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Cesare Zavattini discusses his career

BROADCAST: 1962 | DURATION: 00:27:31


Interviewing Cesare Zavattini while Studs was in Italy. Carlo Baldi translates. This is the second half of the interview that starts with Nervi and Nicoletti.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel Well, this raises, of course, a very significant and vital point in all literature, art, movies, and all creativity today, perhaps more than ever today because of mass communications. The problem you, Cesare Zavattini, were facing in this film. Here is Sartre, who wrote for a limited audience, a highly developed audience, seeing his play in theaters. You are writing a movie for a mass audience. Earlier you said your problem is to simplify. So the big point comes up, the danger, some will say, of vulgarizing a point, of patronizing, playing down to an audience, this is a great danger, is it not? At the same time to make it clear and, yet, be true to Sartre.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) I have translated to him, and his answer is, that he's perfectly conscious, and in perfect consciousness and honesty says that this was his point. To make it possible for the public to have a dialogue with the film, you know, to bring these values that were in this decision of "Altona" amongst the public to discuss, to feel and discuss.

Studs Terkel A question of identification.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Yes. Yes. To open up a dialogue between what is in the screen and what the public see. He pointed out before that, he also, in his adaptation, he always had in mind what kind of director he was going to use. He wrote for a certain director, was De Sica, he wrote for certain actors, was Sophia Loren, so he also had in mind the possibilities, the capacities, the limits of the actors and the actress and the director he was working with. He had to bring in mind a triangular kind of relationship, one with the text, one with the public and one with the directors and the actors, you see, and yet to combine these three elements, you know.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian]. The relationship with himself.

Studs Terkel With himself, of course, we can't ignore the fact of, if we may come now to Cesare Zavattini and other projects. I know he is involved with young directors, he is continuously at work. We've discussed his relationship with De Sica, the particular problem faced with this film, "The Sequestration of Altona", the problem of an adapter. Obviously, Zavattini is not happy as an adapter, he's something else. What is it now--he is an original writer--what it is now, the projects you're working with, with young directors of Italy?

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible] "Dolci", is that one of the projects?

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Yes, he's working on three, he says that also he is very happy that, and he thanks his good luck, his chance, that he has met De Sica, because in these 20 years of collaboration with De Sica, he has been very happy about this work. Also, he feels this, he is also interested in working with groups of young directors who are in their first experience or even in their very first experience, and he has now on the way three films in the same time. One is autobiography of Danilo Dolci, the well-known--

Studs Terkel We talked about Carlo Levi, the man who has done so much in Sicily, in the South.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) He is working on this film that will be directed by Mingozzi, a young documentary director who has produced, was directed a few documentary films of very good quality. The title "Autobiography of Danilo Dolci" should not make as misunderstand the film. Actually, they don't want to tell, the film does not want to tell the chronicle, the story of Danilo Dolci, but to locate, to place Danilo Dolci's value, the studies he has made in this particular environment and the results he has obtained with responsibility in relations to actual present Sicily with the economic, political, social situation of Sicily, seen on a certain angle which is based on the moral and physical commitment of Danilo Dolci and therefore, if they make Danilo Dolci the responsible factor in relation to the Sicilian situation.

Studs Terkel It was clear, obviously to me, and has been even when I first entered the room, and also seeing some of the films he was involved with, that Cesare Zavattini is continuing his--the life force in him, to use his phrase--his commitment, man's responsibility, and in this instance, the artist's responsibility is continually a recurring theme in the work and life of Cesare Zavattini.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Even he says that he tries his best to attack this Italian situation, to examine present Italy's aspects from all different angles. Even in the second film, that there's a provisory title of "Autobiography of Maurizio Arena" he is examining a particular aspect of our lives. Maurizio Arena is an actor who had great success for a certain period, now he's forgotten in a way, he's not working. He was a very good-looking boy, that he had a great success especially with women. This film is his autobiography as autobiography of a lover, is an autobiography of Maurizio Arena in his relationship with women. It's directed by a young director that has also done some work in cinema and is now at his very first film. Maurizio Arena in this film examines in great honesty helped by the script, of course, by the script, examines his past loves in a new light. He sees them in a new light and his actual situation, we see in a obviously, evidently reconstructed serial of scenes all these loves and he judges these women he had been with and his relationship and then we see Arena being judged by a group of three hundred women as sort of a, Zavattini used the word "comizio," you know, a gathering of women who judge Maurizio is there to be judged, you see, and this is a man who had success, and he's now judged.

Studs Terkel I think it's rather fascinating--

Carlo Baldi (Translator) This touches one particular aspect of our social life, which is the relationship between the two sexes.

Studs Terkel Well, of course.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Between a

Studs Terkel man and a woman. This point, I've asked different--Oh, I must ask Cesare Zavattini this point since he's raised it. First of all, the fascinating aspect of his variety of interests. Danilo Dolci and what one man committed has done for an area of Italy, and then this actor, this lover, and in a sense what society has done to him. But this question of, I've only, thus far I haven't been able to meet the Italian woman, I've asked different American women living in Italy, the question of, "What do you feel is the status of the woman in Italy" Obviously, these women are judging this lover, this actor. Truly the feeling of the status--we have a sense that women are still somewhat feudal in their relationship to men. They're considered second-class citizens. Is this true or has it changed? Perhaps this last question, this is our last question to ask of Mr. Zavattini.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) He says that he is not afraid of say something that has been said before, but it is basically true, is that the Italian, even the most open-minded Italian, when he walks into his house and shuts the doors behind his shoulders, he goes back 100, 200 years and this because he feels that women in Italy, the woman in Italy, is tangled to everything that is backwards in Italy, and mostly because the development of the relationship between men and women is still conditioned by a false morality, that is not only concerns sexual relationship, but also involves a political element. He feels that women as in their sexual and their family, in their civil relationships are not, how to say, are not backed by an environment which facilitates their development. Are always involved with all the most negative aspects of our slow development. There are certain themes. The cinema is, gives us a picture of this so much that the most delicate themes are never been touched, they are taboo, as we said, and only now a few films dare to discuss some of these sacred themes, the things that we do not talk about, that we not discuss. And the woman, as we said, is in a most unfortunate position being entangled, be we will--

Studs Terkel An almost feudal aspect.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) By this aspect of Italy which is the most backward.

Studs Terkel Well, perhaps, perhaps--

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) In this country the woman only has adultery as a mean of escape.

Studs Terkel Adultery--

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Now Mr. Zavattini will tell us of his third film. He talk about three film, he told us about the first ones--

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Yes, yes.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Studs Terkel He's working

Cesare Zavattini on Don Quixote. [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) The third film is also directed by a young director that, like Partesano, who's going to direct the second film, and Mingozzi, who's going to direct the first film, is very young but has experience in documentary-making, he made some very interesting documentary films. This is Don Quixote in 1963. It's a film about a man who is not accepted and has been refused employment at the Italian television because he is a little too outspoken, is too advanced, is too open-minded, and he wants to make something great, something very interesting. And he feels that he has to interview the people, because the people have some basic truth. Therefore, once he takes advantage of by chance, he manages to jump on one of the tracks, the television tracks that go around for inquiries, for research work and so forth, and for two hours he goes around Rome interviewing every sort of people, going into every kind of places, of course, and he just thinks he is making it a great thing and then he's getting some real basic truths. At the end, he is won, he loses his battle, but we had the chance to go around Rome and see many things that--

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) He is followed by the police, etc.

Studs Terkel It has humor in it, too, of course, a great deal of humor, too.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) It has a great deal of humor, and a great deal of social truth. This is in some way the opposite of the mysteries of Rome, that Zavattini wrote and then realized together with a group of young film directors.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) For which he had many difficulties. This one being in the completely different key has been very--easier to make, but it still concerns certain human and social problems that interests Zavattini.

Studs Terkel Well, this is interesting. I think on--perhaps this is the perfect way to end this discussion. You have named your three projects, and in these three projects, one dealing with a real man, Danilo Dolci, facing personal responsibility in what he does in Sicily, two, the lover and all the aspects of him and the way he's tossed about by society and the way he himself behaves. And thirdly, the idealist, this figure, Don Quixote, through the ages in this particular time. It seems to me all three of these, then, are facets of a creative man, Cesare Zavattini, and we look forward to seeing all of these films in America, as I'm sure we shall, and mille grazie, Cesare Zavattini, I have enjoyed your brandy, your hospitality, but most of all the excitation, the exhilaration of your mind, your thoughts, and your company.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) [Italian].

Studs Terkel Grazie, mille grazie, Cesare Zavattini.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Carlo Baldi (Translator) Bellissimo. He says that in order to find the man for Don Quixote, to play Don Quixote, they're making a concorso, a--

Studs Terkel Quest.

Carlo Baldi (Translator) A quest, and they say that they look for a man from 20 to 35 years of age who would like to play the role of Don Quixote, and he's prepared to say the truth and all the truth about Italy.

Studs Terkel We'll look for that man.

Cesare Zavattini [Italian].

Studs Terkel We'll find that man.

Cesare Zavattini