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Friday, April 30, 2021

Happy 90th Birthday, Adriana Asti!

"Be like me, I don't love anybody anymore and they call me Amore." An unforgettable line in Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1961 "Accattone" came from a spirited, light-hearted prostitute portrayed by Adriana Asti. 

Born in Milan in 1931, Asti began her acting career in theater before going on to work with many of the great maestros of Italian cinema, including Luchino Visconti, Bernardo Bertolucci and Federico Fellini, to name a few. She had small roles in huge, iconic films and made those characters memorable. In addition to her on-screen roles, she was also the voiceover of many of her contemporary counterparts like Claudia Cardinale, Lea Massari and Stefania Sandrelli. She is still very active in theater, television and film.

I am working on a feature article about Asti for the July issue of Fra Noi Magazine. As part of my research, I reached out to documentary filmmaker Rocco Talucci who made a beautiful film about her life and career. "A.A. Professione Attrice" premiered at the 2015 Rome Film Festival. Talucci presented the film with Asti and walked the Red Carpet with her and Franca Valeri by his side. I asked him if Asti would be up for answering a few questions. He checked with her and told me yes. Needless to say, it made me very happy. So I sent a few questions to him and he passed them onto her. So on the occasion of her 90th birthday today, I'd like to share our interview. Although brief and indirect, it really means so much to me that someone I've admired for so long took the time to consider my questions. 

Buon Compleanno Adriana Asti, a master actress so very loved and appreciated around the world! 

"Rocco and His Brothers"
Tell me about your collaboration with Luchino Visconti .. how you worked together in theater and cinema. Tell me a little about your relationship.
At the theater, the first time I did Arthur Miller's “The Crucible,” I was Mary Warren. Even though I was very young, he had already given me a part of the primadonna.

I was very much in love with Luchino, like everyone else, because he was a very charming and overwhelming man. I was very happy because it seemed to me great luck that this extraordinary thing of being with him at the theater, at the cinema and in friendship had happened to me. 

In cinema, my first experience with Luchino was with “Rocco and His Brothers.” I shot the scenes set in the ironing room.

With Luchino I had a great friendship, we were always together almost every evening!

In the 1950s and '60s, when you all worked together, did you realize one day that you would become icons? Did you know you were making immortal movies?

No! Absolutely not! I have no sense of the future.


Tell me about your experience playing the role of Susanna Pasolini.

Yes, Pier Paolo's mother, in Abel Ferrara's film. It was a painful experience because I had a scene with (Willem) Dafoe playing Pier Paolo in which he was lying in bed. I had to go in and hug him but I started to cry, cry, and cry because I saw him as Pier Paolo! We had to stop shooting ... the situation became a little too sentimental.



Did you feel nostalgic to revisit so many things about Pasolini?

I had a lot of emotion. For Pier Paolo, I have always had it, even beyond the film we made.


What was it like working with Abel Ferrara?

We weren't exactly friends. Abel is a difficult man but he's brilliant in his own way.


Speaking of your contemporary films, I really enjoyed your performance in André Téchiné's "Impardonnables." Did you collaborate with the director on the creation of Anna Maria? It seemed that you enjoyed playing this character.
Téchiné is a mysterious man, very sharp and intelligent. I followed his directions. We had a very pleasant time while shooting the film in Venice. Yes, I really liked this character.


In your career which spans of over 60 years, which experience or role have you most appreciated?

Perhaps the experiences with Pier Paolo Pasolini! I enjoyed playing Amore, the character of "Accattone." Elsa Morante, our friend, is also in the prison scene.

When I am able, I will share the feature article that I am writing for Fra Noi. In the meantime, click on the links below to stream a few of Asti's films.. 


Intervista in Italiano...

Raccontami la sua collaborazione con Luchino Visconti.. come avete lavorato insieme nel teatro e nel cinema. Parlami un po’ del vostro rapporto.

A teatro la prima volta ho fatto The Crucible  di Arthur Miller, ero Mary  Warren, anche se ero molto giovane mi aveva dato già una parte di prima donna. 

Ero molto innamorata di Luchino, come tutti del resto, perché era un uomo molto affascinante e travolgente. Ero molto felice perché mi sembrava una grande fortuna che mi fosse capitata questa cosa straordinaria di stare insieme a lui a teatro, al cinema e nell’amicizia. Al cinema la prima esperienza con Luchino è stata con Rocco e i suoi fratelli, ho girato le scene ambientate nella stireria.

Con Luchino ho avuto una grandissima amicizia, stavamo sempre insieme quasi tutte le sere!

Negli anni Cinquanta e Sessanta, quando avete lavorato tutti insieme, vi siete resi conto un giorno che voi sareste diventati delle icone? Sapevate che stavate girando film immortali?

No! Assolutamente no! Non ho il senso del futuro.

Raccontami la sua esperienza di interpretare il ruolo di Susanna Pasolini.

Sì, la mamma di Pier Paolo, nel film di Abel Ferrara. E’ stata una esperienza dolorosa perché avevo una scena con Dafoe che faceva Pier Paolo nella quale era sdraiato in un letto. Dovevo entrare e abbracciarlo ma ho iniziato a piangere, piangere, e piangere perché lo vedevo come Pier Paolo!  Abbiamo dovuto interrompere le riprese… era diventata un poco troppo sentimentale la situazione… (ride)


 Ha sentito un nostalgia per rivisitare tante cose di Pasolini?

 Ho avuto molta emozione, per Pier Paolo l’ho sempre avuta, anche oltre il film che abbiamo girato.


Come è stato lavorare con Abel Ferrara?

Non eravamo esattamente amici, Abel è un uomo difficile però a suo modo è geniale .


Parlando dei suoi film contemporanei, mi è davvero piaciuta la sua interpretazione in "Impardonnables" di André Téchiné. Lei ha collaborato alla creazione di Anna Maria con il regista?  Sembrava che lei piacesse interpretare questo personaggio.

Téchiné  è un uomo misterioso, molto acuto e intelligente. Ho seguito le sue indicazioni. Abbiamo passato un periodo molto piacevole durante le riprese del film a Venezia. Sì, mi è piaciuto molto questo personaggio.


Nella tua carriera di oltre 60 anni, quale esperienza o ruolo ha maggiormente apprezzato?

Forse le esperienze  con Pier Paolo Pasolini ! Mi ha divertito recitare Amore, il personaggio di Accattone. Nella scena del carcere c’è anche Elsa Morante, nostra amica.

Monday, April 19, 2021

A Conversation with Director Luca Caserta

Luca Caserta's 2019 short film "Dimmi chi sono" (Tell Me Who I Am) has received high acclaim from every corner of the globe. 

"Dimmi chi sono" is the story of a young mother who is violently attacked during a walk and is so traumatized, she loses her memory, taking shelter in an abandoned house doing what she can to get by. The film was inspired by a true story that Caserta saw on the news in northern Italy. 

Actress Elisa Bertato delicately balances the myriad of emotions that her character is feeling including fear, loneliness, confusion and determination. The film speaks to the international movement aimed at ending violence against women and has taken on its own voice in spreading awareness of the movement throughout the world. 

The soundtrack includes the song "Piccola stella senza cielo" by the Italian rock star Luciano Ligabue, courtesy of the artist himself and Warner Music Italia/Warner Chappell Music Italiana.

The film was recently in the lineup of the Italian Section of the Rochester Independent Global Film Series, which I curated and in doing so, had the opportunity to speak with the filmmakers about the stories behind their works. Check out highlights from my interview with Caserta..

Born in an artistically inspiring environment within a family of directors, writers and actors, Caserta earned a Master’s degree in Prehistoric Archaeology before deciding to pursue an artistic career. He began by working in theater. He then pursued a filmmaking degree at the Movie Academy of Cinecittà in Rome, studying under the direction of Golden Age director and screenwriter Carlo Lizzani along with Giacomo Scarpelli, Cristiano Bortone, Franco Brogi Taviani and Mario Brenta. He also studied cinematography with Giuseppe Pinori, Daniele Nannuzzi and Giuseppe Berardini and attended workshops held by Pupi Avati, Carlo Verdone and Luis Bacalov.

At Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome he attended the intensive laboratory in direction of photography with Giuseppe Lanci and took part in several workshops, including “Working with the light” with the director of photography Alessandro Pesci.

Since completing his studies, he has dedicated himself exclusively to cinema and audiovisuals. He's made short films, documentaries, music videos, commercials and art videos. His works have been presented at many festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival, Premi David di Donatello, Berlin European Short Film Festival, Roma Cinema DOC, Miami Independent Film Festival, Los Angeles CineFest, Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival and many more. 

In 2011 he wrote, directed and co-produced the short film “Inside the Mirror” with editing supervision by Ugo De Rossi, who worked with many maestros of Italian cinema, including Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci and Francesco Rosi. The film, along with “Out of the Depths" (2014) and “The Other Side of the Moon” (2016) is part of the “trilogy on the double," which focuses on the investigation of what is hidden in the deepest part of the human soul. “Out of the Depths” was acquired by IndiePix Films, which offers it on demand in the United States and worldwide through its website. Click here to watch it.  

Caserta is currently working on his first feature film. Click here to follow him on Instagram.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Design Visionaries Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo

Written by Sveva De Marinis

During the 6th edition of Filming Italy Los Angeles, production designers Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, who have been married for years, hosted a masterclass and received the Filming Italy Los Angeles achievement award for their outstanding accomplishments. 

The two have been working for decades with some of the most distinguished directors in the business. Ferretti began his career in 1964 at the age of 21 as an assistant production designer on the set of “Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo” (The Gospel According to St. Matthew) by Pier Paolo Pasolini and went on to work as a production designer for five more movies of his. He then worked on Federico Fellini’s last five movies, from “Prova d’orchestra” (Orchestra Rehearsal) to “La voce della luna” (Voice of the Moon). 


Lo Schiavo started working as a production designer with Ferretti on Liliana Cavani’s 1981 “La pelle” (The Skin). They continued on their shared artistic path with exceptional Italian directors like Elio Petri, Sergio Citti, Luigi Comencini and Marco Ferreri. Outside Italy, they worked on Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1986 “The Name of the Rose” and Terry Gillian’s 1988 “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” The next decade would mark the beginning of a 9-film collaboration with Martin Scorsese.


Production design is a very specific field that many times granted Italy its due recognition and the couple has certainly received theirs with a total of ten Oscars nominations for Best Production Design and one for Best Costume, which Ferretti says makes him particularly proud since it’s not even their field. They took home the prize for Scorsese’s 2005 “The Aviator” and 2012 “Hugo Cabret” as well as Tim Burton’s 2008 “Sweeney Todd.” Ferretti reminds the students of his masterclass, “That’s a total of six statues!”


The three movies that granted them their Oscars are very different. “The Aviator” is set in Hollywood between the ‘20s and the ‘40s, “Hugo Cabret” in Paris in the ‘30s, and “Sweeney Todd” in 17th century England. The films are different in their scenarios and settings, but props are essential, and thanks to them, we couldn’t imagine the films with a different design team. We couldn’t imagine John Hughes not walking through those huge airplanes or in a different setting than the movie theater where he slowly gets mad. We couldn’t imagine Hugo Cabret with a different robot, or, worse, without one. And, lastly, of course, we couldn’t imagine Sweeney Todd without his razor or his barber chair. And that’s because half of their magic would be gone.

On his professional bond with Scorsese, Ferretti reveals that it was actually he who convinced the director to shoot “Gangs of New York” at Cinecittà studios. He explained that Scorsese wasn’t sure about filming there because he wanted to shoot the movie in the United States. Then one Sunday, Ferretti took him to lunch at a restaurant in front of Cinecittà that Scorsese loved very much. Afterwards, he showed him around. Scorsese seemed to like the set, and Ferretti assured him, “Martin, this is my home, don’t worry, I’ll make it work,” and the rest is history.


Cinecittà World by Puntadelsole
Cinecittà has had such an important impact on Ferretti’s life that when he was asked to design “Cinecittà World,” the amusement park inspired by the real Cinecittà studios, he was honored and glad to do it because he saw it as a chance to show kids how to “build” a movie. Located on the outskirts of Rome in an area known as the Castelli Romani, upon the very grounds of Dino De Laurentiis’ film studios, Dinocittà, Cinecittà World was inaugurated on July 14th, 2014 and features movie-inspired attractions such as “Inferno,” a roller-coaster inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” the Spaghetti Western-inspired “Far West Show” and various streets in the theme park inspired by “Gangs of New York.” During the inauguration, he stated that the park is a mixture of dreams and memories of the most important movies of his life that he had the chance to share with his wife Francesca. Ferretti’s attention to detail is what makes the amusement park so unique.

When I think about their movies, the first words that come to mind are “grand” and “specific.” They always create alternative realities. Even when they work on more reality-based films, everything they do is grand and exceptional, but also very detailed and close to the director’s vision. Of course, every production designer has to follow the style and the general atmosphere of the movie, but watching the couple Ferretti-Lo Schiavo at work, you can really tell that they’ve mastered their art throughout the years. They’ve worked on many different movies, with different perceptions, different eras, from the mythological (“Medea” by Pasolini), to the grotesque (“Sweeney Todd”), from the ‘20s (“The Aviator”) to the ‘40s (“Gangs of New York”) and so much more. 


What amazes me is the accuracy of the props, even the smallest ones, that make movies and sets as real as possible. When you watch their movies, you can tell that nothing is left to chance, everything has been decided on and studied carefully. Something that catches the eye is the precision and detail of every historical time. One thing is to know how people would dress during a certain time, another is to know what kind of objects people would keep on their nightstand. That’s not something that is left to chance. It requires studying, researching and analyzing every single detail.


What they create on set is not only important for the director and for the sake of the movie, but for the actors too, because they will have the chance to immerse themselves even more into the world of their character and won’t have to rely as much on the imagination. A good production design makes the actor’s job a lot easier. And that, I think, is what every production designer tries to accomplish.

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...