Comical yes, but sweetly emotional. In his more mature guise, Verdone, with the second season of the very successful series Life as Carlo (on Paramount+ from September 15th) reflects on his crowded and anxious existence due to popularity, but above all on his long journey in cinema, giving us his personal 8 ½ (“Small”, he specifies already anxiously, “let’s not make comparisons, for goodness sake !”), melancholy without fear, disenchanted look, intact passion.
Because the series tells of all this, of constraints and the desire for creative freedom, of popularity and its weight, with the added extras of showbiz and producer vulgarity, the obsession of fans for the “strange celebrity” who persecutes the author and that family of his, a little overwhelmed and yet so present. In the midst of the chaos there is him, Carlo, who complains: “I live a desperate life” and yet he resists with the wisdom of his age. In this second season he has a desire, he wants to shoot an art film inspired by his youthful and platonic love for the prostitute Maria F., a real episode revealed in the autobiographical bestseller The caress of memory (Bompiani). The scoundrel producer unexpectedly accepts the difficult subject, but imposes the singer Sangiovanni as his youthful alter ego. At the crossroads between fiction and reality, the director seeks poetry and the financier would only like a Verdone doc, the adventure is uphill.
With the passing of age I am no longer afraid of showing melancholy. It’s part of me, it’s my poetry: I’m a melancholic
The series, shot alternately with Valerio Vestoso, has previously unreleased dream segments, black and white sequences, and even expressionist inspiration in an episode with Fabio Traversa, the well-known Fabris from Compagni di scuola, also haunted by that indelible role. Finally, they return, the heroes of the first season, the daughter played by Caterina De Angelis who does not reveal who the father of the unborn child is, Antonio Bannò in the role of Chicco the (almost) boyfriend who doesn’t want to grow up, the ex-wife Monica Guerritore a little out of phase.
Dear Verdone, in the series you shuffle the cards, confusing your real life with the fictionalized one of the protagonist Carlo. It is a very personal journey into his cinema, with many famous people playing themselves, Maria De Filippi, Christian De Sica, Gabriele Muccino, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Claudia Gerini, and there is a well-founded suspicion that Fabris’ character, imprisoned in popularity of the role, is a bit like his alias. I err?
I agree, popularity is nice but it can be a prison. In one episode Traversa even wants to kill me because I too, after so many years, still call him Fabris like the legendary character and not with his real name. It makes you smile, but I wanted that part to be filmed like Fritz Lang, my favorite director, darkness and cuts of light, dark. In the face of being a comedian, I’ve had the urge to dare, to bring out that line of poetry that has always been prevented from me because, they said, “it doesn’t make people laugh”.
The real surprise is Sangiovanni, the singer launched by Amici, in the role of the young Verdone. Great, but how did it happen?
It was an intuition of the screenwriter Pasquale Plastino. I immediately reacted badly: “Are you crazy? He can’t do me at twenty years old, with a Venetian accent! In short, they convinced me with difficulty but then I was surprised, Sangiovanni brought out an extraordinary naturalness, and that shyness that makes him vaguely surreal. In the series he is the compromise that I have to accept in order to shoot the arthouse film, undermined by problems from the beginning: Ludovica Martino who plays Maria F. abandons immediately, the producer vulgarizes everything. They want commercial success, but what the protagonist Carlo has in mind is something else, a heartbreaking story. In the end, I give them all up.
It has the flavor of a subtle revenge: how many times has this happened in reality?
My career has been a constant tug of war with the producers, Cecchi Gori threw the script in my face Classmates220 pages imagine the evil, of To the wolf to the wolf he shouted at me “It’s rubbish!”. And I talk about my best films. They all feared my melancholic side, they thought it could harm my lightness and therefore my earnings. A continuous: “Cut this, it’s sad, people are bored, go comical.” Now, with the passing of age, I am no longer afraid of showing melancholy. It’s part of me, it’s my poetry.
For Carlo Verdone: Giorgio Armani dress and glasses, Testoni sneakers.
With his films he created an unsurpassed gallery of the Italian male, he skewered all the tics of everyday mythomania. How are we today?
The disease of these years is anxiety, Sangiovanni is the perfect embodiment of it. For boys this time is a Middle Ages without a future, they only have a big question mark ahead of them and boys at this moment are the most fragile.
Female emancipation terrifies them, can’t you see how much violence? The younger ones, closed at home due to Covid, realized that we can go to the Moon but all it takes is a small laboratory error and the world stops. War is close again, climate change is dramatic. And if once there was a desire for aggregation, now we have fallen into the social era of narcissism, with that widespread infantilism which is an additional weakness for families: when fathers want to live like their children, strong examples are missing .
The women in your films, from the beginning, have always been important, divergent from the usual roles…
I would like to be remembered as a director who always exalted women, who loved them and valued them as performers. Today everyone recognizes it in me, I have told them perhaps through neuroses, think of Margherita Buy in Cursed is the day I met you, but as protagonists. When I started, with A nice lot And White, red and green, feminism was hitting hard. The male tug of Italian comedy was over, my generation found itself in the corner of the ring getting punched by a woman who could no longer understand. How much I suffered too. It’s all in my films.
In this second season, however, Carlo finds love again…
Yes, meet Stefania Rocca, a light-hearted character, in reality a euphoric depressed woman who goes from extreme experiences to writing fairy tales for children. She is a strange love, the feeling of a mature man who in reality no longer has the desire to choose, perhaps not even to find a partner. He simply lets himself be carried away by her impetuosity, for fun.
In this series which is also a small family novel, Max Tortora in the film Maria F. plays her father, the severe film scholar Mario Verdone. An amusing yet unlikely evocation. Her mother Rossana, beloved, however is never present…
(voice cracks) …I want to keep her under a display case, she was the most important woman in my life, the memory of the last four years of dramatic illness still lives in me, I find it hard to see her again in her beauty and elegance, The image of her lying on the bed, weighing 38 kilos haunts me. I don’t want to touch this memory, but I know that she is my guardian angel and helps me in my every step.
In the series he becomes a grandfather. And in life?
(smiles) It depends on my children, if they find the right partner sooner or later it will happen. They don’t talk much about their private lives, and I don’t insist, you know they already criticized me for how I fictionalized them in the first season, so I’m careful. They still loved the series, they know it’s a great, albeit bizarre, declaration of love for family.
Always an early riser to maintain contact with people and intercept their tics and habits?
Always, for me that walk is pure oxygen. At 7.30 I’m already talking to the Egyptian dyer, we discuss Rome with the newsagent, then a trip to the bartender, the Arab florist and the pharmacist. We chat about everything, the world and private things, I stop to talk to the younger fans. This is the real world, of those who wake up early and go to work, our society is full of good people who work hard and are in difficulty, it’s not just the sons of whores. I need to understand how the country is going, how and for whom they vote and why, what jargon the kids use, where racism and prejudices are formed.
After such a successful series, is cinema moving away?
On the contrary, seriality is demanding, the rhythms are infernal, but it gives you the opportunity to innovate, to dare more, it’s an interesting transition. After the third season I will make a film and it will be freer, less conditioned by my usual roles. I will no longer be afraid of melancholy. I started with cinema and I will end with cinema.