How Paul Mazursky watched Umberto D. for a second time. 

Irwin Lawrence “Paul” Mazursky (April 25, 1930 – June 30, 2014) was an American film director, screenwriter, and actor. Known for his dramatic comedies that often dealt with modern social issues, he was nominated for five Academy Awards: three times for Best Original Screenplay, once for Best Adapted Screenplay, and once for Best Picture for An Unmarried Woman (1978). Other films written and directed by Mazursky include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Blume in Love (1973), Harry and Tonto (1974), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986).

 

In this piece, Paul Mazursky, wrote about his meeting with the director, Vittorio De Sica and about his second view of Umberto D. 

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In February of 1971, I moved to Rome with my wife and our two daughters. After the great success of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, I experienced the commercial failure of my next film Alex in Wonderland.  Hollywood seemed hostile and empty, perhaps Europe was the answer. We found a lovely apartment on Passeggiata di Ripetta near Piazza deal Popolo. We put the girls, age six and twelve, in the Overseas School and soon I was spending hours sitting in cafes of Rome and wondering what I was doing here so far from home.  Fortunately, we became friends with Emi De Sica, the daughter of the great Vittorio. Her daughter Eleonora became with our six year old, Jill. Several times a week we’d have magnificent dinners often cooked by Emi. 

My waistline got larger and my angst grew too. I began to write a story for. Film about an old man and his car Harry and Tonto

My. Other had kept a red manx cat and walked it on a leash in the park. There was a movie there – somewhere -, a movie about old age. 

Then Emi invited us to her house for her birthday. It was a beautiful party, filled with important figures from the Italian cinema. Emi introduced me to her father. Here was the great De Sica. I was overwhelmed wit the sudden appearance of one of my idols. Scenes from Sciuscià and Bicycle Thief rushed into my brain.  “Let me get you something to eat”, said De Sica. He picked up a plate and began to fill it with antipasto. Here I was being served by Vittorio De Sica. I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t want to flatter or fawn. “I very much liked your film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice“, said De Sica. I was close to a heart attack! Suddenly, out of nowhere I told De Sica that I was writing a story about an old man and a cat.  “Have you seen my film Umberto D.?” asked De Sica. “Yes”, I said.  “Maybe I got the idea from your film – It’s beautiful.”  “Would you like to see it again?” asked De Sica.  “Yes, of course. Sure. When?”. “Come with me, please.”  The elegant director led me downstairs to the basement of the house in Parioli.  There was a 16 mm projector. He found what he was looking for and in a matter of minutes, I was staring at Umberto D., munching on my antipasto as I watched. Now and then, De Sica would tell me something about the film, how he used an untrained man, a professor, to play the lead. The film seemed even more powerful to me. When the moment came in front the Pantheon and the old man began to beg, to put his palm up for a hand-out and suddenly moved his hand as if perhaps it was beginning to rain, I began to fight the tears. “You know”, I said, “I probably end up stealing a lot of your movie”.  Vittorio De Sica smile, “Please take what you want”.

  

And that’s how I came to see Umberto D. for a second time. Of course, I will never forget my meeting. But none of us will ever forget the great work of De Sica. The seemingly simple way he told these sad and funny stories of Italian life and film that truly got into your soul. 

(Paul Mazursky)

Taken from an old article published by the Italian newspaper “Il Corriere Della Sera” – date: unknown

  

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Una Giornata Particolare (A Special Day) 1977

Una Giornata Particolare | A Special Day – Italy – 1977 – 107 minutes – Color – 1.85:1 – Italian – Criterion Collection Spine #778

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Una Giornata Particolare | A Special Day is, unknown to many,  a pearl of the Italian cinema.  Ettore Scola, in 1977, made a film well ahead of its time (and ahead of most of the movies made today). Scola shot a movie about the Italian mentality on homosexuality and women in general.

His first idea was to set the film in the present days (late 70s).  Instead of having Hitler ‘visiting’ Mussolini in Italy, the original concept was to show an exodus of people from a block of flats to a very important football game. Only two people remained and met.  But then, he decided to show how the above mentality had been taken to the extreme by a regime, making it even more dangerous.

Some of techniques Scola used to shoot the movie were, and still are, innovative and..WOW (just check the amazing tracking shot early in the movie). The script was wonderfully written. Sophia Loren and the mighty Marcello Mastroianni were perfect in their roles. Quoting Ettore Scola, “there was a gay and insecure side of Marcello and Sophia was not ‘in your face’ and loud like most of the people thought”. The actors were, in a way, portraying part of their personalities.

Originally it was intended to be shot in black&white, but the producers forced the Director to do it in colour (he then washed the colours away so the movie could still feel like a black and white one), Una Giornata Particolare tells the story of two solitudes who meet and exchange a bit of love against the backdrop of Fascist Italy. Scola depicts with astonishing delicacy the figure of a homosexual, intelligent, cultured man, giving to the Italian viewers of that time the tools to empathise and sympathise with the character.

A wonderful, tender and touching movie. My real highlight of Criterion’s October 2015 releases (we do ALL already have Mulholland Drive in HD, don’t we?). A masterpiece of Italian cinema. Do not miss it.

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#CriterionBlogathon 

Umberto D. (1952)  – Coming Soon 


Close-Up (1990)

 The Criterion Collection – CLOSE-UP (1990) | Spine #519 – A movie by Abbas Kiarostami.