Scialla!, or Easy!, as it was called in English, premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival but for some reason I was unable to see it. Director Francesco Bruni ended up winning the Controcampo award there and so I was glad for the chance to finally catch it in New York at Lincoln Center’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema last week. I liked Scialla but my husband, Brian, loved it; I think the theme of teaching a boy to be a man really touched him. As it happens, Bruni wrote it for his own son.
“I wanted to say something about the responsibility we have as writers”, said Bruni, at the Q&A after the screening of the film, and for Brian in particular he succeeded. Bruni said that he was interested in speaking to boys, like his son, who he feels are being too influenced by a culture that glorifies violence and chooses the wrong role models. Movies like Romanzo Criminale, for example, give them the wrong idea about life.
In Scialla!, Fabrizio Bentivoglio plays Bruno, the burned out teacher who spends his day half-ass tutoring high school students, getting high, and ghost-writing biographies for famous people. In the film he’s busy interviewing Tina, a porn star played by Barbora Bobulova, who does a great job as the rich and glamorous actress who’s made her living with “DP” (don’t ask).
One of Bruno’s student’s parents chose him as a tutor not quite by chance – the boy is Bruno’s son, and the mother needed for them to meet. She’s leaving the country and needs Bruno to take the kid in while she’s away. At first Bruno tells the boy, who doesn’t know anything about who his dad is and thinks he may be in prison, that he can stay but that he’s no babysitter and that he’s going to have to take care of himself. Later, he finds himself compelled to take a more active role.
The boy was played by Stefano Brunori, who got the role by chance, having come to the audition with a friend who wanted the part. Again, I am amazed by Italian directors and their ability to find actors with no experience and get such great results. Brunori is a natural as the boy who is clearly at risk and yet has been guided sufficiently by his mother’s love and is not a total loss. He needs a father, and he finally gets one.
Francesco Bruni said that his own son was not only the inspiration for Scialla but also an influence when he wrote the dialogue. These lines from the film were apparently direct quotes from a conversation with his son:
Stefano – Paying too much attention to girls is a little gay.
Bruno – The logic escapes me.
Stefano – It hurts your street cred.
Frances Ford Coppola is planning to make an American version of this movie, but God knows what that will turn out like – see the original. Francesco Bruni is hoping for American distribution, and he asked us in the audience to sing the praises for “Scialla!” and get the word about his work.
Sure thing, Francesco. Scialla!