Sanguepazzo by Marco Tullio Giordana

“Sanguepazzo,” the new political drama by Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana, premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

At dawn on the 30th of April 1945, five days after Liberation, the boides of Osvaldo Valenti and Luisa Ferida were found on the outskirts of Milan, executed by partisans a few hours earlier.
A couple famous in life as well on the screen, Valenti and Ferida had been among the stars of the white telephone films that Fascism encouraged, nearly always depicting villains and negative characters. Their private life was also dominated by disorder; both of them cocaine addicts and, it was said, sexually promiscuous.
After the armistice on the 8th of September 1943, when the country was split in two and the Germans changed from allies to occupation army, Valenti and Ferida went North and joined the Sal Republic, the last incarnation of Mussolinis folly. They settled first in Venice, where they managed to shoot a few films, then in Milan wherejoining with a gang of torturersthey dedicated their energies to the black market.

At least that was the rumour. When they turned themselves over to the partisans a few days before Liberation, they both denied all charges. Valenti justified his trafficking with his continuou s need for drugs, he belitteled his presumed misdeeds, attributing them to a general defamation and envy. The Liberation Committee claimed exemplary punishment.

Thus the curtain fell on those once famous actors; Valenti the villain, Ferida lost woman. Who can deny that the gossip which ruined them wasnt fed by the very films that created their legend, the despicable characters they played so many times on the screen.

Question: In the 190s the definition civil war was not readily used concerning Resistance and Liberation War.

Marco Tullio Giordana: This is true. The essay by Claudio Pavone (Una Guerra civile, Bollati Boringhier, 1991) that violated this taboo appeared in the following decade. For many years the definition civil war was used only by the Fascists, yet it was the right term to describe what happened in our country between September 1943 and April 1945 and continued happening for many years after. Something that wasnt metabolized, that we cant succeed in archiving, that keeps re-emerging, like a nightmare or a farce. This is why I have always wanted to make this film. I consider these pages of history crucial for understanding who we are; I still feel all its reality, burning and unresolved.

Q: In your opinion memory in common doesnt exist; in what sense

MTG: I dont believe in memory in common. Memory can be in common if similar, if generated by similar experiences, but it cant be imposed by decree. Memory is our history, our identity. Im not speaking of national identity, the character and culture of a people, but of our personal identity, our intimacy, the DNA chain, different for each individual. Values can be held in common, in fact they must be. Without common values, society doesnt exist. Yet memory is another matter: a complex territory where each blade of grass, each grain of sand, is different from the next and carries a different emotional legacy. This is why artists exist: to give voice to radically different memories, to tell their stories. Not History. Telling History is the duty of historians.

Q: Why did it take more than twenty-five years to make this film

MTG: The cost, above all. At the beginning of my career it was impossible to find someone willing to invest all that money in me. The project made the rounds of half a dozen producers; two or three times I even began preparation. Then everything got shelved. I should also say that at the time television absolutely didnt want to get involved in a project that was considered dangerous. Fascism, Sal, sex, cocaine, partisans who execute without a trialbest to abandon it, best not to go looking for trouble! It could have been done by offering it to two American stars and shooting it in English. Not that I was against it in principle, but this story seemed too much ours, too Italian, to move so far away. I had the feeling that two American stars would have perverted it. During all these years I often wondered if there was still any sense in making this film. Once, discouraged by the umpteenth time I drew a blank, I threw out all the scripts I had in the house. Luckily a friend had kept a copy.

Q: The copy you gave to Angelo Barbagallo! Your producer for the second time, after the great success of The Best of Youth

MTG: The Best of Youth completely changed my position on the market. Not so much because of the films success as for its incredible distribution worldwide. This made it possible to access financing from many countries that generally prefer to buy a finished produce without risks; yet in this case they wanted to reserve the film. Its lucky that Angelo Barbagallo dove into this project where everyone else had thrown in the towel.

Q: Has the script changed much in all these years

MTG: It changed through many small cuts, additions, repairs and long continuous rewriting work. Unfortunately, from a certain point onwards I was no longer able to purse the adventure with the companions I had started out with: Enzo Ungari and Leone Colonna, both of who passed away quite young. After the first research and interviews, I started writing Sanguepazzo (called Destino at the time) with Enzo Ungari in 1983.

I didnt want to work alone; I felt the need for a scriptwriter to filter material that had too many of my personal implicationsa removed critical interface, who didnt take for granted the information I had collected, ad at the same time loved the cinema of that era as I did. Enzo was a great cinephile, it was meat and drink to him. At the same time he was working on the story for The Last Emperor and was not surprised that I wanted to construct the film on two parallel time lines. Bertoluccis film was also constructed with the same procedure, derived in turn from The Conformist. Except that in The Conformist this solution was found during editing by the ingenious editor Kim Arcalli, whereas in The Last Emperor, and in Sanguepazzo, it was contemplated during the writing. Enzo fell ill in the winter of 1984 and died a few months later, depriving Italian cinema of one of its most brilliant critics and organizers. I bandoned the film for several months, suffering, demoralized.

I took it up again with Leone Colonna, with whom (along with Luciana Manuzzi) I was writing Appuntamento a Liverpool, my unluckiest film. Between 1986 and 1987 we started reworking the script, still without a buyer. Both Enzo Ungari and Leone Colonns have alwas written for me free of charge, never complaining about not being paid. Leo too passed awy in 1998, a few months before I started shooting The Hundred Steps. He was the first friend I had when I came to Rome in the early 1970s, one of the people I saw more films with, and shared most hopes with. It was another hard blow. If I hadnt made this film no one would have ever knowns that they wrote it. When I see their names in the Sanguepazzo credits, it feels like I have found these dear friends again, by paying homage to their intelligence and creativity.

Q: Your lead roles are extraordinarily effective. Why did you consider Luca Zingaretti and Monica Bellucci for the roles of Valenti and Ferida

MTG: Lets start with Monica. Ive known her for many years, Ive always liked her. For various reasons weve missed out on the chance to work together several times. Miss Bellucci has a strong, determined character. She epitomizes a woman absolutely at odds with the consumer models laid down today. All those nice little statues that exist only as indicators of the capacity of male spending. Advertising has turned women into objects, has made them only extensions of a nice car, a complement of hip furnishings or trendy drinks. The image of their femininity, of perverse nymphet or insatiable pig, seems studied by people that real women must hate to the very death!

Monica, who has made a lot of advertising clips, always succeeds in eluding this mortification. Even then her gaze is enchanting, there is something simultaneously maternal, protective and demanding about her: a strong spirit of independence and at the sam time a great capability for trust. In short, the ideal workmate. And as if that werent enough, we were born on the same day and we understand each other intuitively. I have always belived in her qualities as an actress, generally less capitalized on than her attractiveness.

Q: In this film she seems a character from the 1930s

MTG: Obviously thanks to the costume, hairstyle, make-up, and also the total dedication with which she entered the project, to the extent of agreeing with my request of putting on a few kilos so that she would have that voluptuousness of the women of that period.

Q: And Luca Zingaretti

MTG: A fantastic actor. Disciplined, strict, always aware of what he is doing, a magical technique, control of his voice and body that comes from years of tough apprenticeship. He plays a role with which he has nothing in common (you couldnt imagine more different personalities!) yet in certain scenes Zingaretti is Valenti, even in the excesses and the bravado, even the super-acute registers that the real Zingaretti must hate since his a very reserved man, a man of few words. It was a real pleasure to work with him, a privilege. I immediately felt that he would trust me, that he would follow me to the ends of the earth. I admire him for his availability, since his fame comes from having played honest men, maybe abrupt or aggrieved, but always upright and generous, like Police Chief Montalbano, Perlasca, Don Puglisi. Zingaretti never tried to make Valenti seductive, he was never afraid of appearing unpleasant. This allowed him to depict the character as a kind of Italian heraldic figure, or better a certain kind of Italian. Lawless, infantile, forever against. Im not the one who should say it, but I think that Luca did something great in this film.

Q: Luisa struggles with her love for two different men, Osvaldo and Golfiero.

MTG: A little like Italy, divided between Fascists and anti-Fascistsobject of the love of both factions. Undecided as to whom she should surrender herself to, whom she should give her heart to. Each of the two interprets a part of her.

Q: The scene on the tram, when Valenti could arrest Golfiero but leaves him free, is reavealing.

MTG: This is true. Valenti could order is sailors to arrest him, but he sits down near him, seeming to want to play cat and mouse. All he wants to do is talk. A group of young students appears. They have recognized the actor, they ask for his autograph. They ask him if he is shooting a film. Surprisingly, Valenti talks about his Sanguepazzo and contrives that he will have Golfiero direct it. He says that the film is the story of a woman torn between two loves and her ambivalence must be accepted. This is a great declaration of love to Luisa and a great declaration of esteem, maybe even friendship, towards Golfiero. Luca Zingaretti and Alessio Boni played their roles magnificently.

Q: Alessio Boni as Golfiero appears to me more mature compared to Matteo in The Best of Youth and to the young Po Valley industrialist in Once Youre born You Can No Longer Hide.

MTG: Alessio Boni grows with the constant, regular progression of centuries-old plants. He has an incredible adaptability, a service spirit not frightened by any sacrifice. He lost seven kilos to play the role of Golfiero and took on the characteristic shape of a man of the 1940s: thin, undernourished. He lost all his powerful muscle mass, his physique created in the gym and the swimming pool. He is a little reminiscent of some American actors who had to suffer to enter the character, to get to know all the nuances, even the apparently insignificant ones.

Furthermore, he comes from the Academy, from the theatre; he has an enviable technical preparation and can boast of being a first-class apprentice. Nevertheless his greatest talent is his capacity for improvising with absolute naturalness. This is ideal for me, since I continuously make adjustments and variations during shooting. Furthermore he is a loyal friend, happy and full of resources, one of those people you would like to have as a neighbour.

Q: In the end, Luicia Lo Cascio appears-his brother in The Best of Youth-in the role of the executioner. This appearance loads Valentis execution with meaning.

MTG: It was truly lucky chance! During the shooting of Sanguepazzo in Turin, I went to see Luigi who was filming the Luca Ronconi show Il silenzio dei comunisti. I invited him to come and see us on the set. It came to mind that on the Monday we were going to film the execution scene. I asked him: Would you feel like shooting Zingaretti and Bellucci He started laughing. During the production of The Best of Youth we were always joking about the fact that while I took hi for the role of Nicola, in reality my heartfelt preference was for Luca Zingaretti. It wasnt true but we went ahead for the whole film teasing each other. Here was the chance to avenge that distant (and completely invented) betrayal! I must say that I was very pleased to have Lo Cascio in the film, even for just a few moments. Precious moments, very difficult to interpret. Luigi plays a character who doesnt come from the working class, but from the middle class, maybe a young teacher.

In any case, someone just enlisted in the Resistance, with no military culture, without the preparation and decisiveness of the professional activist. We got justice, he murmurs. It isnt a statement, but a question he asks himself: the question of someone who doubts having done the right thing, even though it was the only thing to do. His gaze suddenly grows uncertain, almost frightened by what his hands were capable of. It isnt a matter of remorse or repudiating the gesture necessitated by the showdown, but the realization that it is terrible, tragically exceptional. It takes a great actor to render the ambiguity of this doubt that, as Sciascia would have said, penetrates the heart as a betrayal penetrates a fortress.

Q: There are two more cameo roles in the film

MTG: Sonia Beramasco who plays one of the Villa Triste convicts, and Marco Paolini, who plays a police chief responsible for making the undisciplined Vero and Golfiero toe the line. Sonias appearance lasts a few seconds but punctuates the strength, I should say the eroticism, with which the prisoner reproaches Valenti: What are you doing with these scoundrels Youre an artist, get out of here! Sonias cry, the violinist immediately silenced by blows, rips away the mask, and in case you havent realized it reveals all the horror of that place.

Q: And Marco Paolini, with those intonations typical of the 1930s

MTG: I met him at the Toniolo Theatre in Mestrewhere his show MiserabiliIo e Margaret Thatcherwas staged the day before shooting started. I offered hi this short role that called for his charisma. I needed his authority and integrity so that the character wouldnt be just cold unpleasant mannequin: all the more so because he is the one who explains the need for exemplary punishment, for identification of the symbolic guilty party in order to save the others.

Q: Is the character of Vero, played by Maurizio Donadoni, different from the partisan Giuseppe Marozin

MTG: Yes. In fact in the film he is called only by his battle name. I didnt want to enter into the discussions about his character, which as I said was quite controversial. I wanted to make a film that saw those events as if they had happened not sixty years ago, but two or three hundred years ago. Remote in time, from which a kind of sentiment of time is extracted, but not philological restoration. Maurizio Donadonis Vero is a man of action, a military leader used to taking quick decisions, without splitting hairs. In this sense he may resemble the original character.

There is a fascination/conflict relationship with Golfiero, whom he likes but considers bourgeois, even though redeemed. He is suspicious of all those scruples and considerations towards Valenti and Ferida, whom he considers Fascist criminals. If it had been up to him, he would have already shot them. But Golfieros doubts are contagious, little by little he feels the need for true justice. The gaze between Donadoni and Lo Cascio at the end of the film, the pain, the infinite compassion, is one off the moments I like best the one that represents me most, if a film must represent its author and not just tell a story.

Q: The young actress portraying Irene, Veros niece, custodian of the farmhouse, is very moving.

MTG: Tresy Taddi, is great, and was discovered by Pasquale Pozzessere, who cast her when she was seven years old in La vita che verr Tresy comes from a circus family, she is an acrobat, which explains her timeless physique, her strong body, like those of the farmers of days gone by. She had to shoot a difficult sequence: watching Osvaldos violent withdrawal symptoms, with Luisia masturbating him to calm him down. It could have been simply brutal, morbid, on the verge of voyeurism and vulgarity. Yet thankstot the naivety and delicacy that Tresy expressedin addition to the great pathos conveyed by Monica and Lucait become one of the most powerful love scenes of the film.

Q: The character of Sturla, interpreted by Giovanni Visentin, has a very important function. At the end, during the trial, he reveals further aspects of Valentis worst self.”

MTG: Valentis ambiguous factotum, the one who procures drugs and girls for him, in the end becomes the key witness against him, ready to say what everyone is expecting. A tragic Leporello, who in that scene reveals all his weakness and mediocrity, even asking Valentis permission to betray him. We needed an actor who, while not being afraid to appear vile, knew how to express a kind of perverse love for Valenti, a secret identification. I couldnt have wished for a better rendition of all the ambivalence of his relationship with Valenti.

Q: The film presents a procession of unpleasant, extreme characters.

MTG: You cant imagine a person more distant from Pietro Koch than Paolo Bonanni, the actor who played him. A gentle young man, brought up like the gentlemen of the century before. He immersed himself in Kochs folly, in his sadistic cruelty, but without ever letting the repugnance he felt for that criminal reveal itself. Proof that it isnt always necessary to look for actors who resemble the role. Quite to the contrary, those who are light-years away can be much more effective. The head make-up artist Enrico Jacoponi came up with the idea of the gold tooth that flashes sinisterly every time he smiles. It was a great idea: Koch is frightening even when he tries to look benign.