Addio, Gianfranco Mingozzi

Bertini Serena

We mourn over the loss of Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Mingozzi. After a long illness, Gianfranco Mingozzi (born 1932) has died on 7.10.2009.

Mingozzi, born near Bologna, and son of parents who owned a local cinema, started in film in the late 1950s, after getting a degree in law and finishing the Roman film academy Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. While starting to make documentaries, he also became assistant director for Gianni Franciolini’s Ferdinando I, re di Napoli (1959); Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960), while also playing an uncredited role as the priest who permits Steiner to play on the organ; and L’amant de cinq jours de Philippe de Broca (1961).  

In 1961 he filmed his first fiction film, the episode La vedova bianca of Le italiane e le amore,  a film inspired by real events. After some ten documentaries in the early and mid-1960s, including Michelangelo Antonioni, storia di un autore (1966), Mingozzi wrote and directed Trio (1967); Sequestro di persona/Island of Crime (1968) with Charlotte Rampling and Franco Nero; La vita in gioco/Morire a Roma (1972) with Mimsy Farmer; the horror drama – also named ‘Nunsploitation’- Flavia, la monaca musulmana (1974) with Florina Bolkan; the tv-movie Gli ultimi tre giorni (1977); the mini-series Il treno per Istambul (1980) with Stefano Satta Flores; La vela incantata/ The Magic Screen (1983) with Massimo Ranieri and Monica Guerritore, and inspired by his own memories of his youth; the sexual awakenings of a boy in WWI in Les exploits d’un jeune Don Juan/Exploits of a Young Don Juan (1987), with Fabrice Josso and based on a story by Apollinaire; L’ appassionata (1988) with Piera degli Esposti; of course the romantic drama Il frullo del passero/The Sparrow’s Fluttering (1988), with Philippe Noiret and Ornella Muti; and Tobia al caffë (2000). In addition to fiction, Mingozzi also shot numerous documentaries such as L’ultima diva (1982) on Italian silent cinema star Francesca Bertini. His last works were the documentary Giorgio/Giorgia (storia di una voce) (2008), presented at last year’s Festival del Film di Roma, and focusing on the life of transsexual Giorgia O’Brien; and Noi che abbiamo fatto la dolce vita (2009), a film on  the cast of Fellini’s classic film.
(Sources: IMDB/

Bertini La donna nuda

Gianfranco Mingozzi and I often met at the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna and Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, often together with our mutual friend, the late Vittorio Martinelli. Mingozzi told me at length about Francesca Bertini when he made L’ultima diva. Remember that in the documentary Bertini behaves like a real Norma Desmond: she remained a star, the movies got small. One night they were shooting at the Grand Hotel in the nighttime, apparently making too much noise. A lady knocked on the door, clearly disturbed by all the noise; it was the ‘real’ Norma Desmond: Gloria Swanson…  

Mind you, Bertini always told that, in the late 1910s at the zenith of her Italian career, she got a million dollar offer to come in Hollywood but she stayed in Italy instead. This was about the time that Swanson got her star breakthrough at Famous Players/Paramount in the DeMille films. In L’ultima diva, Bertini gave a marvellous insight into her own performance, indicating all the emotions of the protagonist of her famous film Assunta Spina; after which she sternly remarked: “Why all these intertitles? Everybody understands what’s happening!” Bertini was keen on keeping up appearances; for the outer world she lived at the Grand Hotel, but Mingozzi discovered she really lived in a humble souterrain apartment. She was a good sport though; for his documentary she re-enacted the death scene of Tosca, of which only a clip remains but which had been one of her great successes in the silent era. “Davanti a Dio, Scarpia!”

~ by Ivo Blom on October 26, 2009.

One Response to “Addio, Gianfranco Mingozzi”

  1. Beautiful story. Bob

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