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"Latin Lover is a tribute to the cinema that we all grew up with"

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Cristina Comencini • Director


- The director Cristina Comencini talks about her new comedy, Latin Lover, a tribute to the actors who made Italian cinema so great

Cristina Comencini  • Director
Cristina Comencini (right) with Virna Lisi, on the set of Latin Lover (© Piero Marsili Libelli)

Cristina Comencini returns with a comedy four years after the dramatic When the Night [+see also:
film review
making of
film profile
and two novels published in the meantime. In theatres today with 01 Distribution Latin Lover [+see also:
making of
interview: Cristina Comencini
film profile
, produced by Lionello Cerri with RAI Cinema, is a thoughtful tribute to the actors who made Italian cinema so great, with a prominent European cast enriched by Virna Lisi’s final performance, who passed away a few days before filming ended, last December. The story recounted in the film revolves around a large extended family. Saverio Crispo, played by Francesco Scianna, one of the great actors of Italian cinema, passed away ten years previously and the Apulia village where the actor was born pays him tribute with a commemorative plaque and celebrations. In the large family farmhouse, in the Salento countryside, his two "official" ex wives meet (played by Lisi and the fantastic Spanish actress Marisa Paredes) and the four daughters, had by different relationships while travelling around the world. The Italian daughter (Angela Finocchiaro), a vestige of his artistic legacy with her secret partner (Neri Marcorè), Saverio’s former film editor. The French daughter (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), who’s an actress, with the youngest of three children had herself by three different fathers. The Spanish daughter (Candela Peña), with her extremely macho husband (Jordi Molla) who’s prone to cheating. And the last daughter, the Swedish one (Finnish Pihla Viitala), also an actress. Add to these the daughter (Cecilia Zingaro) of the housemaid and the fifth "official" one: a young American musician (Nadeah Miranda) whose birth dates back to our Latin lover’s Hollywood period. A star performer who the director imagines as a kind of mix between Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Giuliano Gemma, Gian Maria Volontè and Alain Delon in Rocco and His Brothers.

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With the arrival of the Spanish stuntman Pedro (Lluis Homar), the Latin lover’s body double and friend, things get complicated, and in the light of secrets revealed and unceasing rivalry between sisters who are fulminating, the family displays its hard core. The film will be distributed also in Spain, by Wanda Films, which previously brought The Great Beauty [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
festival scope
film profile
to the Iberian Peninsula.   

Cineuropa: The film is dedicated to Virna Lisi, a genuine diva in the international cinema sphere.
Cristina Comencini: I really miss Virna Lisi. I made four films with her and in this most recent one she has a beautiful, comic scene that’s full of humanity. In it emerges the legacy of a woman of her age that has made a mark in cinema. I’d like to remember her with her laughs in this film. She was radiant.

How did the film come about?
The idea for the film was born from the desire to recount the wife and daughter relationship with a mythical man. It was only later that I had the idea to mix the man with the diva-esque separation, of the screen, adding to this debate about relationships the cinema theme, uniting the theme of relationships with the theme of cinema and that diva-esque separation. Then with the co-screenwriter Giulia Calenda we developed the theme into a comedy. We thought that would be the best register, because the basic idea was to evoke freedom, like film does.

It's definitely an omnibus film.
The lucky thing about this film was having an extraordinary cast, namely to be able with each actor and actress, to specify the nature of each character, in such a way that an entire humanity would emerge, from this family that Virna defines inter-continental and that inter alia brings together all of European cinema. I think that this is one of the films in which I spread grace, and I think that you can feel that particularly in the capacity of every actor and actress, in the vitality that every one of them could express in this story.

The scene in which, with the director of photography Italo Petriccione and Francesco Scianna, you worked on re-presenting film extracts that could be easily recognised by the audience, like a rather successful game, comes to mind.
It’s the cinema we all grew up with, not just Italians, everyone comes from that cinema. It was big but it left a lot of offstage scenes unseen, and perhaps we’re narrating them now. While Saverio is small in his private life, the women in their lives become more important: their life, what they have experienced, their suffering, their joy, their laughter fill up the screen for a New Cinema.

(Translated from Italian)

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