admin On ottobre - 6 - 2012

Interview to the son and director Claudio Risi

Regarded by many as Dino Risi's finest film, The Easy Life (Il Sorpasso) casts Vittorio Gassman as Bruno, a jaded, ageing roue, who introduces young Roberto Mariani Jean-Louis Trintignant to his hedonistic lifestyle. Previously a man with a purpose in life, Roberto soon becomes as wanton and idle as Bruno. The older man is proud of his handiwork until tragedy strikes. The film is amongst the ‘100 film italiani da salvare ’ (Italian Films that deserve to be saved), as it testifies the collective memory of the country from 1942 to 1978.

The film released in 1962, this year celebrates 50 years and director Claudio Risi, son of Dino, tells us all about it.

Italy in 1962 was living the economic miracle, today there is the financial crisis, nevertheless the country and Italians themselves seem to have remained the same old charlatans of The Easy Life…

The Italian man is still a bit of a rascal and swashbuckler, some Italians have acknowledged the urge to change, but the hard core doesn’t accept this change and prefers to rely on evasion and escapism.

The actors are perfectly fit to play Bruno Cortona and Roberto Mariani, how were they cast?

Initially one of the candidate actors for the role of Bruno was Alberto Sordi, who read the script but declined the role because he felt that all the empathy would have gone to the character of Roberto. His refusal to play the part was quite lucky because the character probably wouldn’t have had the same intensity and grit given by Vittorio Gassman. Jean-Louis Trintignant was chosen after the shooting had started, actually my father filled in his role in a very quick shot with his back to the camera. Trintignant had already worked with my father on another movie and seemed perfect for the role.

Another protagonist of the story is the famous ‘Lancia-Aurelia B24’, where is it now?

It belongs to a man who sometimes uses it for the Mille Miglia. I saw the car in Pesaro, a few years ago during an event they held for the movie. Amusingly enough I never rode it, not even as a passenger when the film was made.

What events will celebrate this 50th anniversary?

Some started this summer, and many more have yet to come. It’s hard to keep track of them unless my brother and I are invited to take part in them. We’ve been invited on the 27th of October in Trani for an homage event organised by a fan of my father, who founded the Circolo del Cinema Dino Risi there and managed to find his rarest movies.

Fans are many…were you aware that a group of journalist students have decided to retrace, after 50 years the same itinerary of ‘The Easy Life’?

Well it’s always very flattering to see these initiatives promoted by the fans of the film. Film-makers always feel overwhelmed by these demonstrations of affection, I remember when it happened to me with the fans of ‘I Ragazzi della III C’. Besides Il Sorpasso is very entertaining and on the road, therefore it gives the opportunity for a good road trip.

Talking of Road Trips, Il Sorpasso is the progenitor of road movies and it inspired not only fans but also film-makers, is it true that Dennis Hopper homaged your father calling his film Easy Rider since the English title of Il Sorpasso was The Easy Life?

Yes, that’s right, Dennis Hopper had seen the film and liked it to the point he re-proposed the story in a hippie version, as well as exploring the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s along with the American Dream. At the time Italy inspired the rest of the world’s film-making.

What is your personal remembrance of the shooting and the response the movie had at the time?

My brother and I weren’t on the set but I remember that when the film was released, on a Friday, it was disastrous at the box office, and my father was always on the phone with the producer Mario Cecchi Gori, and every day he would spend 500.000 Liras in tickets so that the movie would be mentioned in the box office of the magazine that was popular at the time, L’Araldo dello spettacolo. Eventually on the Wednesday, following the release in theatres, he brought me to the see the film with him and it was prohibited to children under 14 and I was still 13 years old but I was very tall so I managed to get in. The movie theatre was empty. I sat down and my father left me there alone because he had to call the producer, as usual. During the screening in the deserted projection room people started to come in and by the end of the show there were many spectators standing up because there were no more seats available. From there on the movie spread its wings and the audiences loved it. Some saw it several times, I remember there was someone who saw it 18 times!

So the success of the movie came by word of mouth?

It most certainly did, because at the time the producer didn’t have enough budget to invest in advertising, so the only publicity was through very small playbills at crossroads in the streets. Therefore it was thanks to the spectators’ appreciation, who spread the word around.

It must have been a great emotional compensation after the critics’ response…

Without a doubt. Film critics then, but still today, tend to disregard comedy. But the Italian Comedy of the time was a very important tool of political satire.

Did you have the chance to confront also the response of foreign audiences?

In 1969 I was in London in a new building that is now used for concerts and film festivals and they screened Il Sorpasso in original language with earphones for simultaneous translation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that after 10 minutes of screening the English audience was laughing with the Italian gags, even before they heard the translation through the earphones. These are the occasions in which movies create magic that go beyond any language barrier and communication becomes universally comprehensible.

What would you like to tell your father in this occasion?

I would like to thank him for the beautiful films he made and for living everything light-heartedly with irony and self-irony, not talking himself nor life too seriously.

By Chiara Spagnoli


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