Cinema, director Paolo Taviani died in Rome at the age of 92


By John

Rigor and civil commitment: this is the mark of the Tavianis, the most close-knit couple of all, those Tuscan brothers who came to Rome in the 1950s to change the world and managed to change Italian cinema. After Vittorio's passing, on April 15, 2018, sand Paolo Taviani also passes away today at the age of 92, in the Villa Pia clinic in Rome, after a short illness. The secular funeral ceremony will take place on Monday 4 March at the Promototeca del Campidoglio, from 10am to 1pm. His latest solo film, «Leonora addio», presented in competition in Berlin in 2022, follows the daring journey of Pirandello's ashes, from Rome to Agrigento, fifteen years after his death: «Vittorio and I grew up together and always working», Paolo said on that occasion. “I can still feel his breath behind me. He also really liked the set and I remember we argued over the scenes, when it was my turn and I had finished shooting I looked for his approval and I confess I did it even now in this first film without him”.

He wanted his last film to be in black and white, as in an ideal return to the beginnings of that cinema, signed by Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, which since the 1950s has traced an ideal boundary line between the teachings of Neorealism and a new realist cinema, deliberately ideological and poetic at the same time. Born in San Miniato, near Pisa, to a bourgeois family, with a lawyer and anti-fascist father, the The Taviani brothers arrive in Rome with a very clear idea in their heads: making cinema, influenced by the discovery of «Paisà» (Rossellini is the declared master), moved by «Bicycle Thieves». «When the film came out – Paolo said – it was another love affair, and as in every love affair you want your girlfriend close. But in the provinces films appear and disappear, Italian films in particular in those years. And the two of us chased it, that film, by bicycle, by train, from Pisa to Pontedera to Livorno to Lucca. We saw it over and over again because we had decided to rewrite the screenplay from memory, with the dialogues, the trolleys, the cuts: we wanted to own that language.”

But they are models that then transformed into inner awareness, so much so that the two brothers have always denied having a single point of reference and that they above all love the comparison with literature; also collaboration with Valentino Orsini (at their side at the debut) and with the most faithful producer (the former partisan Giuliani De Negri) it has always been more of an ideological comparison than an aesthetic guide. From the partnership were born films that have marked the history of cinema such as the prophetic «Subversives» about the end of blind faith in real communism and the visionary «Under the sign of the scorpion» about the repression in Czechoslovakia; they anticipated the failure of the revolutionary utopia by drawing on the history of the Risorgimento with “San Michele had a rooster” and “Allosanfan”. In 1977 they won the Palme d'Or with “Padre Signore” and eight years later they triumphed again in Cannes with their greatest success, «La notte di San Lorenzo» (Special Jury Prize). Their meeting with Pirandello and the short stories of «Kaos» dates back to 1984, followed in 1998 by «Tu ridi”; in 2012, after a long period that saw them deal with the television story, they won the Berlin Film Festival with «Caesar Must Die».

The latest collaboration dates back to 2017 with «A private matter” that Paolo manages alone, while his brother Vittorio is forced to stay at home due to the illness that would take him away a few months later. Since then Paolo Taviani has defined himself as “half a director” because half of him was no longer on the set, he felt like “a cinema employee because ultimately – he explained – Vittorio and I have always worked with certain rules and a certain rhythm , perhaps in time slowed down by advancing age but always guided by a fundamental rigor like that of the employees of the past. Films change, I do much less and I continue to think that we do this job because if cinema has this strength, of reveal our own truth to ourselves, then it is worth putting ourselves to the test.” With over twenty films behind us (not counting documentaries, advertisements and a few missing shorts such as the last episode of “Tu ridi”) as many major awards and a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (in 1986), the two brothers have demonstrated that passion, perseverance, rigor and loyalty to reality can be rewarded.