Interview transcripts: final draft
Here is the final draft of the edited transcripts of the cinepanettone interviews which were excerpted in the previous seven posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). This puts all those transcripts together, or the most interesting bits, and is the draft - all 18,500 words of it - I hope to include in the project monograph. I have tried to do something formally satisfying as well as informative with the material Luca Peretti and myself got in our conversations with fans, actors, directors, screenwriters, editors, composers, critics, scholars and sceptics - all of whom I have tried to grant an equal authority in a discursive collage. I have attempted to retain something of the feeling of a verbal exchange, even to the extent of annoying at least two of our interviewees who objected to their informal representation in the online transcripts (I was obliged to modify their contributions). The chapter in the book will have an introduction, and perhaps I’ll rearrange some of the sections below, but if readers agree the following is lively and engrossing I don’t intend to edit it any further. (But see here for information about a change I did make…)
Massimo Boldi. Discuss.
How can we explain Massimo Boldi? It’s not a question intended ironically - I enjoy Boldi and have tried to unpack some of his appeal here. It’s a question that could be asked of any actor, but it’s particularly interesting in the case of Boldi because he is so often pilloried, while retaining his popularity. Boldi seems to have begun his career with quite an aggressive style of humour, seen to be typical of Italian TV (stampo Berlusca)in the 1980s (though I can’t find any clips online), and he has always liked to insert surreal elements in his performances. But something about him - body shape, mobile infantile face, clumsiness (he is an Italian ‘Mr Bin’ in 1998’s Paparazzi), mimicry - seems to have also (always?) appealed to kids.
In the interviews I have been excerpting in the last few posts, some of those who worked with Boldi - as actor and as actor/producer - have discussed aspects of his persona and his appeal. I asked Carlo and Enrico Vanzina about working with him on the first film he made after the split with Filmauro,Olé (2006), directed by Carlo Vanzina, scripted by both brothers, and produced by Medusa.
ENRICO VANZINA: Boldi è uscito dai film di Natale e… probabilmente, in quel momento si pensava che fosse quasi più forte lui di De Sica da solo… sembrava che nell’incasso del film di Natale Boldi desse più forza… perché era più comico, perché aveva il Nord, perché era per i più bambini…
[Olé] era un film molto Disney da un certo punto di vista… c’erano i sogni… In più c’è una grande svolta: Boldi fa un ruolo sentimentale!
CARLO VANZINA: Allora abbiamo pensato che siccome si rivolgeva… soprattutto Boldi, staccandosi da De Sica aveva un pubblico più di ragazzini… abbiamo pensato di trovare una cosa un pochino più immersa nel mondo anche dei ragazzi… Poi, adesso, il film era molto leggero… nel senso che… poi Boldi voleva fare un film non volgare, voleva fare un film un po’ alla Disney…
To note in these remarks are four elements: Boldi’s perceived popularity, something that made Medusa invest in a film constructed around him; his popularity particularly in the North of Italy, seen to be difficult to achieve for other comic actors (e.g. Carlo Verdone, too identified with Roma ladrona); his popularity particularly with kids; and finally, the use of the term ‘Disney’. Paolo Costella, who directed Boldi in A Natale mi sposo (2010; he also co-wrote, as he did Boldi’s La fidanzata di papá of 2008) also talks of this ‘Disney’ aspect:
PAOLO COSTELLA: il mondo di Massimo Boldi, che è uno strano confine tra una volgarità e una comicità molto facile e invece una ingenuità, lui dice spesso disneyana e tanti non capiscono perché […] però invece qualche cosa nell’anima un po’ candida che ha lui come personaggio, qualche cosa c’è.
Boldi is, then, a paradoxical beast. His flabbiness equips him to play the grotesque body, as discussed here, but he is also something like an animated character that talks in funny voices and suffers comic misadventures. The Vanzinas alluded in our interview to using this softer second aspect in their Boldi tv series for Canale 5, Un ciclone in famiglia (2005-8). I’ve only watched the first episode, but it’s effectively made light comedy in the consolatory mode intended for, I’d guess, an older (post-55) and a younger (pre-11) audience. It marries gorgeous international postcard vistas with odd couple comedy and nuclear family units as conventional and petit bourgeois as the most conservative palinsesto programmer could want, even if there’s a dose too of soap opera style issuefying (teenage pregnancy and financial difficulty). The pace of the editing is mainly glacial, with special dwelling on two-shots in which Boldi and his Roman opposite number (and second fiddle), played by Maurizio Mattioli (below), do their schtick. (Mattioli and Boldi go way back, for example to a great episode in Fratelli d’Italia, 1989.)
On the evidence of the episode I watched, the ‘vulgarity’ reviled in the cinepanettone is present in the show, but carefully rationed, and associated not with Boldi but with Mattioli’s physically much larger character, who once almost pronounces ‘li mortac…’ and permafarts his way (hilariously) through a night they share in a letto matrimoniale in a Swiss pension.
As I say, it all works very well. Have a listen to the theme song (text here if required) and notice Boldi’s interjections.
The figure of the harassed pater familias has become the default setting for Boldi since Merry Christmas (2001), but in this song has been cleverly distilled to its essential elements of needy/greedy offspring and father/wallet. Remarkable though is the mode of Boldi’s interjections: the ‘io pago’ in a caricature Neapolitan accent is a version of a famous line of Totò’s in the 1950 (?) film 47 morto che parla (dir. Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia), seen and heard here:
Notice that Boldi’s rendition of the line is in a more exaggerated Neapolitan than Totò’s (a Milanese’s idea of the Neapolitan accent perhaps). Boldi is the one who speaks in a funny voice, the cuddly comedy dad par excellence. I don’t think that the allusion is meant specifically to the Totò film (Totò plays a miser, with a nod to Molière); it’s rather that a phrase out there in the culture, known by everyone and employed jocularly in constantly renewed contexts, like Alberto Sordi’s ‘lavoratori’ followed by a raspberry noise from I vitelloni, has been appropriated for the purposes of (a) signalling the tone of the show; (b) providing information about the rueful role the father is forced to play, as well as indicating his central place in the narrative; (c) asserting the status of Boldi as (like Totò) an indulged national figure.
Interview transcripts (4): registi e sceneggiatori (Paolo Costella, Enrico Oldoini, Neri Parenti, Carlo Vanzina, Enrico Vanzina)
'Neanche Shrek fa riferimento alla realtà americana.’ (Neri Parenti)
Costella, Oldoini, Parenti
Continuing from the three previous posts (here, here, and here), more edited transcripts of the interviews myself and Luca Peretti have done about the cinepanettone, in this case of the screenwriters and/or directors, Paolo Costella (who directed the 2010 Boldi film A Natale mi sposo), Enrico Oldoini (who has also done a Boldi film and several Filmauro films in the 1990s), of stalwart cinepanettone writer and helmer Neri Parenti (too many films to mention), and Carlo and Enrico Vanzina, the writing/directing team who did the first cinepanettone (though they would refuse the term) and several since (they scripted 2011’s Vacanze di Natale a Cortina with Neri Parenti).
Carlo and Enrico Vanzina
The interviews with Paolo Costella and Neri Parenti took place in December 2010 (when Natale in Sud Africa was still on release). I spoke to the Vanzinas in February 2011 (Enrico twice) and a cautious Enrico Oldoini in April.
My questions are signaled with an ‘A’, and Luca’s with an ‘L’. The interviews have been transcribed by Luca and Damiano Garofalo - sincere thanks to both of them.