Before Riccardo Tozzi launched his shingle Cattleya with the aim of churning out a new breed of Italian movies that could recapture local auds, many Italian teenagers had never seen a single homegrown pic.
“It was a demographic that just didn’t have any Italian movies made for them,” he says. “Everything they watched was strictly Hollywood.”
In 2003 Cattleya and Warner Bros. Italia teamed on “Three Steps Over Heaven,” a teen romancer pairing a studious uptown girl and a drag-racing thug, played by swarthy young thesp Riccardo Scamarcio, making his debut.
It did so-so theatrically but gangbusters on DVD.
In February, the sequel, titled “I Want You,” also starring Scamarcio, broke opening day records for an Italian movie. The pic went on to pull a boffo $20 million with exhibs reporting starry-eyed girls going for consecutive viewings.
But Cattleya isn’t just about reeling in the teenyboppers.
Founded by Tozzi in 1997, the shingle, named after the orchid made famous by Proust, has since become Italy’s most prominent production company, with a steady output of a half-dozen titles per year and a mix of genres spanning from auteur Gianni Amelio’s arty China-set “The Missing Star” to blatantly commercial Christmas comedy “Commediasexi.”
More recently, Cattleya’s Un Certain Regard selection “My Brother Is an Only Child,” about two siblings who in the 1970s have antithetical political bents, has been enjoying a nice run at local wickets. Warner Bros. released it.
Nor is Cattleya just Tozzi.
Partners Marco Chimenz and Giovanni Stabilini, both former Medusa/Mediaset execs, are onboard as equals since 1999, though the creative reins are for the most part in Tozzi’s hands.
Despite the new government that took over last year, these remain tough times for Italy in terms of the country’s cultural climate.
“We are basically still a dejected nation,” says Tozzi, “and this is reflected in our films, which are well made, nice to watch, but don’t really tackle the big issues of the day.”
Still, “My Brother” is a rare case of ideological conflict — one brother is a Communist, the other a neo-Fascist — depicted with a light touch and viewed from the prism of a blood bond that eventually overrides politics.
“One thing that has been happening in Italy is a process of de-ideologization, which is positive,” says Tozzi.
Local moviegoers of all ages, while they wait for something more substantial, seem to agree.