New Rome topper serious about films

Rondi places pics at the center of fourth edition

Rome prexy Gian Luigi Rondi, who took the reins late in the game last year, has really started putting his stamp on the fest this time around.

And the big change, aside from some fundamental fine-tuning, is that the venerable 87-year-old former Venice topper seems to be keeping Italo politicos at a safe distance while also placing movies fully at the center of the Rome Film Festival.

Consider that Rondi’s predecessor was a senator and that the fest last year kicked off with a lavish Brazilian carnivallike party for thousands of Romans on the Piazza Navona.

No longer. “I am not interested in fireworks and big banquets,” says Rondi, who quickly adds, “I did away with them because I wanted to give this festival a precise identity.”

Born amid some fanfare as an instrument of the political machine of Rome’s previous administration, the Eternal City extravaganza had indeed been conceived not as a festival but as a “festa,” which means party.

The upcoming fourth edition will mark Rome’s definitive turning point toward the realm of bona fide film festivals, though without renouncing its vocation to appeal to a wide metropolitan audience.

“I don’t like slogans, but I came up with one for Rome, which is: ‘All types of cinema for everyone,'” Rondi says.

And while Rondi has left artistic director Piera Detassis and her team a relatively free hand, he personally decided the retrospective that will celebrate the works of Italian helmer Luigi Zampa, known as the father of a genre for whom Rondi himself coined the term “pink neorealism.”

Zampa was instrumental to the career of Anna Magnani, whom he directed in “Angelina: Member of Parliament,” in which Magnani plays a fiery protester who gets elected, but turns down a parliamentary seat in order to stay pure. Angelina the character is also a protofeminist archetype ready to get into a barroom brawl for the love of her man.

A scathing satirist, Zampa also did wonders for the career of Gina Lollobrigida, whom he cast in “La Romana,” the adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel about a young woman who, after being strong-armed into a modeling career by her ambitious mother, discovers that there’s a lot more money to be made as a high-class prostitute.

Though Rondi would be quick to deny there is any connection between his Zampa retro and the country’s present predicament, both “Angelina” and “La Romana” seem timely in Italy, where feminism seems long defunct and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been reportedly dallying with both young models and call girls.

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