"When my father died, (Dino Riso) told me, 'If you need another father, I'm here for you.'"
Following in their father's footsteps, Enrico and Carlo made their feature film debut in 1976 with the comedy, "Luna di miele in tre." It would be the first film in a lifelong collaboration between the siblings until Carlo's untimely death in 2018. At the heart of those collaborations was Enrico as writer and Carlo as director. The two were known for their Christmastime comedies otherwise known as Cinepanettone. Enrico has recently taken on the role of director with the 2020 "Lockdown all'italiana" and the upcoming "Tre sorelle."
Italian Cinema Today contributor Sveva De Marinis talked with Enrico Vanzina in length about the inspiration behind his films, a few memories of the icons who shaped him, and the advice he gives young people embarking on a career in filmmaking. The original interview in Italian follows the English translation. Vanzina was so generous and eloquent with his answers, very little editing was done.
Since our readers love Rome so much, and especially the most famous locations where Italian movies were set, what does Rome represent in your movies? And how is the evolution of the city expressed in them?
My bond with the city of Rome is very similar to the one (Ennio) Flaiano had, a love/hate relationship, meaning that I always want to escape from it but as soon as I leave I want to go back. It’s a weird bond. Rome is a very particular city, probably the most beautiful; there’s a sort of “permissiveness,” which is not “absolution,” that makes living there easier than in other capital cities, everything’s easier here; you can decide to go to a restaurant or to the movies, even just a few hours before and you wouldn’t have any problems. It works like a big town but it’s the capital. It’s a topic I know very well and that I’m passionate about. For 30 years I’ve written a column about Rome for “Corriere della sera” and being the son of the director of “Un americano a Roma” (Steno), I also have kind of a responsibility towards the city. I also think that one of the most amazing shots in Italian cinema is the ending of “Guardie e ladri" after Aldo Fabrizi arrests Totò. In the end, Totò drags Fabrizi away with him. They then walk towards Saint Peter’s cathedral…it was shot in a place that, in the '50s, when the movie was made, was almost completely empty, near Via Gregorio VII, and the camera shows you Saint Peter’s cathedral, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best shots in Italian cinema. It gives you an idea of how much Rome has changed throughout 40 years. Also in “Guardie e Ladri," there’s another important shot at the Acqua Cetosa when Aldo Fabrizi chases Totò; I’ve been doing rowing for years there, so that’s something that resonates with me.
Watch the final moments of “Guardie e ladri"..
The monumental Rome, luckily, hasn’t changed and that’s its strength. In other cities, maybe dictators and emperors called architects completely changed the face of it. In Rome, it’s not like that. Rome kept everything and that’s also why it’s so beautiful. When you walk across Rome, you can spot some ruins from the ancient times and, 100 meters ahead, you’ll see a baroque building or a medieval one or something from the Renaissance. There’s everything here. It’s like a lake in the African Savannah where all the animals go together to restore themselves at a certain time of the day. That’s what makes Rome so fascinating. It’s actually weird because, a few years ago, from a convention held by Paolo Meneghetti on the “Corriere della sera,” it came out that me and Carlo are the ones who made the most movies about Milan. We wrote a lot about Rome, though. I’ve also written with my dad, probably one of the most well known Italian movies, “Febbre da cavallo,” and the Rome we describe there consists of a lot of the historical center. We’ve told a lot, we’ve shown the most famous places of Rome, but also the relatively new areas of Rome, such as Parioli. We've also shot in the suburbs, and we’ve always payed close attention to the dialogues. Someone from Balduina (one of the quarters of Rome) will speak in a way that is different from someone who comes from San Giovanni (another quarter of Rome). We’ve always considered the sociological aspect to be very important. We were convinced that using some images of a certain part of Rome could say a lot about our characters.
Rome has changed a lot, but actually it hasn’t changed much. That’s probably because of the indolence of the administration. In the other capital cities, major public work projects were realized. Rome lacks of them; if a director wants to recreate Rome in the 1950s, he can easily do that, and that’s both good and bad because Rome will always keep that ancient atmosphere. That, for example, Milan doesn’t have. In Milan, you can easily show and represent the modern evolution. In Rome, it’s more difficult, but that’s also its charm. A big change arrived with Mussolini and the fascist architecture, like Eur, whose buildings and metaphysical structures have something De Chirico-like which was the last major public work project. Alberto Sordi, who used to live in Borgo Pio, would say that before the Fascism, to get to St. Peter’s Cathedral, you’d have to walk through a lot of little alleys and then, you’d end up in front of the Cathedral, and the feeling of amazement was similar to the one you get when you suddenly end up in Petra, in Jordan. Now we have Viale della conciliazione, which is very pretty too, but it gives away this surprise that you could get before. Same with the forum. Before, everything was a little hidden, and then you’d see the Colosseum. Nonetheless Goethe, Shelley and Stendhal, when they visited Rome had the same feeling of surprise and amazement.
|Carlo and Enrico Vanzina on location in the US|