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An obscene, visionary and psychedelic life

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Renato De Maria • Director


- We put the director of The Obscene Life face to face with novelist Aldo Nove, the author of the book on which the film is based, who also shares screenwriting credits with the director

Renato De Maria  • Director

“For me, Paz has always been a cult movie, like Fellini's Amarcord, and it's the film I've watched the most times, by far. Ever since then, I've been a huge fan of Renato de Maria, and so... I'm very pleased this time, too.” It is a passionate and enthusiastic Aldo Nove who is talking to the press at Venice for the presentation of The Obscene Life [+see also:
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interview: Renato De Maria
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, the first Italian film in competition (in the Orizzonti section) and the latest by De Maria, who, after narrating Andrea Pazienza's comic-book world, has tried his hand at Aldo Nove's book of the same name, a psychedelic and visionary coming-of-age novel interpreted by the new face of French cinema Clément Métayer, the thin actor-by-chance (which he himself admits to) introduced to the silver screen by Olivier Assayas in his revisiting of the May 1968 events in France, Something in the Air [+see also:
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On his skateboard, the young lead character glides through the darkness of an indifferent, shady Milan in which he tries to drown his self-destructive drive: drugs, sex, nihilism and loneliness, in an attempt to achieve a physical and moral suicide induced by his inability to react to the loss of his parents, played by Isabella Ferrari (the director's partner) and Roberto de Francesco. A loss that, while incurable in the present, will drive him to become a poet in the future, which is precisely what happened in real life to Aldo Nove, who co-wrote the script alongside the director.

A writing effort that “paid particular attention to respecting the book”, adds the writer, “which brought the film a great harmony. Renato was able to delve into the written poetry and turn it into visual poetry, an alchemy that is never easy to achieve when dealing with cinematic transpositions. And yet, it happened here, and I am very pleased with the result.”

According to the director, this was “the real challenge of the film”, a project he had been thinking of ever since he read The Obscene Life and found himself completely captivated. “For a director, being confronted with a language as visionary, poetic and musical as Aldo's is an irresistible challenge,” explains De Maria, and so the camera started rolling. It moved quite slowly, though, because finding a producer was far from easy, they say. That is, until independent producers Gianluca De Marchi and Fabio Mazzoni from Film Vision stepped forward, joined by Riccardo Scamarcio and the director's wife, who ever since reading the novel, she admits, had her heart set on playing the protagonist's mother, “a woman filled with light, few thoughts and a huge zest for life, in spite of her illness”.

In “translating” the text into images, De Maria says he has “tried to avoid doing something that had already been done, but rather attempted to create an unseen, psychedelic journey by looking for inspiration everywhere: in video art, amongst online crossovers, in the cinema of David Lynch and Gaspar Noé”. The only “licence” he gave himself was substituting the taxis the protagonist uses to travel across the city with Clément's skateboard, at which the actor is a real expert. The result? “The style of the film as a whole fully resembles me,” confirms the writer. “Renato has managed to find the right poetics to narrate my story, taking power away from the words in favour of the images. In the text, it is words that ring out, and here, every shot rings out instead. I am enthusiastic at the thought of having been the vehicle for this film.” A film, however, that has still not found a distributor.

(Translated from Italian)

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