Nationality: Italian. Born: Brunico, Bolzano, Italy, 19 August 1953. Education: Self-taught. Family: Son, Pietro, with Silvia Nono. Career: Made his first amateur film, La sconfitta, 1973; directed additional amateur films Pate de bourgeois, 1973, and Come parli frate, 1974, shot on Super 8mm, which were screened in local cineclubs and amateur festivals; directed his first feature, Io sono un autarchico, 1976; started a production company, Sacher Films, and an art house cinema, Nuovo Sacher, which screens independent films from across the globe. Awards: Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Story, for Ecce bombo, 1978; Venice Film Festival Special Grand Jury Prize, for Sogni d'oro, 1981; Berlin Film Festival C.I.C.A.E. Award and Silver Berlin Bear, for La massa e finita, 1985; Sao Paolo International Film Festival Critics Award, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Original Story, for Palombella rossa, 1989; Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Producer, for Il portaborse, 1991; Cannes Film Festival Best Director, European Film Awards
FIPRESCI Award, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Director, for Caro Diario, 1994; Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Producer, for La seconda volta, 1996.
Films as Director/Screenwriter/Actor:
Io sono un autarchico (I Am Self-sufficient) (+ pr, ed)
Sogni d'oro (Sweet Dreams)
La massa e finita (The Mass Is Ended) (co-sc)
Palombella rossa (Red Lob) (+ co-pr)
La cosa (The Thing) (doc) (d, pr, ed only)
Caro Diario (Dear Diary) (+ co-pr); L'Unico paese al mondo(co-d) (short)
Il giorno della prima di Close-Up (Opening Day of Close-Up) (short)
Aprile (+ pr)
La Stanza del figlio
Padre padrone (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani) (ro)
Notte italiana (Mazzacurati) (pr)
Domani accadra (It'll Happen Tomorrow) (Luchetti) (co-pr, ro)
Nanni Moretti (doc) (ro as interviewee)
Il portaborse (The Factotum) (Luchetti) (co-pr, ro)
Trois vies et une seule mort (Ruiz) (ro, uncredited); La seconda volta (Calopresti) (co-pr, ro)
By MORETTI: articles—
"Nanni Moretti," interview by F. Cuel and B. Villien in Cinématographie (Paris), November 1981.
"Conversation con Nanni Moretti," interview by M. Garriba in Filmcritica (Rome), April/May 1984.
"Entretien avec Nanni Moretti," interview by S. Toubiana in Cahiersdu Cinéma (Paris), November 1989.
"Nous voudrions que ce soir ca se termaine bien: entretien avec Nanni Moretti," interview by J. A. Gilli in Positif (Paris), December 1989.
"Entretien avec Nanni Moretti," interview with S. Toubiana and N. Saada in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1991.
On MORETTI: books—
Giovannini, Memmo, Enrico Magrelli, and Mario Sesti, Nanni Moretti, Naples, 1986.
De Bernardinis, Flavio, Nanni Moretti, Florence, 1987.
On MORETTI: articles—
Davis, M. S., "Meet the Golden Boys Who Make Italy's New Film Comedies," in New York Times, 6 December 1981.
Strauss, F., "Je suis un autarcique," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1989.
Jousse, T., "Le corps du defi," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1989.
"Nanni Moretti," profile in International Film Guide (London, Hollywood), 1992.
Schmitt, T., "Acrostiche pour Moretti), in L'Avant-Scene Cinéma (Paris), June 1993.
Rooney, David, "Nanni Moretti," in International Film Guide, London and Hollywood, 1997.
* * *
Most Americans have never heard of Nanni Moretti, an Italian-born director-comedian who made his first film in 1973 at age twenty and has been a regular on the international film festival circuit since the early 1980s. This lack of recognition is not without irony, since his style of visually refined physical humor may be linked to the comic techniques of some of America's most beloved funnymen (including Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers). But Moretti's cinematic concerns involve much more than making his audiences laugh. He has been compared to Woody Allen in that both filmmakers have intellects, and both fill their work with philosophical deliberations.
Moretti is especially concerned with the political situation in his country, and the manner in which politics and politicians affect the lives of citizens. Palombella rossa is a typical Moretti film: both an off-the-wall satire and a pensive allegory about the choices, both personal and political, an individual makes in his life. It is the story of Michele, a character who often appears in Moretti's films in different guises (and is played by the filmmaker). By 1990s' standards, Michele is an anachronism in that he is a staunch communist. He also is a politician and a water-polo player. Much of the film is set during a water-polo match in which Michele constantly debates the merits of his politics with various individuals, from his teenaged daughter to journalists and political activists. All the while, the screen version of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak's contemplation of communism, airs on a nearby TV set. There also are flashbacks to Michele's youth. He is shown to be haunted by the more painful of his childhood memories, which adds insight into his present-day character.
Despite all this, Michele primarily is a comical creation. In his first appearance on screen, he drives his car and trades funny faces with some children in the back seat of the auto in front of him. This diversion results in his crashing into another car, causing a brief bout of amnesia that leads to the goings-on during the water-polo match.
On one level, Palombella rossa serves as an examination of the state of communism in Italy; the athletic contest slowly degenerates into chaos, which may be seen as a reflection of the political state of Italy. But one thing is clear: Moretti is lampooning all political theorists and blowhards, those who are pro- or anti-communist/fascist/capitalist but who end up becoming tangled in their own rhetoric. Even more specifically, the film serves as his shout of despair for the collapse of communism and the corruption of the true, ideologically pure communist objective: a fair and equitable economic system in which all people, rather than certain individuals, might thrive.
Moretti also overtly deals with politics in his first feature, I Am Self-sufficient, in which he spoofs the totalitarian ideal while chronicling the goings-on in a theater group; he also appears as an actor in Daniel Luchetti's Il Portaborse, an impassioned assault on corruption within Italy's Socialist party. In his other films, however, Moretti focuses on additional issues with which he is intrigued. In The Mass Is Over, a speculation on the meaning of love, he plays a young cleric whose sense of priestly duty is jarred by the fact that his predecessor had broken his vows.
Moretti further spotlights this theme in Bianca, in which he plays a high school mathematics teacher who is consumed by the idea of romantic love. In this film, Moretti also drolly scrutinizes Europeans' fixation on American pop culture, as his teacher is employed in the "Marilyn Monroe" alternative high school, where each classroom comes complete with a jukebox. In the autobiographical Sweet Dreams, he plays a filmmaker who shares a complex relationship with his mother. As the character is lauded by those who desire to collaborate with him on future projects and censured as a fraud by those put off by his opinions, Moretti reflects on the varied manner in which he is viewed as a filmmaker.
Moretti's most widely distributed film to date is Caro Diario. It is divided into three distinctly personal sections, each of which mirrors the director's concerns about his culture and, ultimately, his own survival. In the first, Moretti rides around Rome on a Vespa and makes off-the-wall observations about what he sees and feels. He pronounces that he is obsessed with Jennifer Beals, of Flashdance fame. This plays itself out on screen with the sudden appearance of Beals, who just so happens to be on the same street as Moretti at that very moment; as a cinematic effect, this also coincides with the manner in which Woody Allen employed Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall. Moretti also savages pompous film critics who know nothing of real life, and who extol such films as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and he ponders why he has never visited the spot where Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered.
In Part 2, Moretti goes island-hopping in Southern Italy. Here, he spotlights the same concerns he had dealt with earlier in Bianca, and considers a most relevant contemporary question: How long can a man exist without a television set? Part 3 is the most serious segment. Here, Moretti re-stages his own cancer treatment. A sequence he filmed as he readied himself for a real chemotherapy treatment precedes reenactments of him enduring uncomfortable itches and visiting numerous doctors. Each one offers different diagnoses. Each one hands him prescriptions for different pills, and the poor guy ends up with so many that he could open his own drugstore. Once again, Moretti manages to joke about a serious situation, and in doing so pulls off quite a feat: finding humor in his own mortality.
Moretti reappears as his humorously obsessive self in Aprile, his Caro Diario follow-up. He again depicts himself as self-absorbed and angst-ridden, and he focuses on three issues that are constants in his films: Italian politics; American culture and movies; and family. Moretti complains that his favored candidates are bound to lose an upcoming election, ponders the 1950s Hollywood-style musical he is set to direct, and prepares for the birth of his first child. The occasion of the latter directly parallels the content of the final section of Caro Diario.
While Aprile is often delightful, it is not as incisive as Caro Diario—and it earned neither the acclaim nor the distribution of its predecessor.