Rubini’s “bogeyman” a failed artist
by Camillo de Marco
30/11/2009 - As an actor, Sergio Rubini had the great fortune to play Federico Fellini’s alter ego in the autobiographical Intervista, (1987, it was Fellini’s second to last film and Rubini was 28) and acquired from the master filmmaker a taste for the dreamlike, the grotesque and “amarcord” [in Fellini’s dialect, literally, “I remember”]. Eventually, Rubini became a director as well, and an interesting one at that, for his great vivacity and the density of his images.
Rubini’s recent films continuously hark back to his native region, Apulia, and childhood memories, in a historical re-appropriation of buried memories, faces, shadows, smells, loved ones and emotions (even violent ones) in a never-ending journey through his subconscious.
“If we don’t come back to ourselves, what can we talk about?" says the director, who did precisely that in Our Land, Love Returns [trailer], Soul Mate [trailer], All the Love There Is, and even his directorial debut, The Station (1990). He’s done it again in L'Uomo Nero [trailer] (“The Bogeyman”), his tenth feature as director, which will be released on December 4 on over 200 screens by 01 Distribution. The film was produced by Bianca Film and RAI Cinema.
Written by Domenico Starnone – who like Rubini is the son of a railway man – and Carla Cavalluzzi, the story centres on Ernesto (Rubini), a stationmaster living in a small Apulian town in the 1960s, whose artistic ambitions are thwarted by his fellow townspeople, forever relegating him to the role of a dilettante painter. He lives with his wife (Valeria Golino), a full-time teacher and housewife; his 30-year-old brother-in-law (Riccardo Scamarcio), a bachelor heartbreaker; and his lively seven-year-old son Gabriele (Guido Giaquinto), the victim of his father’s artistic fits. The story is told through the boy’s eyes and is thus made larger than life by childhood imagination.
Ernesto himself is a victim, of two of the town’s notables: Professor Venusio and the lawyer Pizzetti (the wonderful Vito Signorile and Maurizio Micheli, respectively, who are like the Fox and Cat in Pinocchio). Only as an adult, after Ernesto’s death, will Gabriele discover his father’s unspoken redemption and realise that the irascible man was not "the bogeyman" he thought him to be.
While L'Uomo Nero is a veritable catalogue of self-references – from Rubini’s small-town Apulian stationmaster in The Station, to Gabriele Salvatores’ Teeth (based on the novel by Starnone and starring Rubini) and even the recent Colpo D'Occhio in its open criticism of critics – the brilliants performances by the three main characters (as well as the young Giaquinto and the rest of the cast) renew an original idea that Rubini keeps alive, always maintaining the light tones of comedy.
(Translated from Italian)