All about Zeffirelli, the documentary from the Venice Film Festival in Piazza Santo Spirito

September 15, 2022 – 1:59 pm

Tomorrow the screening of the documentary by Anselma Dell’Olio on the “rebel conformist” to do justice to the person and the artist

from Marco Luceri

The solar images of the Most iconic Florencewith Ponte Vecchio, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi. Following those of November 1966, with the water of the Arno that takes everything away. The “live” words of a Hollywood star, his friend Richard Burton, who commented on the tragedy with astonishment, then the voice – many years later – still broken by emotion, of Franco Zeffirelli, who then felt the need to document what was happening with the urgency of cinema. The great beauty and the fatal cruelty of existence are the keys to enter that “world” made of oxymorons by Franco Zeffirelli. Rebel conformist, the documentary, directed and written by Anselma Dell’Olio, presented a few days ago at the Venice Film Festival, in the «Venezia Classici» section. The film will be screened tomorrow (Friday 16 September at 20.30) in Piazza Santo Spirito, during an evening open to the public., for an event organized by the cultural association Bang! (in collaboration with La Casa Rosa and RS Productions) which was made by the municipal administration. In addition to the director, the producer Francesca Verdini, the co-producer Pietro Peligra, the director of the Zeffirelli Foundation Museum Caterina D’Amico and the mayor Dario Nardella will also be present.

Starting from the contradictions of his hometown (“Florence is good and evil, mother and murderer, whore and faithful wife, mother of his children and above all a great teacher” says Zeffirelli in the film), the documentary tells the decisive moments, the turning points and the roller coaster of a brilliant and eventful international career, as well as the daring existence of a great Italian artist as much acclaimed abroad as opposed at home. From his origins as NN’s son to the conquest of great world fame as an extraordinarily revolutionary director in theater and opera as well as conservative in cinema. Through the meetings (for example the one with Queen Elizabeth II), the period images of some of the most acclaimed stars who knew and worked with (Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Alberto Sordi, Eduardo De Filippo, Anna MagnaniSuso Cecchi d’Amico, Ava GardnerCary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas, Liz Taylor and many others), and the original testimonies of family, friends and collaborators (including Giancarlo Antognoni, Adriana Asti, Roberto Bolle, Placido Domingo, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeremy Irons, up to his son Pippo), the film tries to “do justice” to the person and the artist, in all its often paradoxical facets: the feverish and avid character of Zeffirelli’s experiences, manifested in his vast and multiple artistic production, but also his political choices (first Christian Democrat and then Berlusconian), his spirituality and love for the mystery (he “converted” to religion after a bad accident), the legendary controversies with opposing critics, especially those on the left, and the friendships you don’t expect (Ennio Flaiano, with usual perfidy, he had renamed “Scespirelli”). The result is the portrait of an irreducible and unclassifiable man, indomitable curmudgeon in the world of addicted conformism typical of that Italian cultural industry that Zeffirelli loved to distinguish from Italian culture, the highest and most popular (often for him, an unrepentant Shakespearean, the two dimensions were superimposable, if not identical), which he proudly carried around the world.

“It is the first time that a cinematographic work investigates the many, varied and even opposing professional, cultural and character facets of Franco Zeffirelli – explained Anselma Dell’Olio – I was interested in the little-known differences between the vast, singular charm that aroused the his name in the great cultural capitals of the world and the ” soft mustache ” with which he was treated in Italy. With the sole exception of his operas, for which in his country he had a minimal part of the honors, respect, glory and veneration that surrounded him abroad ». “The aristocratic masters of the English theater, for all it is enough to mention Laurence Olivier, treated Zeffirelli as an equal, they revered him and considered him the most famous Italian after Arturo Toscanini – explained the director – Yet to the great fame at abroad, a similar position is not paid in Italy. Because? Gadda spoke of the “Italian mange of denigrating ourselves”, this is exactly what Zeffirelli suffered. Then there is a perhaps more pragmatic reason, the contempt that arose for Franco after his professional and sentimental break with Visconti, with whom he took the first steps in his career. It is as if that breakup had been made to pay dearly … Then alongside this I was even more interested in the interior life of a homosexual person, a convinced Catholic, discreet but never hidden, in an era much less liberal than the present ” .

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15 September 2022 | 13:59


All about Zeffirelli, the documentary from the Venice Film Festival in Piazza Santo Spirito