Film Scouts Interviews

"Aprile" (April) Press Conference
at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival

by Henri Béhar
Attending : Nanni Moretti, director-actor-screenwriter.

It doesn’t matter how many films he’s appeared in, directed and/or produced before, the image of Nanni Moretti is forever (so far) that offered by his 1993 « Caro Diario » (« Dear Diary ») : the man freewheeling on his scooter through the streets of Rome – and you know everything he observes along the way, social, political, personal, can become fodder for his reflection (i.e. his movie) . Pushing the diary form one notch further, « April » -- which many on the Croisette instantly nicknamed « Deconstructing Nanni » -- follows the trials and tribulations of Moretti since « Dear Diary » : Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing party has taken power, Resistance shapes up, Moretti films a demonstration, documentary-style. Moretti’s wife gets pregnant, he prepares a musical which he cannot shoot as his wife is more and more obviously pregnant and they start debating (read : fighting) about the unborn child’s name, the right-wing government falls, the child is born, what to do : the documentary or the musical ? A center-left goverment is elected. Moretti rides his Vespa through Rome : « I must film what I like ! »

To call « April » self-centered is a masterpiece of understatement. But then, that’s the deal from the word go. And however slightly edited, if not fictionalized, it shows Moretti warts and all. That was the mysterious film Moretti was shooting in 1997 and from which he took a break to serve as a member of the 50th Cannes Festival jury.

NANNI MORETTI: My experience last year was positive. Being part of the jury was interesting. The jurors were all keen on cinema, and used to watching film. It was a pleasant two weeks.

NANNI MORETTI: It's obvious I don't know what film I'm making in the future. In the future, I won't let four years go by between films as was the case with the three previous films. I have no details about my next movie. It will open up a new phase for me. "Aprile" and "Caro Diario" are similar, despite the time elapsed between the two. I find the personal diary format most effective. I made valid choices in "April." I had no pre-conceived ideas. It was written as I went along. The editing was not so much technical as it was creative. The music in the movie was not composed specifically for it, and I used non-professional actors. My real wife played my wife, my mother played my mother.

QUESTION: Your indecisiveness seems to be a basis for your creative process. Do you agree?

NANNI MORETTI : Doubt is often the factor that triggers this thing. It encourages me to make film. In the first episode of « Dear Diary », where the Vespa is going through Rome, I saw a new film germinating. New sensations emerged during the shooting. Style and narration and technical developped from this sensation. That Sylvia played the part of my wife and my mother played my mother was inevitable. They play their own character in a film that is diary and fiction. Naturalism of acting was the fruit of a great deal of work.

I can make these sort of films with (co-producer) Angelo Barbagallo. We've worked together for a while. Our production company (Sacher Films) was set up so we could have freedom of expression and liberty of production. This would have been hard to do with a traditional producer.

NANNI MORETTI : There is a public debate about my doing a musical, and most are in favor of my doing this musical about the Trotsky-esque cook. Musicals are never taken literally. Musicals and comedies are representative of a desire to do something in opposition to serious work.


NANNI MORETTI: I believe in the 21st century, there will be technical innovations in film, and therefore new enthusiasm. New forms of enthusiasm. Personally, I think simplicity matters and it's the hardest to achieve, whether it's simplicity in writing or simplicity in acting. When you see or direct a film, you don't like to be overwhelmed by technological novelties. We need to return to simple cinematic expression.

NANNI MORETTI: Twenty years ago, my film "Ecce Bombo" was here in Cannes. As a filmmaker and filmgoer, my relationship has remained the same. My desire to make film is intact. Personally, not much has changed. I believe the audiences have a desire to see films that are personal expressions. Films have meaning.

In previous films I acted as a fictional character. In the last two, I acted as myself. It doesn't mean all characters are playing themselves. It is difficult to play oneself on film. (...) There is a section of the film where my son is one month old. He fixed the shooting schedule between his feeds and sleep. We'd shoot a scene, then feed and then sleep.

Every film has a different story. With "Aprile", I didn't have much to prepare. I wrote the dialogue the day before. Certain long scenes were prepared in great detail. Other scenes were created during the editing. In some cases, rough versions of the scenes were shot. There is a lot of improvisation in the directing. During editing, I understood what I found. It's an elaborate process.

As for fiction and reality, I am interested in various aspects. On one hand, you have to find a balance between the public and private. At the same time, as a director, you have to try to present your own work. Perhaps the true meaning is something that can't be interpreted on screen. What I see is a duty. The reality is not from duty but from curiosity. I fix images of our country for myself. In Italy, we have a short memory. I freeze moments.

NANNI MORETTI: I never believed the world was against me. As for militant cinema... Playing the game of the Right is an attitude I refused even when I was young. I satirize the left and have dealt with their problems in an ironic way. I am transparent to the public. « Ecce Bombo » was successful twenty years ago because it satirized friends and my own political generation. I dislike that double vision, two-faced attitude where you say what you believe in private and publicly mute criticism.

The left shouldn't forget they are the left. Two years ago, the center left won the elections. They shouldn't forget what factors led to their existence.

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