Non essere cattivo: Caligari’s last will and testament
by Camillo De Marco
- VENICE 2015: This is the third film in 30 years by this outsider of a director, the man behind the cult title Toxic Love, who passed away last May
Non essere cattivo [+see also:
film profile] is the artistic last will and testament of Claudio Caligari, who passed away on 26 May this year, a short time after having completed the editing of the film. Caligari was the classic example of an outsider of a director, who stayed on the sidelines. But he was also a cult auteur with his Toxic Love, which he took to Venice in 1983.
The Venice Film Festival is paying tribute to him today by screening, out of competition, a film that could easily have been selected in competition, such is the strength of its expression. It is a movie that came into being thanks to the commitment of actor Valerio Mastandrea, who even made an appeal to Martin Scorsese. Mastandrea succeeded in bringing Caligari back behind the camera, with production responsibilities entrusted to Kimera Film, Taodue, Leone Film and Rai Cinema (it is in theatres from tomorrow, courtesy of Good Films).
Even though Toxic Love is referred to explicitly as the film opens, through a witty remark, Non essere cattivo does not begin where the first film by the Arona-born director left off. Rather, it is the continuation of it, the necessary conclusion to it. The wild nights of two best friends, two small-time drug dealers from a working-class suburb in Ostia in 1995, stem directly from the long days that the bunch of junkies spent between Rome and the coast of Ostia in order to score their fixes in the early 1980s.
The main characters, Cesare and Vittorio, are played superbly by the two young actors Luca Marinelli (The Solitude of Prime Numbers [+see also:
interview: Luca Marinelli
film profile]) and Alessandro Borghi, flanked by the equally excellent Silvia D'Amico and Roberta Mattei. Caligari leads them through the living hell of ecstasy pills, frenzied car races, scuffles in nightclubs, petty crime and ill-advised friendships. Their wild eyes virtually pop out of their sockets as they are gripped by hallucinations. That is until Vittorio says enough is enough, dumps his junkie girlfriend for an unmarried mother and starts working as a bricklayer on a building site. On the other hand, Cesare does not manage to break free from this self-destructive path, and his friend tries to rescue him, in vain.
It would not be so outrageous to bring up the name of Pier Paolo Pasolini in relation to Caligari’s films, because the settings, the places, the language, the dreams and the frustrations of these working-class suburban kids are the same as those found in the literary and cinematic works of PPP, albeit brought up to date over the decades. Just like Pasolini, Caligari has a really affectionate way of looking at things. We laugh and are moved in this "story of pure love", as Valerio Mastandrea, who is accompanying the film to the festival, described it. "I will greatly miss Claudio Caligari's films," he said. "Those themes that are the same ones as Martin Scorsese's, Brian De Palma's, Francis Ford Coppola's..."
(Translated from Italian)