Graphic novelist brings ‘Man’ to Venice

Gipi constructed scenes like his drawings

For Italy’s Gianni Pacinotti, whose “The Last Man on Earth” stands out as the single debut feature in the Venice competition, getting launched as a film director has been relatively easy.

It was producer Domenico Procacci who approached the graphic novelist known as Gipi, who’s well-known in Europe and also published, about having him direct a movie.

“Of course I could not refuse,” he said. “It was my longtime dream; what I wanted to do as kid.”

The thing Gipi is eager to point out about “Last Man,” which was well-received Thursday, is that it’s not a sci-fi film but, ultimately, a love story that unfolds in a cynical and dehumanized future.

“In chosing to have a Martian invasion, what I wanted was a mystical, almost religious, event,” he said.

Unlike humans, “the Martians are able to distinguish good from evil, so their arrival is basically a sort of last judgment.”

And in creating those aliens, Gipi chose to make them very ordinary, with minimal special effects.

“I was totally disinterested in aliens or science fiction, so I didn’t spend any time inventing anything new on this front.”

Interestingly, “Last Man” is not based on his own material, but on a book by fellow graphic novelist Giacomo Monti titled “Nessuno mi fara del male.”

“Procacci balked for about a second when I said I wanted to use someone else’s rights,” he said. “But then he said: O.K.”

The problem with his own material was that he was coming up with narratives that ended up being too autobiographical.

“Giacomo’s book was a revelation for me,” he said. “It seemed a perfect starting point. Of course, in writing the script I changed it.”

As for how it felt to get behind camera, Gipi was “terrified before starting.” But on set, things went smoothly because he realized that his background on graphic novels meant that he had always thought in cinematic terms.

“In constructing scenes in my drawings, it was very realistic. I imagined locations and how I would place cameras and move characters around.”

What he wasn’t prepared for, was being selected for competition. “Domenico called me and told me in a very detached, cold, tone,” he said. “I went to take a shower and I broke out crying.”

“Last Man,” which is being sold by Fandango Portobello, will be relased by RAI Cinema in Italy.

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