touch the soul of Sicily, transcending the ordinary, the conventional,
the stereotypical. Giuseppe Tornatore was born and raised in Bagheria
(outside Palermo). He started working very young as a photographer,
publishing in various photographic magazines. At the age of sixteen
he staged two plays by Pirandello and De Filippo. For the cinema
he has made various documentaries, including Il Carretto, highly
acclaimed at several regional and national film festivals in Italy.
In 1979 be
began a long collaboration with RAI (Italy's national television
network), for which he directed several programs. From 1978 to
1985, he was chairman of the CLCT Cooperative, which produced
Giuseppe Ferrara's film 100 Days in Palermo, with Lino Ventura.
Tornatore also co-wrote the screenplay and directed the second
unit. In 1986 he made his debut in feature films with Il Cammorrista
("The Gangster"), starring Ben Gazzara. Freely adapted
from the book by Giuseppe Marrazzo, this singular motion picture
won Tornatore a Golden Globe for best new director.
is a hallmark of Tornatore's "Sicilian" movies. Nuovo
Cinema Paradiso, which took place in small-town Sicily, was the
film that put Tornatore on the map with international audiences.
It won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1990. The Star Maker,
set in post-war Sicily, was released in 1995, followed by Malèna
in 2000. The social statements of Malèna, an emotional story which
takes place in a fictional Sicilian town during the war, are powerfully
as well as Italians have found Sicily fertile cinematic territory.
The eccentric Milanese director Roberta Torre comes to mind. It's
difficult to overlook the fact that Tornatore's movies, compared
to Francis Ford Coppola's Mafia tales (The Godfather) and Michael
Cimino's stories (The Sicilian), depict the real Sicily and real
Sicilians. Luchino Visconti's The Leopard, starring Burt Lancaster
(based on the di Lampedusa novel), was directed exceptionally
well. But Tornatore, a younger director, is not afraid to confront,
in a serious way, difficult historical and social issues that
most Sicilians themselves rarely discuss --including Fascism and
the Second World War-- through the eyes of individual characters
and situations. With time, he is earning respect as that rarest
of cinematic talents --a "Director's Director."
gives interviews, preferring to let his work speak for itself.
Artistically, that's a solid position. Giuseppe Tornatore's work
speaks well of its creator.
has never been timid about casting inexperienced actors or even
non-professional ones. Here's what he had to say about the subject
when The Star Maker (filmed in places like old Poggioreale) opened
to rave reviews:
to cast a non-professional, or worse still, someone who you don't
even know if and where you'll find him or her, is like asking
the first person you come across to hold onto your savings. You
never know if you'll ever get your money back. The search for
non-professional actors has no rule. It can be a question of feeling,
or simply luck. It can be fun or excruciating. During the shooting
of The Star Maker, one morning we were stuck because an actress
hadn't turned up on the set. We thought something had happened
to her and that she was delayed but would eventually arrive. We
didn't have an alternative shooting schedule. We were in a tiny
town in the middle of nowhere and it was impossible to find another
actress that could take her place. The missing actress finally
called. In tears, she told us that she had unexpectedly been called
by the Education Ministry for a teaching job --I don't know where--
and if she missed the interview, she would lose the opportunity
of a permanent position. She was terribly sorry but, between taking
part in a Tornatore film and a 'stable job' she had no doubt which
one to choose!" (More