Moretti, Nanni

   Actor, director, screenwriter, producer. For three decades Moretti has engaged in a highly personal and defiantly independent form of filmmaking that has made him a unique presence within the panorama of contemporary Italian cinema.
   Born in Bolzano while his parents were on vacation, Moretti grew up in Rome and during his teens developed two passions: water polo and cinema. After active involvement in the left-wing student movement of the late 1960s, he bought a Super 8 camera and began making short films. That peculiar mix of the personal and the political, and a willingness to put himself on show, so characteristic of all his later films, are already present in his first two shorts, La sconfitta (The Defeat, 1973) and Pate de bourgeois (1973). His truculent iconoclasm also surfaces early in Come parli, frate? (How Speak You, Brother? 1974), an hour-long parody of Alessandro Manzoni's canonical 19th-century novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), in which Moretti plays the evil Don Rodrigo, who, however, in this up-ended version of the story is the victim rather than the perpetrator of the violence.
   Two years later, having found it impossible to make a feature film through the normal channels, Moretti self-financed Io sono un autarchico (I Am Self-Sufficient, 1976), again adopting the Super 8 format. Featuring for the first time his alter ego-persona, Michele Apicella, played by Moretti himself, the film was an unexpected, and enormous, commercial success. After screening to packed houses for five consecutive months at the Filmstudio Cineclub in Rome, it was bought and broadcast by RAI state television and thus seen by literally millions of viewers. As a result, after the parenthesis of playing a small part in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Padre padrone (My Father My Master, 1977), Moretti directed his first mainstream feature, Ecce bombo (1978), a film that appeared, accurately and ironically, to be taking the pulse of a now directionless 1968 generation. It too proved to be an extraordinary commercial and critical success, winning a host of awards and confirming Moretti's status as one of Italy's most distinctive young auteurs.
   Nevertheless, it would be three years before he would make his next film, Sogni d'oro (Sweet Dreams, 1981). Using Moretti's now regular alter ego, Michele Apicella, Sogni d'oro dramatized something of a creative crisis not unlike Federico Fellini's 8'A, while also carrying out a playful critique of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. However, in spite of the critical acclaim it received that year at the Venice Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and a special commendation, it did very poorly at the box office. Unperturbed, Moretti brought Apicella back as a high school teacher in Bianca (Sweet Body of Bianca, 1984), a typically eccentric take on the murder thriller, and then as a young but disillusioned Catholic priest in La messa e finita (The Mass Is Ended, 1985), the latter winning both the Silver Bear and the International Confederation of Art Cinemas prize at Berlin. In 1987, with his artistic reputation firmly established, Moretti took a further step toward independence by establishing his own production company, Sacher Film, with which he produced the debut films of two promising young directors, Carlo Mazzacurati's Notte italiana (Italian Night, 1987) and Daniele Luchetti's Domani accadra (It's Happening Tomorrow, 1988). His own next film, Palombella rossa (Red Wood Pigeon, 1989), made in a period when the Italian Communist Party appeared to be in terminal decline, was a hilarious reflection on the crisis afflicting the party carried out through the stratagem of a longrunning water polo competition. This was followed by a more serious examination of the Communist Party and its future prospects in the one-hour documentary La cosa (The Thing, 1990). Having by this time become a mentor for many of the younger directors forming part of the New Italian Cinema, Moretti next produced and acted in Luchetti's Il portaborse (The Yes Man, 1991), giving one of his most memorable performances as the cynical Socialist minister Cesare Botero. The personal dimension of Moretti's cinema reached a new level in what many still regard as his most perfect film, Caro diario (Dear Diary, 1993), where the Apicella persona is dispensed with altogether and the film is recounted simply as a series of diary entries in the first person. Critically acclaimed and widely distributed, the film finally brought Moretti well-deserved international recognition. After producing and acting in Mimmo Calopresti's La seconda volta (The Second Time, 1995), Moretti returned to the diary form in Aprile (April, 1998), a bright film that celebrated the birth of his son but in the context of a more general consternation at the electoral victory in Italy of the center-right forces led by Silvio Berlusconi. Contrasting sharply with many of his other films but stunning in its expressive intensity, Moretti's next film, La stanza del figlio (The Son's Room, 2001), left politics to the side in order to examine the effect of a son's death on a well-to-do Italian family, with Moretti himself playing the role of the father. The film was showered with numerous awards, including the International Film Critics Prize and the Palme d'or at Cannes, and the David di Donatello and a Nastro d'argento at home.
   The personal and the political blended again in Moretti's most recent film, Il caimano (The Caiman, 2006), an amusing recounting of an ill-fated attempt to make a fictional film about a wily entrepreneur and politician with all the features of Silvio Berlusconi. Nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes and winning six Davids at home, the film confirmed Moretti's standing as one of the most significant directors of Italian cinema in the third millennium.

Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. . 2010.

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