Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Tonino Guerra, R.I.P.

Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra [1920-2012], best known for his collaborations with director Michelangelo Antonioni, has died aged 92. Guerra, who scripted more than 100 screenplays, was nominated for three Oscars for his work on Antonioni's BLOW-UP, Fellini's AMARCORD and CASANOVA 70.

Tonino, like that other venerable Italian screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico (who collaborated many times with Visconti, and who died last year aged 96, RIP label) lived through practically a whole century of Italian culture. "We have lost a poet, a genius and marvellous person," said former culture minister Walter Veltroni. These Italians sure have longevity, Antonioni was also in his 90s.

Born in 1920, Guerra, who was also a poet and a sculptor, began to write during World War II, when he was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Germany. He went on to co-author some of the defining Italian films of the 1960s and '70s, working with a host of legendary directors including Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti and Vittorio De Sica. His prolific career spanned some four decades, and later saw him working with contemporary Italian filmmakers such as the Taviani brothers and Giuseppe Tornatore. He also worked with foreign filmmakers including Steven Soderbergh and the Greek director, Theo Angelopolis. He was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival in 1994.

"Tonino had a unique gift for creating images; he was not a technical screenwriter," director Marco Bellocchio told trade paper Variety. "Instead, he was a real artist with a fertile imagination and a genius for storytelling that is becoming ever more rare in the film world these days."

Among his credits: For Antonioni: L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE, L'ECLISSE, THE RED DESERT, BLOW-UP [Edward Bond did the English dialogue], ZABRISKIE POINT and those later films OBERWALD MYSTERY, IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN and BEYOND THE CLOUDS which I have been meaning to write about; Fellini's AMACORD, De Sica's MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE and SUNFLOWER; Theo Angelopoulos with LANDSCAPES IN THE MIST, Andrei Tarkovsky with NOSTALGHIA and Francesco Rosi with the militant politics of THE MATTEI AFFAIR, LUCKY LUCIANO and ILLUSTRIOUS CORPSES, as well as that Julie Christie oddity I keep meaning to re-see IN SEARCH OF GREGORY in '68, CARO MICHELE in '76 and the Tavianis' THE NIGHT OF SHOOTING STARS in '81. More on those Antonionis at Antonioni label.
As long-time Italian columnist John Francis Lane (who used to report the Italian film scene in those '60s "Films & Filming" magazines I liked so much) reports that Guerra fell in love with and married a Russian woman Lora, which led to his Russian phase as he commuted between Rome and Moscow, she survives him along with their film composer son Andrea Guerra.

As my pal Daryl Chin put it at IMDB: "His death confirms the passing of the classic era of Italian cinema".

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