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The cast of Velocità massima


The film first saw the light of day as a documentary about a sport, albeit illegal, that numbers thousands of fans

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by Federico Greco and
Cristiana Paternò

It is not often a directorial debut is selected for competition in Venice, but that is precisely what happened to Daniele Vicari with Velocità Massima. Produced by Domenico Procacci’s Fandango, this film first saw the light of day as a documentary about a sport, albeit illegal, that numbers thousands of fans: nocturnal car and bike races through the streets of Rome’s suburbs. This is also a film about the “pulling power” of the combustion engine; Stefano (Valerio Mastandrea) and an apprentice mechanic called Claudio (Cristiano Morroni) also compete against one another for the favours of the same girl (played by Alessia Barela). “Contemporary society is built on possible impossibility. While there are huge amounts of cash in circulation in the suburbs, with lots of Euros20,000 cars and powerful bikes but what is totally missing is culture and critical judgement. Only sensitive people like Claudio realise how culturally sterile the world they inhabit is. And like him, they suffer hugely as they acquire and develop a social conscience.”
Vicari wrote the screenplay with documentary-maker Guido Chiesa (who directed a wonderful film about the Fiat car factory entitled Non mi basta mai). Vicari feels that individualism is expressed in extreme forms in the suburbs, where he who has the most powerful car and the best looking woman is top dog. This aspect of human nature is more subdued in those who were born and brought up in a Catholic environment.
Velocità Massima tries to deconstruct these extreme forms of behaviour through plain speaking. “In Italian films, the working class was often portrayed by directors of a different background and that resulted in their being judgemental... I was born in Pietralata (A Rome suburb – Editor’s note) and don’t have a filmmaking background, apart from having watched westerns on the telly. I studied filmmaking first at university under Guido Aristarco and later, working with Guido Chiesa. In this film I tried to portray a working class hero who wants to be a mechanic and not a dancer.”
“Every day I see so many blokes who resemble my protagonist. People who must give a meaning to any and everything, from friendship to work to women", says Valerio Mastandrea. "Stefano is a chameleon who puts on a business suit to meet with his bank manager and only puts his overalls back on when he’s up to his eyes in debt. He betrays his best friend, the worst thing you can possibly do, and doesn’t even realise it".
Vicari has no doubt that Claudio, played by 23-year-old Cristiano Morroni, is the most complex character of this film. A great challenge for 23-year-old Cristiano Morroni who, to paraphrase a line from Italo Calvino’s Il midollo del leone "looks like a lion, but is a real softy inside".