Salvo, a provocation against run-of-the-mill comedies
by Camillo De Marco
- An interview with the authors of the film noir Salvo, Grand Prize and Visionary Award at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week
Following in the footsteps of Frank Costello and Jean-Pierre Melville and Alain Delon’s Le Samourai, Salvo, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s debut film, screened at the Critics’ Week at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The dark comedy set in Sicily has yet to find Italian distribution, and producers Massimo Cristaldi and Fabrizio Mosca were only able to make the film thanks to French coproduction involving Mact Productions, Cité Films and Arte France Cinema, for a total budget of €1.7 million.
“The way in which Salvo was welcomed in France cannot be compared to its reception in Italy. The same is true for short Rita, which has certain key elements in common with Salvo," the directors and screenwriters confirmed to Cineuropa. “The reaction in our country was defined by fear and perplexity towards the film. This probably has something to do with the economic crisis. One is always more hesitant to take a chance and take the road less travelled. We also met with cultural limitations and preconceptions from certain quality film distributors: if our film had been Turkish, it may have been easier to find a distributor,” they smiled.
Let us turn back to the birth of the project. “In 2008, we received a Special Mention for the screenplay at the Franco Solinas awards, which is where we met producers Massimo Cristaldi and Fabrizio Mosca, who were part of the jury. They fell in love with the project and asked us to develop the project with them. We instantly received support from the Torino Film Lab and Alessandro Rais, who was head of a then well-functioning Sicily Film Commission, also liked our project. A political change halted everything though, and funds disappeared. The Sicily F. F. eventually returned its support, as did MiBac (the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities) through its financing for debut films. We went forward with the French and did as much as we could with such a small budget.”
A few critics have found the film discontinuous and affected, but the film mainly reveals the two young filmmakers’ great love for cinema. “The genre and perspective choices come from the story’s needs,” Grassadonia explained. “The story is born with a mafia killer who commits a brutal crime. This has a connotation which seemed noir to us, and it seemed right for us to bring the spectator into a classic style of narration. But we then introduce an extraordinary element, at which point the characters fall into another story, which means we adapted to this evolution in genre. We asked ourselves: how do you present blindness? It was a formal choice to accept silence within the silence of knowing in such desolate surroundings. It was not simply an exhibition game, but involved a will to deeply follow the depth within the sense of story.”
“I agree with what Fabio said, but would like to add that we believe in the screenplay as a starting point and we love cinema genres. In Italy though, it seems like comedy is the only genre possible, while we took the risk to go and find something different. There have been great genre masters, but now there is a demolition and homogenization going on which we are not interested in.”
We asked Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza if they were writing something new after Salvo. “We are working on two ideas, one of which is actually a comedy! But not like the ones that have been in cinemas in recent years. We are imagining one which may not be appreciated by the usual crowds.”