Martedì, 23 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Legendary screenwriter Cerami dies

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, July 17 - Legendary Italian screenwriter
Vincenzo Cerami, a student of director Pier Paolo Pasolini who
went on to worldwide success with Roberto Benigni, died in Rome
Wednesday aged 72.
Cerami, a Roman of Sicilian descent, co-wrote Benigni's 1999
Oscar winner Life Is Beautiful and was nominated for the
screenwriting award that year.
Benigni led the tributes, saying: "Vincenzo Cerami was a
writer, rugby player, screenwriter, unequalled twist dancer,
poet. He taught me how to make people's hearts beat faster.
"How beautiful it was to be his friend. What a gift! Thank
you Vincenzo for yourself and your beautiful smile".
Cerami was heavily influenced by Pasolini from his encounter
with the future poet, writer and filmmaker when he taught at
Cerami's middle school on the outskirts of Rome, to his first
steps in the Italian film world, when he followed Pasolini round
the set of Uccellacci e Uccellini (Sparrows and Hawks, 1966).
He once said of the Italian cinema great, a champion of the
disinherited who was murdered in 1976 leaving a legacy including
Accattone, Mamma Roma, Teorema and Salò: "I owe everything to
Pasolini, and without him I wouldn't have been able to look at
the world with pity and severity combined. What I will always
miss of Pier Paolo was his inestimable gift of seeing life as
great collective poetry".
Cerami's own poetic vision found its fullest expression in
the luminescent screenplays he wrote with the madcap, visionary
and humanist Tuscan comic Benigni.
In all, he co-authored seven Benigni works, including Il
Mostro (The Monster, 1994), Pinocchio (2005) and La Tigre e La
Neve (The Tiger And The Snow, 2005).
But their crowning achievement was Life Is Beautiful, where
they dared to inform a Holocaust movie with sprightly and
graceful humour, humanity and hope.
The film, which came out in 1997 before it won Oscars for
best actor, director and score two years later, regularly tops
polls of all-time favourite movies.
Cerami's rise to a place in cinema history was not planned.
While he was still Pasolini's middle-school student he was
equally taken with sport, especially rugby where he made the
all-Italy junior team and was banking on a professional career
before a shoulder injury ended his hopes.
What was sport's loss was cinema's gain. But after learning
the ropes with his mentor Pasolini, Cerami's own efforts behind
the camera faltered, so he turned to his secret love, writing -
poems, screenplays, and, crucially, a debut novel in 1976 that
became a huge hit and was turned into a memorable film directed
by the great Mario Monicelli and starring Italian screen legend
Alberto Sordi.
Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo (An Average Little Man) launched
Cerami onto the Rome literary and cultural scene, where he would
eventually become friends of such lions as novelist Alberto
Moravia, director Federico Fellini, actor and director Massimo
Troisi and iconic actor Totò, who had a cameo in Uccellacci and
Uccellini.
The 1977 film offered comic genius Sordi one of his most
serious roles, as a symbol of a troubled Italian society coming
to terms with social unrest and terrorism.
His portrayal of a petit bourgeois who takes the law into
his own hands after his son is killed in an armed robbery won
numerous awards.
Cerami went on to work with members of Pasolini's circle
like Sergio Citti' before making his mark with Colpire Al Cuore
(A Blow To The Heart), a family tragedy involving terrorism
directed by Gianni Amelio in 1983.
Five years later Cerami teamed up with Benigni, then a
relatively little-known Tuscan comedian with a cult TV
following, for Il Piccolo Diavolo (1988).
It was a marriage made in heaven, with Benigni's exuberant
improvisation, comic timing and oddball vision of life wed to
Cerami's literary inventiveness, sometimes surreal imagination
and socially committed understanding of what makes people tick -
an engagement with society, born of his working-class roots,
that would later translate into a short political career as
shadow culture minister for the centre-left Democratic Party.
Last month, accepting a David di Donatello lifetime
achievement award for his ailing friend and creative partner,
Benigni told an audience at the Italian equivalent of the
Oscars:
"Vincenzo taught me so many things, above all that only
amateurs wait for inspiration, while the others roll back their
sleeves and get cracking.
"He was so precise in everything he did, and precision is a
quality that belongs to the great visionaries.
"He was someone who opened his heart to all life's riddles,
to its flowering mysteries".
Former PD leader Walter Veltroni, who named Cerami to his
2007-2008 shadow cabinet, said Wednesday:
"His books, the films he wrote, and his generous passion
made him one of the most significant intellectuals of the recent
past".
Recalling his teen studies with Pasolini, Veltroni added:
"From that extraordinary experience as a young lad, he retained
a curiosity, desire to know and empathy with people, and his
commitment turned all this into extraordinary writing, an acute
and never banal view that made him one of Italy's best
screenwriters.
Of Cerami's time in the cabinet opposed to media
tycoon-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi, Veltroni said: "It
was a job he wasn't used to but which he took on with an
enthusiasm and passion full of ideas, demolishing the rather
stale image of the political functionary".
Cerami, who was reported to be working on a new book with
Mondadori, is survived by long-time former partner Mimsy Farmer
and their actress daughter Aisha; and later wife Graziella
Chiecossi with whom he had a son, Matteo, a budding director.

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