Grande. GRANNNDEEE Carlo!
Of course, with my never-ending love for Rome and Roman culture, it was inevitable that Verdone already held a special place in my heart, for his comic portrayals of Rome, Romans, and his comic gift in bringing slightly (or not-so slightly) exaggerated characters to life.
Last night I had the pleasure of being in the audience at the Piazza Vittorio summer outdoor cinema series (16th year running!) where occasionally they have Q&A sessions with the actors and directors of the various films showing. When it was time for “Posti in Piedi in Paradiso” (“Standing Room Only in Heaven” would be the English equivalent translation), written and directed (and acted!) by Verdone, he was on hand to greet the crowd and answer questions about his film and his long career that’s still going strong after 33 successful years. (Here’s his Wikipedia page.)
Do any of you know him or have met him in person or seen him give a talk? He is splendid. Splendidly Roman, “alla mano,” sincero e genuino. The first words out of his mouth were words of thanks to the people of Rome, who he says he owes his career to, and he says he never takes for granted. He blew kisses to the crowd and gestured to his heart. I honestly do not believe there is a superficial bone in the man’s body. I mean, I could be totally and completely wrong. But after listening to him talk and banter with the crowd for nearly an hour, I was convinced that he walks the talk.
Carlo lives in Monteverde Vecchio, as far as I know. I used to live in Trastevere and my ex-husband would sometimes see him at CeCeRe which was this historically Roman bar close to Piazza S. Cosimato that changed management years and years ago. In any case, the characters who ran that bar were awesomely Roman. The man who served up the cappuccini had the most distinctive barman voice I’ve ever heard, it was almost robotic in a way, but such a pleasure to hear him bark out his unique “Buongiorno” and “grazie” loudly and firmly to literally every single person who walked in or out.
The woman at the cash register was tough as nails and old as the hills. She was such a character that she actually ENDED UP in one of Verdone’s films! I saw it and was like, “Hey! That’s my bar cash register lady!”
Verdone knows how to perfectly capture the Roman spirit and explained how he still keeps his finger on the pulse of the day-to-day life of the city. He said that while others among his colleagues might lead a lifestyle where they sleep until 2 pm and start their day at 10 pm, always seeing the same set of people and the same social scene, he says that the most essential part of his “research” for finding sources for his writing and films and comedy is his Roman neighborhood in the morning. Especially the pharmacy. (Have I told you yet how much I adore this man? He sounds like an older, male, Roman version of ME!) He says he likes to go into the pharmacy to take his blood pressure as an excuse to hear the long life stories that people tell the pharmacists by way of then finally getting around to describing their ailment. He says he kind of hangs out around the blood pressure machine, telling the pharamacists to “take their time” while he soaks up the people and conversations around him, silently and stealthily gathering material. “Mi son bruciato già due o tre farmacie in zona mia così!” he said, laughing, that he’s already gone through 2 or 3 pharmacies that caught on to this act of his and told him not to come back. Ha. Typical Roman joke.
He also said that riding the train is essential for getting great material, because people LOVE to talk in loud voices on their cell phones, telling whoever is on the other end their life dramas and stories, and it’s so true. He said that he was having to take trains often for work reasons from Rome to Milan, and would spend the time just punching away on his cell phone note after note from the conversations he’d hear on the train, and bits and pieces of all these scraps end up in his scripts here and there.
He talked about his passion for Rome and Romans, and his curiosity and the enjoyment he gets from talking to the people at the gas station, the bar, the shops in his neighborhood.
I just loved this, and again I don’t think it’s a put on. He talked about how he’s filmed 13 movies at the Cinecittà film studios, and over the past two years written numerous editorials advocating for the support of this dying historical landmark of Italian cinema. He vaguely referred to colleagues of his who signed petitions to prevent Cinecittà from closing but haven’t ever filmed there, and although he said it’s a topic that has to “be approached delicately” to be diplomatic, by the time he finished up telling about Cinecittà, he was fervent and raised his voice, criticizing those who claim to want to save Cinecittà but haven’t ever done anything more than talk. He passionately talked about the wealth of artisan skill in the workers there, and his hope that no one loses their job, along with it the rich tradition of Italian craftsmanship in film-making.
I love this man. I love his comedy, I love his sincere spirit, and best of all, he completely exuded this energy of being comfortable in his own skin. The entire time I never felt like I was in front of someone who had to prove anything to anyone, or someone who takes pride in being a celebrity, if not a true comic legend, of Italian film. He’s just Carlo.
When the host asked him if it’s hard for him to still quietly observe daily life in Rome due to his fame, he said that he loves his neighborhood, where everyone is just themselves, and the most he gets from most people on the street is “‘A CA’! Ciao!” Romans calling out hi to him in their local dialect slang. He’s just one of the many, and I think it’s kind of commendable. Sure, he’s rich, famous, well-connected, etc., etc. But you have to give a guy credit for staying true to his roots. Rock on Carlo.
He’s going to be appearing in Paolo Sorrentino’s next film which starts shooting next week, called “La Grande Bellezza,” in a dramatic role, which is a change for him. And then after, he says he’s going back to filming another of his own scripted and directed comedies, which he said that his producer DeLaurentiis emailed him yesterday saying will be filmed all digital.
And after this elogy, however, I don’t even want to put a comic clip of Verdone up. I want to put up one of the scenes that honestly left its impression. I love this scene. I love the passion, I love the way he recites this monologue, I just think he’s brilliant. Here he’s talking about a woman that he had an affair with and how he doesn’t regret a thing, and how it was all worth it. I think he has this philosophy on life, going after what he believes in, going for what he’s passionate about, and it’s evident in his work. He’s humble and genius all at once.