Showing posts with label Il Postino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Il Postino. Show all posts

27 April 2018

Vittorio Cecchi Gori - entrepreneur

Ex-president of Fiorentina who produced two of Italy’s greatest films

Former Fiorentina owner and film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Former Fiorentina owner and film
producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose chequered career in business saw him produce more than 300 films and own Fiorentina’s football club but also saw him jailed for fraudulent bankruptcy, was born on this day in 1942 in Florence.

The son of Mario Cecchi Gori, whose production company he inherited, he provided the financial muscle behind two of Italy’s greatest films of recent years, Il Postino (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

He was also involved with the 1992 Oscar winner Mediterraneo, directed by Gabriele Salvatores, which also won in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Vittorio’s legacy from his father also included Fiorentina football club, of which he was president from 1993 to 2002.

Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
With Cecchi Gori’s backing, while his involvement with the movie business was generating such huge profits, Fiorentina enjoyed great times.  He invested heavily in new players and persuaded the club’s icon, the Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta, to stay after the viola were relegated in 1993.

With Claudio Ranieri as coach, they won the Coppa Italia in 1996, their first trophy in 20 years, following it up by winning the Super Cup later the same year and another Coppa Italia in 2001. In the 1999-2000 season they had played in the Champions League for the first time.

Yet the impetuous entrepreneur was to run into serious financial difficulties in subsequent years and went from revered to reviled in Florence after his own business collapse became Fiorentina’s collapse also.

His problems began in 1995, when he mounted an ambitious challenge against Italy’s television duopoly, held by the public broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest.

Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori bought up some small TV companies used their infrastructure to create a new channel, La7, and formulating an ambitious plan to acquire the rights to televise Serie A, the top division of the Italian Football League. He failed to secure them, however, ratings hit an all-time low and the new channel was sold for a huge loss.

An expensive divorce did not help, plunging him into huge personal debt, and in 2001 it was revealed that Fiorentina had debts equating to $50 million.  Their fortunes on the field were in decline also and things came to a head at the end of the 2001-02 season, when they were relegated from Serie A and promptly entered judicially-controlled administration, a form of bankruptcy.  Because of this, they were refused a place in Serie B for the following season and had to start again in Serie C, the third division, after effectively winding up the historic club and starting a new one.

At the same time, Cecchi Gori’s business empire was collapsing.   Prized assets such as his luxurious apartment in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome, the Multisala Adriano, his Rome cinema complex, and his film library were sold to raise funds, but to no avail.

Police investigations into his affairs dogged him for years.  In 2006 he was found guilty of illegally redirecting millions of dollars from Fiorentina into other businesses and in 2013 received a six-year jail term in connection with the bankruptcy of his production company, Safin Cinematografica.

Until his business problems, Cecchi Gori served as a member of the Italian Senate between 1994 and 2001, having been elected as a member of the centre-right Partito Popolare Italiano.

Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Travel tip:

In a city best known for its magnificent Renaissance architecture, the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Fiorentina, is notable as a classic of early 20th century design. Opened in 1931, it was designed by the renowned architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed entirely of reinforced concrete with a 70m (230 ft) tower that bears the stadium's flagstaff. Originally called Stadio Giovanni Berta, after a local Fascist, it was changed to Stadio Comunale before taking the name of Franchi, then Italian Football Federation president, in 1991.

The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo Borghese overlooks the Tiber
The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo
Borghese overlooks the Tiber
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Borghese, where Cecchi Gori had an apartment valued at almost €10 million, is a palace in Rome that was originally the home of the powerful Borghese family, who settled in Rome in the 16th century and also owned the Villa Borghese and surrounding gardens. The palace was nicknamed il Cembalo - the harpsichord - due to its unusual trapezoid shape, with its narrowest rear facade facing the Tiber river. The front facade - the keyboard of the harpsichord - opening on to the Fontanella di Borghese. The first floor has housed the Spanish Embassy since 1947.


19 February 2018

Massimo Troisi – actor, writer and director

Tragic star died hours after completing finest work

Troisi was only 41 when he died in 1994, hours after finishing Il Postino
Troisi was only 41 when he died in 1994,
hours after finishing Il Postino
Massimo Troisi, the comic actor, writer and director who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1994 only 12 hours after shooting finished on his greatest movie, was born on this day in 1953 in a suburb of Naples.

Troisi co-directed and starred in Il Postino, which won an Oscar for best soundtrack after being nominated in five categories, the most nominations in Academy Award history for an Italian film.

He also wrote much of the screenplay for the movie, based on a novel, Burning Patience, by the Chilean author Antonio Skármeta, which tells the story of a Chilean poet exiled on an Italian island and his friendship with a postman whose round consists only of the poet’s isolated house.

Plagued by heart problems for much of his life, the result of several bouts of rheumatic fever when he was a child, Troisi was told just before shooting was due to begin that he needed an urgent transplant operation.

However, he was so committed to the project, a joint enterprise with his friend, the British director Michael Radford, he decided to postpone his surgery.  He was so ill that he collapsed on set on the third day but recovered to continue, shooting many of his location scenes in one take, with a body double used for any shots that required physical activity, and invariably unable to last for more than an hour before succumbing to exhaustion.

Yet he completed the movie, for which the location shots were shared between the islands of Pantelleria and Salina – off Sicily - and Procida, in the Bay of Naples, and then travelled from Naples to his sister’s house in Ostia, outside Rome. He had tickets booked on a plane to London, where he was due to receive a new heart at the famous Harefield Hospital the following day.  Sadly, he had a cardiac arrest during the night and never woke from sleep.

Massimo Troisi (left) and Lello Arena in the staircase scene from Troisi's second film, Scusate il ritardo
Massimo Troisi (left) and Lello Arena in the staircase
scene from Troisi's second film, Scusate il ritardo
Troisi, who had a successful career as a comedian on radio and television before turning to film, wrote and directed six movies, in which he also starred, and acted in half a dozen others.

Born in San Giorgio a Cremano, a town in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius about 6km (3.75 miles) south of central Naples, he grew up in a large house in Via Cavalli di Bronzo, which his mother and father, a railway engineer, and their six children shared with his mother’s parents and seven other members of the extended family.

He suffered his first brush with rheumatic fever, common among poor children in Naples at the time, when he was very young and had to travel to the United States for heart surgery when he was 23, by which time he was already well known on the Naples cabaret circuit as part of a comic trio he had formed with two childhood friends.

Their success led to their own radio show and then to regular appearances on prime television shows such as the popular Luna Park.  Troisi’s talent was compared to his boyhood idols from the tradition of Neapolitan comedy, Totò and Eduardo and Peppino DeFilippo.

Troisi is one of only seven actors to be  nominated posthumously for an Oscar
Troisi is one of only seven actors to be
nominated posthumously for an Oscar
After the trio broke up in the late seventies, Troisi turned to film, winning critical appraisal and box office success with his first venture, Ricomincio da tre (I start again from three), in 1981.

Due to his fears that his second effort would not be as good as his first, it was two years before he made another movie, but Scusate il Ritardo (Sorry for the delay) was just as well received.  Like his first film, it focussed on the troublesome love life of the Neapolitan lead character, drawing on his own life experiences, told with sometimes surreal humour. 

It featured dialogues between Troisi’s character, Vincenzo, and his friend Tonino, played by his childhood friend Lello Arena, that were so memorable that the Via Mariconda stairs in the Chiaia district of Naples, where they were filmed, have recently been renamed the Scale Massimo Troisi in his honour.  Arena received a David di Donatello award for Best Supporting Actor.

Troisi had more success starring opposite Roberto Benigni in Non ci resta che piangere (Nothing to do but cry), about two friends accidentally transported in time to the 15th century, where they meet Leonardo da Vinci and attempt to stop Christopher Columbus discovering America.

Troisi starred in several films directed by Ettore Scola before teaming up with Radford for Il Postino, which they wrote together in just three weeks in a hotel room in Santa Monica, outside Los Angeles.  It was his first American studio production and ensured he found fame outside Italy, as many thought his talent deserved, and he was nominated posthumously for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, one of only seven actors to be given that distinction.

The Villa Vannucchi at San Giorgio a Cremano  has extensive monumental gardens
The Villa Vannucchi at San Giorgio a Cremano
has extensive monumental gardens
Travel tip:

Now a densely populated suburb of the Naples metropolis, San Giorgio a Cremano enjoyed its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, when as one of the five towns first encountered by travellers heading south from Naples, along with Portici, Ercolano, Torre del Greco and Torre Annunziata, it became a popular resort with wealthy and aristocratic families, whose sumptuous summer residences became known as the Ville Vesuviane (Vesuvian Villas).

Book your stay in Naples with

The picturesque harbour and historic centre of Procida
The picturesque harbour and historic centre of Procida
Travel tip:

Procida is a small but heavily populated island between the Naples mainland and its much larger and better-known neighbour Ischia, characterised by its narrow streets and colourful harbourside houses. Its lack of tourists compared with Ischia and particularly Capri give it a much more authentic feel and Michael Radford is not the only movie director to appreciate its value as a location.  In 1999, Anthony Minghella brought members of a star-studded cast including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law to the island to film several scenes from The Talented Mr Ripley.

Find accommodation in Procida with

1461: The birth of Venetian cardinal and art collector Domenico Grimani

1743: The birth of composer and cellist Luigi Boccherini

1977: The birth of operatic tenor Vittorio Grigolo

(Picture credits: Troisi on bench by Gorup de Besanez; Villa Vannuchi by Tozzabancone; Procida harbour by Jamiethearcher; all via Wikimedia Commons)