Saturday, March 24, 2012

Deceased--Tonino Guerra

Tonino Guerra
March 16th, 1920 to March 21st, 2012

"Tonino Guerra dies at 92; renowned Italian screenwriter"

The prolific Tonino Guerra collaborated with many of the great post-World War II European filmmakers, including Fellini and Antonioni. He shared three Oscar nominations.


Dennis McLellan

March 24th, 2012

Los Angeles Times

Tonino Guerra, an internationally renowned Italian screenwriter who collaborated with Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and other greats of Italian and world cinema on films such as Fellini's "Amarcord" and Antonioni's "L'Avventura" and "Blow-Up," has died. He was 92.

Guerra died Wednesday at his home in Santarcangelo di Romagna, in northern Italy, according to an announcement on the Tonino Guerra Cultural Assn. website.

A poet, novelist and former schoolteacher, Guerra began his screenwriting career in Rome in the mid-1950s. He shared three Academy Award nominations — in 1966 for director Mario Monicelli's "Casanova 70," in 1967 for "Blow-Up" and in 1976 for "Amarcord."

"I think he's one of the greatest writers of our time whose medium happens to be the screenplay," said Howard A. Rodman, vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West and a professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC.

"He collaborated with many of the great filmmakers of his era ... and his work with them is in every case the groundbreaking and significant work we associate with them," said Rodman.

"When you think of European modernist cinema, the cinema that changed the way we think of movies, that inspired the glories of American cinema of the 1970s and cinema around the world, it's astonishing how many of those films were written by Tonino Guerra."

Among the scores of films he wrote or co-wrote are "La Notte," "L'Eclisse," "Red Desert" and "Zabriskie Point" for Antonioni, "Ginger and Fred" and "And the Ship Sails On" for Fellini, "Nostalghia" for Andrei Tarkovsky, "Landscape in the Mist" for Theo Angelopoulos, and "Illustrious Corpses" for Francesco Rosi.

In 2011, the frequently honored Guerra received the Writers Guild of America, West's Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement. It is presented to an international writer who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the screenwriting profession.

The son of a fisherman/fishmonger father and an illiterate mother whom he later taught to read and write, Guerra was born March 16, 1920, in Santarcangelo di Romagna.

He began to orally compose dialect poems while imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II, and he published his first collection, "I Scarabocc" ("Scribblings"), in 1946.

After earning a degree at the University of Urbino with a thesis on dialect poetry, he taught secondary school before moving to Rome in 1953.

He launched his screenwriting career with director Giuseppe De Santis' 1956 film "Men and Wolves," co-written with Elio Petri.

His longtime collaboration with Antonioni began with "L'Avventura," the breakthrough 1960 film that brought international renown to the director, who co-wrote the script with Guerra and Elio Bartolini.

"Antonioni struck a chord in exploring people's sense of alienation in an increasingly industrialized and impersonal world," said film reviewer Kevin Thomas, a former Times staff writer. "Without question, Tonino Guerra was a major contributor to Antonioni's masterworks, a collaborator who enabled Antonioni to express his unique vision."

In the preface to his published screenplays, Antonioni said that he and Guerra "have long and violent arguments ... and that makes him all the more helpful."

Of his collaboration with Guerra, Angelopoulos once said: "Tonino has been my psychoanalyst for 20 years."

Guerra, who worked with American, Greek and Russian directors, said in a 1993 NPR interview that each filmmaker had made him aware of a different aspects of himself.

"Fellini is always immersed in his childhood, in his background, in his memories," he said. "Coming from Rimini, which is near my own hometown, he obliged me to look here locally, to look into my own memory, my own childhood.

"Tarkovsky, with his religious problems, his preoccupation with his spirituality, he raised all my own spiritual doubts. Rosi, with his attention to the meticulous detail of daily life, he made me think of what was happening, what was happening under my feet, in front of my eyes, every minimal detail."

Guerra's transition from poet to screenwriter was a natural one.

"My poems were an essence of images," he once said. "They had the cinema inside them before I started working for it."

Observed Rodman: "During the great flowering of European cinema after World War II, he was its poet and guiding light. I think he was able to figure out how to put in words and images many of the great themes and sensibilities of the world's best filmmakers."

Guerra is survived by his second wife, Lora; and his son, Andrea, a film and TV composer.

"Tonino Guerra, Poetic Italian Screenwriter, Dies at 92"


Dennis Lim

March 23rd, 2012

The New York Times

Tonino Guerra, a prolific Italian screenwriter and poet whose roster of film collaborators, including Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky and Theo Angelopoulos, amounted to a who’s who of European cinema’s golden age, died on Wednesday at his home in Santarcangelo di Romagna, in northern Italy near the Adriatic coast. He was 92.

His death was announced on the Web site of the Tonino Guerra Cultural Association.

In a screenwriting career covering a half-century, Mr. Guerra earned three Academy Award nominations and had a long partnership with Antonioni. Their first collaboration, the enigmatic “L’Avventura” (1960), was also the film that put Antonioni on the world cinema map and forever linked him with the quintessential modernist theme of alienation.

In the fruitful decade that followed, Mr. Guerra and Antonioni worked together on “La Notte” (1961), “L’Eclisse” (1962) and “Red Desert”(1964), then ventured abroad to capture the restless energy of youth-culture epicenters: swinging London in “Blow-Up” (1966) and radicalized, disillusioned California in “Zabriskie Point” (1970).

They collaborated on 10 films in all, including Antonioni’s final one, a short called “The Dangerous Thread of Things.” Part of the 2004 omnibus “Eros,” it appeared along with short films by Steven Soderbergh and Wong Kar-wai.

Most major film careers in Italy from the second half of the 20th century intersected at some point with Mr. Guerra’s. He wrote three films with Fellini, including “Amarcord” (1973), which drew on their shared memories of growing up in the Emilia-Romagna region. He worked with several generations of his countrymen, including Francesco Rosi (“Lucky Luciano”), Mario Monicelli (“Casanova ’70”), the Taviani brothers (“The Night of the Shooting Stars”), Marco Bellocchio (“Henry IV”) and Giuseppe Tornatore (“Everybody’s Fine”). And he played a key role as Italian cinema moved away from the neo-realism of the postwar years to incorporate stylization and artifice.

His Oscar-nominated screenplays were for “Casanova ’70,” “Blow-Up” and “Amarcord.” Outliving many of his best-known collaborators, he received numerous honorary awards in his later years, including lifetime achievement awards at the Venice Film Festival in 1994, the European Film Awards in 2002 and the David di Donatello Awards (the Italian Oscars) in 2010. He also received the Writers Guild of America West’s Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement in 2011.

In the second half of his career Mr. Guerra’s affiliations with Tarkovsky and Angelopoulos — who could be considered Antonioni’s spiritual heirs — sealed his reputation as a writer with a questing, poetic sensibility, a hand-in-glove fit for directors who specialized in existential matters and the mysteries of interior life.

His close friendship with Tarkovsky led to one co-written screenplay, for the 1983 film “Nostalghia,” which describes the meeting between a Russian poet and an Italian madman, and one co-directed documentary, “Voyage in Time” (1983).

Mr. Guerra’s long association with Angelopoulos began with the 1984 film “Voyage to Cythera,” which won the best screenplay award at Cannes, and continued until Angelopoulos’s last completed film, “The Dust of Time” (2008). It was also the last film Mr. Guerra worked on, at age 88. (Angelopoulos died in January.)

Antonio Guerra was born to a peasant family on March 16, 1920, in Santarcangelo di Romagna, near Rimini. His father was a fisherman and fishmonger. In an autobiographical essay published in 1985, he wrote that his mother was illiterate and that he taught her to read and write.

Captured and sent to a German concentration camp during World War II, Mr. Guerra started writing poetry in the Romagnole dialect. His first collection of poems was published in 1946 under the title “I Scarabocc” (“Scribblings”).

After working as a teacher for a few years, he moved to Rome in 1952 and fell into film circles through a friend, Elio Petri, who would himself become a writer and director.

Mr. Guerra’s first screenplay credit, shared with Petri and several others, was on “Men and Wolves,” a 1956 film by Giuseppe De Santis. Mr. Guerra devoted most of his energies to screenwriting in his 30s and 40s, but after turning 50 he resumed writing and publishing poetry (in his local dialect) and occasionally fiction (in standard Italian).

He is survived by his second wife, Lora, and a son, Andrea Guerra, a film composer.

Mr. Guerra was sometimes asked to reconcile his roles as poet and screenwriter. “My poems were an essence of images,” he said in an interview when he was 80. “They had the cinema inside them before I started working for it.”

In a preface to a collection of his screenplays, Antonioni described his collaborative process with Mr. Guerra as one of “long and violent arguments,” which he found “helpful.” Their rapport, he added, allowed him to “keep quiet as long as I wish without feeling embarrassed.”

“And for this he’s even more helpful,” Antonioni wrote.

Angelopoulos likened Mr. Guerra to a devil’s advocate and a psychoanalyst. But the most tangible record of Mr. Guerra’s collaborative role can be found in “Voyage in Time,” which chronicles his travels through Italy with Tarkovsky, scouting landscapes and exchanging thoughts on life and cinema, as the screenplay for “Nostalghia” took shape in their heads.

Mr. Guerra’s own ideas about screenwriting were modest. He described a script in utilitarian terms, as “something dead,” “a structure you need for a film.” But he also admitted, “I believe I have given a little bit of poetry to all the directors I worked with.”

He continued to write into his 80s but also found time to paint and create sculpture. And he became a household face in Italy as the star of a series of commercials for an electronics retailer, delivering the catchphrase “Optimism is the perfume of life.”

A trailer for a documentary in progress on his life and work, titled “3XTonino,” opens with a quote from Mr. Guerra on screen. It reads: “Death isn’t that awful. After all, it comes only once.”

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