Academic journal article American Journal of Italian Studies

The Making of "I Compagni"

Academic journal article American Journal of Italian Studies

The Making of "I Compagni"

Article excerpt

1). Introduction: Preparations and selection of actors.

After the neorrealist explosion of the mid '40s-mid '50s, the Italian cinema of the '60s embarked on new directions, principally film-documentaries, such as Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano (1961), the film-essay, represented by Fellini's 8 1/2 (1962), and the epic film, represented by Visconti's Gattopardo (1962) and Monicelli's I Compagni (1964). As Assistant Director in the last film I followed its development from the moment the first draft of the script, authored by Age, Scarpelli and Monicelli, was handed to me in January of 1963.

The shooting began sometime at the end of January or beginning of February, having experienced some delay in choosing the actress that would play the part of Bianca. The producer Cristaldi of Vides, had pushed for Rita Pavone, a young pop star, who was very popular with the teenagers. The "provino" did not please Monicelli. He did not like her. In truth Rita Pavone did not have an appealing physique, she had a strange gait and a toothy smile and when she donned the nineteenth-century garb she looked like a high school kid in a halloween parade. After several other tests his choice fell on an unknown student actress of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, 18 year old Raffaella Carra, who had not performed in any other film yet. This was her big break, because after I Compagni she embarked on a very successful career. Carra's voice, at that time, was judged so immature that Monicelli decided to dub her. Thus the voice you hear in the film is not hers. This is ironic, since one of Carra's assets, beside be ing one of the sexiest movie stars of the seventies and eighties, was her voice which made her one of the most popular Italian singers.

Most of the interiors were shot in the former Istituto Massimo, the Jesuit College for boys in Rome, located at Piazza dei Cinquecento, across from Stazione Termini. The College, its interior dismantled, had been leased to the movie companies. It was quite an experience to return to the school I had attended as a boy to make a film about a Socialist strike at the end of the nineteenth century in northern Italy.

Besides the "Massimo," other interiors were shot at a villa in the outskirts of Rome and in a Yugoslavian factory. The exteriors were shot in Trastevere, Cuneo and Yugoslavia. The latter was chosen because, at that time, the old nineteenth century train engines were still in service there and Monicelli rejected the studio special effects, believing that it was almost impossible to make a good impression on the spectator with a model. For the same reason he had discarded the use of a studio for the central scene when Pautasso dies, after being run over by a moving engine during a fight between the strikers and the scabs. Although Cristaldi, the producer, did not like the idea of a transfer, with its additional costs, he found the low costs of the Yugoslavian extras and the free cooperation of the Yugoslavian authorities appealing. The same need for realism dictated the choice of Cuneo, a northern town, in order to give the feeling of the harsh winter conditions the strikers had to endure.

2). The treatment of the script.

Once photocopied and bound, the script underwent a further reading, especially the section that was going to be shot. Each scene was related to a scenario, with the actors and extras ready to play. Changes were systematically made and the sound track was kept for reference only, because, at the editing stage, all dialogues were dubbed, the sound effects added, together with the music score. The original voices were not used. As I said, some of the actors were dubbed by other actors, as was the case with Raffaella Carra.

By its very nature the film required quite a number of extras and it fell upon the two Assistant Directors to scout the local gyms, dance halls, college campuses, markets and parish fair grounds, to come up with a series of faces. …

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