TONINO GUERRA: A SCREENWRITER-CONFESSOR
Tonino Guerra is a screenwriter that has collaborated with some of the most eminent auteurs in world cinema and one who has succeeded in upgrading this conventional, supplementary relationship into a co-creation. In order for such a co-creation to be achieved, one of the two has to rid himself of his creative "ego", to surrender to the "ego" of the other person and deny any personal self-interest or ambition. Guerra seems to accept this concession and to lead the filmmakers deeper into their own speculation, becoming a guide/confessor of their innermost visions.
Although he appears to be a descendant of Cesare Zavattini, the screenwriter who essentially defined the style and morals of Italian neorealism, Guerra deviates from his great mentor on one critical point: while Zavattini brought the directors with whom he collaborated over to his own social and moral speculation, Guerra goes to the filmmakers and helps them advance their own concept. It is not mere chance, therefore, that Tonino Guerra has worked with filmmakers who have totally different aesthetic, social, political and cinematic identities. Whether at the side of Michelangelo Antonioni and his sociophilosophical quests in L'Avventura, La Notte, L'Eclisse, The Red Desert, Blow Up, Zabriskie Point and Identification of a Woman or Francesco Rosi and the militant politics of The Mattei Affair, Lucky Luciano and Exquisite Corpses; whether in the politicized cinema of Elio Petri or Mario Monicelli's Casanova 70; with post-neorealism Vittorio de Sica or the Taviani brothers' St Michael Had a Rooster, The Night of the Shooting Stars and Kaos or together with the exile that seeks the essence of his existence in Tarkovsky's Nostalgia, Guerra travels through these very different worlds with the ease of a wayfarer who is not anxious to reach his destination, but is enjoying the journey itself. He is nostalgic in Fellini's Amarcord and suffers loss in And the Ship Sails On.
With our own Theo Angelopoulos, from Voyage to Cythera onwards to Eternity and a Day, Guerra immerses himself in the speculation of the Greek director on history and its silence; its changes and their open wounds; on the world that is leaving violently, to the sound of dirges.
Guerra is a rare, and quite possibly unique case in European cinema, in that he approaches filmmaking and its auteurs with such humility and such generosity. A man who succeeded as "confessor" to Antonioni, Fellini and Angelopoulos, is himself a chapter in modern-day cinema.
He was born in 1920, in Sant'Arcangelo, Italy, south of Ravenna. He started off writing novels, poetry and short stories in his native dialect. Together with Elio Petri and Giuseppe De Santis, he wrote his first screenplay for the film Men and Wolves (1957), which was directed by De Santis. With L'Avventura, he began a steady collaboration with Antonioni, and it is difficult to distinguish the imput of the screenwriter from that of the director, so similar was their view of the world; a world they saw as alienated, but filled with rarified emotions. The year 1967 marks the beginning of a close association with Francesco Rosi, whose lucid political analyses and cutting dialogue owe much to the stylistic pursuits of the screenwriter. Guerra's mark appears in many other films by directors such as: Elio Petri, Damiano Damiani, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio de Sica, Alberto Lattuada, the Taviani Brothers, Giuseppe Tornatore, Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky and Theo Angelopoulos. In his screenplay for Amarcord, Guerra evokes his memories from Emilia Romagna, which was also the birthplace of Federico Fellini, producing an exceptional analysis of the popular myths of an entire country under fascism.
1961 La Notte
1964 The Red Desert
1967 Blow Up
1970 Zabriskie Point
1972 The Mattei Affair
1973 Lucky Luciano, Amarcord
1976 Illustrious Corpses
1981 The Night of the Shooting Stars
1982 Identification of a Woman
1983 Nostalgia, And the Ship Sails On
1984 Voyage to Cythera
1985 Ginger and Fred
1986 The Beekeeper
1987 Chronicle of a Death Foretold
1988 Landscape in the Mist
1991 The Suspended Stride of the Stork
1998 Eternity and a Day