 15 after collapsing at Manhattan’s Hotel Ambassador. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and gastric ulcers. Three days later, after having surgery, he was on the mend but then developed peritonitis and in the days following, suffered inflammation in his lungs, causing his condition to take a turn for the worse. It is reported that he was conscious in the early hours of August 23 and even talked with his doctors before falling into a coma and then succumbing to his illness. Tens of thousands of hysterical fans took to the streets of New York upon hearing the news of his death.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti came to America for the same reason as most of our ancestors did; to find a better life. After experiencing the reality in America for immigrants during the years of mass immigration, the men felt the working class was treated unfairly and so they became involved with Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, an advocate for violence in the name of politics. During that time, Italian anarchists were on the government's watch list and considered dangerous enemies.

On April 15, 1920, a shoe factory paymaster and a security guard were robbed and killed in South Braintree, Massachusetts. That’s when Nicola Sacco’s and Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s lives changed forever.  The two were accused of the crime and stood on trial twice. The presiding judge both times was Webster Thayer. A Boston Globe reporter said of Thayer, “[He] was conducting himself in an undignified way, in a way I had never seen in thirty-six years. I have seen the judge sit in his gown and spit on the floor.” Sacco and Vanzetti produced more than a dozen witnesses, most of whom were dismissed due to their broken English. Several witnesses for the prosecution, who had been interviewed by detectives shortly after the crime, changed their initial descriptions of the suspects and getaway car. Both men had alibis. Those were dismissed too.

Then on August 23, 1927, after worldwide pleas and protests, the two men were executed in the electric chair in the United States of America, the country in which they searched for a better life.

Click here to read my interview with filmmaker Peter Miller, who made a beautiful documentary on the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, which is available on DVD.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Celebrate Ferragosto with 70 Years of Italian Cinema

"Under the Riccione Sun"
Many of us are missing our annual trips to Italy this year. During this time of COVID-19 and quarantine, I’ve explored decades of Italian cinema that I had never delved into before.

When I started writing for Fra Noi Magazine many moons ago and then starting this blog, my mission was to focus on contemporary Italian cinema, hence the name Italian Cinema Today. With a few exceptions, one glance at the sidebar of interviews and profiles, you’ll see that I’ve been pretty true to that original vision. This year, however, has been different. With a lot more time on my hands and the centennial years of three greats—Federico FelliniAlberto Sordi and Franca Valeri—I’ve been watching the cinema of their generation, which has brought me back to the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s been a unique experience that has made me quite nostalgic and sad at times, knowing that so many of those larger-than-life filmmakers are no longer with us. Above all, though, I am grateful for having discovered these wonderful films, even if I am pretty late to the game.

"A Sunday in August"
During these months, I’ve watched endless hours of old footage and have concluded that Sordi and Fellini gave exceptional interviews. Fellini started out as a journalist, so he knew what it was like being on the other side asking questions, and I believe having that perspective gave him some extra patience and empathy. I’ve found Sordi to be the same–very patient and articulate when talking to journalists. What a dream to interview those two.

So, my annual Ferragosto post is a little longer this year because I’ve discovered some real gems as well as a brand new series that came to Netflix just last month. So take a break from reality and lose yourself in these films, visiting Italian beaches from the North to the South with beautiful people and sights.

Luciano Emmer’s 1950 “La domenica d'agosto” (A Sunday in August) has become one of my favorite Marcello Mastroianni works. The film follows four different stories all tied to an Ostia beach on a sweltering Sunday in August.

Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1957 “Souvenir D'Italie” (It Happened in Rome) follows three young women as they hitchhike from northern Italy to the Eternal City. Each finds romance with handsome suitors played by the likes of Sordi, Vittorio De Sica, Massimo Girotti and Antonio Cifariello. Sordi is hilarious in the role of Sergio Battistini, the boy toy of a wealthy older woman.

Vittorio Sala’s 1959 “Costa Azzurra” (Wildcats on the Beach) follows a few storylines, including Alberto (Sordi) as he accompanies his wife to the French Riviera for a movie audition and unexpectedly ends up being called back for a role. Sordi is comedy gold and his Roman accent and mannerisms are laugh-out-loud funny. If you are easily offended, though, skip this one. There is political incorrectness galore. If you keep in mind that it was made 60 years ago, it'll be easier to appreciate the humor.

Dino Risi's 1962 "Il Sorpasso" (The Easy Life) is the complex and tragic story of two acquaintances who leave the vacant streets of Rome on Ferragosto and head to the sea. Vittorio Gassman is young and charming as a carefree and careless wise guy.  Click here to stream it on iTunes.

Gianni Di Gregorio's 2009 contemporary classic "Mid-August Lunch" is the hilarious story of a middle-aged man who lives with his elderly mother. As the traditional Italian holiday weekend of August 15 approaches, his landlord, friend and doctor each persuade him to let their elderly relatives stay with him in return for favors. Click here to stream it for free on Tubi.

The newly released Italian comedy series "Under the Riccione Sun" became available on Netflix in July. Directed by Antonio Usbergo and Niccolo Celaia, the series follows the adventures of a group of teenagers vacationing on the northern Italian seaside. Click here to stream it.

Buon Ferragosto, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A New Documentary-Drama on the Making of 'La Dolce Vita'

One hundred years after his birth, Federico Fellini is more relevant than ever with new facts about his life and filmmaking still being uncovered.

Towards the end of 1958,  Fellini went through a complicated professional period and found himself in a deep depression. Despite having already won two Oscars for "La Strada" and "Le Notti di Cabiria," which starred his wife and muse Giulietta Masina, he could not find a producer interested in his new project: a story he wrote along with colleagues Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli. The project was titled, "La Dolce Vita." 

One producer, Giuseppe Amato, believed in the script and that's all it took to create the immortal masterpiece. Now, a new documentary-drama will shed light on the iconic film that was almost never made. Through re-enactment, clips from the film and archival images, "The truth about La Dolce Vita" by Giuseppe Pedersoli reveals the correspondence between Fellini and his producers, shedding light on the long and winding road to getting "La Dolce Vita" made. 

Referred to as the liveliest man of the Italian film industry, Amato was a highly respected and prolific filmmaker during Italy’s post-war era. He produced iconic films like "Roma Open City," "Umberto D" and "The Bicycle Thieves."

The story was constructed from unpublished documents that tell the story behind the tumultuous making of "La Dolce Vita." One of the first images in the documentary is one of the first images we seen in "La Dolce Vita"- the ruins of the ancient aqueduct at the Parco degli acquedotti, which is a short distance from Cinecittà studios and Piazza San Giovanni Bosco where Fellini shot most of the film.

Peppino Amato became obsessed with the script and woke in the middle of the night after dreaming images of “Roma Open City” and “Umberto D,” two films that he produced. He called his friend, Alvaro Mancori, who is now in his 80s and telling the story in the film, and went to see Padre Pio in Pietrelcina in Puglia, to seek his advice on whether to pursue making this film. After what Mancori describes as ten minutes of staring at each other, Amato felt that Padre Pio had given him the blessing to proceed. (There was even a newspaper headline stating this) Now, he had to return to Rome and convince Dino De Laurentiis to hand over the script after already investing millions. He was confident that it would happen. Then low and behold, Dino De Laurentiis shows up giving his side of the story. What a beautiful surprise. I can’t tell you how many times I went back and rewatched scenes. This was one of them. (Spoiler alert) So the two producers traded “La Dolce Vita” for “La grande Guerra”.. in other words, Marcello Mastroianni for Alberto Sordi, a win-win situation.

The docu-film will premiere out of competition next month at the 77th Venice Film Festival, which runs September 2-12 and will be available to stream through Festival Scope's  annual Venice Sala Web. Intramovies is handling world sales. We'll keep you posted on when it will be available outside Italy. In the meantime, if you haven't seen "La Dolce Vita" yet, click on the image to stream it. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Alberto Sordi Like You've Never Seen Him..

Twenty two-year-old Alberto Sordi on the set of "I tre aquilotti"
Directed by Mario Mattoli, the 1942 film"I tre aquilotti" (The Three Pilots) is set at the Royal Air Force Academy of Caserta where three students– Mario (Carlo Minello), Marco (Leonardo Cortese) and Filippo (Alberto Sordi) become close friends. Towards the end of his studies, Marco casually meets and falls in love with Mario's sister, Adriana (Michela Belmonte). Mario shows his opposition to Marco and this causes the end of their friendship. Due to an accident during a training flight, Marco is demoted from the sailors role to the service role, thus not getting the military pilot's license. After the end of the course, the three friends split up for various destinations but all three find themselves in Russia, with Mario and Filippo already decorated with medals of merit, while Marco is in charge of logistics services. During a war action Mario is hit in flight and is forced to land in enemy territory. Marco, having heard the news, accompanies the pilot in charge of the recovery of his colleague. During the overflight of the downed aircraft, the pilot is killed and it becomes Marco's task to complete the mission.

Noteworthy is "Il soggettista," the story's creator, listed in the credits as Tito Silvio Mursino when it was actually Vittorio Mussolini, the son of Benito Mussolini, a film critic and producer. According to an article by The Independent, “Vittorio made much of his contact and friendship with left-wing and Jewish directors, writers and film critics during the brief period in the late 1930s and early 1940s when he edited the journal ‘Cinema’. Openly left-of-centre critics such as Michelangelo Antonioni were published in the magazine.” Furthermore, Riccardo Fellini, brother of Federico, had a minor role in the film.

Click here to watch a clip posted on our Instagram profile.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Antonio Cifariello and Angie Dickinson Cruise Roma

During a press event for the 1962 film, “Jessica,” Neapolitan-born actor Antonio Cifariello invites Angie Dickinson to get onto a Vespa. She accepts his invitation and holds onto him for dear life. (Who can blame her?) The two swerve in and out of Rome traffic as two paparazzi follow. They switch and Dickinson gets onto the driver’s seat as the two speed by the arch of Constantine where a police officer writes them a ticket.

“Jessica” was directed by Jean Negulesco and Oreste Palella. It stars Dickinson along with Cifariello and Maurice Chevalier. Set in a Sicilian village, the film follows a beautiful widow as the envious locals plot her ruin. Click on the image to stream it on Amazon.. 

Antonio Cifariello was a prolific actor in the 1950s and ‘60s. Among his early roles is Federico Fellini's "Agenzia Matrimoniale," a vignette in Cesare Zavattini's 1953 “L’amore in città” (Love in the City). He tragically died in a plane crash in 1968 at the age of 38. Fortunately, many of his films are available to stream on Amazon Prime. I am enjoying them as I explore the 1950s decade of Italian cinema.

Locarno's Journey Through Festivals Past

A retrospective program featuring classic films from festivals past will feature two Italian films: Roberto Rossellini's neorealist masterpiece "Germania anno zero" (Germany, Year Zero), which was in the 1948 edition of the festival and Pier Paolo Pasolini's documentary "Comizi d’amore" (Love Meetings), which was in the 1964 edition.

The films will be available online free of charge throughout Switzerland on the Festival's website and in various international territories thanks to the online streaming platform MUBI. Click here for the complete lineup. Click here for a direct link to stream to the online films.

If you miss the MUBI streams, don't worry. Both films are readily available on streaming platforms in America. Click here to watch Rossellini's "Germany, Year Zero" on the Criterion Channel along with five videos that offer commentary on the making of the film.

Click on the link below to watch Pasolini's "Love Meetings" on Amazon Prime. It's free if you're a Prime member.

The Locarno Film Festival runs August 5 - 15.

The Locarno Film Festival's Tribute to Ennio Morricone

The Locarno Film Festival will pay tribute to Ennio Morricone with a special screening of Sergio Leone's masterpiece ‘Once Upon a Time in America," and will make available online his meeting with the public in 2003. In addition to Morricone, 19 other conversations will be available as part of the festival's Discutiamo (We Discuss) project. 

If you can’t make it to Locarno, you can stream Leone's masterpiece online at

Click here for a direct link to the discussion with Morricone.

Click here for information about the screening and homage. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Sergio Castellitto Gives New Life to a Screenplay by Ettore Scola and Furio Scarpelli

A beautiful image from Sergio Castellitto’s upcoming film, “Il materiale motivo” (A Bookshop in Paris- English title) has been released. The screenplay was written by Ettore Scola and Furio Scarpelli with Silvia Scola, Margaret Mazzantini and Castellitto.

According to Luce Cinecittà, which sources, “Castellitto stars in the film as an antiquarian bookseller living in Paris whose life revolves around his love for rare books and his paraplegic daughter. But his life changes when he meets an exuberant young woman, played by actress and Berlin international jury member Berenice Bejo.”

The film is slated for a 2021 release. In the meantime, click here to visit our streaming page to watch other works by Castellitto and Scola.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Celebrate Ferragosto with Luciano Emmer’s 1950 'A Sunday in August'

Luciano Emmer’s 1950 “La domenica d'agosto” (A Sunday in August) has become one of my favorite Marcello Mastroianni works. The film follows four different stories, all tied to an Ostia beach on a sweltering Sunday in August.

The nostalgic opening shots of kids sitting outside a row of cafes takes place near the corner of Via Cola di Rienzo and Via Ottaviano by the Vatican, bringing back memories of how many times I’ve found myself exactly in that nook on my way to get a coffee at Castroni or Roman artichokes at Franchi. After having spent hours upon hours over the years in that neighborhood, seeing it in its heyday during these tough times brings some hope and happiness to so much uncertainty. 

Mastroianni enters the story around 30 minutes in. He plays the role of a young lover whose fiancé has become pregnant and is fired from her job as a maid. She is beside herself but he calms her and stays right by her side.

One quote that stood out and speaks to the timelessness of the film is said by a widowed father who wants to move forward with his life but feels discouraged and depressed. “One should have the courage to start all over. But I have nothing that gives me this courage. I drag a situation since years more out of habit. What should I do? I feel tired. I feel like life is over already.”

With one of the sweetest endings I’ve ever seen, this film is just as relevant today as it was when it was made 70 years ago. I highly recommend seeing it. Click on the image to stream it on Amazon... 

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...