Monday, February 16, 2015
L.A.\ITALIA FEST OPENS!
Fabio Testi and wife Antonella Liguori
The Tenth Annual Los Angeles, Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest opened on Sunday at the Hollywood & Highland complex, at the Chinese Theatre multiplex. The second movie shown, at three p.m. that afternoon, was the only actual Western of the week-long event, and a rarely seen one: TWO BROTHERS IN TRINITY, shown to honor its star and co-director (with Renzo Genta), Richard Harrison. Richard Harrison is a unique honoree at the Fest, for he is neither Italian by birth nor parentage. But he was a very popular American star of Italian movies.
Handsome and muscular, he played small supporting roles in U.S. films, usually characters in uniform, until moving to Italy in the early 1960s, where he became a star in sword & sandal films, ala Steve Reeves. He also starred in spy thrillers, crime films and Spaghetti Westerns, and later on a slew of Ninja films. TWO BROTHERS IN TRINITY is a likable Western comedy in the ‘Trinity’ oeuvre, although not an official part of the ‘Trinity’ series that starred Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer. In TWO BROTHERS, two half-brothers from the same mother, Richard Harrison and French-born Donald O’Brien, each inherit half of their mother’s gold-rich property, near the town of Trinity. Very different in outlook, cad Harrison wants to build a brothel, while his Mormon Minister brother wants to build a church, and they have to fight prospectors, outlaws and each other to get their hands on the gold. It’s fast, physical and fun, with a good balance of Western and comedy elements.
Before TWO BROTHERS IN TRINITY screened, an official from the fest apologized for the quality of the copy, explaining that it was the only one available, and was in fact Mr. Harrison’s personal copy. The color was so washed out as to be in black and white, and the image was grainy and not sharply focused, although happily, as you got involved in the story, you forgot the film’s technical flaws. But it served to reinforce the importance of film preservation. When a film like this has been seen around the world and released on video, it’s easy to assume it is ‘safe’ by the sheer number of copies out there; but those copies degrade, too.
At 6 o’clock the Fest red carpet began, and to my delight, the very first man to walk its length was Fabio Testi, star of the astonishing Western FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE, and several others, THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS, and who recently co-starred with Franco Nero in LETTERS FROM JULIETTE. I asked him, “When are you going to do FIVE OF THE APOCALYPSE?”
FABIO TESTI: (laughs) You mean FOUR.
HENRY: You’ve done FOUR so far; when are you doing FIVE?
FABIO TESTI: (laughs) I don’t know. We did four (westerns), and I hope (to do more), but I think the Western movie, more or less, is finished now. Or maybe we can make the new one.
HENRY: We need you to bring it back.
FABIO TESTI: I’m ready. We need money and a director – that’s all!
HENRY: I’ll bring ‘em!
FABIO TESTI: Thank you, thank you!
Moments later, along came Hayley Westenra, a singer from New Zealand, who told me about collaborating on an album with the legendary composer Ennio Morricone.
HAYLEY WESTENRA: An incredible experience as you can imagine, very surreal. I made an album with him, in Rome, a few years back. So we spent the summer there, working with his orchestra, his team of people. And I wrote some lyrics for this album as well, for some of his pieces.
HENRY: In English?
HAYLEY WESTENRA: In English. Gabriel’s Oboe, and some lyrics from a piece from MALENA, one of his films, and La Calipha. It was an incredible experience.
Below is a short video on the making of that album, Paradiso, and a cut from it, I don’t own anything, from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
Then along came John Landis.
HENRY: When are you going to do a Western follow-up to THE THREE AMIGOS?
JOHN LANDIS: You know what? Walter Hill once said to me, and it’s true, “If they knew how much fun it was to make a Western, they wouldn’t let us.” It’s the most fun. I worked in a lot of Spaghetti Westerns. But making THREE AMIGOS was such fun – I mean it was a comedy, but it was a Western. Riding around on horses, it’s the most fun. I love the genre. It’s hard to get a Western made these days.
HENRY: But they are happening, the last few years.
JOHN LANDIS: I hope so, I would love to – I love Westerns.
Next I talked to Graham Moore, who has an excellent chance of winning the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation for THE IMITATION GAME.
HENRY: How difficult is it to take a story where so much of the action is so cerebral, and try to make it understandable and exciting to watch?
GRAHAM MOORE: That was one of the great challenges of making this film, was trying to recreate Alan Turing’s subjective experience of the war, and of breaking Enigma, on screen. My approach, and all of our approach on the film, was to tell Alan’s story, and to, in each moment, imagine what did this feel like for Alan. So we wanted the code-breaking section, for example, to feel like a thriller, because Alan Turing experienced it as a thriller. You imagine he’s this 27-year-old mathematician, he’s never been outside of a university in his life, and now he’s working alongside the head of MI-6 on extremely high-level espionage work. He’s literally living inside of a James Bond novel. And we wanted to create that feeling on-screen because that was his experience of it.
HENRY: Is this a period, historically, that you were interested in before this project came along?
GRAHAM MOORE: You know, I had been interested in Alan Turing for a long time. I was lucky enough to have been exposed to Alan Turning’s story as a teenager. Growing up I went to Space Camp, and computer programming camp; I was a hugely techy kid, and among awkward techy kids like myself, without a lot of friends, Alan Turing was a source of tremendous inspiration, a great hero. And it always amazed me after I did not become a computer programmer, but became a writer, that no one had a made a film about him. I felt like if anyone’s life story deserved to be told on screen, it was Alan Turing’s.
HENRY: Is this a story that you wrote and brought to people?
GRAHAM MOORE: That’s right: I wrote it on spec. I met our producers, Nora Grossman and Ido Ostorowsky, and they had never produced a film before, and I had never written a movie that had been produced before. So we all jumped together, and spent a year just working on the script on our own, without any money, any corporate anything behind us, because we thought it was such an important story, such a beautiful story that we wanted to be involved in telling.
HENRY: What’s your next project?
GRAHAM MOORE: I’m finishing my second novel. It’s nice to go back to some quiet time in bookland.
HENRY: Do you plan to alternate screenplays and novels?
GRAHAM MOORE: Yuh, my first novel came out four years ago. I had this grand plan that I was going to take six months off, write this Alan Turing script, and then go right back into the second book. (laughs) That was five years ago; for lots of happy reasons it’s taken longer then I might have imagined, but so now I’m very happy to go back to the book, and I might go do a movie after that.
Next up was Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker who is, indeed, one of those Kennedys. Her documentary, ETHEL, was nominated for an EMMY, and her new film, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, is nominated for an Oscar. I asked her why she chose to make a film about the mass evacuation from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
l to r, Pascal Vicedomini, Antonio Verde,
Rory Kennedy & Fabio Testi
RORY KENNEDY: This is a documentary that I feel very passionate about. It’s a story that many people in this country think they know; it’s an important chapter in our nation’s history, but few of us actually know what really happened during those last 24 hours. I think it’s important. I think it’s relevant today because we’re struggling to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I think that this film raises important questions about what happens to the people left behind, and our responsibilities to them. We didn’t do it very well in Vietnam, so I’m hoping we’ll learn a few lessons and do it better as we’re struggling with the same issues today.
When the red carpet was done, we moved into the theatre, for some entertainment, and presentation of awards. The Fest coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, and in recognition of that event, opera singer Vittorio Grigolo sang two Sinatra songs beautifully. Robert Davi, a character actor who made a name for himself as cops and crooks in films like GOONIES and DIE HARD, is also a talented singer who specializes in Sinatra music. Working with his sextet, which includes members of Frank Sinatra’s orchestra, Davi performed a terrific set with the classic arrangements.
One of the high points of the evening was Franco Nero, who was presenting an award to Jimmy Kimmel, telling the story of his meeting Frank Sinatra when he’d flown into the country to make CAMELOT.
Jimmy Kimmel flanked by Franco Nero and Kimmel's mother
The Fest continues through Saturday. On Tuesday night at 8:30, MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE, starring Franco Nero, will be shown. Presented in the guise of a Spaghetti Western, it’s actually based on Carmen, the novel that is the basis of Bizet’s opera. (Courtney Joyner and I just did audio commentary for BLUE UNDERGROUND, which will be released shortly.) At 10:15 pm, TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE will play, starring Fabio Testi, who will attend. Wednesday at 3:45 pm, BLOOD BROTHERS screens, and Fabio Testi will attend. At 6 pm, MASTER STROKE, a spy thriller, will play, honoring Richard Harrison, but I don’t know if he will attend. There will be many other interesting Italian movies playing throughout the week, all of them free, on a first come, first serve basis. Here is the link for the full schedule: http://www.losangelesitalia.com/
Remember that the Oscars will be held next Sunday, at the same venue, and streets are already being blocked off, so give yourself extra time for finding your way in to parking – you can get parking validation at the Chinese box office. I would say ‘take the train,’ but check first if you do, as I’ve heard a rumor that the Hollywood and Highland station may be closed.
Franco Nero and Fabio Testi
THAT’S A WRAP!
Have a great week, folks! Happy Presidents Day
All Original Content Copyright February 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved