29 April 2007

Paolo Verzi's New Film

Yes, there was a time when I hadn't heard of him, either...
I got a call from a colleague back in the spring of 2000 offering me a storyboard gig on an Italian comedy that was going to incorporate Toronto in its usual role as a double for Manhattan. That very evening, the film's director, Paolo Verzi, was hosting a free screening of one of his films at The Royal Ontario Museum for the crew so that everyone could get better acquainted with his sensibility and the tone he was going for with this particular production, "My Name Is Tanino".

The film, Ovosodo (translation: "Hard Boiled Egg") was absolutely hilarious--I laughed constantly and marveled at its cinematic invention. Why hadn't I heard of this guy? I knew a thing or two about current Italian cinema--Maurizio Nichetti and Carlo Carlei were favorites--and yet somehow, Verzi's works remained off-the-radar to the North American scene.

Verzi was a delight to work with--we communicated back and forth via a harried translator--and he was such a talented artist I wondered why he'd hired me at all (he scribbled a bang-on caricature of yours truly during one of our story sessions). But it was often hard for him to finish a sentence, as he was constantly on the phone with his producers and financiers--extremely vocal sessions that would usually result in a stream of multi-language profanity and violent desk and chair kicking that on more than one occassion had me slinking out of the room.

Suffice to say, the film was "problem-plagued", to use the polite industry vernacular, and managed to get finished (miraculously!) in a form less-than-intended--my storyboards for its planned epic climax, set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way", in which an Italian naval vessel pulls into New York Harbor to take the title character back home to serve out his mandatory military sentence--got axed. The one scene I did that remained in the film can be found on my online portfolio here. "My Name Is Tanino" played a lone date in Canada: Toronto's 2002 Italian Film Festival. And to think that it starred current It-Girl Rachel McAdams in one of her first roles!

Well, the good news is that Verzi's back with new film that's a bit different from his usual Chuck-Jones-Meets-Woody-Allen-Meets-Fellini slapstick romps: "Napoleon And Me" is still a comedy, concerning a "what-if" scenario during the failed French emperor's exile on the Italian isle of Elba. The film stars Elio Germano as young man hired to be Napoleon's secretary while harbouring a desire to assassinate him, "Cache" star Daniel Atieul as a certain Monsieur Bonaparte, and the stunningly beautiful Monica Bellucci--every movie should have one--as "baroness floozy", according to the review.

You can read that review from Tribeca here, courtesy of the informed folks at Cinematical.