Director Portraits: Series One

STEFANO INCERTI/

STEFANO INCERTI/

FRANCESCO ROSI

Directed by Stefano Incerti. Camera (color), Pasquale Mari; editor, Iacopo Quadri; sound, Marco Grillo.

SANDRO BALDONI/

DINO RISI

Directed by Sandro Baldoni. Camera (color), Arnaldo Catinari; editor, Patrizio Marone; sound, Marco Fiumara.

ENZO MONTELEONE/

ETTORE SCOLA

Directed by Enzo Monteleone. Camera (color), Catinari; editor, Cecilia Zanuso; sound, Glauco Puletti.

ALESSANDRO D’ALATRI/

SERGIO CITTI

Directed by Alessandro D’Alatri. Camera (color), Catinari; editor, Marone; music, Alessandro Molinari; sound, Puletti.

GUIDO CHIESA/

PAOLO AND VITTORIO TAVIANI

Directed by Guido Chiesa. Camera (color), Catinari; editor, Luca Gasparini; sound, Tullio Morganti.

CRISTINA COMENCINI/

MARIO MONICELLI

Directed by Cristina Comencini. Camera (color), Catinari; editor, Babak Karimi; sound, Mauro Lazzaro.

Young Italian directors exchange ideas with the national film industry’s old lions in a stimulating series of 15-minute interviews, “Director Portraits.” Financed by Italo pay TV movie channel Telepiu 1, these encounters between dissimilar exponents of two generations of filmmaking will find an audience in anyone with an interest in cinema italiano, past or present, and deserve further attention from fest and small-screen programmers.

Resourcefully produced, and laced with humor and intelligence, the series shuns the traditional interview format, instead pairing veterans and relative newcomers in a variety of relaxed situations that provoke far more spontaneous, less rhetorical comment than the debate forum in which prominent voices from Italy’s national film industry usually are heard.

The perceived failure of directors from the country’s golden years to pass on an identifying style or method emerges, as does the lofty position the old masters traditionally are considered to occupy. Interviewing the Taviani brothers after accompanying them to a Rome theater to see and discuss Emir Kusturica’s “Underground,” Guido Chiesa points out the comparative ease of going to New York to beg for advice from U.S. filmmakers rather than approach an established Italo name for help. Elsewhere, too, the tone becomes playfully accusatory. Sandro Baldoni subjects comedy specialist Dino Risi to a harshly lit interrogation, charging him with championing light entertainment instead of the social commitment favored by Marxist critics of the 1960s.

With considerably less humor, Cristina Comencini, in the series’ weakest segment, defends the overtly emotional concerns of her own films while lamenting the absence of depth in the farcical comedies of Mario Monicelli. Barely responding to the complaint, the latter’s absolute ease in the face-off leaves his interlocutor looking clumsy, and Comencini’s moralistic judgments on screen violence “Pulp Fiction” in particular make octogenarian Monicelli seem a teenager by comparison.

Mostly, however, the mood is more congenial. Stefano Incerti gets in close to Francesco Rosi known to be not the most expansive of subjects prompting a personal assessment of the function of his civil protest films; Alessandro D’Alatri meets Sergio Citti on the set of his new feature, drawing out the former Pasolini protege on his emphasis on poetry.

Perhaps the best of all is Enzo Monteleone’s stroll with Ettore Scola over the grounds of an abandoned Rome drive-in. Contrasting its present graveyard state with newsreel footage of the drive-in’s grand opening in the late 1950s, the segment casually underlines the uncertain health of today’s Italian industry by comparison with its flourishing golden years.

Director Portraits: Series One

Production: RITRATTI D'AUTORE: PRIMA SERIE (ITALIAN -- DOCU) A Telepiu presentation of an Orisa Films production. Produced by Cristiano Bortone. Series conceived by Valentina Pascarelli. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Cinema/Cinemas), Aug. 14, 1996. Running time: 90 MIN.

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