Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Museum of Modern Art in New York Pays Homage to an Italian Auteur

Today kicks off the first complete retrospective in New York in more than a decade dedicated to the work of filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. Presented with Luce Cinecittà, Rome, and featuring nearly 40 35mm prints and digital preservations, the lineup includes the renowned trilogy of L’Avventura, L’Eclisse and La Notte starring Monica Vitti as well as a diverse collection of films spanning his varied four-decade career.

Antonioni made a career out of mesmerizing audiences with his films of complicated relationships that raise questions but leave many of the answers to the viewer. In a 1969 interview with American film critic Roger Ebert, Antonioni described his shooting as a constant departure from the script. “I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; things suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together, and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about.”

Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 in Ferrara, located in the region of Emilia Romagna. He attended college in nearby Bologna during the 1930s where he became involved in theater and painting. After graduation, he freelanced as a film critic for a local newspaper. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Rome and tried to make a documentary at of all places, an insane asylum. The project fell through, but some have said that his experience in making that film would go on to influence future works, in particular, Tentato Suicidio in 1953.

Many great filmmakers begin their careers with documentaries, and the same can be said of Antonioni. His first completed film documented the lives of residents living in a region near Ferrara, Italy. Gente del Po was released in 1947 and revealed Antonioni’s distinct style of filmmaking that went unparalleled in his time. The success of his documentaries paved the way for his feature length films. In 1950, Antonioni’s first feature film, Cronaca di Un Amore was released. The film echoes noir but the traditional plot recipe belonging to noir was compromised in order to shift focus to the intense feeling of the characters. Antonioni is known for his complex, well developed characters who don’t always make morally sound choices.

Cronaca di un amore
His first widescreen film and my personal favorite was his 1960 masterpiece L’Avventura in which he tells the story of a missing person through the experiences of the people heading the search. Those people, the missing woman’s fiancé and best friend end up having their own affair. Antonioni's partner and muse Monica Vitti starred in the film and gave a powerful performance with a brilliant air of indifference. L'Avventura along with his other works of that period, La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse (1962) and Il Deserto Rosso (1964) all share a consistent style, theme, social setting and plot. Those works brought his career to the level in which it has remained through the years; an international art house legend, a classic director with an unprecedented and timeless method to his filmmaking.

Despite the success of his films of the early ‘60s, the world was just getting a taste of his talent and unique vision. One can say that Michelangelo Antonioni reinvented himself with the making of Blow Up for which he earned two Oscar nominations. The film tells the story of a disenfranchised fashion photographer. When he takes a photograph in a London Park, he realizes something mysterious in the background, setting the stage for the 1966 drama, which co-stars Vanessa Redgrave. To this day, the film stirs up conversation and draws criticism due to its vast room for interpretation. In addition to the Oscar nominations, Blow Up won the Golden Palm at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival and earned a nomination for Best English-Language Foreign Film at the 1967 Golden Globes. 

Blow Up
Antonioni made films throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, which experimented with different lighting techniques and different ways to use the camera to add his signature style to each scene. He created several layers to his films with the way they were shot, the intensity of his protagonists and their political stances.  The combination of his style of filmmaking and the mainstream market of the late ‘70s clashed, forcing Antonioni to eventually give up some of his strong, alternative ways for a more commercial approach. The first product to emerge from that way of thinking was, Identificazione di una donna in 1982. It would be his last film until 1995.

Al di là delle nuvole was Antonioni’s comeback film after he suffered a severe stroke and was unable to work for thirteen years. The project was co-directed with German filmmaker, Wim Wenders. The ensemble cast of Al di là delle nuvole includes John Malkovich, Vincent Perez, Jean Reno, Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Moreau as well as a recognizable selection of pop music. Each story, as Antonioni himself said, invites the viewer to an inner travel “towards the true image of that absolute and mysterious reality that nobody will ever see.”

Michelangelo Antonioni had his own way of telling and shooting a story. He saw things when he looked through the lens of a camera that you and I don’t see. It’s been said that one should see Antonioni’s films several times over to truly appreciate the way he tells a story through the visual medium. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 94.

Michelangelo Antonioni runs through January 7, 2018 at The Museum of Modern Art In New York. Click here for the complete line up of films. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Interview with Neapolitan Filmmaker Fabio Massa

A new film is making its rounds through America and the world. AEffetto Domino or Domino Effect in English is the touching story of an ambitious young man building his future and pursuing his dreams of teaching children in Africa when he is suddenly stopped in his tracks by a terminal illness. The film speaks to the way in which a terminal diagnosis not only affects a patient but also those closest to him. The cast includes Fabio Massa, who also directed the film, Cristina Donadio, Pietro De Silva, Ivan Bacchi, Salvatore Cantalupo and Martina Liberti, all of whom gave emotion-packed performances.

Director Fabio Massa who takes the lead as "Lorenzo", was born in 1984 in 
Castellammare di Stabia, a commune situated on the beautiful Bay of Naples. He began acting in 2002 with his first role in Aurelio Grimaldi's Rosa Funzeca, a Neapolitan remake of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Mamma Roma. He said the role changed his life and he has been acting non-stop ever since. Along the way, he also began writing, which led to directing and producing. Then came his current film, which proved that he was capable of juggling these numerous filmmaking positions at the same time. In addition to producing, directing and acting in AEfetto Domino, Massa had to go on a serious diet and lose more than 20 pounds for the role of a man battling cancer. The effort paid off because his performance is so convincing, he's won three acting awards in the short time the film has been on the festival circuit. Massa calls the film "a splendid adventure that has touched several countries" speaking to the locations where the film was shot, which include the Italian regions of Campania and Puglia as well as Egypt and Senegal. 

I saw the film back in September when I was in Italy. It truly is a beautiful, emotional film that makes you realize how important love and friendship are to life and that we should never take the people closest to us for granted. I spoke with Massa about the process of making AEffetto Domino and the message he wanted to communicate through his story of love and dreams. Our interview was done in both Italian and English, so both versions are included. 

Let’s start at the beginning.. Why did you want to tell this story?
I believe in the potential of cinema as a social instrument. It was my intention to tell a story about life and its transformation. A trip to Africa inspired me: I met a child (Kalid) who inspired me to write. There was such a force in his eyes, an unparalleled courage, symbols of his character and his will. The child is deaf, but in spite of this, he spends his nights guiding the African tribes in search of food and new territories. I have deciphered this determination to my character, Lorenzo. From that moment on, a wonderful adventure was born.

Iniziamo dall'inizio. Perché volevi raccontare questa storia?
Credo molto nella potenzialità del cinema inteso come strumento sociale. Era mia intenzione raccontare una storia che riguardasse la vita e la sua trasformazione, come si reagisce quando la vita ti mette alle strette. Un viaggio in Africa mi ha ispirato: ho conosciuto un bambino (Kalid) che ha ispirato la scrittura! Aveva negli occhi una tale forza, un coraggio senza precedenti, simboli del suo carattere e della sua volontà (il bambino è sordomuto ma nonostante questo è lui di notte a guidare le tribù negli spostamenti in cerca di cibo e nuovi territori). Ho trsferito questa determinazione al mio personaggio: Lorenzo! Da quel momento è nata una splendida avventura.

The story of “AEffetto Domino” speaks to the bonds of love between friends, lovers, parents and children. As the creator of such a beautiful, heartfelt story, what are your thoughts on the significance of the relationships in our lives.. and what is the message you wanted to communicate through this film?
First of all, I am happy that my message of love, in the broad sense, and tenderness has reached an audience. I believe that love, in all its forms (friendship, sex, bond of kinship) is the only true drive of the world. And this film is fueled by emotions, the delicacy of a hug, the search for sincere contact even before sex. With this movie, I wanted to send an important message: love is unique!

La storia di "AEffetto Domino" parla dei vincoli dell'amore tra amici, amanti, genitori e figli. Come creatore di una storia così bella e sincera, quali sono i tuoi pensieri sul significato delle relazioni nelle nostre vite .. e qual è il messaggio che hai voluto comunicare attraverso questo film?
Innanzitutto sono felice che il mio messaggio di amore, in senso lato, e di tenerezza sia arrivato agli spettatori. Io credo che l’amore, in ogni sua forma (amicizia, sesso, legame di parentela…), sia l’unico vero motore del mondo. E questo film vive sulle emozioni, sulla delicatezza di un abbraccio, nella ricerca di un contatto sincero ancor prima che sessuale. Con questo film volevo si trasmettesse un messaggio importante: l’amore è unico!

Your character has a zest and passion for life. How much of yourself did you put into "Lorenzo"?
Lorenzo is the result of a pen that traveled in the universe of whom I would like to be (and I try to be): an honest, loyal guy- true, with a strong desire to reach his dreams (just like Africa was Lorenzo's dream). This is a great character that gave me the chance to test myself. I had to lose 12 kg in the second stage of the film to be as convincing as possible in the storyline of the disease. I had to study the "behaviors" - the breathing, the difficulties of the people which, unfortunately, suffer from this evil disease. It's been a wonderful adventure I'd wish for any actor.

Il tuo personaggio ha una gioia e una passione per la vita. Quanto di te hai messo in questo personaggio, "Lorenzo"?
Lorenzo è frutto di una penna che ha viaggiato nell’universo del chi vorrei essere (e che cerco di essere): un ragazzo onesto, leale, vero, con una spiccata voglia di raggiungere i suoi sogni (così come l’Africa per Lorenzo).  Un gran bel personaggio che mi ha dato la possibilità di mettermi alla prova in toto: ho dovuto perdere 12 kg nella seconda fase del film per essere quanto più convincente nel racconto della malattia e studiare i “comportamenti”, i respiri, le difficoltà delle persone che, purtroppo, soffrono di questo male. Un splendida avventura che auguro ad ogni interprete.

With the topics of immigration and integration so relevant now, tell me your thoughts on the storyline about the African student and Lorenzo's desire to teach in Africa.
Lorenzo has a desire to help others "exploit" his passion for this wonderful continent that Kalid reveals to him. Working to reach his goals pays off but it takes a toll on him in other parts of his life- first with the loss of his love, then having to return to Italy after his diagnosis. His desire to give to others becomes a priority above everything. This is just one of the main elements of his character.

Con i temi dell'immigrazione e dell'integrazione così rilevanti in questo periodo, dimmi le tue riflessioni sulla trama dello studente africano e il desiderio di Lorenzo di insegnare in Africa.
Lorenzo ha un desiderio: aiutare gli altri “sfruttando” la sua passione per questo meraviglioso continente che Kalid gli fa scoprire. Lotta per raggiungere il suo obiettivo, lo raggiunge ma la vita gli si ritorce contro, prima con la perdita del proprio amore poi dovendo rinunciare al suo progetto per curarsi in Italia. La sua voglia di darsi agli altri, di aiutare quegli “occhioni così bianchi” (come dice nel film), diventa prioritario su tutto: questo è proprio uno degli  elementi principali del suo carattere.

You’ve presented the film at a number of festivals. How has the audience reacted? There are so many different elements to the film. What do you find that people are talking about the most?
The film is experiencing a beautiful journey. It is reaching so many hearts. Starting with Italy, it has been shown in many countries: Australia, France, Romania, India, Canada and on January 19, in California! They change the projection sites, change the audience's culture but a common denominator remains: emotions! As I said before, it's a movie about emotions and the members of the audiences are the ones that have allowed the message of the film, that was born independent, become a real movie.

Avete presentato il film in numerosi festival. Com'è stata la reazione del pubblico? Ci sono così tanti elementi diversi nel film. Cosa senti dalla gente che stia parlando di più?
Il film sta vivendo un bel percorso, sta arrivando a tanti cuori. Partito dall’Italia, sta facendo il proprio giro in tante nazioni :Australia, Francia, Romania, India, Canada e dal 19 gennaio in California! Cambiano i luoghi di proiezione, cambia la cultura degli spettatori ma resta un mimino comune denominatore: le emozioni! Come dicevo prima, è un film sulle emozioni e sono quelle che hanno permesso il passaparola di questo film che, nato indipendente, sogna da vero e proprio film.

I really enjoyed Cristina Donadio’s performance. There is strong chemistry between the two of you. Tell me about your collaboration with her.
Cristina Donadio, besides being a great and versatile actress, is a great woman. We met many years ago on the set of a television series for RAI- The Team where I was one of her henchmen and she was the boss of the neighborhood. We had never worked together before that project. When my casting director Andrea Axel Nobile and I talked about this role, we had no doubts. The sweet mother of Lorenzo could not not be her! Luckily, she's having the opportunity to play the role of Scianel in Gomorra, which has brought her a lot of visibility and success, adding popularity to a quality path that she built.

Mi è piaciuta molto la performance di Cristina Donadio. C'è un forte legame tra voi due. Parlami della vostra collaborazione.
Cristina Donadio, oltre ad essere una bravissima e versatile attrice, è una grande donna! Ci eravamo sfiorati molti anni prima in una serie tv per la rai (La squadra) in cui io ero uno dei suoi scagnozzi e lei la boss del quartiere. Non avevamo mai recitato insieme. Quando , con il mio casting Andrea Axel Nobile, parlavamo di questo ruolo non abbiamo avuto dubbi: la madre dolcissima di Lorenza non poteva non essere lei! Per fortuna è arrivato poi il ruolo di Scianel in Gomorra che le ha dato visibilità e successo, aggiungendo luce di popolarità ad un percorso di qualità che ha sempre costruito.

What is in the future for the film? Where can people see it?
We are in touch with numerous festivals from all over the world that are looking for it and for us. That is a source of satisfaction and pride. Every day there are surprises that give us new visibility. The many awards that the film has won (national and international) are allowing us to keep going. One of the next stages will be that of January 19 when I will present the film at The Loft, a splendid facility run by Paul Reder and Matthew Stegemiller in Lake Tahoe, California. We sold the international sales rights to Adler & Associates Entertainment, a Los Angeles Distribution House, which we hope will give it even more visibility. In Italy, however, we are thinking about TV distribution and home video.

In futuro, sara presentato in altri festival? Come sara distribuito il film?
Siamo in contatto con numerosissimi festival da tutto il mondo che lo stanno richiedendo e per noi è fonte di soddisfazione ed orgoglio. Ogni giorno ci sono sorprese che ci danno nuova visibilità. I tanti premi che il film ha vinto (nazionali ed internazionali) ci stanno permettendo di non fermarci dopo mesi dall’uscita. Una delle prossime tappe a cui tengo tanto è quella del prossimo 19 gennaio: presenterò il film al The loft, una splendida struttura gestita da Paul Reder e Matthew Stegemiller in Lake Tahoe (California). Poi abbiamo ceduto i diritti internazionali di vendita all’ Adler & associates Enternatainment (casa di distribuzione di Los Angeles) che speriamo riesca a darne ancor più visibilità. In italia invece stiamo pensando alla distribuzione tv e home video.

Just out of curiosity, what is the significance of the spelling of the title… “AEffetto Domino”?
"AE" is the Latin spelling for "affection", which seemed an appropriate theme of the film. Affection is something that we all need as human beings and the Domino "Effect" is what will come of that affection tomorrow.

Solo una curiosità .. Qual è il significato della sillabazione del titolo ... "AEffetto Domino"?
 “AE” è la locuzione latina che mi sembrava appropriata per il tema del film: “Affetto” che domani nella vita di ogni essere umano ed “Effetto domino” che tutti conosciamo.

What are your plans as a filmmaker- whether it be directing, producing, writing and/or acting?
To reach my dreams, to hold them with strength and care. I also opened a production house called Goccia Film in which I produce my works, together with the actress Martina Liberti. I'm currently working on a script for a new film, Mai per sempre, which I'm writing with Demetrio Salvi and hopefully can transform it into images. It will be a film that relies on feelings and ties but which also explores new territories with respect to the "domino effect".

Qualli sono i tuoi progetto come filmmaker (regista, produttore, scrittore, attore)?
Per arrivare ai miei sogni, per stringerli con forza e cura, ho aperto anche una casa di produzione, la Goccia Film con cui produco, insieme all’attrice Martina Liberti i miei lavori.
Attualmente sono in scrittura con un nuovo film: “Mai per sempre” che sto scrivendo con Demetrio Salvi e che spero presto possa trasformasi in immagini. Un film che si basa sempre sui sentimenti, sui legami ma che esplora territori nuovi rispetto ad “Aeffetto domino”. 

While Fabio Massa's film is receiving accolades from all over the world, he is thriving in his personal life as well. He recently married the stunning Neapolitan actress Manila Aiello. The gorgeous couple spent their honeymoon in New York City.. and we're sure they'll be back soon promoting this beautiful film. Check back here for updates.

Watch the trailer for AEffetto Domino...