THE 66th FILM FESTIVAL/A restless Italy in Cannes

“You can never get used to a Festival  like  Cannes.  This  is  the fifth  time  I  have  been  invited, but I am just as excited as I was the first time”.  Paolo Sorrentino is truly excited when he speaks about going to La Croisette with ‘The  Great  Beauty’,  that  he  wrote  himself  with Umberto  Contarello,  which  will  be  released  in Italy on May 21 st , distributed by Medusa Film, and  concomitantly  in  France,  distributed  by Pathé.    In  fact,  the  movie  is  an  Italian-French co-production: Indigo Film, in association with the Banca Popolare di Vicenza for Italy, Babe Films, Pathé and France 2 Cinéma for France.
During the Festival the movie will also be distributed  to  the  United  Kingdom  and  Germany and stars – amongst others – Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone and Sabrina Ferilli.  “The Great Beauty”, which recalls Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’, is
set and filmed entirely in Rome.  The protagonist is a sad, disillusioned writer and journalist who watches a parade of inane, exhausted people, both powerful and depressing, consisting of high  society  ladies,  social  climbers,  politicians,
high  class  criminals,  journalists,  actors,  faded aristocrats, high prelates, artists and true or alleged  intellectuals,  weaving  inconsistent  relationships,  swallowed  up  by  a  desperate  Babel, wriggling around in ancient buildings, immense villas and the most beautiful terraces of the city.
“For those who do my kind of job”, says Paolo Sorrentino,  “vulgarity,  bleakness  and  dubious morality  can  hide  both  sentiment  and  beauty, and it is very exciting to discover both of them where you wouldn’t expect to find them.  In this
sense, Rome, with its many contrasts, worlds and contradictions,  is  a  scenario  that  continuously offers  both  decadence  and  flashes  of  splendor.
It  is  this  apparently  irreconcilable  incoherence that  fascinates  me”.
The  marketing  director  of Medusa,  Andrea  Lazzarin,  tells  us  about  the initiatives  planned  by  the  company,  under  the guidance of Giampaolo Letta, for launching ‘The Great Beauty’ concomitantly with La Croisette.
“We will make the most of the visibility provided by being in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.  In this case, compared to other movies, the media  press  launch  will  be  decidedly  superior.
The cast makes it possible for us to obtain greater visibility with a much wider public and the presence  of  stars  like  Carlo  Verdone  and  Sabrina Ferilli will create a lot of interest.  This is a very important movie and our European partners are also involved in choosing the promotional and marketing materials.”  In this regard, the producer Nicola Giuliano is very pleased with the work that has been carried out on ‘The Great Beauty’ and  the  fact  that  it  is  being  launched  simultaneously  in  various  European  countries,  despite the general production difficulties of the Italian film industry .  “In recent months we have seen a number of productions that have a wide-ranging appeal.  ‘Reality’ by Matteo Garrone and ‘Siberian Education’ by Gabriele Salvatores are important works and the point that should be emphasized is that despite the disaster of our market, and the fact that many people abroad are laughing about our situation, thanks to our tenacity and determination we are still able to produce movies like this and some of the others that are around.  The
risk is that these projects will not create a new way  of  understanding  theatrical  production, but  will  remain  sporadic  and  episodic  cases”.
Nicola Giuliano reflects on the need for market reform:  “It  scares  me  that  the  whole  country still  thinks  you  can  continue  to  apply  patches.  We have to solve the structural problems otherwise decline is inevitable.  The production model must change”.
This analysis is shared by Viola Prestieri, the founder of the Buena Onda production company alongside Valeria Golino and Riccardo  Scamarcio.    Prestieri,  who  is  the  executive producer of Indigo Film, made her producing debut with ‘Miele’, which is also Valeria Golino’s  directing  debut,  in  competition  in  Un Certain Regard.
Selected this year as the Italian  representative  for  Producers  on  the  Move, the  film-maker  explains:  “The  movie  was  co-produced with the support of Rai Cinema, the Mibac (Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities)  and  external  Tax  Credits  as  well  as thanks to two French co-producers Le Films des Tournelle and Cine Film, and is distributed in Italy by BIM.”
The producer adds: “The friend ship with Valeria Golino and Riccardo Scamarcio and the desire to try to do some great things  of our own, has been the driving force behind our work: the freedom to produce, the possibility of choosing movies in which we believe, to fall in love with stories, projects.  On paper, we were  very  worried,  but  we  gradually  managed to build a small budget for a small movie where the director was still able to do what she wanted”.
Riccardo Scamarcio adds “We have been completely absorbed by this big project for two and a half years: it wasn’t easy but this is proof that it is possible to make courageous, different movies in Italy”.
Starring Jasmine Trinca alongside Carlo Cecchi, Vinicio Marchioni and Libero De Rienzo, ‘Miele’ is based on the novel ‘Io vi perdono’ by Angela Del Fabbro, the pseudonym of Mauro Covacich.  The story is about a girl who does a
strange job: she helps sick people to die.  This is a task that she carries out with compassion, conscientiousness and integrity until she meets an old engineer who asks for her help, but his illness is of a very different kind.  The girl clashes
with a ‘patient’ who is totally unwilling to comply with her plans and with whom she will share a series of different fears in a growing game of ambiguity until they both take decisions that are destined to disrupt their respective lives forever.
The screenplay, written by Valeria Golino with Francesca Marciano and Valia Santella, deviates significantly  from  the  novel  and,  as  the  director herself admits, has become ‘something else’.
“When I read the story I felt that it was a very absorbing subject.  I was very interested in the story of the protagonist, the main male character and the other two characters.  I wanted to write about them, to see them and, for this reason, I thought that  ‘Miele’  could  be  suitable  for  my  directing debut.  The subject of assisted suicide may be taboo for Italian politicians, but it certainly isn’t for normal people who think and talk about it.  This movie is directed at them.  We Italians are always more ready than politicians to think about subjects that create discussion and division.  Topics that have an impact on our own prejudices.  This is a movie that asks questions, but does not intend to be provocative or “anti”, because I didn’t want to take a definitive stand on these subjects”.

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