Good Heavens!

All the charm, the talent and the technical skills to play all kinds of characters. Italian and otherwise. Present at the festival with two titles in the competition, Comandante and Adagio, Pierfrancesco Favino throws the rock into the lagoon and triggers a controversy destined to linger far beyond the confines of the festival. The issue concerns the choice of so many American auteurs, the latest being Michael Mann, competing with Ferrari, and Ridley Scott with House of Gucci, to entrust overseas stars with the task of playing roles of figures from the history of Italy. As chance would have it, in the two films mentioned above, the choice fell on the same name, that of the seraphic and lusty Adam Driver whose ears must have been ringing wildly for at least 48 hours since Favino took it out on him. On behalf of his colleagues, he took off on a tirade against the under-appreciation of our stars, the fault, he said, of producers and writers, but also of the actors themselves who would not make their voices heard enough, claiming parts that are theirs by right of nationality.

Open heavens. That’s all the talk on the Lido by now. Yet, to examine the issue properly, without getting caught up in sudden patriotic emphasis, Favino is, on the one hand, right and, on the other, wrong. Indeed, Italian figures in U.S. films often end up ridiculous, and our famous names could play more often in foreign productions, and arrangements need to be made for this to happen. The point, however, is also another. Writers should be free to choose, for their stories, the faces and bodies that seem most appropriate to them; the idea that they must strictly meet nationality criteria is impractical. It is not the case that, to portray a mafioso, you need an actor born in Italy, perhaps in Sicily. All it takes is one title, The Godfather, and the outcry deflates. The list of examples would be very long, full of Oscars and crucial performances. Then, perhaps, it is better to reflect on another aspect. That concerns language understood precisely as an idiom. How many Italian actors can act perfectly in English? And how much does the place of birth matter if, in the movies, we will then see Adam Driver perfectly dubbed in Italian in the role of “Drake”? The homeland must be defended, of course, but fortunately, borders and passports matter little in cinema. Other things always win: suggestion, bravura, glamour, inventiveness. That stardust that has no marks or flags.

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