Dir.: Mario Martone; Documentary with Anna Pavignano, Paolo Sorrentino, Michael Radford, Roberto Perpignani; Italy 2023, 128 min.
A very personal portrait of successful director, writer and actor Massimo Troisi by his fellow Neapolitan director Mario Martone (Nostalgia) and scripter Anna Pavignano, who co-wrote all of Troisi’s features, even after their relationship came to an end.
Massimo Troisi was born in February 1953 in San Giorgio a Cremano near Naples. Early in childhood his heart was weakened by rheumatic fever which contributed to his early death in 1994 at only 41. Troisi started his film career as an actor in the early 1960s, and by the 1970s he had formed the theatre group La Smorfia at the Centro Teatro Spazio with Enzo De Caro and Lello Arena. The three of them were popular on radio and TV, and they never lost contact.
In 1981 Troisi directed and played the lead in his first feature Ricomincio Da Tre, a low budget indie shot in six weeks that was a big hit at the box office, running for over 600 days and grossing more than The Empire Strikes Back. The film and its helmer swept the board at the Donatello awards, Italy’s equivalent to the Oscars.
A year later he starred in a TV Special “Morto Troisi, Viva Troisi” together with Roberto Benigni, and in 1983 Troisi and Lello Arena were responsible for No Thanks, Coffee makes me Nervous. 1987 saw him direct The Ways of the Lord are finished, the highest grossing Italian feature of the year. He went on to win the Coppa Volpe at the Venice Film Festival for his role in Splendour, sharing it with Marcello Mastroianni. Troisi’s final feature as a director was I thought it was Love…but it was a Gig from 1991.
Poor health was to dog Troisi throughout his life. He underwent a triple by-pass operation, but his heart “was as big as a football” and he was desperately in need of a transplant. The surgery was due to be performed at Harefield Hospital near London, but he was determined to finish Il Postino, the story of a timid waiter and the Chilean Nobel Prize Winner Pablo Neruda, directed by Michael Radford. Radford and editor Roberto Perpignani give deeply affecting details about Troisi’s death at his sister’s house in Ostia where he died very shortly after the arduous shoot had concluded. Legend has it that he said “I don’t want a new heart because my acting is closely connected with the defective organ”.
Troisi was famous for his quotes, and his self depreciation: “I never like myself, I am so self-critical that I don’t commit suicide so as not to leave a note that would seem ridiculous to me.”
DoP Pado Carnero contributes to the intimate setting with Martone and Pavignano going over the details of a short but significant career, assisted by Troisi’s comprehensive diaries which bear testaments to a man of drole humour: “Suffering in love is a disposable void: no one gains from it, except the songwriters who make tunes for us” AS
BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL 2023