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Paolo Virzì

text Giovanni Bogani
photo Angela Lo Priore

February 5, 2020

Paolo Virzì tells Livorno

An authentic journey through the places where the Livornese director was born and raised

More than 20 years ago he conquered a New Zealand lady with a little film. She Jane Campion, president of the jury at the Venice Film Festival, he Paolo Virzì director of Ovosodo (1997), a film without professional actors, shot on the streets of Livorno. Since then Virzì is one of the few directors who knows how to tell the story of both the province and the capital, the poor and the poor, the bourgeois and the proletarians, who knows how to make films of commercial success and at the same time civil commitment. We talk with him about the places where he was born and raised.

How much do you feel Tuscan and how much native of Livorno?

Livorno is not really a Tuscan city. It was created by the Medici family during the modern age, it is the result of cross-breeding, just like some American cities. However, having lived away from Livorno for a while, I feel a deep bond with this wide and fascinating territory surrounding our beloved and hated seaside town. With the help of certain books and movies. 

What three personalities of the 1900s from Livorno are important to you? From Carlo Azeglio Ciampi to Piero Ciampi, the songwriter who fought against life and was regularly defeated.

A Leghornese by birth and by heart, a fellow citizen I am very proud of, is Giorgio Caproni. I could also mention Amedeo Modigliani, who remained true to his roots even during the years of his Parisian exile. And then the singers, football players and even graffiti artists, such as Zeb who wrote: “I feel like I’ve been talking to walls for twenty years”.  He has disappeared, nobody knows where he is.

What do you respond to someone who takes for granted that Tuscans are humorous and says “you are funny even when you are being serious”?

Saying that all Tuscans are amusing is a silly cliché. Tuscany gave also birth to Pacciani, known as the Monster of Florence. Richard Harris’ Hannibal was inspired by him. Tuscan people can be quite truculent, in the medieval sense of the term. 

What quarters in Livorno are most important to you?

Le Sorgenti, Corea, Cigna, where I grew up and learned to fight and bully the girls. Downtown Livorno, Piazza Cavour, the Attias area where I spent time as a student, parading and listening to the songwriters singing during the night. Ardenza, Antignano where, as a teenager, I used to walk along the seafront when I was sad or angry or hand in hand with a girlfriend at sunset. Venezia, an ancient quarter that , when I was young, was still bombed-out and today is Livorno’s most beautiful district, the one where I bought a house, a mansard, not worth much on the real-estate market but very precious to me.


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