Italian filmmaker-thesp's resume is far-reaching

ROME — Actor, director, producer, distributor, exhibitor, festival director. Nanni Moretti unquestionably embodies the indie multihyphenate. In reductive terms: “someone who has done a lot to promote good cinema, and new cinema,” as Locarno artistic topper Frederic Maire puts it.

Moretti’s rapport with Locarno goes back a long way. It started in 1984 with “Bianca,” the highly personal and dark pic in which Nanni plays Michele Apicella, his alter ego in eight films; in this case he plays a neurotic math teacher impossibly in love with his candid colleague named Bianca at an alternative Rome school where jukeboxes serve as educational aids.

“Bianca,” which world preemed on Locarno’s Piazza Grande, and more recently was held hostage by producer Achille Manzotti due to squabbling, will now return to the fest as part of Moretti’s first complete retrospective.

As befits its subject, Locarno’s Moretti tribute is wide-ranging. The films in which he merely acted range from the Taviani brothers’ 1978 Palme d’Or winner “Padre Padrone,” in which Moretti plays a young intellectual soldier, to “Quiet Chaos,” the Antonello Grimaldi-helmed bereavement drama toplining Moretti as a TV exec who takes to a park bench by his daughter’s school after his wife’s sudden death.

Previously unseen material will include the short “L’ultimo campionato” (The Last Championship), a montage made recently by Moretti of raw 16mm footage shot by a crew he hired in 1986 to film him playing on a water polo team. Moretti then used this footage as “notes” to write parts of his highly eclectic “Red Lob,” which mixes his passion for water polo and his bitterness with the politics of Italy’s then-Communist Party, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Carlo Chatrian, curator of the Moretti retro, complete with an extensive Cahiers du Cinema tome, says it “basically represents an important piece of Italian film history.”

But it also stands as testimony to Moretti’s close involvement with the international indie scene.

“Red Lob” is the first film Moretti self-produced under his Sacher Films shingle, named after the Austrian chocolate torte he adores.

His Nuovo Sacher movie theater, in a Fascist-era structure, is Rome’s most crowded arthouse.

The Locarno tribute includes his seven-minute autobiographical short “Opening Day of ‘Close Up,'” about Moretti fretting over the Rome opening of Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close Up” at Nuovo Sacher, angsting over the fact that ads for the Kiarostami pic in the Italian press are less eye-catching than those plugging “The Lion King.” It’s Nanni in a nutshell.

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