Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Interview With Michele Placido

In your opinion, as an actor but also as a director, what are the essential elements that distinguish Mario Martone's approach to directing from that of other Italian directors?

- For me, Mario is a master. And there aren't many: Bellocchio, for example, and Moretti, to name a few. He has a purity of style, and by purity I mean conceding nothing to mere taste, to pleasing spectators. He's distinguished by his ability to make the viewer see himself in a film. He provokes those who want to be provoked. His work attempts to involve the filmgoers from the human point of view, with real events common to us all. He refuses to adopt those easy, "sentimental" solutions that, even when well done, don't communicate passion. For an actor this effort is difficult to sustain, but exhilarating; it's like exploring a new dimension.As a director, I've learned a lot from him. And the lesson, though I know he won't approve of the term, is that being an artist can't be taken for granted: not everyone is capable of becoming an "auteur" the way he has.It's easy to imagine that working with Fanny Ardant was more than a little interesting...Yes, remember that it was she who first wanted the film rights to the book. She had already opted for them before Martone offered her the part. But above all I learned to respect her as a woman. For her beauty, that goes without saying, but I was even more fascinated by her intelligence, an intelligence that I'd say was lucid, even illuminating. Fanny is a true intellectual. What other actress would have taken the initiative to opt for a novel by an author like Parise, an Italian author at that. In this she's typically French.

What aspect of your collaboration did you find most intriguing?

-The thing about her that struck me most was her way of observing, and how she moved before shooting a scene. First thing in the morning, five minutes before shooting, most actresses in their dressing rooms are all busy with their makeup, with the lights ... they're almost, how can I say it, flustered. Instead Fanny is reserved, and this interior elegance leaves its mark, she transmits it to everyone around her. And this enticing capacity of communicating the "essential" gets effortlessly carried over onto the set. To some extent, I feel like I've "stolen" from her a kind of introspectiveness that came over me before shooting a scene.The dominant and decisive viewpoint of the film is masculine. What does "the scent of blood" signify for Michele Placido? And for Carlo?I'd say it's easier for Michele Placido to live with it. Carlo allows himself to be anaesthetized by the scent of blood and enters into a kind of paralysis under its influence. Carlo is unable to react once threatened by emotion, by strong feelings. Maybe he's too intellectual. The proof of this is that he's incapable of managing intrigue with Silvia. He gives up when confronted by the scent of blood: he's unable to save her. He doesn't do all he can to help her, either as a man or as a companion, and for this he bears the guilt.

How would you describe the part the physical distance between Carlo and Silvia plays in the film?

-It creates a void that cannot be filled, the incapacity of living with intimacy. Even though he still loves Silvia (in fact he's always talking about her to Lu), he's incapable of remaining by her side, however much this pains him. He refuses to accept physical decay, the idea of approaching physical decline, whether it be Silvia's or his own. He wants to remember her exactly as she was when they first fell in love. During their endless telephone calls he succeeds in freezing this moment: from a distance he manages to preserve her youth, the way he wants her to remain.

In the film suffering is closely linked to pleasure. What is it the film has to teach us about human beings?

-Complexity. The film demonstrates the interdependency between suffering and pleasure. And not just intense sexual pleasure, which is certainly represented, but also (and this thanks to Lu and Carlo's relationship with her) those "flashes of extraordinary bliss" that Carlo experiences as if he were still uncompromised by life. The same thing I feel in my private life while watching my children, when I see that for them living is still "a great adventure". Whenever I see that they still experience the most commonplace and the most extraordinary events in the same way, without prejudice. And this because they haven't yet experienced life's suffering. As long as one remains intact, every moment is lived completely

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