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Умер режиссер Джило Понтекорво


Вики о Д.Понтекорво
IMDB. La Battaglia di Algeri

IF BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925) is the most celebrated work of propaganda in the history of cinema, then Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) is certainly the most watchable.

Ideology and entertainment rarely mix well in film, which probably explains why the picture was the only one made by the unashamedly political Pontecorvo that enjoyed any success. The odds were even against that happening when he first took on the proposal of the newly independent Algerian Government to tell the story of the country’s liberation from French colonial rule.

The subject matter was potentially powerful, but Pontecorvo dismissed the suggested source material - the prison memoirs of one of the leaders of the revolt - as being too subjective, and fretted about the film’s financing by the Algerians and the difficulty of generating audience sympathy for characters deeply implicated in acts of terror.

It took several years of careful planning before he arrived at a solution, which was to shoot the film in a neorealist documentary style, and without using professional actors. The result is a masterpiece of compelling story-telling that depicts a spiral of violence which ultimately overwhelms all its initiators, in particular the French forces, whose use of torture only fans the flames of rebellion.

The film, which benefits from Marcello Gatti’s cinematography and a score by Ennio Morricone, is surprisingly even-handed, but was immediately banned in France. It gained recognition, however, at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, and in America, where it was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film

Gilberto Pontecorvo was born into an affluent Jewish family in Pisa in 1919. One of ten children, as a child he was overshadowed by the intellect of several of his brothers. The most noted of these was Bruno, who was to shock Western Europe in 1950 when he voluntarily moved to the Soviet Union, taking with him his knowledge of atomic physics.

Gillo Pontecorvo studied chemistry at Pisa University, but when racial laws were implemented against the Jews by Mussolini he fled to Paris, where he found work as a correspondent for several left-leaning Italian newspapers. When the Germans arrived, he moved to St Tropez, where he supported himself by giving tennis lessons. All his life, Pontecorvo had the reputation of being something of an idler.

In 1941, however, he joined the Italian Communist Party and returned home to fight with the partisans. After the war, having been strongly impressed by the polemical films of Rossellini, notably Paisa (1946), he took up first acting and then directing, initially as an assistant to Mario Monicelli, the maker of Italy’s equivalent of such Ealing comedies as The Ladykillers.

After shooting a number of documentaries, Pontecorvo’s first outing as a director was La grande strada azzurra (1957), a rather earnest tale of the struggles of a humble fisherman and his wife, improbably played by the decidedly grand Yves Montand and Alida Valli. He followed this with Kapo (1960), a story of the Holocaust, which attracted much controversy both for the rhetorical manner of its staging and Pontecorvo’s rather too blatant politicising.

They were faults which were to mar the only other two films he was to make after the acclaim given to The Battle of Algiers. On the back of it, he was invited to Hollywood to shoot a picture with Marlon Brando. Like its star, Queimada (1969), also known as Burn!, looked handsome enough, but its confused and allegorical plot about colonialism in the Caribbean blighted its chances at the box office.

It was another ten years before Pontecorvo got behind the camera again, this time to make a film about the Basque campaign for self-rule and the assassination in 1973 of Franco’s mooted successor Admiral Carrero Blanco. Ogro (Operation Ogre, 1979) flopped, however, and thereafter Pontecorvo retreated to Rome.

From time to time he would give out that he was working on a project - a biopic of Archbishop Romero, a film about Christ - but nothing materialised. The timing, it seemed, was never quite right.

It thus came as a surprise when, in 1992, Pontecorvo accepted the offer to run the Venice Film Festival, and even more so when he made a success of it. Astutely mixing controversial selections with big American draws, in his four years in charge he managed to revive much of the festival’s fading lustre, though afterwards he could not do the same for Cinecittà, the Rome film studios of which he was president.

He is survived by his wife, Picci, and their three children.
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