The Torino Film Festival, under the direction of Steve Della Casa, launched its 40th edition on Friday evening at the sumptuous Teatro Regio not with a film screening, but with an evening devoted to music. To evoke the links between cinema and music, a talk took place around the theme of the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones, and the bands’ love of cinema, which led them to work with Jean-Luc Godard and Martin Scorsese, among others.
Guest of honor Malcolm McDowell, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of “A Clockwork Orange’s” release, spoke about how Mick Jagger wanted to star in the film, and the time that Paul McCartney almost composed the score to another one of McDowell’s films, “The Raging Moon.”
Following the conclusion of the official part of the evening, which included speeches by the president of Italy’s National Museum of Cinema, Enzo Ghigo, and the mayor of Turin, Stefano Lo Russo, the Beatles-Rolling Stones tribute was broadcast live on the Rai radio show “Hollywood Party.”
In front of the crowd, the guests told some memorable and sometimes unpublished anecdotes about their history with the two English bands’ music. The director David Grieco made the audience laugh by telling why, while he was initially a Beatles fan in his teens, he became a Stones fan. He had bought his ticket a year in advance for the Beatles’ double concert at Rome’s Teatro Adriano in 1965, “but in the middle of the first song, a woman in the audience, taller than me, threw up on me. It was all over me. I spent the whole concert in this state. That’s why I became a Rolling Stones fan.”
McDowell, accompanied in Turin by his teenage son Finn, was dressed in black and took his place on stage next to Grieco, who also translated his words into Italian for the audience.
Also on stage were Italian singer Noemi, Samuel from the group Subsonica, the music critic John Vignola, and the journalist and former TV host Vincenzo Mollica. The gala was led by actor Pilar Fogliati, Della Casa, the host of “Hollywood Party,” Claudio De Pasqualis, and Grieco. The singer Francesco De Gregori took part in the event via videolink.
During the evening, rare excerpts of interviews with the Beatles and the Stones in their early years were broadcast. As well as a previously unreleased version of the Beatles singing “Yellow Submarine,” and excerpts from the Stones’ studio recording of their song “Sympathy for the Devil” from Godard’s eponymous film.
McDowell spoke about Jagger’s links with cinema, and the singer’s desire to star in “A Clockwork Orange.” “We used to be friends. We were hanging around in New York. At the time, we were the ‘In Crowd’ with Andy Warhol and all. One evening, we were hanging out at somebody’s apartment on the east side of Central Park. We were sitting in a window seat and talking because Jagger wanted to play Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ Before Kubrick got hold of the property, Mick Jagger and the Stones wanted to do it! Well, I’d like to see that!”
From that evening, McDowell shared two other things with the Italian audience: “Mick Jagger said to me, you know Malcolm, I can’t see myself doing this at 50!,” McDowell said mimicking the Stones’ lead singer’s moves. “50? And so what are they now? 80? Fantastic!” Looking out into the dark void of Central Park that evening, Mick Jagger pointed towards the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived, McDowell also recalled: “And he said to me ‘the king lives over there.’ In that moment of course, they knew what John was, and he was the king, and that’s it, end of story!”
The actor who, like the Beatles, grew up in Liverpool, also had a long history with the group: he had seen them many times on stage, in their hometown, when they were still called The Silver Beatles and sang only covers. “My girlfriend took me to see them, McDowell said. I was amazed because I’d never heard a public speaker use such profane language. But I kept going back and back because they were amazing! Of course, they were Lennon and McCartney, the Mozarts of their day! And their music is as popular now as it was when it came out.” An audio extract of a Beatles cover performed by singer Beckett McDowell, one of the actor’s sons, was also played, much to the delight of the proud dad.
McDowell also told the audience of a missed opportunity for McCartney. “I very nearly worked with Paul McCartney. He was going to compose the soundtrack of a movie I played in, ‘The Raging Moon.'” But the Beatle never showed up. McDowell bumped into him 20 years later, he explained in a perfect McCartney imitation: “He said to me: ‘That film of yours was great! You know, I was so fucked up, the Beatles had just broken up and I was so fucked up, man, I was drunk every night. I’m so sorry ’cause I loved the movie.’” “He would have made the movie a hit!” McDowell added. “As it was, it sank like a stone.”
For singer Noemi, it was impossible choosing between the two groups. While Grieco stuck to the Stones and Vignola clearly leaned towards the unforgettable interpreters of “Michelle.” Mollica brought the discussion to a conclusion: “Since I lost my eyesight, I see things that I didn’t see before. And I have discovered my true musical anatomy: my heart beats the Beatles, my liver beats the Rolling Stones, my left lung beats Bob Dylan, my right beats Leonard Cohen, and my brain beats Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra.”