×

Carlo Lizzani, Director and Former Venice Festival Topper, Falls to His Death

Italian director was 91

Italian director, screenwriter, and critic Carlo Lizzani, who was Oscar-nominated in 1950 as co-writer of neo-realist classic “Bitter Rice,” went on to direct dozens of films, and in the late 1970s relaunched the Venice Film Festival as its artistic director, died in Rome on Saturday. He was 91.

The cause is believed to be suicide. Lizzani died after jumping from the third-floor balcony of his central Rome apartment, according to Italian media, and he reportedly had left a suicide note.

Born in Rome, Lizzani became a neo-realist cinema protagonist during Italy’s early postwar period, initially as a critic, then as a scribe working with, among others, Roberto Rossellini on the gut-wrenching 1948 “Germany Year Zero,” a look at devastated Berlin through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy.

Lizzani’s collaboration with “Bitter Rice” helmer Giuseppe De Santis began in 1947 on “Caccia Tragica,” about small-time criminals amid Italy’s post-war poverty. After the similarly themed “Rice,” starring Silvana Mangano and shot in 1949, Lizzani in 1951 directed his first feature, the World War II resistance drama “Achtung! Banditi!,” starring Gina Lollobrigida.

Other films Lizzani is known for include “Chronicle of Poor Lovers” (1954) with Marcello Mastroianni, which scored a special jury nod at Cannes; 1968 actioner “Bandits in Milan” (aka “The Violent Four”), about a manhunt for bank robbers; “Fontamara” (1977), based on the eponymous Italian novel by Ignazio Silone; and more recently Holocaust drama “Hotel Meina,” which screened at Venice in 2007.

In 2006 Lizzani shot “Celluloid,” an account of the making of Rossellini’s 1945 neo-realist milestone “Rome, Open City.” He was also a prolific documaker and TV movie helmer.

Lizzani was the Venice Film Festival’s artistic director between 1979 and 1982. Appointed at a time when the Lido had lost luster due to Italy’s 1970s turmoil, he was able to breathe new life into the world’s oldest fest.

Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, which oversees the event, mourned Lizzani’s passing.

“He knew how to give the festival new energy,” Baratta said in a statement. “He knew how to create a nucleus of young students and experts that would represent in future years the true (cinematic) elite. The world of Italian cinema owes him a lot.”

Survivors include his wife, Edith Bieber, a son, Francesco, and a daughter, Flaminia.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content