Interview transcripts (5): parlano gli attori (Boldi, De Sica, Ghini, Tabita)
Boldi and De Sica: even great love stories must end
Continuing from four previous posts (here, here, here, and here), more edited transcripts of the interviews myself and Luca Peretti have done about the cinepanettone, this time with the actors Massimo Boldi, Christian De Sica, Massimo Ghini and Barbara Tabita.
Natale in Sud Africa:Ghini, gurning, and Belen, verso
These were the most difficult interviews to do, and have generated the least interesting results - perhaps. Actors are very practiced at interviews and will often repeat material they know has entertained in the past. This was certainly the case with De Sica, who repeated stuff almost verbatim I had read elsewhere (the context itself was unfortunate: his mother had died the previous night after a long illness, but De Sica graciously preferred to go ahead with his appointments). Ghini’s was less an interview than a monologue that Luca and myself interrupted at irregular intervals. But at least those two interviews were face to face, which meant one could probe and respond politely. I’ve discussed the problems of my skypephone interview (audio only) with Boldi here, and I only recently managed to get an interview with a woman involved in the cinepanettoni, having failed to convince both Nancy Brilli and Sabrina Ferilli that I was anything but a sinister stalker geek. A colleague happened to know the Sicilian actor Barbara Tabita, who stared in Natale in Sud Africa, and the latter was kind enough to reply by email (from her iPhone) to my questions. Inevitably, I think, her responses were a little anecdotal and I would have liked to have been able to ask supplementary questions about a theme she was most interesting on, that of the body of female actor in a masculinist cinema culture.
The interview with Boldi took place in just before Christmas 2010, with De Sica and Ghini in January 2011, and Barbara Tabita sent me her answers by email in February 2012. My questions are signaled with an ‘A’. The interviews have been transcribed by Luca and Damiano Garofalo - sincere thanks to both of them.
Natale in Sud Africa: De Sica and Tabita on the menu
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.
Interview transcripts (2): parlano alcuni sceneggiatori (Borsatti, Brizzi, Marciano, Martani)
Parlano alcuni sceneggiatori, del cinepanettone e no
Continuing from the previous post, here are some more edited transcripts of the interviews myself and Luca Peretti have done about the cinepanettone, in this case of two screenwriters historically involved with the filone, Fausto Brizzi and Marco Martani.
Brizzi and Martani established with Neri Parenti the formula that is considered the cinepanettone doc, and which led to the films’ created success in the last decade.
We also spoke to Cristina Borsatti, a script doctor, writer and teacher, about an article she had written in Film TV which deals with product placement in Natale in Sud Africa (she had actually worked on product placement in Natale in Crociera -for the press office associated with the cruise ship company that had allowed the use of ship), and the shortcomings of the film’s script.
Finally, I include here excerpts from my conversation with Francesca Marciano (above), a very experienced screenwriter who has worked with Carlo Verdone and Wilma Labate among others (Francesca heard about the project and asked to meet).
In transcribing the interviews (all of which took place in Rome in December 2010 and January 2011), we decided to maintain the natural pauses and hesitations characteristic of ordinary speech, but this has been done below inconsistently, which may give the impression the men were less hesitant than the women. This will be cleaned up in the final edit, which will have to be much shorter. Questions are signalled with an ‘A’ for Alan and ‘L’ for Luca. Readers are warmly invited to suggest what elements of the conversations they find most interesting.
More comedy models and motifs in the cinepanettone
Following on from the previous post in which I pointed out possible sources for the banterous ‘buddy’ relationships in Natale in Sud Africa (2010), and an earlier entry in which I pointed out the echoes in a Neri Parenti film of a satirical motif from the commedia all’italiana, I want to post here a few clips and photos to illustrate further comedy models for the cinepanettoni.
Director Neri Parenti’s fondness for silent comedy (he has made a pair of films with Paolo Villaggio and Renato Pozzetto entitled Le comiche (1990, 1991) - the title also once given to programmes of silent comedy on Italian TV), slapstick and violent cartoons is well known. These first few clips illustrate something of this taste.
Ignore for now - if you can - the race and gender issues in the following clip from Parenti’s Natale a Rio (2008) and concentrate instead on the cartoon inflation of the dead cat. Christian De Sica told me that he and Ghini (the two actors in the clip) were annoyed at how unpersuasive the fake cat was (and the digital rendition is clumsy too) but it seems to me that this absence of realism allows the viewer to collaborate in the joke.
Beasts, Buddies and Love Interests, or, Down Africa Way
The cinepanettone often includes elements of the comic buddy movie. It was built for many years, of course, around the rapport between Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica. Their personae and physical types were too different, though, for them to be conventional buddies, who are often marked by similarity. And in fact in the cinepanettone doc of the first years of this century, Boldi and De Sica often share only a few scenes in each movie, and they will occupy different story strands in the doubled or tripled plot. When Boldi defected after Natale a Miami (2005) the makers had to find new partners for De Sica. Already in Miami he had been paired up with Massimo Ghini - but their pairing was standard fare for sexual farce, with comic misunderstandings and coital embarrassments prominent. However, by the time we get to Natale a Rio (2008) we find the same pair traveling together and getting into location-specific scrapes. There is an attempt by the makers, I think, to build a buddy duo on something like the model of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in their ‘Road to…’ films, although there are many possible models and the comparison is obviously inexact without an equivalent to Bing’s singing and Bob’s childlike bumbling.
Bing and Bob on a raft on the road to Morocco
The ‘Road to…’ model is more prominent, though, in Natale in Sud Africa (2010) in which, however, de Sica and Ghini occupy different story strands, being paired with Max Tortora and Giorgio Panariello respectively. One scene in Road to Morocco (1942) - which perhaps suggested itself for its (ostensible) African location as well as its buddy duo - may have inspired two specific scenes in Natale in Sud Africa. (Of course, there will be very many potential prototypes in the history of the cinema, but I think it’s enough to identify the type of situation without having to assert a specific influence. It’s interesting, by the way, that Road to Morocco was not a model in Natale sul Nilo (2002).) Here’s the scene (it directly follows the one reproduced above) from Road to Morocco. Note how it begins with banter between the traveling buddies, and how the animal is the vehicle of the ‘reconciliation’. Note the crude special effect of the superimposition of the camel’s head onto the image: the none too persuasive aspect of this (though it may have been more plausible to 1940s eyes) adds to the sense of playfulness: the viewer is in on, and asked to countenance, the silly joke. (Note too the reference to the aunt…)
As I say, the scene seems to anticipate two consecutive and paired scenes in Natale sul Nilo, when both pairs of men encounter snakes - one rubber and one apparently digitally generated. Here are the banterous brothers played by De Sica and Tortora answering a call of nature, and making explicit as usual certain elements that underpin the homosocial… (Note again the reference to an aunt…)
This scene is directly followed by another from the parallel plot strand in the film, when a reconciliation of the rival safari buddies played by Ghini and Panariello is enabled by another snake, and one as unpersuasive as the camel (or ‘kangaroo’!) in Road to Morocco. (In this case the unseen penises of the De Sica/Tortora strand have been explicitated, as they say, and displaced to another snake-in-the-hand.)
This scene and the one from Road to Morocco could obviously and usefully be compared in terms of their formal construction: the scene in Natale in Sud Africa employs some shot/reverse shot, but both directors (Neri Parenti and David Butler) use frontal staging and place their actors before some foliage. Both provide some break-down of the scene into greater degrees of close-up to aid the build-up of the joke and to focus on the reactions of the actors, followed by a final long shot to deliver the punch line. The differences too are interesting: the camel is (ultimately) a very real one in Road to Morocco, and its sneeze plainly, ahem, improvised and fortuitous (for the makers if not for Bob); on the other hand, it is the location that is unfeigned in Natale in Sud Africa, and as such it has a travelogue/tourist aspect missing from the studio-bound settings in the Road to Morocco (if the Moroccan beach is real, it is somewhere on the California coast, and closer to Casablanca (also 1942) than Casablanca (pop. 3m)).
Finally, it’s interesting that (unlike Bob and Bing in the ‘Road to…’ movies) characters in the cinepanettone have rarely fought over the same woman, even if some partner exchange was on the cards in the first Vacanze di Natale of 1983. Boldi and De Sica were simply too unlike to share a love object. De Sica and Ghini have some misunderstandings in Natale a Miami, but they are not after the same woman. De Sica and Tortora in Natale in Sud Africa are after the same money rather than the same flesh.
The love interest in Road to Morocco, Dorothy Lamour. The clue is in the name.
But the same body is desired in Natale in Sud Africa by Ghini and Panariello’s characters, just as Bob and Bing hope for the same female love object in Road to Morocco. None of the four, we are right to assume, will be successful in their quest… After all, it’s the relationship between the men we care about and enjoy. the woman is the occasion for their banter and the excuse for their intimacy.
Belén Rodríguez, love interest in Natale in Sud Africa.