«I love Italian comedies! My favorite right now? Checco Zalone»
The Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón was the special guest of the 9th Close Encounter of the Rome Film Festival. On October 20, 2021, he entered a sold-out Sala Petrassi, at Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, with Artistic Director Antonio Monda and Richard Peña, former Program Director of Lincoln Center’s Film Society in New York: Cuarón decided to speak Italian fo the entire duration of the interview, with an incredible and appreciated effort.
The director of Gravity and Roma has a genuine passion for Italian cinema: «It’s fertile, vast, diverse. I live in London and many Italian directors are almost forgotten» he said. «Foreign filmmakers only have access to masters like Fellini, Pasolini and Visconti.»
In a wide-ranging on-stage interview, Cuarón talked about the birth of his passion for cinema: «My first encounter with the big screen was The Sword in The Stone. I still love Disney’s films, but I think Pixar introduced a new sensitivity into their work, so everything is different.»
The first Italian film he saw was 1948’s Bicycle Thieves, by Vittorio De Sica: «I remember I was with my cousin, his parents were out and I was 8 years old: I thought it was an action film, but it was a different experience: it lead my curiosity to a kind of cinema I was not used to.»
Cuarón commented the sequences from his favorite films, a selection which includes 1977’s Father and Master, by Francesco Brogi and Vittorio Taviani, and Viva Italia by Dino Risi, Ettore Scola and Mario Monicelli: «Father and Master was an essential to my education: I’ve never understood the type of creative process behind this film, Taviani brothers always had a deep humanity, a mythical approach and Marxist manners, but with no rhetoric.». About Viva Italia, Cuarón said: «In Italian comedies there’s the joy, social examination, life melancholy, and a fierce criticism of the Italian nature. And… look at this cast: Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Alberto Sordi. Today, one actor-director that I really like is Checco Zalone. Too bad he’s not here!».
Before talking about young Italian filmmakers (from Valeria Golino to Alba Rohwacher, both attending the masterclass) the Mexican director focused on Marco Ferreri: «He was subversive like Jean-Luc Godard and absurd like Luis Buñuel: in his cinema there’s a precise diagnosis of society and a strong perspective about the present. Many people have no idea who Ferreri was, even if he worked in Italy, France and Spain. His first two comedies were really academic, but with Dillinger Is Dead he did whatever he wanted and followed that way, like in Bye Bye Monkey. His cinema is such a chaos but it’s fun. When you bump into this kind of work, it’s like watching an accident: you can’t look the other way.»