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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Komödien, so bitter wie das Leben! Mario Monicelli (1915-2010)

Casanova '70
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Virtuose der Revolution: Mario Monicelli, einer der großen Regisseure der italienischen Nachkriegszeit, ist im Alter von 95 Jahren verstorben. Von schwerer Krankheit gezeichnet, beging er Selbstmord in einem Krankenhaus in Rom. Eine Handvoll kleiner Diebe und Herumtreiber will ein Pfandleihhaus in Rom überfallen. Um in den Raum mit dem Safe zu gelangen, verschaffen sie sich Zutritt zur angrenzenden Wohnung zweier alter Damen, deren venezianische Hausangestellte mit Peppe (Vittorio Gassman), dem Herzensbrecher der Gruppe, ein Techtelmechtel hat. Doch der Coup, zum dem Tiberio (Marcello Mastroianni) mit eingegipstem Arm erscheint, geht schief. Statt durch die Mauer zum Safezimmer brechen die Gauner nur durch die Zwischenwand zur Küche, in der das Hausmädchen einen Topf mit Kichererbsenpasta vorbereitet hat. Statt an den Reichtümern des Leihhauses laben sie sich an der Pasta, bevor der Morgen graut und das Idyll beendet. Ein Wecker, die einzig greifbare Beute des Raubzugs, schrillt ausgerechnet in dem Moment los, als Peppe und sein Kumpel Capannelle von zwei misstrauischen Carabinieri ins Auge gefasst werden. „I soliti ignoti“, der Film, der diese Geschichte erzählt - auf Deutsch hieß er „Diebe haben's schwer“ - war der Überraschungserfolg des Jahres 1958 und ein Wendepunkt des italienischen Kinos. Er bewies, dass man die soziale Wirklichkeit der Nachkriegszeit auch mit komödiantischen Mitteln zeigen konnte - und dass Filmkomödien keine lebensfernen Schwänke sein mussten, sondern der erschlaffenden Bewegung des Neorealismus neuen ästhetischen Schwung geben konnten. Er verhalf seinen bis dahin nur mäßig bekannten Hauptdarstellern Vittorio Gassman und Marcello Mastroianni zu internationalem Ruhm. Und er sicherte seinem Regisseur, der zuvor hauptsächlich als routinierter Handwerker von Farcen und Melodramen hervorgetreten war, einen Platz unter den Meistern des italienischen Kinos: Mario Monicelli. Sophia Loren und Luigi Proietti in Monicellis „Mortadella” von 1971
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Für Monicelli, 1915 als Sohn eines Theaterkritikers im toskanischen Viareggio geboren, war die Commedia all'italiana ein Geschenk des Schicksals und eine Last zugleich. Sie entsprach seinem zwiespältigen, aus Sarkasmus und Resignation gemischten Verhältnis zur Gegenwart seines Landes, aber sie setzte seinen künstlerischen Ambitionen auch enge Grenzen. In „La grande guerra“ („Man nannte es den großen Krieg“), seinem nächsten Projekt nach den „Soliti ignoti“, trieb er das Wechselspiel aus Komik und Tragik so weit, dass es die Form fast sprengte; auch deshalb ist die Geschichte zweier Überlebenskünstler (gespielt von Alberto Sordi und Vittorio Gassman) auf den Schlachtfeldern des Ersten Weltkriegs vermutlich sein bester Film.
Claudia Cardinale in der Episode: „Gespielin Armenia oder: Zimmer frei mit Musikbox” von 1966
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Monicellis Versuch, mit „I compagni“ („Die Peitsche im Genick“) eine politische Parabel über Solidarität und Klassenkampf zu erzählen, wurde dagegen vom Publikum abgelehnt. Mit „L'armata Brancaleone“ und „La ragazzo con la pistola“ kehrte er deshalb Ende der sechziger Jahre zu den Stoffen zurück, die man von ihm erwartete: lebenspralle, mit Sprachwitz gesättigte Alltagsgrotesken, die aus den Versatzstücken anderer Kinogenres - hier der Mittelalter-, dort der Mafiafilm - szenische Funken schlugen.

Marisa Mell und Marcello Mastroianni in Casanova '70 von 1965
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Sein zweiter großer Kinoerfolg gelang Monicelli dann 1975 mit „Amici miei“ („Ein irres Klassentreffen“), einem sarkastischen Gruppen- und Generationenporträt, das erkennbar an den berühmten Vorgänger von 1975 angelehnt war. Als er die Geschichte sieben Jahre später weitererzählte, war die hohe Zeit der italienischen Filmkomödien schon wieder vorbei; „Amici miei atto II“ („Meine Freunde“) wirkte wie ein Abgesang. Sein Land, hat Monicelli in einem seiner letzten Interviews gesagt, brauche eine Revolution, nur so könne es zu sich selbst zurückfinden. Als Regisseur ist er dieser Revolution auf virtuose Weise aus dem Weg gegangen. Am Montag hat sich Mario Monicelli, der wegen Prostatakrebs in einem römischen Krankenhaus behandelt wurde, aus einem Fenster in den Tod gestürzt. Er wurde fünfundneunzig Jahre alt. (c) FAZ-Andreas Kilb

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Thanks to André Schneider for sending me this information!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Films of Suso Cecchi D’Amico

On July 31st 2010, one of Italy's greatest screenwriters Suso Cecchi D’Amico died at the age of 96! To fans of Marisa Mell, she is best known as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of the 1965 Mario Moncelli directed movie "Casanova '70" with Marcello Mastroianni as leading man Andrea Rossi-Colombotti and Marisa Mell as Thelma. In honor of this great lady of Italian movie making the Film Society of Lincoln Centre in New York is showing this week from November 26th untill December 1st 2010 several of her majestic movies like among others "Rocco and his brothers" with a superb Alain Delon, "White Nights" with the always reliable Maria Schell and Jean Marais or "Conversation Piece" with Marisa Mell friend Helmut Berger, all movies directed by Lucino Visconti.
Richard Peña, director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, talked to David Savage of Cinema Retro about this talented screenwriter:

Cinema Retro: A tribute organized around a screenwriter is fairly rare. Why did you choose this specific screenwriter for a tribute?

Richard Pena: Perhaps, but Suso was an extraordinarily special screenwriter. Having recently done a lot of work on Italian cinema, I was startled to see how often her name figured in the credits of so many masterworks. She was an extraordinary talent, and her passing is a loss for all who love film.

CR: Do you think her career was overshadowed by her collaboration with such auteurist names in Italian cinema, such as Visconti, Monicelli, et al? It seems as though a woman would have a hard time holding her own against such huge egos?

RP: My sense is that this had as much to do with the contemporary lionization of film directors as it did plain old sexism. From what I've heard about her, she held her own with the boys.

CR: Can you identify a common thread or characteristic style that belongs to Cecchi d’Amico’s dialogue or characterizations?

RP: With over 100 screenplays to her credit, that becomes difficult; moreover, I've seen at best 50% of them. I think she often likes to focus on a character who takes a decisive action and then study the consequences of that action on those around him/her.

CR: Do you consider her an innovator in screenwriting?

RP: I'm not the best person to answer that question. I think she had a good sense of when to let the action play out on its own rhythms--to under-script, as opposed to an overly determined writing style.

CR: Can you trace any effect she had on any one American screenwriter in particular?

RP: A certain group of American filmmakers have tried to capture the spirit or even adapt "Big Deal on Madonna Street. Whit Stillman would be someone who I'm sure really admires Suso's work.

CR: Do you know how much control she exerted over her own screenplays in terms of the liberties the directors were allowed to take, i.e., was she territorial about her dialogue?

RP: I'm frankly not sure about that, but why hire Suso Cecchi D'Amico if you don't want her work?

CR: Aspiring screenwriters will come to this program, hopefully. What are you hoping they take away?

RP: I hope they sense how carefully structured her screenplays were. There's always a good sense of architecture to her screenplays, even when they leave lots of space for the director.

CR: If you had to choose one film in the line-up that is a definite don’t miss, what would your choice be? Why?

RP: I would say Violent Summer, as it's really an amazingly great film and not that well known. A chance for people to discover not only Suso's work, but that of Valerio Zurlini, a wonderful yet little-known filmmaker as well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Who am I?" (Can you solve this mystery?)

Last night I saw for the first time the Austrian 1961 production "Der Ruf der Wildgänse" based on the then famous book by Martha Ostenso.
It tells the story of an immigrant family living in the outback in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century. The father rules his family and the nearby trading post with iron hand untill disaster strikes. Marisa Mell, in her early twenties, played the eldest daughter "Judith" having enough of the tyrany of her father. It's what the German's call a "Heimat"-movie. The exterior scenes were completely shot in Canada which at that time was very expensive to do and an absolute rarity for an Austrian movie production to fly all the way to the other side of the world to shoot on location. The interior scenes were shot in Vienna on a sound stage! The cast was made up by mainly Austrian and some German actors and actresses like Horst Janson, Gertraud Jesserer and...Hans H. Neubert.
Wenn you follow the career of Marisa Mell you come across a lot of known names of Eurocult stars in her filmography like John Phillip Law, Adolpho Celi, Robert Hossein, Jean Marais, Ursula Andress, Virna Lisi, Claudine Auger, Ushi Glass, Bruno Cremer, Antonio Sabbatto sr.... the list goes on and on... but then... you stumble across a name that you have never heard off: "Hans H. Neubert". Who???
Thankfully in this day and age you have the internet as a never ending source of information on everything that your heart desires. So a quick check on IMDB, Wikipedia and some specialised cult movie sites will give you a quick answer who this guy is, where he comes from and what he has done in his life at that point in time to gain a place in a movie with Marisa Mell. Mmmmm! Strange! There is not much to be found about this actor! Only IMDB gives him about 8 acting roles where 4 of them are roles in television movies and 4 are roles in cinema movies that hardly anybody remembers to this day. Of them all the best known film is a 1961 French western directed by Robert Hossein called "Le Goût de la Violence" with Robert Hossein and Mario Adorf in the main parts. For the rest there is not much else to be found about him. No date of birth or death, no reasons why he stopped filming around 1967, no mentioning what he did after his film career or what he is doing now! This actor is to me a complete mystery.

CAN YOU SOLVE THIS MYSTERY???

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Death of a Legend-Dino De Laurentiis dies at age 91!

Dino De Laurentiis, an Academy Award-winning film impresario and producer who helped revolutionize the way movies are bankrolled and sold, has died. He was 91. The Academy Award-winning producer's daughter said her father was surrounded by family when he died Wednesday night at his home in Beverly Hills. The statement from Raffaella De Laurentiis did not give a cause of death. De Laurentiis was a legend of Italian New Wave filmmaking. His works also included "Bitter Rice," "La Strada", "Barbarella" and of course the cult movie "Danger: Diabolik!" with among others Marisa Mell as Lady Eva Kant, the partner in crime with the dark hero Diabolik.
He was tiny, but tough, a veritable Napoleon on the set and utterly tireless. "Such a little lion," was how his second wife, producer Martha De Laurentiis, put it when he turned 80. Like any larger-than-life movie figure, De Laurentiis went through boom times and busts. But he always bounced back and his passion for movies never dimmed. His career spanned hundreds of films, including several Oscar winners and he worked with some of the biggest stars and best directors in the business. His credits include box office and/or critical successes such as "U-571", "War and Peace," "Ragtime," "Three Days of the Condor" and "Blue Velvet." A pivotal figure in postwar Italian cinema, De Laurentiis moved to the United States in the 1970s, becoming a citizen in 1986. But this son of a Neapolitan pasta maker never lost his thick Italian accent and tried to spend a month in Capri and Rome each year. The Academy Award-winning "Serpico" in 1973 with Al Pacino was De Laurentiis' Hollywood debut. But by then, he already had two Italian-made Oscar-winners, Federico Fellini's "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" to his credit. One of the first producers to understand the box-office potential of foreign audiences, he helped invent international co-productions, raising money by pre-selling distribution rights outside North America. Throughout his career, he alternated lavish, big-budget productions with less commercial films by directors such as Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, and he's often package the blockbusters with art films to secure distribution for the smaller films. He got off to a strong start in the United States with "Serpico", then followed it up with another success, "Three days of the Condor," (Robert Redford). But he was also battered by flops, including the infamous "Dune", in 1984 and "King Kong" sequel. Personal tragedy also took its toll. In 1981, his son Federico was killed in a plane crash. "My father still to this day can't speak of him...He told me that every morning he wakes up and thinks of him," De Laurentiis' daughter Veronica said nearly 30 years after Federico's death.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Esci Diabolik!" by Fabrizio Canciani and Stefano Covri

The Italian comic "Diabolik" and his "Mario Bava" directed movie counterpart "Danger:Diabolik!" hold, after more than 40 years, still a firm grip on the cultural scene all over the world. This blog has often reported about the influence of this black hero and his partner in crime "Lady Eva Kant", played by Marisa Mell in the before mentioned movie, on the arts.
This time Italian singers/songwriters Fabrizio Canciani and Stefano Covri tackled this subject in their song "Esci Diabolik" from their album "Delitti e Canzoni"-Il Giallo In Musica. The song is the second title on the album. The musicians used the familiar "Wa Wa Wa" title from the original movie soundtrack by Ennio Morricone to open their song. After the intro the song becomes a very likeable jazzy inspired song with a lot of musical reference and style to another Italian jazzy singer "Paolo Conti". The video is a collage of the giallo a fumetti Diabolik and the movie that it spawned. Enjoy!





Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back out of hell!

On november 10th, it will be 45 years ago that the 1965 movie "Train D'Enfer" had its French première. The film is directed by Gilles Grangier starring Jean Marais, best known for his Fantomas trilogy with Louis de Funès, as Antoine Donadieu, a French secret agent à la James Bond and Marisa Mell as Frieda his counterpart in this espionage story. Outside of some rare tv broadcasts, this movie has been rarely seen and never had an official DVD release. So I was very pleased to see that a clip from this movie appeared on the Net yesterday giving me a glimpse for the first time of this rare Marisa Mell movie. In this version of the movie Marisa Mell has been horriblely dubbed with a high pitch French voice while her own voice was very husky and seductive.

video

Thanks to "Drayton64" for uploading this clip!