Saturday, October 5, 2013
Carlo Lizzani (1922-2013)
My plan for today was to review Gravity, but I'm going to postpone that for a day to devote this space to more sad news from Italian cinema. Carlo Lizzani, one of the country's elder cinematic statesmen, passed away today at the age of 91. In a grim echo of the death of fellow nonagenarian Mario Monicelli a few years ago, Lizzani killed himself by jumping off a building. He was perhaps the last of the neorealist generation that put Italian cinema back on the map after World War II, working as a writer and assistant director on Roberto Rosselini's Germany Year Zero (1948). He was an Italian counterpart to Michael Apted, as much a documentarian as a director of fiction films. Many of the latter had ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter that Lizzani invested with an energetic immediacy. He won Italy's equivalent of the Oscar for directing one such picture, the crime film Bandits in Milan, which boasts one of cinema's great extended car chase scenes. Dino De Laurentis brought Lizzani to the U.S. to apply his talents to an American crime subject, and the result was the vastly underrated Crazy Joe, which gives a New York mob war an almost revolutionary inflection. Lizzani was apparently at his best as a crime director, but his spaghetti westerns The Hills Run Red and especially Requiescant (aka Kill and Pray) are well regarded by some genre fans. He remained active into his tenth decade, his last directing credit on IMDB coming from 2011. His last credit of any kind is from this very year, for co-writing a documentary on neo-realism; his last word on the subject may be the last word from his generation. Take a look at my reviews of Bandits, Crazy Joe and Hills to see what Lizzani was capable of and appreciate what the wild world of cinema has lost.