Interview with Carole André

Here’s an italian language piece on the actress Carole André that appeared in La Stampa on the 16th October, primarily about her role in Sergio Sollima’s Sandokan:

Era una fanciulla di 16 o 17 anni, dalla taglia piccola, ma snella ed elegante, dalle forme superbamente modellate, dalla cintura così stretta che una sola mano sarebbe bastata per circondarla, dalla pelle rosea e fresca come un fiore appena sbocciato. Aveva una testolina ammirabile con due occhi azzurri come l’acqua del mare, una fronte d’incomparabile precisione, sotto la quale spiccavano due sopracciglia leggiadramente arcuate e che quasi si toccavano. Una capigliatura bionda le scendeva in pittoresco disordine, come una pioggia d’oro, sul bianco busticino che le copriva il seno».

Così, negli Anni 80 dell’800, Emilio Salgari vide Marianna Guillonk, la perla più preziosa dell’isola di Labuan, ed esattamente così la vedemmo, quasi cent’anni dopo, tutti noi, la sera del 6 gennaio 1976, quando sul primo canale Rai andò in onda la prima puntata dello sceneggiato tv tratto dai racconti di Salgari. Carole André aveva poco più di vent’anni, ed era perfetta. Era la Perla di Labuan: «Sergio Sollima, il regista, aveva scritto la sceneggiatura con me in mente.

Ci conoscevamo bene, nel 1967 a 14 anni avevo girato il mio primo film con lui, Faccia a faccia, un western con Gian Maria Volonté e Tomas Milian, e per convincermi a fare Sandokan disse che senza di me avrebbe rinunciato a dirigerlo. Io non volevo farlo, avevo perso mia madre da poco, mio padre viveva negli Stati Uniti, non avevo alcuna intenzione di andare sei mesi in Asia a fare un film di sei ore. Ma Sollima insistette, e mi permise di tornare a casa quando la troupe si spostò dalla Malesia all’India. Lui diceva che io e Kabir Bedi, che si era pagato il biglietto aereo per venire a fare i provini a Roma, eravamo assolutamente necessari, insostituibili. E così accettai».

E fu subito successo. Un successo immediato e travolgente. «Avevo lavorato con Fellini, Visconti, Brusati, Risi, Ferreri, ero considerata un’attrice seria, drammatica, una ragazza promettente adatta a ruoli pesanti, difficili, intensi, facevo un cinema che non ti dava quel genere di popolarità. Invece, dalla sera in cui fu trasmessa la prima puntata di Sandokan non potevo più uscire di casa, i paparazzi mi seguivano ovunque, la gente impazziva. All’improvviso ero diventata come Madonna, come… Chi c’è di così famoso oggi? Ecco, la mia vita è cambiata da un giorno all’altro e in negativo. In fondo non avevo trovato la cura per il cancro, no? Avevo poco più di vent’anni, quel successo non era un riconoscimento per aver fatto qualcosa di grande. Era uscito in tv uno sceneggiato che avevo girato un anno e mezzo prima, tutto qui».

Delle ragioni di quel successo, oggi Carole André si è fatta un’idea: «Il regista è stato bravissimo a usare la tecnica del feuilleton, quella di Salgari stesso. Verso la fine di ciascuna puntata succedeva sempre qualcosa di drammatico che ti spingeva a vedere anche la puntata seguente. Poi è stato il primo Sandokan girato sui luoghi veri: ne avevano già fatti sei o sette, tutti a Cinecittà, con attori romanissimi pitturati di scuro, poco credibili. Nel nostro, c’erano gli elefanti, i leoni, le tigri, le scimmiette… E le facce delle persone. Tutte le comparse erano locali, le spiagge erano quelle. Si sentiva. E infatti per la prima e unica volta uno sceneggiato tv è stato rimontato in due film ed è uscito in sala dopo essere stato visto da milioni di persone, ottenendo successo. È incredibile, no?

Una volta Maurizio Costanzo mi disse che, calcolato con i criteri attuali, il pubblico sarebbe stato pari a quello di una finale dei mondiali di calcio. Ancora oggi non riesco a capire come nessuno, alla Rai, abbia avuto l’idea di dargli un seguito. Gli americani sarebbero andati avanti dieci anni, con Sandokan 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… E io li avrei fatti, perché ormai tutti mi vedevano come Marianna, la fidanzata di Sandokan e trovare altri ruoli, per me, era un problema. Un regista, una volta, me l’ha detto: “Carole, non ti posso prendere nel mio film. Se ti faccio un primo piano, la platea comincia a urlare: “Sandokan! Sandokan!”»”.

Storie di un’altra Italia, in cui tutti andavano regolarmente al cinema, i canali televisivi erano solo due, e la tv a colori era agli albori. Storie di un’Italia più ingenua, forse, in cui gli ammiratori scrivevano a Carole André per sapere se davvero si era innamorata di Sandokan, e se le sarebbe piaciuto vivere «nell’India misteriosa»: «Tenni una rubrica su Stampa Sera. La gente mi scriveva e io, che non parlavo ancora benissimo l’italiano, rispondevo con l’aiuto di una giornalista. Ricordo molte lettere di donne, la mia Marianna piaceva soprattutto a loro, così innamorata ma anche così desiderosa di libertà, indipendenza, così moderna».

Anticonformista, poco presenzialista, sinistrorsa (secondo i giornali di destra): anche così è stata descritta Carole André. Ma una ricerca sull’archivio di gossip più completo che c’è, quello di Internet, non dà risultati significativi: «E meno male – commenta lei -. Oggi faccio l’architetto, mi occupo di giardini, e lavoro un po’ anche a Cinecittà, nelle pubbliche relazioni, più che altro perché soffrirei molto se dovessi abbandonare il mondo del cinema. Ci sono dentro da sempre, mia madre era un’attrice, Gaby André, proprio a causa sua (io non volevo, ero molto timida) giro film da quando avevo 13 anni.

E sono un’attrice, anche se ruoli belli per donne grandi ce ne sono pochissimi e giustamente li danno a chi ha sempre lavorato, la bravissima Sandrelli, Margherita Buy, Catherine Spaak. Io ho sempre avuto paura di invecchiare male, aspettando un nuovo film, di sentirmi brutta, di dovermi rifare il viso per sembrare giovane. Ho sempre pensato che avrei dovuto avere qualcosa di creativo su cui ripiegare, e l’architettura è perfetta. Avrei tanto voluto passare dietro la macchina da presa, come regista o produttore. Ma quando lo dicevo, mi prendevano per matta: “No, no, tu sei un’attrice, lascia perdere”. A quei tempi, non era un lavoro per donne»

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Frank Braña interview

For anyone who understands Spanish, here’s an interview with Frank Braña from thew 2011 Ameria Western Film Festival.

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Brett Halsey: Art or Instinct in the Movies

Brett Halsey, Art or Instinct in the Movies

Brett Halsey, Art or Instinct in the Movies

Just finished reading John B. Murray’s biography of Brett Halsey, Brett Halsey: Art or Instinct in the Movies, and thought I’d scribble down a few quick notes.  Overall it’s a good book, full of fascinating information: about Brett’s assorted marriages, his career in Hollywood and Europe, his long-term stints on daytome soap operas.  Most of it is made up of memories and anecdotes, so it’s very much an official biography, and perhaps its major faults are that (a) it’s light on criticism (an analysis of his films would be very much appreciated) and (b) it’s thematically rather than chronologically arranged, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep track.  As with most Midnight Marquee books (The EuroSpy Guide included) it’s also possibly a bit weak on indexing and annotations.

But these are minor quibbles, and Murray is to be applauded for writing a very readable account of Halsey’s life and, more importantly, going out and interviewing both Halsey and a lot of other people who were involved with his career.  There’s lots of information about directors such as Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Alberto Cardone, and Halsey also has a lot of insight into why the Italian film industry has declined so much (he puts forward the view that the very success of the industry was later the cause of its own downfall: in the sixties Italian genre films filled a gap in the market because they’d been made less economically viable in the US because of TV, but they declined as TV became more widespread in Italy throughout the 70s).

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R.I.P. David Hess

News is circulating of the sad news that David Hess has died.  Here’s the note from FEARNet:

Actor and songwriter David Hess died yesterday at age 69. On his Facebook page, his children wrote: “It is with great sadness that we have said our last goodbyes to our beloved dad and friend to all. David passed away peacefully last night. The Mad Hessian lives on in his family, friends, and all of his devoted fans. Sing a song in celebration of his life.”

With nearly 40 feature credits spanning as many years, Hess will likely be best remembered from Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, as Krug Stilo, the leader of the gang that kidnaps, rapes, tortures and kills two teenage girls before getting beheaded by one of the parents. Born in New York in 1942, Hess began his career as a musician and a songwriter, who wrote songs for Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, and Sal Mineo. 1972′s Last House marked Hess’s acting debut, and throughout his career he divided himself between the two disciplines, often contributing to the soundtracks of the films he worked on.

Hess had a number of other genre credits to his name: Craven’s Swamp Thing; Ruggero Deodato’s House at the Edge of the Park and Body Count, and Ulli Lommel’s Zodiac Killer and Zombie Nation. His last film was 2009′s Smash Cuts.

David Hess in Hitch Hike

David Hess in Hitch Hike

Hess was, of course, a regular in European films, starting his Italian career with the excellent Hitch Hike, in which he played a mad hitch-hiker who terrorises a fractious couple played by Corinne Clery and Franco Nero.  In Ruggero Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park he riffed on playing the same kind of character as he had in the film that had made his name, The Last House on the Left. He also appeared in Deodato’s slasher movie Body Count (87) and TV series Oceano, as well generic productions for the likes of Alfonso Brescia (Omicidio a luci blu (89)), Tonino Ricci (Buck at the Edge of Heaven (91) and Enzo Castellari (Jonathan of the Bears (95)). He might not have been an actor of great range, but he was always a welcome presence who added a little chutzpah to often otherwise mediocre productions.

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Ferdinando Baldi on Il massacro della foresta nero

Roberto Poppi, who you might know as the co-editor or the invaluable Gremese Dizionario del cinema Italiano, is posting some interesting nuggets on the Nocturno forum, which I’ll attempt to translate and repost here… This one is from an interview with Ferdinando Baldi regarding Il massacro della foresta nero (Massacre in the Black Forest)

“I shot it in Yugoslavia because Ergas put some money into it…  There was Cameron Mitchell, who wasn’t able to live without having a woman every day (laughs).  When we were filming, a little way away there was this house, and he met a married woman there and began seeing her.  One night he was with her when her husband arrived and threw him out of the window in his underwear, breaking his leg.  So I ended up making the film using close ups and long shots.”

 

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The Headless Woman

The Headless Woman

The Headless Woman

Aka La mujer sin cabeza
2008
Argentina | France | Italy | Spain
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Story & screenplay: Lucrecia Martel
Cinematogrpahy: Bárbara Álvarez
Editor: Miguel Schverdfinger
Art director: Maria Eugenia Sueiro
Cast: María Onetto (Verónica), Claudia Cantero (Josefina), César Bordón (Marcos), Daniel Genoud (Juan Manuel), Guillermo Arengo (Marcelo), Inés Efron (Candita), María Vaner (Tía Lala), Alicia Muxo), Pía Uribelarrea

If you’re under the misapprehension that Argentina is a place of Latin style and sophistication, then The Headless Woman should act as a suitable antidote.  This is a film populated by some of the most unappealing costumes and styles imaginable: bad hair (including the protagonists bleach bouffant, which recalls the similar coiffure sported by that celebrated fashion icon, Madge Bishop from Neighbours); terrible clothes (pink velour tracksuits, anyone) and horrible interiors.  The women all look either like escapees from the armpits of the 80s, the men like Diego Maradona in one of his ropier periods.  There’s nary a pencil moustache or smart suit in sight.

The plot is simple enough: while driving along a country road beside a canal, the resolutely middle class Verónica loses concentration while answering her mobile and hits… someone, or something, she’s not sure what.  Rather than stopping to investigate, she keeps on driving and descends into a state resembling post-traumatic shock.  She hides out in a hotel, bumps into one of her many cousins and shags him, and eventually returns home in a somnambulant state.  When she finally confesses what has happened to her husband, he doesn’t believe her, and when they return to the scene of the accident there’s no sign of a body.  But could it be that the corpse – human or otherwise – has been washed away in the violent storms that have occurred in the meantime.

An international co-production with backing from Spain, Italy and France as well as Argentina, not to mention input from the celebrated likes of Pedro Almódovar and Tilde Corsi, this was a high profile release directed by arthouse darling Lucrecia Martel, whose previous films, The Swamp (2001) and Holy Girl (2004) were held up as part of the renaissance in Latin American cinema during the early part of the decade.  Unsurprisingly, it was received with almost uniform adulation, picking up numerous awards and comments like ‘Disturbing and deeply mysterious, this tale of ghosts and guilt is nothing short of a masterpiece’ (Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian) and ‘You’d have to be headless or heartless yourself not to let this extraordinary, eerie film get under your skin.’ (Jonathan Romney in the Independent).  In which case, I have to confess to being both headless and heartless because, although I’m in no doubt as to the artistry with which it is made, the film itself left me cold.

Perhaps it’s down to the fact that all of the characters are so unappealing: Veronica is a dullard, her family irritating, her husband almost as narcoleptic as she is.  Frankly, considering she’s killed someone she deserves everything that’s coming to her, and I can’t think of anything more repellant than not stopping your car and checking it out if there’s even the chance that you’ve hit someone.  Perhaps it’s the fact that everything is so art-house standard obtuse: did she hit someone or not? Is she having a breakdown? What’s the story with her creepy niece who seems to have lesbian designs on her?  Who knows and, quite frankly, who cares.  The trouble is that all of this obfuscation has become so predictable; Michael Haneke can get away with it because his films are interesting enough to sustain the ambiguity, but this isn’t.  And, please, please… can filmmakers stop with the annoying ‘let’s end with a scene cut off in the middle and absolutely nothing resolved’ type endings; they’re as much a stylistic trait of arthouse films nowadays as the ‘priest revealed as the killer’ in giallo movies, and just as much a product of lazy writing.

Most unforgivably, even though it’s a scanty 87 minutes long, The Headless Woman still manages to be really boring.  I’m not averse to deliberate pacing, and a lot of my favourite films of recent times The White Ribbon, Dogtooth, Katalin Varga - have been, well, slow.  But, despite the fact that some people have painted this as a kind of Hitchcockian thriller or ghost story, this is both slow and dull.  I’m with Philip French of the Guardian, who was of the opinion that: ‘… it’s an intriguing film, more alienating than involving, that ends abruptly and in my view unsatisfactorily. Some people whose opinion I respect regard it as a masterpiece, but after a single viewing I can’t share this view.’

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Meet the… segretaria di edizione

If, like me, you’re one of those people who has to watch until the very final moments of a film – or, even more geekily, thumb through the pages of a gremese while watching Italian productions – you’ll be very familiar with a number of exotic sounding job titles, most of which are actually far more prosaic than their name implies.  As well as the big boys – director, writers, editor, cinematographer -there are production assistants, production secretaries, 2nd unit directors and blah-di-blah.  What, you may ask, did all these people do exactly?  Well, let’s start off with…

The segretaria di edizione (script supervisor)

The segretaria di edizione is the person on the set who is primarily responsible for continuity.  They manage the bollettino di edizione (script bulletin), which is the document in which all the details of the shoot are recorded.  This includes such things as the order in which sequences are shot and the director’s comments on all shots (i.e. whether they think it works, whether there was a particular technical issue).  This document is then provided to the editor, who uses it as a guide during the early stages of the editing process.

In addition, the segretaria di edizione also has responsibility for narrative continuity and managing any script changes that occurr… which makes it an extremely important job in the world of low budget Italian cinema.  They oversee the continuity of props, costumes and make up, ensuring that none of those comical glitches occur in which actors suddenly disappear of vases move from one place to another inbetween shots.  To do this, they often tke photos on set, in the old days using a polaroid camera, now digitally.

The bollettino di edizione is also used to make note of all timekeeping for the production: crew calls, daily start and finishing times etc etc.

Curiously, the segretaria di edizione tended to be a female role.  Examples include: Patrizia Zulini (Django, Bay of Blood) and Nyrta Corbucci (Divorzio all’Italiana).  Curiously, not a lot of segretaria di edizioni worked a huge number of films, they tended to do a dozen or so and then move on, either to another job in the industry or elsewhere.

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