Davide Manuli (Milan, 1967) might be best known for his last escapade into Rotterdam with “La Leggenda di Gaspar Hauser”, a very particular retake on the classic myth carried to the big screen by Werner Herzog, but this Italian filmmaker has been around since the late eighties’ struggling to find (and finally succeeding) a new narrative in cinema, which responds to the absurd and the warm embrace of dance music as means of communication. Davide took a moment to talk with us about his experience in “La Leggenda”, his work, working with Vincent Gallo, and his own expectations on cinema.
By Mónica Delgado
Davide, you’ve established a filmic universe through the use of black and White. ¿Is this a subject of economy (like Wakamatsu once said) or a necessary resource for what you wish to transmit with your films?
Until now, for my first three features it has been a necessary narrative resource for the stories I wanted to tell. I could also tell you what Woody Allen said years ago, and that is “I could shoot all of my movies in black and white”… since the world is in black and white…but there is a little problem with this: if you are not very famous already, the system does not allowed black and white anymore, they force you to go on with colour.
Bombay: Arthur road prison, Girotondo, Giro Intorno al Mondo and Beket are part of a trilogy. However, in La Leggenda di Kaspar Hauser I still found the motives, the extension (precisely) of that existential nonsense and burlesque of your previous films. ¿How do you define that extension or return to your themes/motives?
In reality we can divide my works like this: if you take BOMBAY, GIROTONDO, BEKET and KASPAR, they form a tetralogy, but within this tetralogy of solitude there is a more concrete dyptich of existensialism which is BEKET and KASPAR, since they are almost the same movie. For the moment I can only say that it happens a lot of times that an author is doing the same movie over and over again. It happens very often.
Beket is an author that seems to be forgotten, someone who at this period of time has become an author that makes no sense anymore, which is paradoxical, in the presence of what we call “Generation X”. I’m mentioning him because even in film history he’s an author that has inspired five films or more, but in some way, that interest for the absurd and critical humor is somehow lost. ¿How do you regain that inspiration in Beket (like that, without the c, which says a lot of that redesign or rereading)?
BECKETT is a giant, he is the most important modern author of the last century. He was a prophet in the sense that he caught with a lot of anticipation that our society is a total joke and make no sense at all. He also understood that the only possible point of view toward this total non-sense, was to be ironic, black ironic.
I don’t know why he is not celebrated as he should, maybe because people thinks that he is kind of heavy, but I can assure that Samuel Beckett is very light, very funny.
La Leggenda di Kaspar Hauser is a film that aims to build a world of new senses through the absurdity. Kaspar is an androgynous character, which sentimental education is limited to the dance rhythms, the sheriff is in a place where there’s barely any crime, the prostitute as the only friend is the liberating bridge (something that happens also in Girotondo…), the role of music as a connector of feelings, emotions… so how does this version of the “enigma” came to mind? I’m thinking specially about the distance between this film and your latter one.
I can tell you this: LA LEGGENDA is a narrative pioneer in the history of cinema. I wanted to do an original and particular film…but one thing is when you dream of it, write about it, talk about it…and another thing is when you watch it after you have closed the editing…LA LEGGENDA is a new boy, a new creature in cinema. A new genre that I define ELECTRO PROGRESSIVE CROSSOVER SURREAL CINEMATOGRAPHIC NARRATIVE.
It’s a sensorial experience. A real pioneer in its own way. People have to watch it for real, since it’s very difficult to talk about it.
We’ve seen recently how distribution and exhibition channels open for Leggenda di Kaspar Hauser, which you’ve just premiered in your country after a long run in some festivals. How is this development of an independent film and an aesthetic affront coming along?
When you miss Cannes and Berlin it’s very difficult for a movie like mine to get along into the market. It’s taking double effort and double time to make people understand that it’s worth it. It’s a nightmare. Cinema is in serious trouble as an art: we allowed only filmmakers that are already very famous to express their work, but the system does not accept the new ones, the newcomers. And, if you add to this the economic crisis that is touching Europe, with have a very bad picture for the present and the future. In this very moment there is no present and no future for independent movies like mine: the lobby market systems don’t want them at all.
How was it like working with Vincent Gallo? What was his involvement in the overall project of Leggenda?
Working with Vincent Gallo has been the best experience of my artistic life. I learned a lot, since he is a monster, a total giant in his craft. He is the best America actor of all times.
Actors like James Franco, Ryan Gosling or Adrien Body are nothing compared to Vincent Gallo. His involvement into the project has been of 200%. Vincent is a big big Artist.
Vitalic serves another important role in the film, because it’s not just a soundtrack, but the language that the characters use to communicate, meaning that it is precisely the main structure of the catharsis. How this collaboration came to be?
You are totally right: we can almost say that VITALIC is the only real solo protagonist of LA LEGGENDA, he takes the story to another level, Vitalic music produces a narrative LEVITHATION: we fly with him, we are no longer on earth. I met Vitalic in Rome an I showed him my previous movie BEKET, and he loved it very much.
Why also this interest to include non-professional actors of actresses or people that have a trajectory outside the film world, like in the case of Silvia Calderoni or the Boxer in Beket?
I answer you with the words of Al Pacino’s coach, Charly Laughton, who I worked with in New York: “actors can be the worst specimen on earth…but, how can you NOT love them, when they get real on stage?”, you see, the point is that I can find actor’s very dangerous and boring when they are all togheter, and so, I want to add some new rules to brake their balance. When an actor has to face a non-actor, the result is often very good.