EXCLUSIVE: Cinema Made In Italy Interview: Pif and Michele Astori for In Guerra Per Amore
Following on from The Mafia Kills Only in Summer, Pierfrancesco Diliberto (aka Pif) brings us another funny and touching tale peppered with historical facts. It is 1943, and World War II is in full swing. In the heart of New York fresh faced Arturo (played by Pierfrancesco Diliberto) has fallen head over heels for his restaurant boss’ daughter Flora. The feeling is mutual, but Flora has been promised to the son of an influential New York mobster. The only way Arturo will be able to marry his beloved, is if he is granted approval by her father, who lives in a small town in Sicily. Young and broke, Arturo enlists in the US Army, which is preparing to invade the island, an event which will change the history of Sicily, Italy, and the Mafia forever.
Francesco Diliberto (aka Pif) was assistant director to Marco Tullio Giordana on the anti-Mafia film I Cento Passi in 1998. Besides being a film director, writer and actor, he is also a satirical current-affairs broadcaster who has contributed to numerous Italian TV shows, including Le Iene. He has had his own show, Il Testimone, on MTV since 2007 and hosts the radio show I Provinciali on RAI 2, along with his screenwriting collaborator Michele Astori.
Presented at the Cinema Made in Italy, In Guerra per Amore is Pif and Michele Astori’s most recent movie. Through the fictional character of Arturo Giammaresi, PIF once again tells the story of how the Sicilian Mafia gained back its power on the island during the American mission to free Europe from Hitler. On Friday we set down with Pierfrancesco Diliberto (PIF) and Michele Astori to ask them about the movie and what inspired them.
In our exclusive interview, The Fan Carpet‘s Federica Roberti in association with The Realistic Optimist spoke to Pierfrancesco Diliberto aka Pif and Michele Astori…
You two have been working together for quite a long time, what is the trick to make it work?
Michele Astori: There is a hidden story behind it…we waited until we came to London to reveal it since it’s a more open city.
Pierfrancesco Diliberto (PIF): Jokes aside it was our producer that introduced us. But as it happens, we are from the same city, he used to live in the same road where my grandma had her house, we had friends in common, but we never met before we got to our thirties. We like working together and we have fun.
Are there personal qualities and flaws that you can tolerate or you can’t stand about each other?
MA: Well to be honest flaws are at the very base of our friendship. He knows my flaws and I know his and they are the foundation of our sense of humour.
PIF: And we also compliment each other, just like a couple. And it is beautiful because it all happened because we met each other and it is something really valuable.
Talking about humour, in the movie you use irony to discuss about such a delicate subject matter like the Mafia, do you think it makes it easier for the audience to digest such a heavy and still present topic?
PIF: Well, actually, this is what we hope it would happen, but we didn’t decide to do this, or discuss a way to do it saying to each other “lets make fun of the Mafia”, it came naturally and I hope it is clear that it is not scripted and that we are not the first one to do it, since we always love to refer back to the “Commedia all’ italiana” (Italian comedy) which always made fun of the national flaws and problems. We already know that one day, no one will follow our work, but as of now the way in which we tell these stories works, but it is not intentional.
MA: We didn’t decide to do it this way, by using humour. We did it in the first film and even with In Guerra per Amore it happened naturally.
PIF: And we hope that this will keep on working.
In many ways, the movie is funny and has comic relief, but in the end it leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth…
PIF: Yes, well because in the end, we are idiots, this is what we do.
MA: This all happened because, when we met each other on the first movie’s set, we used his traditional way of talking about Mafia in his program “Il Testimone”, which keeps a difficult balance between drama, anger and comedy. And we tried to implement this particular characteristic even in the movie. And since I am myself an idiot, I love working with him this way. It is also clear that comedy is a powerful tool because it allows you to send out a stronger message, because people laugh at your jokes but then you make them think and this is something that, if it is well used, can be really compelling. Comedy for comedy is not something that belongs to us.
PIF: We couldn’t do it just for laughs, we want to give meaning. But that being said, it doesn’t mean that we don’t like simple comedies or we look down at them.
In the movie, specific scenes reminded me of the same comic relief that Benigni used in Life is Beautiful. This reminder made me think of how comedy can be used to describe such horrific historical moments…
MA: Now we are going to tell you that in 97, Benigni called us..no just kidding ahahaha.
PIF: Of course we grow up with the Italian comedy, Spielberg and many other. Since we are from the 80’s this was what we watched and we also grow up with Benigni’s film. However, we didn’t take inspiration from him, we were actually inspired by Forrest Gump and a brasilian movie from the 90’s “the year my parents went on vacation”. The idea was about a guy, like Forrest Gump who mets the president of the US, who, by chances, crosses path with all the Mafia leaders. And if it seems that there is a bit of Benigni’s influence in our movie it is because we grow up with his films.
MA: It’s in the blood. These are those kind of things that happen involuntarily.
PIF: You look at them as if they were your teachers, to give yourself courage, to tell yourself that you can do it. You take inspiration. Try to recreate the same magic that happened in that movie, but you cannot do it so you end up with your own movie. I remember at the end of the shooting I watched again “the year my parent went on vacation” and I said to myself “what I was trying to do, recreating something like this” and thank god because you don’t want to just copy it. I like starting from a film that inspired me and say to myself that I want to create something just like that.
In terms of directing yourself, do you find it difficult?
PIF: It is really tiring. It is something that I don’t like, which is the reason why I convince him to write so many stories, so I’m not going to be always on set.
MA: However, I have to say that when you write his character it is useful to think about him.
PIF: I have lots of limits as an actor and I can’t do so many things
MA: so you write things based on him and it has its own advantages because you know that he is the only one that can portray some of the sketches.
Why did you choose to give the same names to the main characters in both your movies? Was it by chance?
PIF: It was more a game and if you think about it Arturo and Flora from “In Guerra per Amore” could be the grandparents of the Arturo and Flora of “La mafia uccide solo d’estate”. But to be honest, I see myself a lot in Arturo Giammaresi as a character. But it was just a game.
MA: yeah, it was just a game, there isn’t a particular meaning behind it.
While writing the script do you guys inspire each other or most of it comes from you, Michele, and then he helps you polish it?
PIF: No, it’s more of a 50/50 kind of collaboration. We don’t decide the scene and then one goes back home and writes the dialogue and the other those his own thing.
MA: We always write together and with “La Mafia..” we wrote together with Marco Martani. But we usually always work together. When people praise screenwriters, they don’t know the truth. For instance, if you were alone and someone would commission to you a story about something, you will think that is something really interesting, however you’ll spend weeks trying to find a way where to start while telling yourself that you can’t possibly do it. After you go over this dramatic face than the process start. However, you can’t do it alone. The hardest part is the script, but the fun part is the dialogues, but writing them by yourself is awful.
PIF: many times it happened that someone asked me “who wrote this” and I often answered “Michele” and he would say “no actually it was you”. You often don’t remember who came up with it because it is a group effort, like a domino effect that grows and shape into the final sketch. I must say that we also love writing comic scenes not the jokes. We like to create the situations rather than an actual joke.
I could see that in the movie, it was all about the situation, your facial expressions, not the jokes…
PIF: There are scenes that could go on forever, like the one in which Arturo meets Flora’s parents, that scene could last forever. Those are scenes based on the irony not the joke.
Final question, between radio, cinema and television, which one gives you more satisfaction?
PIF: Cinema for sure. Radio happened by chance, it’s wonderful because you have an intimate relationship with the audience. It doesn’t have the same numbers as the ones that Cinema can provide, but the relationship you can create is quite strong. However, Cinema for sure because in 20 years we could still talk about this movie, while what you do on television or radio doesn’t last that long. It is hard, because it is expensive, three years of your life go by so fast and the first week of release can make you or break you. It is brutal, but it lasts.
MA: it gives you a place in the world. For instance “la mafia uccide solo d’estate” will be remembered forever because if you want to know what happened in a specific historical period you could watch that movie and understand. This gives you so much satisfaction because potentially you don’t need to do anything else in your life because you’ll be remembered for this. Moreover, PIF does a kind of television program that is non perishable, that will stay, but usually what you do in television doesn’t last forever and this pisses me off because you spend so much energy to do it and when the lights go off everything disappears.
CINEMA MADE IN ITALY RAN FROM MARCH 1 TIL MARCH 5 AND RETURNS TO CINÉ LUMIÈRE IN LONDON IN 2018