The return of the prodigal son
by Giovanni Bogani
- The small-scale "King Midas" of Italian cinema is shooting Il paradiso all'improvviso, his comeback film after a break of two years. With a new discovery: the Columbian sex bomb, Angie Cepeda
Leonardo Pieraccioni The return of the prodigal son ISCHIA –Leonardo Pieraccioni’s new discovery is called Angie Cepeda. She’s Columbian, who moved from Perù to Los Angeles. The South American newspapers are already crazy about her: "Angie Cepeda is pure sin", they write, "sexo del màs exquisito y peligoroso splendor", and there’s no need to translate it to understand what they’re getting at. They say she’s "a monument to the exquisite art of being a woman". She’s a sublime triangle of woman/body/sex, they continue. A devil, with the look of a young girl.
And it’s with her – in fact all these women rolled into one – that Leonardo Pieraccioni is filming Il paradiso all'improvviso in Ischia, his comeback film after two years absence from the big screen. The film will be ready at Christmas. And what exactly is this film? A comedy. But not the usual comedy. "Leonardo isn’t the naïve, good little boy of his early films any more, he’s changed and his characters have changed", says his lifelong working partner, the screenwriter and director, Giovanni Veronesi, who has written the script for this film, together with Pieraccioni.
"Leonardo is more decisive, more arrogant. He’s changing, maturing. At almost 40 years old he’s not a kid anymore. And most of all, he doesn’t want to reproduce the same old gags". So in the new film, Leonardo Pieraccioni plays a confirmed and unrepentant bachelor. But, out of malice, his friends, Alessandro Haber and Rocco Papaleo try to get him to fall under a woman’s spell. A beautiful woman. "It’s a bet, a bet of love, that Leonardo plays", says Giovanni Veronesi. "The bet is at the heart of the film, where the comedy is very strong, and where there’s a romantic side that is different to the other films: probably a more mature romanticism".
In the film, Pieraccioni has a very strange job: he can produce rain, snow and hailstones with a click of his fingers. For those who work in cinema, it’s not such a strange job at all: there are the “rain wizards” as they’re called on set, people who are there to create floods, cloudbursts, or to fill warm, springtime squares with snow. The Pieraccioni in the film also provides rain and storms for parties and fashionable events. The part of his assistant is played by Anna Maria Barbera, a comic actress who’s currently a big hit on TV. She someone who can happily use the saying "Sometimes women only feel themselves after lovemaking... I only feel myself during!" So, on the one hand, it’s a more self-ironic and merciless type of comedy. And the other, there’s the more sensual side, that of Angie Cepeda.
So how did Pieraccioni discover her? In the simplest of ways: going to the cinema. In a small art-house cinema in Rome they were showing "Captain Pantoja and the Special Services", a Columbian film about a group of prostitutes and their relationship with the Columbian military. As soon as he saw her, he fell in love with her instantly.
And it was following Angie that Leonardo once again took up filmmaking, after a two-year break. But, out of the blue, last year they had to put up with 12 months hell of waiting: the halt was down to the block put on all Cecchi Gori’s productions. And being one of Cecchi Gori’s main authors and actors, he paid for the crash with a year’s sabbatical, so to speak, where he went back to the theatre, putting on a show that toured many Italian cities.
"It was a difficult time for the whole of Italian cinema: from my point of view I never pretended that I could always repeat the huge box office hits like The Cyclone or Fireworks: in Italy no-one, apart from Benigni and Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo, has managed to have such high box office returns for their films. Not even exceptional talents like Troisi or Verdone. Now I’m not bothered how much money this film makes: and I’ve also understood that it doesn’t make sense to add in three more punch-lines to make people laugh if they don’t fit in with the story. So, no crafty tricks this time". And as far as the year that could be seen as lost is concerned, he himself says "cinema is a hobby: my true love is cabaret". So, not a lost year, but a year dedicated to his everlasting passion. And now, at Ischia, Leonardo has rediscovered his mistress: cinema. They’ll be shooting on the island for a month, then they’ll be moving to Florence for a week. And we’ll see them all again at Christmas, to celebrate their passion, put on display for the whole Italian public.
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