A revelation in Gabriele Muccino’s 2001 film Solo a baccio, Giovanna Mezzogiorno grew up in front of the cameras of Ferzan Ozpetek, Cristina Comencini, or Wim Wenders. In 2009, she once again impressed audiences with her role in Vincere, by Marco Bellocchio which was presented in Competition. This year, she can be seen in La Prima linea (Front Line), an acerbic view of the terrorism that afflicted Italy during the so-called anni di piombo. We interviewed this committed actress.
A year after your role in Vincere, presented her in Competition, you are back as a member of the Feature Film Jury. How did you feel when you crossed through the looking glass?
“I was very excited because it was a unique opportunity to experience this essential cinema event, the Cannes Film Festival, from the inside. In my career, it’s a fantastic experience on all levels, artistic, professional, and above all, human. When you come here to present a film, you generally end up quite dazed by all the demands on your attention. This time, I have really been able to steep myself in the spirit and the soul of the Festival. Up to present, I have made a real effort not to judge the films as an actress, but more as a spectator. It is the most honest way that I have found to do my job properly.”
What memories do you have of your time in Cannes for Vincere?
“I remember that we were especially proud of presenting the film at Cannes. It was a great moment for the whole crew. We had put a lot of passion into making that film. The French and international press really were extremely enthusiastic about Vincere. To tell you the truth, we were all very disappointed that the film didn’t win a prize.”
When critics talk about the Italian cinema, they often describe it as a phœnix being perpetually reborn from its ashes. What do you think?
“The Italian cinema is actually pretty good at renewing itself. It presently has some very good writers and a really interesting new generation of actors. But because there’s not enough financial support, it’s suffering from an economic crisis that is really quite worrying. So much so that is getting hard to export our films abroad. To cap it all, Italian audiences are not crazy about home-grown movies.”
How do you explain this increasingly deep need for Italian film-makers to keep going back over Italy’s past?
“I think that historical films are essential because they help keep a country alive culturally. It is vital to keep making this kind of film, even if they not so popular with the general public. These days, audiences need to be pushed to take an interest in the history of their country. Present-day Italy needs to understand what happened over these last thirty years. That necessity is expressed through the cinema.”
Which film of the 7th Art still lingers in your memory as an actress?
“I would say right away Sophie’s Choice byAlan J. Pakula (1983). Meryl Streep is quite simply sublime. That movie was so important to me in forging an idea of my craft because it contained the most extraordinary moments for an actress. It’s one of the films I have spent the most time analysing, to understand what it really means to be an actress.”
If you could take just one film with you in your baggage, which one would you choose?
“Without hesitation it would be Brazil, by Terry Gilliam. For me, it’s an essential film to keep everyone happy on vacation!”
What’s the mood like among the Jury?
“The mood is very calm. We haven't started to kill each other yet! More seriously, it is an incredible experience for me to be able to work alongside Tim Burton. The Cannes Festival is the absolute example of an enduring passion; it has constancy, coherence, respect. I’m looking forward to coming back as quickly as possible with films in Competition. My membership of the Jury is something that I will never forget.”
Report by B.P.