All About Italy (USA) - - Editorial - Dante Fer­retti

Since 1993, he has col­lab­o­rated with Martin Scors­ese, who doesn’t make a move un­til he is sure that no one else is tak­ing care of his pro­duc­tion de­sign: Dante Fer­retti, born in 1943, is one of the last pro­tag­o­nists of that leg­endary Ital­ian cin­ema that set an ex­am­ple for the world, and has worked with the great­est artists, from Fellini to Pa­solini. A fre­quent win­ner of in­ter­na­tional prizes (in­clud­ing three Os­cars and four BAFTAS, with­out count­ing his five home-turf David di Donatel­los), he trav­els the world with his wife, Francesca Loschi­avo, who has also been his faith­ful col­lab­o­ra­tor for thirty years. To­gether they cre­ate worlds, of­ten com­pletely imag­i­nary ones, but al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing. Born in Mac­er­ata (in Cen­tral Italy) but Ro­man by adop­tion, Fer­retti con­tin­ues to work in the same lay­out stu­dio that has been his cre­ative base for forty year, which is lo­cated in Cinecittà, and is called (not by ac­ci­dent) “Once upon a time”.

What are things like to­day at Cinecittà?

Things are not like they used to be, it’s get­ting bet­ter, mean­while there are more peo­ple: forty years ago I opened the door and didn’t see any­one, to­day on the other hand there is a va­ri­ety of peo­ple. . . let’s say, it’s no longer the Sa­hara but Mar­rakesh.

Have your cine­matic taste changed since then?

Cin­ema has changed. Let’s say that I have al­ways looked at the story, the screen­play—that’s the el­e­ment that re­ally grabs me. As for the rest, come­dies al­ways amuse me, es­pe­cially those filmed out­side of Rome, be­cause in the Cap­i­tal the sets are too rec­og­niz­able.

As I was say­ing, I like com­edy if it’s funny; oth­er­wise, like the rest of you, it only bores me.

Any come­dies that you have par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ated this year?

I re­ally en­joyed this year’s box-of­fice hit Quo Vado by Checco Zalone, as well as Per­fetti Sconosciut­i by Paolo Gen­ovese, an­other film wor­thy of note [ed­i­tor’s note: rec­og­nized as the Best Screen­play at the

Tribeca Film Fes­ti­val] in which I thought the ac­tors were truly ex­cel­lent, from Va­le­rio Ma­s­tan­drea to Anna Fogli­etta, Alba Rohrwacher, and Marco Giallini. I’m not that well versed in Ital­ian films, though: vot­ing for the Os­cars, I saw around 400 Amer­i­can movies—the transat­lantic cin­ema still seems to me quite strong.

Can you tell us about an Os­car vote of which you are par­tic­u­larly proud?

To­gether with my wife, we voted for the lat­est Os­car for En­nio Mor­ri­cone. Not just be­cause I am Ital­ian, but be­cause he’s such a great artist that we are happy he has had such an im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion on an of­fi­cial level. He moved us and made us all proud of him.

How was it, on the other hand, be­ing in the Far East for months in or­der to cre­ate the sets for “Si­lence”, the new Martin Scors­ese film?

For bud­getary rea­sons, we had to build the Ja­pan you see in the film in Tai­wan, which cre­ated a notable ef­fort be­cause there isn’t a real cin­ema in­dus­try there, and we had to com­pen­sate for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that was in­ex­is­tent. We were abroad for nine months, but in re­al­ity it was a film we had pre­pared five times.

In what sense?

We had trav­eled every­where, from Ja­pan to Canada, from New Zealand to Cal­i­for­nia, in or­der to un­der­stand what the ideal place would be to cre­ate this film that Scors­ese has had so close to his heart, as if it were the film of his life.

The hard­est chal­lenge?

Suc­ceed­ing in recre­at­ing all of the shops. To­gether with my wife, we made a huge ef­fort to find old lith­o­graphs and draw­ings of Ja­pan at that time; our task was to give life to a world that is no longer, and that has closed in on it­self so much that even its past has not been pre­served as it should have been.

Your artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion with Scors­ese has cer­tainly been long-lived. Martin is one of the great­est direc­tors in the world. I con­sider it an honor that he al­ways calls us, and if I didn’t do Wolf of Wall Street and The De­parted it is only be­cause I had com­mit­ments with other films. In fact, I con­fess that while he was film­ing Wolf of Wall Street, I was in Van­cou­ver pre­par­ing Si­lence, which we were plan­ning to film in Canada.

As for The De­parted, on the other hand, I couldn’t do it be­cause I was col­lab­o­rat­ing with Brian De Palma and they threat­ened me with a law­suit: I would have had to pay ten mil­lion dol­lars.

So I said to my friend Martin: “I’m sorry, buddy, but let’s see each other on the next one,” and so it hap­pened.

By this time you un­der­stand each other in­tu­itively with lit­tle ef­fort. . .

Yes, he trusts me and I’m able to un­der­stand in a few hours of chat­ting what he wants, what type of at­mos­phere or sug­ges­tion he wants to evoke in a film. And when I show him the first de­signs, in gen­eral he com­pli­ments me with a “great” and I un­der­stand that we are, once again, on the same wave­length.

How was it, on the other hand, work­ing with Fellini?

I met him at Cinecittà, and he pro­posed to work to­gether with Donati for one of his films, but I re­fused, sug­gest­ing that we get back to­gether af­ter a decade. And so it hap­pened: we al­ways met at Cinecittà and af­ter a sec­ond en­counter we worked to­gether on La città delle donne, Prova d’orches­tra and so on.

Did you get along?

He re­mains my great teacher, to­gether with Pier Paolo Pa­solini and Martin Scors­ese; they are the three greats that gave me the most.

Was the rap­port with Pa­solini dif­fer­ent?

He didn’t like trap­pings, he was for sim­plic­ity and for out­door shoots: he didn’t like to work on sound stages; we talked a lot to­gether.

If you had to sum up your work in a few words, what would you say?

I’m some­one who fol­lows the vi­sions and dreams of a di­rec­tor. Or per­haps, even more than fol­low­ing them I ma­te­ri­al­ize them, I make them come alive through the pro­duc­tion de­sign.

What do you think about the mas­sive ad­vent of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy?

I’m not a fan of those who ex­ag­ger­ate, but one has to look to the fu­ture, and to the new tech­niques that al­low you to cre­ate things that were once im­pos­si­ble. We have to trea­sure the lessons of the mas­ters, of that way of mak­ing an artis­tic and ar­ti­sanal cin­ema that has made us unique in the world.

Is there a di­rec­tor with whom you have never col­lab­o­rated but would like to?

Ri­d­ley Scott, whom I have come close to work­ing with.

A last cu­rios­ity: among so many pro­duc­tion de­signs, your work on “The Name of the Rose” re­mains leg­endary. How do you re­mem­ber that ex­pe­ri­ence?

Marvelous: ev­ery sin­gle de­tail was recre­ated, from the an­cient books to the trea­sure—we had two gold­smiths at Cinecittà. I’m a bit nos­tal­gic when I speak of it: we’re talk­ing about the sort of film that I fear one no longer makes with that type of art and those man­ual skills.

“I’m some­one who fol­lows the vi­sions and dreams of a di­rec­tor. Or per­haps, even more than fol­low­ing them I ma­te­ri­al­ize them”


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