lunedì 31 ottobre 2016

New York Stories

The last week of October I was in New York for my job.
It is always amazing to be in this city, which I really adore. 
One of the things I like most is that, very often, incredibile things happen. More easily than in other places. I have no idea why, but I just love it!
This time, I found out completely by chance that my favorite actor of all time, Jeremy Irons, was in town, and I was lucky enough to be invited (by one of the most adorable human beings I know, Sally Fischer, who is Jeremy's agent) to a special screening of the movie The Man who knew Infinity by Matthew Brown, followed by a Q&A with Irons himself at the IFC Center!
The movie relates a true story, the one of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a very poor Indian guy from Madras who happened to be a genius in mathematics. Discovered through a letter by the Cambridge professor G.H. Hardy, he is invited to join the prestigious Trinity College to show his work and theories. The moment is not the most favorable one, though: First World War is about to break, and indifference or, worse, prejudice towards foreigners in the UK is at his highest peek. Thanks to the help and support of Hardy, Ramanujan's work will be recognized and he will become a Fellow of the Royal Society. Having left a young wife in India and being affected by tuberculosis, Ramanujan will go back to his native country, where he died in 1920 only 33 years old. His contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions are even at the base of black holes discovery.
I confess I didn't know anything about this man and I was fascinated by his story: the movie is well crafted and well made, even if it's not exactly my kind of cinema. I thought the Indian part was a bit too weak (the whole wife/mother story wasn't convincing) but by far the best thing of the film is the relationship between Ramanujan and his mentor, G. H. Hardy, brilliantly played (useless to say) by Jeremy Irons.
At the end of the screening, as promised, the actor was in the theatre for a Q&A moderated by an American film critic. Funny thing, Jeremy's dog, Smudge, was at his side all the time. He was very quite and actually slept from the beginning till the end, in a very sweet way, at Jeremy's side:
The Q&A was a lot of fun: Jeremy answered to all different kind of questions, from his method of approaching a role, to the challenges of this particular movie, till the fact that he has scared almost all the children of the planet playing Scar in The Lion King. To somebody who asked him if he enjoyed playing the bad guy in a Die Hard with a Vengeance, he replied: I loved it, they payed me so well! Irons perfectly knows how to entertain and amuse an audience. It is not by chance he is such an incredible actor. 
After the Q&A, Irons talked and took pictures with a lot of fans who came to see him. A warning: don't ask him to take selfies because he doesn't do that! Just ask for pictures, he will be very glad to take one with you.
I didn't ask for one this time (not that I didn't want to!) because the theatre switched off the lights and the next minute Jeremy and Sally were kind enough to get me out with them from a secondary door. When Sally told me they will get me back to my hotel with their car I just couldn't believe it. 
Now I know that my idea of paradise is to sit on the back of a car with Jeremy Irons at my side. I know because I had it.
And yes, dear readers, it was HEAVEN!!!

Another little, funny and incredible story that happened to me in New York, was about one of my favourite things in life, the TV Series MAD MEN (as all my readers know).
Last year in NY, always by chance, I bumped into an antique shop that sell beautiful collections of cocktails sets from the '50s and '60s, and I noticed they had whisky glasses very similar to the ones used by Don Draper. I didn't buy them at that time because I have fallen in love with some other kind of glasses, but I kept thinking about them and so I went back, hoping they would have been still around.
The owner of the shop is a lovely old man, very elegant, who could be easily chosen to play a role in any period drama, and so I started talk to him (he said he remembered me from my last visit, but I have no idea if he was telling the truth... how could he?). I told him I was coming back because of those glasses, that reminded me so much of the glasses used in Mad Men.
I wasn't prepared for his answer: "Oh, well, my dear, actually, it is not that they remind you of those glasses... the production of Mad Men bought them from me. They ARE the Mad Men whisky glasses".
I looked at him in disbelief.
"Well, in this case, I want four of them!"
And then I called the air company I was flying with: "Do you mind if I have two suitcases plus a hand luggage with me on my flight back to Paris?"
Because dreams, as you know, are very fragile, and it is safer to carry them with you.
Old Fashioned, anyone?

venerdì 21 ottobre 2016

Manchester by the sea

I spent just a couple of days at the Rome Film Fest, but I’ve been lucky enough to see one of the most beautiful movies of 2016. A gem called Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by American film-maker Kenneth Lonergan.
This NY born director is better known for his work as screen player (he co-wrote Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese, to name just one thing) but he already directed three movies. I was a huge fan of his first feature, You can count on me (2000), which revealed the talent of two actors who had incredible careers afterwards: Mark Ruffalo and Laure Linney, and I followed the troubled story of his second movie, Margaret: originally scheduled for release in 2007, it was repeatedly delayed while Lonergan struggled to create a final cut he was satisfied with, resulting in multiple lawsuits against the studio that produced it! In the end, the movie was released in a 150-minute version in 2011 and Lonergan eventually completed a three-hour extended version which was ready on DVD in 2012! What a story… 
But let’s go back to Manchester by the Sea: Lee Chandler lives in Boston, alone, working as a handyman in different buildings. One day, he received a phone call: his older brother Joe, who suffered from a heart disease, died while on his fishing boat. Lee is obliged to go back to his home town, Manchester by the Sea. He is not happy about it, because something awful happened there years ago. Something Lee can’t forget, something he’s trying to escape from, but his brother’s death and the fact that he has been nominated tutor of Joe’s only son, Patrick (17 years old), don’t leave him any choice. 
He has to go back to Manchester and face his past.
One of the most difficult things to express in movies are emotions. 
I mean, in a credible, non-cheesy way. The moment you deal with families, death and sorrow, the risk of ending up doing something tearful and pathetic is really high. But miracles are possible, and this movie proves it.
Thanks to a magnificent structure, a beautifully crafted screenplay and a stunning performance by the actors, Manchester by the Sea reaches a level of complexity, deepness and empathy rarely seen on screens this year.
The first great idea of the movie is the structure, as I just said, and the way the director has used the insertion of flash-backs. In fact, he didn’t even insert them. They are what the movie is made of, with an intense fluidity between the past and the present. It is a different and more sophisticated way to get to know the characters. It is surprisingly emotional and particularly convincing. 

But here, by far, the most convincing thing of all is the actors’ performances, and especially the one of Casey Affleck.
He is so permeated with despair that every unnecessary gesture or word looks like a burden to him. He is transpiring sadness, and there are a couple of scenes where this is so strong that it is almost unbearable. Frankly speaking, I think we are in front of this year’s most amazing male performance.
I have been haunted since the day I saw the movie by this incredible, magnificent scene played by him and Michelle Williams. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I have to prevent you, this is the most devastating scene I've seen at the movies in a very long time:

I don't know when Manchester by the Sea is going to be out neither in France nor in Italy, but - of course - my strong suggestion is to run to see it.
Be ready: Zazie d'Or will be raining on this movie like the frogs in Magnolia.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - Trailer from Mill Valley Film Festival on Vimeo.

giovedì 13 ottobre 2016

Festa del Cinema di Roma

Zazie is going to the Festa del Cinema di Roma!
The image on the poster is simply magnificent: Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in a black & white picture by J.R. Eyerman for LIFE Magazine .
As  you could easily imagine, cinematic adventures are ahead of us.
Stay tuned, dear readers!

giovedì 6 ottobre 2016


Se il cinema non è un paese per donne, lo è ancora meno per donne di una certa età.
In un mondo dove essere giovani e belli è diventato un imperativo categorico (morale e sociale), il cinema - nella stragrande maggioranza dei casi - non fa purtroppo eccezione. 

I film hollywoodiani, tanto per fare un esempio a caso, sembrano essere scritti e diretti per compiacere un’audience di uomini bianchi di circa 25 anni particolarmente immaturi per la loro età ed incredibilmente stupidi a giudicare dalla pochezza delle sceneggiature dei fim che vanno a vedere e che amano.
Per fortuna, il cinema è e sarà sempre anche “altro”.
I film indie, i documentari, i registi di paesi sfigati, quelli che hanno solo quattro soldi per fare i film, le donne regista, insomma.... tutta una categoria di gente che ha voglia di dire la sua sul cinema e sul mondo. E su tutta la sua meravigliosa varietà.
Quest’anno al Festival di Cannes è stato presentato
Aquarius di Kleber Mendonça Filho, un bellissimo film brasiliano con protagonista assoluta una donna over 60 che non le manda certo a dire. 

Clara, giornalista di musica in pensione, vive a Recife in un bell’appartamento che fa parte di un’unità abitativa chiamata Aquarius. Con la spiaggia a due passi, è il luogo ideale per una vita tranquilla e riposante. Rimasta vedova 17 anni prima, per Clara la sua casa rappresenta molto: è dove ha vissuto con il marito, dove sono nati e cresciuti i suoi tre figli, e dove ha combattuto e vinto contro un cancro al seno, avuto 30 anni prima. Rimasta la sola a non aver venduto ad una società immobiliare che si è appropriata dell’intero palazzo per rinnovarlo e farci una speculazione edilizia, Clara si trova coinvolta a poco a poco in una vera e propria lotta senza quartiere. Con pochi alleati (anche i figli sembrerebbero preferire i soldi offerti dalla compagnia), Clara non si lascia né intimidire né spaventare dall’arroganza e dai colpi bassi dei suoi nemici. Sarà anche una donna anziana, ma non le manca né la forza né il coraggio di avere la meglio su tutto e tutti.
Che cosa fa di un film un grande film? 
Ci ho pensato tante volte, e la risposta è piuttosto difficile, legata ad una serie di fattori che a volte sembrano fortuiti, altri perfettamente costruiti a tavolino. Mi dico che il talento di un regista, spesso, sta nel saper raccontare una storia piccola ma precisa capace di diventare lo specchio di una realtà più ampia, quasi universale.
E poi il trucco, ovviamente, è il come la si racconta, questa storia.

L’inventiva e la creatività di un regista sono fondamentali, sotto questo aspetto.
Kleber Mendonça Filho sembra essere dotato di entrambi questi talenti: non solo raccontando la storia di Clara regala uno spaccato perfetto del Brasile di oggi, facendoci capire la differenza tra poveri e ricchi, tra valori culturali e quelli legati al profitto, facendoci capire la direzione che sta prendendo il paese (e pure un po’ il resto del mondo), ma lo fa in maniera originale e profonda, scegliendo il punto di vista di una donna ultra sessantenne, ancora bellissima e cazzuta come poche.
Diviso in tre capitoli, il film inizia con una fantastica scena familiare: la festa di compleanno di una zia settantenne che, mentre i nipotini leggono delle poesie che hanno scritto per lei, si ricorda di una scena di sesso vissuta da giovane (inizio folgorante!). Alla festa è presente anche Clara, appena trentenne, capelli cortissimi retaggio della chemioterapia e sorriso splendido, che senza dire quasi una parola già sprigiona una forza e una personalità fortissime. E’ questa donna la cosa straordinaria del film, non solo per l’età, ma per il tipo di personaggio. Clara è testarda, sicura di sé, coltiva un sano egosimo nei confronti dei figli, ha un sacco di interessi, fa il bagno in mare quando il bagnino dice che è pericoloso, si paga un gigolò perché non ha voglia di avere a che fare con degli uomini che scappano alla vista del suo seno mancante, e, soprattutto, non ha la benché minima intenzione di darla vinta a dei poveri stronzi che le vogliono togliere la cosa più preziosa che ha: la sua casa con dentro tutti i suoi ricordi.
L’interpretazione di Sonia Braga è semplicemente grandiosa. Non so come sia possibile che all’ultimo Festival di Cannes Aquarius non abbia avuto neanche un premio.
Non capita tutti i giorni di vedere un film che ti fà venire voglia di spaccare il mondo.

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