Between God, the Devil and a Winchester

Between God The Devil And A Winchester

Between God The Devil And A Winchester

Aka Anche Nel West C’Era Una Volto Dio (Italy), Entre Dios Y El Diablo (Spain)
Italy/Spain
1968
Produced by Marino Girolami for Circus Film (Rome) and R.M (Madrid)
Director: Dario Silvestri [Marino Girolami]
Story: Liberally based on ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
Screenplay: Marino Girolami, Amedeo Sollazzo, Tito Carpi, Manuel Martinez Remiz
Cinematography: Pablo Ripoll, Alberto Fusi {Technicolor, Techniscope}
Music: Carlo Savina
Editor: Antonio Jimeno
Art direction: Nicola Tamburro, Cruz Baletzena
Original running time: 96 minutes
Cast: Richard Harrison (Father Pat Jordan), Gilbert Roland (Juan Chasquisdo), Dominique Boschero (Marta), Folco Lulli (Colonel Bob Ford), Enio Girolami (Marco Serralbo), Roberto Camardiel (Pink), Humberto Sempere (Tommy), Raf Baldassarre (Batch), Rocco Lerro, Gonzalo Esquiros, Mirella Panfili, Jose Luis Lluch Uncredited: Luis Barboo (Zed)

Considering that Richard Harrison was one of the major stars of the Spaghetti Western, it’s pretty hard to believe how average most of the films he appeared in actually were. With the possible exception of Antonio Margheriti’s Vengeance and Leopoldo Savona’s El rojo, he cannot be said to have appeared in any particularly good – and definitely no particularly significant – genre entries. Taken in that context, Between God, the Devil and a Winchester not only has a fantastic title, but is also a pretty solid film. It does borrow heavily from it’s peers, admittedly, but is assembled in a capable and functional fashion – much as one would expect from a capable director such as Mario Girolami, whose credits span from 1949s La strada buia to L’insegnante di violoncello in 1986.

Deep Lake City is a pretty miserable place; the only people passing through are those either escaping into, or escaping out of, the desert (strangely, considering it’s arid location, it is also always raining). It’s not too strange, then, when a fat, uncommunicative fellow, Ford (Folco Lulli), turns up at the local tavern and demands a room. One of the customers, Chasquisdo (Gilbert Roland), is pointed out to him as the best scout in the area, but when asked refuses to take him to Santa Blanca (a notoriously desolate place) unless he’s paid in advance. Ford can’t do this, as he has no money; what he does have is a treasure map – but until that is transferred into gold it can’t be used to buy anything.

Unfortunately, a motley group of bandits led by Pedro Batch (Raf Baldassarre) are also after the treasure map, and it doesn’t take them too long to turn up on his trail. Whilst trying to escape from them Ford is accidentally killed, but not before passing the invaluable parchment on to Tommy (Humberto Sempere), the young nephew of the tavern-keeper. Tommy entrusts it to his saintly new friend, another stranger called Pat Jordan (Harrison), who reveals that Ford was an ex-confederate Colonel who had turned bad. After the cessation of hostilities he had stolen a chest of jewels from a mission, the hidden whereabouts of which is pinpointed by the map. When confronted with this information, Chasquisdo decides to revise his views and agrees – for a price – to guide them into the heart of the wilderness.

Gilbert Roland in Between God, the Devil and a Winchester

Gilbert Roland in Between God, the Devil and a Winchester

From the above synopsis, it’s easy to figure that this is another film with a post-war setting (see also Acquasanta Joe, Shango etc etc) which utilizes the central MacGuffin of a ‘search for a hidden treasure’. Of course, the grand-daddy of it’s type was Leone’s The Good, the Girl and the Ugly – and Girolami’s production remains entirely in that films thrall, despite even namedropping Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic Treasure Island as a source. Similarly, it is much more concerned the multitudinous ways in which the disparate set of characters attempts to interact, betray and – inevitably – kill each other.

It also means that there are lots of scenes in which people wander around in glorious landscapes while nice music plays on the soundtrack, which is always a pleasure. As for the characters, Gilbert Roland’s Chasquisdo stands out. A wily old goat, he portrays himself as being ‘one of the people’, but is in fact far more intelligent than 99.9% of ‘the people’, and knows it only too well. His earthy superficialities hide a rather complex and melancholy individual. Unfortunately, his humanity is brought out Tommy the brat, who would bring most people out in hives. It’s not too far removed from Roland’s role in Enzo Castellari’s Go Kill and Come Back, another film in which he’s extremely effective. In Go Kill and Come Back, however, his main foil was played by George Hilton, who is a much more effective performer than Richard Harrison, who’s Pat Jordan remains an entirely bland concoction.

Overall, then, a slightly above average effort, which is thankfully free from the twin genre curses of bad humour and bad pacing. There’s also a hugely entertaining ‘tragic’ sequence in which the cook is shot whilst trying to save his favourite pot: “That pot was just sitting there…I’d made a real good dinner…bleurg…”

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sandokan the Great

Umberto Lenzi's Sandokan the Great

Umberto Lenzi’s Sandokan the Great

Aka Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Produced by Solly V. Bianco, Joseph Fryd
Written by Víctor Andrés Catena, Fulvio Gicca Palli, Umberto Lenzi, Emilio Salgari
Cinematography: Aurelio G. Larraya, Angelo Lotti, Giovanni Scarpellini
Edited by Jolanda Benvenuti, Antonietta Zita
Release date: 19 December 1963
Running time: 105 minutes
Italy
Cast: Steve Reeves (Sandokan), Geneviève Grad (Mary Ann), Andrea Bosic (Yanez), Rik Battaglia (Sambigliong), Mario Valdemarin (Tenente Ross), Leo Anchóriz (Lord Guillonk)

Emilio Salgari is a curious writer. Immensely popular in Italy, he’s little known in the English language world today, even though his boys own style adventure stories have proven hugely influential, not least to Sergio Leone, who was apparently inspired by Salgari’s pirate heroes when making his spaghetti westerns. One of the best known of these pirate heroes was Sandokan, the ‘Tiger of Malaysia’, a prince and rebel who fights against the Dutch and British empires that have annexed his homeland.

Umberto Lenzi’s Sandokan the Great wasn’t the first film adaptation of his work – these had gone back to the silent era – but it’s one of the best, a hugely enjoyable romp starring Steve Reeves – then at the pinnacle of his fame – as the protagonist and Andrea Bosic (an underrated Yugoslavian character actor) as his Portuguese friend Yanez. As well as all the expected derring-do, this also features a lengthy jungle sequence which anticipates Lenzi’s later, more notorious work such as Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox; the jungle, it seems, was something that he was fascinated with well before the vogue for cannibal gut munchers took off in the 70s. Perfect Sunday morning fodder, Sandokan the Great was successful enough to spawn one official sequel and several unofficial ones as well.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Jim Dolen

Jim Dolen

Jim Dolen

Not many people know the name of Jim Dolen, even among the true aficionados of Italian cinema. And, admittedly, he was hardly the most important of figures to have made his career in the Italian film industry during La dolce vita period. He was, however, another of the numerous foreigners who made their living in the successful dubbing industry of the 1950s and 60s, and he also appeared as a character actor in over half a dozen movies between 1958 and 1963.

His first role came in Totò nella luna (58), in which he played one of a pair of secret agents (alongside fellow dubber Richard McNamara) who, due to a series of misunderstandings, becomes convinced that the idiotic Ugo Tognazzi is a natural born astronaut. There was another good role in Antonio Margheriti’s Battle ofthe Worlds (61), in which he played the experienced sidekick to space commander Bill Carter. These were followed up, though, by a series of small, uncredited parts: in the big budget Barabbas (61), one of those films which seems to feature 50% of the American actors in Rome at the time; as a priest in the early Mario Bava thriller The Evil Eye (63); and in Gidget Goes to Rome (63), which also featured other dubbers like Rodd Dana and John Stacy.

Jim Dolen in Battle of the Worlds

Jim Dolen in Battle of the Worlds

There were two further films in 1963. In The Fall of Rome (63) he was reunited with Margheriti for a mid range peplum also featuring Carl Möhner; and Margheriti called him back for his gothic horror / giallo film The Castle of Terror (64), in a decent role as an FBI agent.

As far as biographical information is concerned, little is known about Jim Dolen beyond the fact that he was born in 1918 and died in 1965. There is some indication that he was English rather than American, although this is unconfirmed at present.

Posted in Performers & directors | Tagged | Leave a comment

Siberian Education

Siberian Education

Siberian Education

Aka Educazione siberiana
2013
Original running time: 110 minutes
Italy
Based on the novel by Nicolai Lilin (ed. Einaudi)
Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Marco Chiminez, Giovanni Stabilini for Cattleya and RAI Cinema
01 Distribution
Release date: 28-02-2013
Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Cast: Arnas Fedaravicius (Kolima), Vilius Tumalavicius (Gagarin), Eleanor Tomlinson (Xenja), Jonas Trukanas (Mel), Vitalij Porsnev (Vitalic), Peter Stormare (Ink), John Malkovich (Nonno),
Story: Nicolai Lilin (novel), Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli
Screenplay: Stefano Rulli, Sandro Petraglia, Gabriele Salvatores
Cinematogrpahy: Italo Petriccione
Music: Mauro Pagani

Coming from Oscar winning director Gabriele Salvatores and with a script by Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia (who were behind Romanzo criminale and My Brother is an Only Child among others), Siberian Education is something of a disappointment. Based on the autobiographical novel by Nicolai Lilin, it tells the story of a young boy, Kolyma, who grows up in the criminalized society of an encampment of Siberians who have been exiled to a misbegotten town specially created to house ‘antisocial elements’ in the arse end of Russia, alongside several other equally unwanted minority groups (Georgians, Jews, etc).

It’s a fascinating situation, and the story starts well, as Kolyma (an artistically minded kid) and his friends Gagarin (the trainee psycho), Mel (the fat one) and Vitalic (the one with glasses) are introduced to the Siberian way of life: thievery, disrespect for the Russian authorities, honour among their tribe, getting as many tattoos as possible. Their teacher for much of this is Grandfather Kuzya (John Malkovich, having fin with his most unlikely accent to date), ably assisted by Ink (Peter Stormare). But then the boys start growing up, and things become more complex.

So far so Romanzo criminale, and that’s great. But from this point things start to go a bit wrong. Kolyma befriends a childlike girl called Xenya (Eleanor Tomlinson), many characters spend time in one jail or another and the melodramatic content comes to the fore. It all ends up with a thoroughly underwhelming finale as Kolyma and Gagarin come to a climactic showdown in the Caucasus mountains.

John Malkovich and Peter Stormare in Siberian Education

John Malkovich and Peter Stormare in Siberian Education

There are some great moments in this, and the care with which Salvatores and his crew depict the Siberian home and lifestyle is admirable, but unfortunately the film is hidebound by its over complex structure. The flashbacks become rather intrusive and could have done with better management; and by being too weighted to events at the beginning of its character’s lives rather than leading up to the end. A bit more attention given to the falling out of the two protagonists and the events afterwards would have aided the pacing, and many important characters (Mel, Kuzya, Ink) are discarded towards the end. It starts well, in other words, but doesn’t quite develop into what it could have developed into.

Shot in Lithuania with a largely local cast, Salvatores also proves to be another director who’s not entirely at home filming in English as opposed to his native Italian. The rhythm of the dialogue is all wrong, and it plays like a film which has been not-particularly-well dubbed rather than one which was shot in English (in other words, it probably works better if you watch the dubbed Italian version with English subtitles, which isn’t the way it should work).

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Walter Brandi

Walter Brandi plays the hero in BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

Walter Brandi plays the hero in BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

Just who was Walter Brandi?  Well, to some people he’s best known as an Italian b-movie star of the early sixties, a solid if not particularly inspiring presence in numerous gothic horror films and historical adventures.  But in the Italian film industry he’s probably better known as the producer, often using the pseudonym Walter Bigari, who was behind numerous successful, low budget releases throughout the 1970s and 80s.  Zombie Creeping Flesh?  That’s one of his.  Scalps?  That one too.  Also Aenigma, Getting Even, Miami Cops and many, many others.  Most of these were solid video shelf fillers, some of them took off an were worldwide hits.  Just about all of them are of interest to cult film fanatics. His film career began with a couple of uncredited roles in big budget peplums, Carmine Gallone’s Messalina (51) and Mario Camerini’s Ulysses (54).  He appeared in another half dozen films throughout the 1950s, with the size of his roles gradually increasing.  More importantly, he made contacts: Sergio Bergonzelli was an uncredited actor on Messalina, Roberto Mauri the star of Retaggio di sangue (56), Erno Crisa and Amedeo Trilli, both of whom would work repeatedly with Brandi, were his co-stars in Due selvaggi in corte (59).

Walter Brandi in THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA

Mmmm, a large ham! Walter Brandi in THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA

By this time, he’d fallen in with a group of actors and directors who would often appear in each others films, almost like a cinematic workshop: Mauri, Luigi Batzella, Alfredo Rizzo, Giuseppe Vari, Renato Polselli.  In the early sixties, Brandi became their leading man of choice, despite – in all honesty – not really having the screen charisma to justify such a lofty position.  It’s not that he was a bad actor, he was passable if not particularly talented, but he’s often a somewhat heavy presence in these films, without much in the way of warmth of likability.  sometimes this works, sometimes not. Anyway, during the early part of the decade he made numerous films in varying genres.  He starred in a couple of early crime films, Mauri’s I mafiosi (59) and Edoardo Mulargia’s Le due legge (62), both of which co-starred Erno Crisa.  Le due legge is particularly interesting, a proto-spaghetti western filmed in Sicily with a largely unprofessional cast, in which he plays a vengeance crazed farmer out to track down and kill the man (Crisa) who killed his brother.

Walter Brandi in THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA

Walter Brandi in THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA

There were also numerous historical adventures.  Il segno del vendicatore (62) was a Zorro film in which he had a small supporting role, Flag of Death (63) an entertaining enough pirate movie in which he was the foil to star Richard Harrison, Zorikan the Barbarian (64) a Saracen movie starring Dan Vadis and Three Swords from Rome (64) an Ancient Roman adventure with Roger Browne and Mimmo Palmara.  All of these were directed by Roberto Mauri, a director who was expert in eking out decent product from limited budgets.  His films might not be masterpieces, but they’re more than serviceable, and he was certainly a more talented filmmaker than either Angelo Dorigo or Piero Regnoli, with whom Brandi made a couple more swashbucklers, La grande vallata (61) and The Hawk of the Caribbean (62). More often than not he was relegated to supporting roles in these films, giving center stage to more athletic performers such as Johnny Desmond, Harrison or Browne and playing villains of one type or another. Brandi is undoubtedly best known, however, for the performances he gave in the six horror films he made between 1960 and 1965, making him something of the Italian equivalent of a Christopher Lee… or maybe Anton Diffring… or maybe Mike Raven.  The first of them, The Vampire and the Ballerina (60) was directed by cult filmmaker Renato Polselli and established the template for many of the low budget horror films that were to follow: a group of sexy dancers and their slightly comic manager end up in an isolated village near an ornate but run down castle where they come across an ageing countess (Maria Luisa Ronaldo) and her dubious servant (Brandi), both of whom are vampires.  Needless to say, much blood-sucking and low-key eroticism ensues.  Polselli’s films were always made with limited means, but this is one of his best and looks pretty good for its restricted means.  But that didn’t prevent it from experiencing distribution problems and it wasn’t released until 1962.  In the meantime, Brandi starred in Piero Regnoli’s The Playgirls and the Vampire (60), which featured – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a group of sexy dancers and their slightly comic manager ending up in an isolated, ornate but run down castle, where they come across a strange Count (Brandi) who might or might not be a vampire.   Then there was another film for Roberto Mauri, The Slaughter of the Vampires (62), in which Brandi and Graziella Granata play a pair of newlyweds who fall under the spell of a sinister stranger (Dieter Eppler), who might or might not be a vampire and another Renato Polselli film The Vampire of the Opera (64), in which a group of sexy actresses end up in an ornate but run down theatre where they come across a strange aristocrat who’s definitely a vampire.

Walter Brandi in THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE

Walter Brandi in THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE

If all of these films seem similar, well… they are.  But Brandi’s final two horror films were slightly different.  Terror Creatures from Beyond the Grave is an extremely enjoyable slice of gothic horror from Massimo Pupillo, in which Brandi plays a lawyer paying a visit to a country village after being summoned to draw up a will for a doctor who lives there.  Only trouble is that the doctor’s been dead for a year, people are dying all over the place and apparently some ghosts of evil sorcerers are terrorizing everyone who is still alive.  He re-teamed with Pupillo for the Bloody Pit of Horror, which returned to more familiar lines by featuring a group of sexy models and their slightly comical manager who end up in an ornate and run down castle where they come across a reclusive actor (Mickey Hargitay) who might or might not be a crazed muscleman dressed in a Zorro mask and with a personalized torture chamber who is known as ‘the Crimson Executioner’.  Ok, so the plots pretty much the same as Brandi’s earlier film, but this is crazy stuff, hugely enjoyable, and Brandi wears a nice cardigan while playing the hero. There were two final films before Brandi gave up his acting career.  Island of the Lost Girls (69) saw him play the ‘secret’ head of a white slave ring in a late entry in the successful Kommissar X series of films starring Tony Kendall and Brad Harris and there was a small role in Bruno Mattei’s Private House of the SS (77).  But by this time he was concentrating his efforts behind the camera.  In fact, he’d been producing films since 1964, when he worked behind the scenes on Zorikan the Barbarian.  Before long, he was working on films he didn’t also star in, although many of them were directed by previous collaborators: A… come assassino (66) and Un colpo da re (67) for Angelo Dorigo; Eva, la Venere selvaggia (68), Wanted Sabata (70) for Roberto Mauri. It was in the 1980s that he became better known as a producer, partially because most of the makers of low budget, populist entertainment – people like Fortunato Misiano – had fled the industry.  Using the pseudonym Walter Bigari and often under his A.M. Trading International company, he was one of the few producers who was still prolific enough to become a familiar name, along with the likes of Joe D’Amato and Fabrizio De Angelis.

Posted in Performers & directors | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Adam Chaplin

Adam Chaplin

Adam Chaplin

2011
Italy
Produced by Giulio De Santi
Director: Emanuele De Santi
Writer: Emanuele De Santi
Stars: Emanuele De Santi, Giulio De Santi, Alessandro Gramanti

Many years ago, some time back in the early 1990s, I spent a little time at a charming London institution called The Anarchist Bookshop. I believe I went there expecting it to be a charming place full of leather bound volumes and interesting people wanting to debate the relative merits of the ideas of Bakunin and Blake (William, not me). Instead it was a grimy room full of amusingly photocopied leaflets – the anarchist grasp of desk top publishing obviously having not advanced beyond Christ the Album and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – and dreadlocked people wearing near identical clothing (generally of a pseudo military bent), smoking dope and mumbling into their dreadlocks. What this bought home to me, I think, is that the more people try to be different, to be radical, the more they end up being the same, falling into a kind of conformity of alternative ideas and lifestyles. The truly radical don’t need to push their radicality.

Anyway, the reason this all came back to me was that I was watching Adam Chaplin, a sci fi / horror movie made in Italy in 2011. It tries so hard to be extreme, to be different that it ends up being tedious. I have to confess: I fell asleep after about an hour and a quarter. And that sad thing is that it’s when it tries to bludgeon you with it’s non-mainstream-ness – its silly graphic violence, its crude plot, its panto style performances – that it’s at its most boring.

Our hero... Adam Chaplin

Our hero… Adam Chaplin

The plot… well, set in a fictional, totalitarian country called Heaven Valley, it seems to be about a kind of zombie called Adam Chaplin who has a weird goblin on his shoulder (actually, this is quite well done and a bit creepy) urging him to take bloody vengeance on the local criminal and state bigwigs who caused his wife to be burnt to death. Adam is blessed with superhuman strength which he uses to beat his victims to a literal pulp, but his main adversary, a faceless maniac called Denny Richards, has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

This is a confusing mess that makes no effort to create any kind of characters: people are introduced, violently killed, sometimes reanimated, then violently killed again. The main narrative is never developed and the repetitive nature of the story – which has basically been constructed to allow for a gore scene every five minutes – is alienating.

the villain from Adam Chaplin

Not the nicest chap, the villainous Denny from Adam Chaplin

And it’s a shame, because from a stylistic point of view it’s not all bad. It has a very distinctive look, full of dull greys and with an overexposed tinge that’s quite effective. All the characters have strange looks, slightly or more obviously ‘mutated’ (imagine Dick Tracy on a budget), and for some reason it reminded me of 80s favourite Street Trash. Some sequences – a search in some underground sewers, most notably – build up a bit of tension. But, but, but… these are overwhelmed by the general naffness of it all. Sometimes, subtlety can be more effective than shouting. I’d love to be able to recommend any new horror film made in Italy, but I can’t really do that in this case. A lot of the people involved in this have made a kind follow up called Taeter City (as in ‘tater and gravy’?).

Posted in Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mario Monicelli interview

Mario Monicelli on the set of Camera D'Albergo

Mario Monicelli on the set of Camera D’Albergo

An interview with the late maestro of Commedia all’Italian, Mario Monicelli, which I found on the web and have translated into English.

Q: You don’t feel that the Commedia all’Italiano continues to receive much recognition?

I don’t think so. I’ve had much recognition, fortunately. The very fact that you want to interview me is recognition. I am known, my films are widely released and every now and then I’m invited to some city or other. This helps me discover the world and meet new people, which is I feel an educational experience.

Q: This mixture of elements which you have spoken of regarding the Commedia all’Italiana, is that the case also for the technical elements? So Gianni Di Vinanzo’s photography [on I soliti ignoti] is reminiscent both of that from the noir style or poetic realism, but it’s very different from neorealism. Was that intentional or accidental?

It was something we planned. In Commedia all’Italiana you laugh at the dramas and make a farce out of them. The style of the cinematography must follow this approach, this dramatic aspect that is unique to the genre. Some foreign critics are amazed that we can laugh in this way at drama, in other places it is a tradition that seems very foreign whereas for us it comes naturally.

Q: Thinking of the huge success that you had in the States with I soliti ignoti, what was it that you think made this film so exportable?

It wasn’t only my film, all the Commedia all’Italiana were able to find humour in the least dramatic and tragic of themes.

Q: And this bitterness is the universal element?

Yes, because in fact they’re funny. Not only in Italy,the French laugh at them as well, the Americans, the Chinese. The latter love the Commedia all’Italiano, the dubbing even. You should hear Totò talking in Chinese! They’re universal because the sentiments are the same all over, they don’t change, not from century to century or from land to land.

Q: That links you and the other protagonists of the genre? Risi, Comencini, Germi, Lattuada… Were you aware of being part of a movement or was it something that came spontaneously?

Alberto Sordi in La grande guerra

Alberto Sordi in La grande guerra

It was absolutely spontaneous. Unfortunately so, as far as I’m concerned. The first film I directed was in the years after the war, in an Italy that had been torn apart by the war and by a criminal and stupid dictator. It was called Toto cerca casa. At that time the home was a very serious theme, and as you can imagine for other reasons apart from humour. This film, though it was crude, it was funny and a big success. We hadn’t studied long and we didn’t know at all if this was the right approach. Another film of the type was Come persi la guerra by Borghesio, a farce on a thorny and sad theme but which managed to be very funny. It even angered Andreotti, who said: “You should wash your dirty linen in your own house, not use it in a film which denigrates Italy, like this one does.” When I decided to do La grande guerra and I was able to shoot it, it was written by Age and Scarpelli and starred Gassman and Sordi, there was a commotion among the Italian press. They said that we wanted to mock the great war and the 600,000 who died in it. But then it was a huge success and it broke this stupid taboo of a false victory and a million soldiers sent to die without food, equipment or arms.

Q: How important do you think the quality of your crew was?

Very, above all in the period immediately after the war. Not only for those of us who made comedies, but for all Italian cinema: Visconti, Fellini, De Sanctis, De Sica… We were always working in a group, in particular during the phase of drawing up the story and screenplay. We were all together, all friends. In the Italian cinema field there were about forty of us, screenwriters, directors and some actors. We saw each other a lot, we went out to eat together, we started the weekend together to have fun, walk and talk. We weren’t jealous of each other, there wasn’t competition between us. Our generation lived in a good way, friendly and profitable. We exchanged ideas, stories, lines, but always without envy.

Q: Perhaps it’s this that’s missing today…

That’s true. I hope that this spirit is reborn, it’s indispensable for make projects that successfully represent reality.

The hapless thieves in I soliti ignoti

The hapless thieves in I soliti ignoti

Q: So what do you think of the new breed of Commedia italiana?

I think that there is a good recovery. The young filmmakers of today have rediscovered this way of working together, without pretending to do everything by themselves as it was for the two preceding generations: they’d write the screenplay, direct it and sometimes also act in it as well. Now I think that these young people are of their own generation, of the reality that surrounds them, of the problems that they face, their illusions and delusions. Not like the preceding generation, who tried to make imitations of Antonioni, Fellini or Visconti. These filmmakers don’t make imitations, they make their own films and this attracts the Italian public, who finally see themselves represented authentically. I have a lot of faith in this new generation.

Q: Among others, Virzi cites you as a maestro…

I’m not a maestro of anything and I wasn’t a student of anyone. Everything came in itself.

Q: Regarding Amici miei, can you tell us anything about why Germi chose you and when did you take over?

Because we were good friends. We’d known each other since the end of the forties, when I was his assistant on Il testimone, his first film. After that we saw each other often and became friends. Germi was a person who was difficult to handle, he had a cantankerous character, self-contained, but we could spend a lot of time together. We’d chat, we’d argue. We held each other in esteem. And so when he wasn’t able to shoot Amici miei because he was unwell, he had terrible cirrhosis, he thought of me. Also because it was a story with Tuscan characters, the scriptwriter was Tuscan and I knew him because we had already worked together. It was a subject with which I would be comfortable, because I’m also Tuscan and I know all these stories that are told in Florence. Germi wanted to set it in Bologna and when he called me to get involved I proposed moving it to Tuscany, seeing as how I was born there. He agreed and that’s what we did.

Q: What kind of relationship did you have with the censor? Toto e Carolina had particular difficulties?

Totò in Totò e Carolina

Totò in Totò e Carolina

Not only Toto e Carolina, I also had to make lots of cuts to Guardia e ladri, change some lines and many other things. Fortunately the whole of Italian cinema was anti-censorship and so we helped one another… We went to the appeal courts and battled against the commission. And by don’t of fighting this institution we dismantled it and now it practically doesn’t exist any more. A true censor would be against the exultation of warfare and sex. Young people watch and they learn to kill as if it’s nothing, they have a bad view of sex. The television teaches us things that we didn’t see when I was a boy and I don’t want to see today.

Q: Your career is often intertwined with that of other great figures from our cinema. In particular, do you recall any anecdotes regarding Sordi?

(Laughs). There are only a certain amount of anecdotes that I can tell and each time I’m interviewed I’m asked to tell an anecdote. I’m not a collector of anecdotes! Thousands of things have happened in my career but I don’t remember them all and so I can’t speak about them. And I’m happy not to speak of them, you’ll have to find something you can write about me instead.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects?

There is one, I hope it takes off because it has been a long time in preparation. It’s a film called L’uomo nero after a card game played by children which I believe is now forgotten. You discard all the doubles and in the end there’s one card remaining, called L’uomo nero, and you have to do a penance.

Q: One final question, what films have you been struck by recently?

In recent years, among the Italian films, I have been most taken with Un uomo in piu by Sorrentino. Then there are other directors, for example Marra, Crialese, Ozpatek, Muccino, Soldini, Infascelli, Piccioni, Giordana. The cinema is firstly an industry and then an art form. If the films have the backing of the public then you are able to take more risks economically because this kind of production has an audience, so you can do things, otherwise you can’t. Now there are films that are attracting the public whereas for twenty years there wasn’t anyone going to the cinema.

Posted in Directors, Performers & directors | Tagged , , | Leave a comment