Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Quo Vadis, Salvatores?

“I was really fed up, after 12 films” says Oscar winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores “that at the end of every debate, punctually, a girl would get up and ask ‘Excuse me, I’ve a question: why don’t you make a film with a woman?'”. His comment is both playful and serious. Best known, outside of Italy, for his film Mediterraneo, Salvatores’ films to date have all featured male protagonists. From the comic ensemble of Mediterraneo, through to the child actors of his last film Io non ho paura, women have, to an extent, been extraneous.

That he had, up until now with his ninth film, avoided placing women’s stories at the forefront of his film-making was more to do with an awareness of his limitations, rather than some latent chauvinism. For someone whose films have explored the bonds of friendship, and the clichés between men, Salvatores was well aware of the difficulties for a man trying to tell a woman’s story: “As Cinema is, in many ways, still a masculine sphere – the number of women directors and screenwriters are still much lower than men – some times, even in good faith, men, and it’s happened to me as well, have tended to reproduce a model that they have in their head, honestly, but in the end women have to tell women’s stories”.

Quo Vadis, Baby?, a noir style novel by Bolognese writer Grazia Verasani landed on Salvatores’ desk while he and Producer Maurizio Totti were in the process of launching a new publishing venture, Colorado Noir. “When I read this book, amongst the first we chose to publish, I understood that maybe I had found the story that would enable me to make a film with a female protagonist” he explains. “And I could make it precisely because this protagonist had been created by a woman [Verasani].”

The finished film (obviously, he took the challenge), is a brooding thriller set in Bologna – a city of dark porticoes that seems to have inspired a thousand noir novels (to the extent that writers like Carlo Lucarelli, author of almost blue, have spoken about the Bolognese school ofnoir).

It tells the story of Giorgia, a woman in her 40s, who is still struggling to come to terms with her sister’s suicide fifteen years earlier. At the start of the film she receives a number of videos, which turn out to be a form of video diary kept by Ada, her late sister.

So what type of character is Giorgia, Salvatores’ first female protagonist? Not surprisingly, she’s hardly a conventional film heroine. “She’s a character that is outside of masculine stereotypes, and very atypical for our current cinema,” says the Director. “She lives alone, without children, which is politically incorrect, she drinks, goes out alone, chooses her men. She is, Verasani says, not cynical but at times withdrawn, not cynical but at times enraged, and then, all’improvviso tender.” Salvatores pauses momentarily, before continuing, “in Indian mythology one of the main women is Parvati, the wife of Shiva. She’s the perfect wife, she brings up the children, sings, dances, cooks, and is wonderful at making love [“I’d love to meet her”, he jokes]. But Parvati isn’t just these things. When she’s angered she turns into another female God, called Kali, that’s the exact opposite, she’s a destroyer, dark with a long tongue that she uses to lick blood off her victims, with a necklace made of skulls, so with an aspect completely opposite. I believe” he explains “that both these sides live side by side in the feminine, and the masculine should probably stop to control them, and instead shodul learn, as a man, to protect the imagination, the freedom of these women”.

When choosing the actress to play Giorgia, Salvatores picked Angela Baraldi, a Bolognese singer, rather than a professional actress. A choice that has been more than a little controversial, particularly amongst Italian actresses, as if it were a slight on their abilities. It’s a choice he defends, while being sensitive to the charges of spurned actresses: “I really hope that Italian actresses aren’t offended by the choice, but I was looking for a woman, not an actress, to play the role. There are” he continues, slightly on the defensive “plenty of actors and actresses in Italy that are excellent. I think, particularly in the new generation of actors between twenty and thirty, that there are lots of interesting new actors. Our protagonist, though, is in her forties, and so I had to look in that age group, and the problem was that one had to think of finding a person without too much technical acting experience, and who would thus be forced to stake herslf in a certain sense, to use their own way of moving, … Asking an actress to play a role means asking her to enter into the character, and so, in some way to fake things. Instead, I had met Angela in '88 […] and she was the first 'real' person I thought of when I read Grazia [Verasani]'s novel and I said to myself: it reminds me of her, so why don't I ask her to do it?”

  • Pages: 1
  • 2

Leave a Reply