Faenza, Roberto


Faenza, Roberto
(1943-)
   Director and screenwriter. Born in Milan, Faenza moved to Rome to study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, where he graduated in directing in 1965. In 1968, while still completing a doctorate in political science, he made his first film, Escalation (1968), the story of a bitter, no-holds-barred struggle between a wealthy businessman and his nonconformist hippie son, a struggle that eventually escalates into brutal murder. This was quickly followed by an even more ferocious attack on bourgeois conformism, H2S (1971), a futuristic dystopic fantasy whose name appropiately alludes to the chemical formula for sulfuric acid. The film's caustic nature provoked the ire of the censors, who delayed its release by almost two years. In the meantime, Faenza moved to the United States, where he lectured on mass media at the Federal City College, Washington, D.C.
   In 1978, having returned to Italy to teach at the University of Pisa, Faenza fired another broadside against the system with his ironically titled Forza Italia (Go Italy, 1978), a savage attack on the ruling Christian Democrat Party carried out through a careful montage of newsreel footage. This was followed by an even more grotesque critique of the Italian Communist Party in Si salvi chi vuole (Whoever Wants Should Save Themselves, 1980). After Copkiller (1982), a film shot entirely in English in the United States and starring Harvey Keitel and Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), and Mio caro dottor Grasler (The Bachelor, 1989), adapted from a short novel by Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler, Faenza appeared to soften his tone considerably with Jona che visse nella balena (Jonah Who Lived in the Whale, 1993). The moving adaptation of a biographical novel by Jona Oberski that recounted the experience of a young Jewish boy in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Jona earned Faenza much critical acclaim and a David di Donatello for direction.
   A now-mellowed Faenza followed this up with two further literary adaptations, Sostiene Pereira (Pereira Declares, 1995), from the best-selling novel by Antonio Tabucchi, and Marianna Ucria (1997) from a historical novel by Dacia Maraini. L'amante perduto (Lost Lover, 1999) was also a literary adaptation but this time by Jewish writer Abraham B. Yehoshua, set against the background of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Prendimi l'anima (The Soul Keeper, 2003) was a similarly sensitive portrayal of the ill-fated love affair between psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung and his young female patient Sabina Spielrein. Two years later Faenza returned to more socially committed themes with Alla luce del sole (In the Light of the Sun, 2005), a passionate denunciation of the murder of parish priest Don Giuseppe Puglisi by the Mafia in Palermo in 1993.

Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. . 2010.

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