JOY AND PAIN AMID CHAOS

Two women meet in a psy­chi­atric in­sti­tu­tion and em­bark on an ad­ven­ture of dis­cov­ery, writes Philippa Hawker

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature - Like Crazy

Va­le­ria Bruni Tedeschi owes her role in Like Crazy to a mo­ment of serendip­ity. She was work­ing with writer-di­rec­tor Paolo Virzi on a film called Hu­man Cap­i­tal. Virzi’s wife, ac­tress Mi­caela Ra­maz­zotti, was vis­it­ing the set, and she and Bruni Tedeschi went for a walk.

“I think Paolo had a sort of vi­sion or an in­tu­ition,” Bruni Tedeschi says, “that Mi­caela and I could be a cou­ple, a cinema cou­ple. He had this story that was im­por­tant for him to tell, about a woman and her sick­ness,” and see­ing the two ac­tresses to­gether, he felt that he had glimpsed a way of bring­ing the story to life.

Like Crazy is a com­edy, a drama and an emo­tional road trip, the story of two women who meet at a psy­chi­atric in­sti­tu­tion and em­bark on an ad­ven­ture of dis­cov­ery and chaos.

Bruni Tedeschi is vivid, funny and frag­ile as Beatrice; a pa­tri­cian, lofty and dis­con­cert­ing fig­ure with an un­stop­pable flow of con­ver­sa­tion and eva­sion. She’s a ma­nip­u­la­tor and a fab­u­list, but she’s also per­cep­tive and shrewd. “She has a sort of strange in­tel­li­gence and in­tu­ition, a strange way to tell the truth, a strange way to love,” Bruni Tedeschi says. She takes charge of Donatella (Ra­maz­zotti) — si­lent, skele­tal — who car­ries a bur­den of trauma and longs to be re­united with her young son. The pair seem ut­terly un­alike, but they have cru­cial things in com­mon.

“It’s a joy­ful movie,” Bruni Tedeschi says, “but it’s a painful movie too, It wasn’t easy to be in con­tact with these feel­ings. Even if the scenes are some­times funny, I had to stay in touch with what was deep and painful. That was the jour­ney of this movie.”

On the first day of shoot­ing, she says, af­ter a se­ries of false starts, she found the right rhythm for her char­ac­ter, “faster than my rhythm in life”. Beatrice has a lot in com­mon with Blanche Dubois of A Street­car Named De­sire, Bruni Tedeschi says. Blanche was a ref­er­ence point for Virzi and his co-writer, Francesca Archibugi, “and I thought of her all the time”.

Beatrice has her own, sin­gu­lar qual­i­ties, how­ever. She is im­petu­ous; she rushes in, then works out what to do af­ter­wards. She’s a volatile fig­ure who can switch rapidly from one emo­tional state to an­other, and Bruni Tedeschi had to find the right way to make these abrupt tran­si­tions. The risk was to do too much, to be too en­ter­tain­ing, she says.

Some of the in­mates at the in­sti­tu­tion — Va­le­ria Bruni Tedeschi in Like Crazy, left; Tedeschi and Mi­caela Ra­maz­zotti in a scene from the film, below which is shown to be a pro­gres­sive place — are played by ac­tual psy­chi­atric pa­tients. “It was im­por­tant for us to be with them, it was a big in­spi­ra­tion and obli­ga­tion of truth and re­spect”, even in the comic scenes, Bruni Tedeschi says

As an ac­tress, she’s still dis­cov­er­ing things about her char­ac­ter long af­ter the end of the shoot: she’s be­gin­ning to re­alise, she says, that Donatella is the first per­son who has needed Beatrice, she is the daugh­ter Beatrice would have liked to have had. “It’s in the movie,” she says, “but I only be­gin to see it now.”

Bruni Tedeschi, a French-Ital­ian ac­tress and writer-di­rec­tor who of­ten stars in her own films, re­cently co-di­rected a doc­u­men­tary, Une je­une fille de 90 ans (A Young Girl of 90), about an el­derly woman with de­men­tia who falls in love with a chore­og­ra­pher who does dance work­shops for peo­ple with Alzheimer’s.

She can see that the film has things in com­mon with the themes of Like Crazy, she says. The chore­og­ra­pher, Thierry Thieu Ngiang, was a reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tor with the Pa­trice Chereau, the film, theatre and opera di­rec­tor with whom she made sev­eral films and who she was close to. “For me, since the death of Chereau, I do many things con­nected with him, it’s a way to still be with him,” she says.

Look­ing ahead, she’s do­ing her first tele­vi­sion se­ries, Les Parisi­ennes — “it’s very well writ­ten and I hope it will be good”. She has a new film she’s plan­ning to write and di­rect that she can’t say too much about. She has no doubt, she adds, that it will be in some way con­nected with what she has done be­fore, even if it’s not im­me­di­ately clear to her. “There are un­con­scious links be­tween ev­ery­thing I do,” she says. Dis­cov­er­ing what they are is a part of the cre­ative process with which she’s very com­fort­able. is cur­rently screen­ing.

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