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AN INTERVIEW WITH Luca Machnich Palmerini, DIRECTOR
First of all, please introduce yourself.
I am Luca Machnich Palmerini, screenwriter, director and producer.
Why you are a film director?
As the great Sergei Parajanov once said, directors are born, not made. The best film school is your mother’s womb, after which you can pick up
some helpful notions by studying film, as I did at the Los Angeles Film School. From that point on, there are those who sell out to the
mainstream film industry, while others remain craftsmen. I come from a family with a tradition in the film industry, as my mother was an actress
and my great-grandfather, Anton Machnich, is known in Italy for having opened the first movie theatres in the northern part of the country, in
the early 1900’s, and then in Bucharest and Dublin too, where one of his partners was the great
Irish writer James Joyce, author of Ulysses.
Please let us know more about your special experience in your film?
I must admit that I do not enjoy thinking back to all post-production work involved in completing my short film, including at least 120 digital effects,
plus reshooting the finale not once, but twice, after having to cut a number of scenes which, based on test screenings,
were not easily understood.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I love visionary work. For me, Alejandro Jodorowsky, the great director, poet, writer and proponent of psycho-magic,
is the foremost living visionary genius, thanks to the surreal, esoteric madness of his films. I adore madness,
just as I am enthralled by the early surreal works of Luis Buñuel, and by certain cinematic poems as well, such as Sergei Parajanov’s
iconically ceremonial Sayat Nova. But the auteurs whom I feel arose from the deepest reaches of consciousness,
and yet still managed to scale the loftiest peaks of imagination, are Tarkovsky and Fellini. Eight and a Half is the
greatest film ever made on the world of films, even better than Truffaut’s Day for Night, given how it firmly established the figure of the director,
at least in Italy, fully recognising the authority of the role. I consider Tarkovsky and Fellini to be Messiahs of Art.
Their films are nothing short of miracles. Once I had seen them, I no longer felt like the same person.
As for my chief influences, I consider Stanley Kubrick the most accomplished craftsman of celluloid and David Lynch its most extreme practitioner.
I am also enamoured of the films of the English writer and director Phillip Ridley, whose daring narrative skill, combined with profound
psychological insight and unflagging zest for life, were probably inherited from the vaunted English theatrical tradition.
You have achieved many awards so far for your wonderful film "The Eve", including some from the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
As a filmmaker, why did you decide to make it?
At first, I was supposed to direct a film based on a short story which Alejandro Jodorowsky had given me as a gift, only it lacked an ending,
and after numerous attempts to give the story a conclusion had failed, I put it aside when a treatment written by a friend,
Nicola Lombardi, drew me in with its simple but ironic account of a classic encounter between Santa Clause and a child
who is happy to receive a gift from Father Christmas, only then things work out as we already know. On paper, the plot worked quite well,
except on film there was the risk that it could turn out to be too predictable, so I added certain plot devices to the screenplay,
such as the illegal adoption and the child’s will to flee, in order to keep the viewer guessing. And it would appear that I succeeded.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this specific film?
Creating conceptual horror, because what I set out to do was highlight problems and communicate messages, much in the way of what, for me,
is the extremely intriguing genre of works, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which unveils the hypocrisy
of a two-faced society whose false virtue represses a dark side that ultimately gains the upper hand. In more recent times,
the most masterful directors of films exploring these themes have been George Romero and David Cronenberg,
whose critiques of consumerism prophetically point to the overweening power of television, along with many other issues.
What was it like to work with your team Cast & Crew?
I worked with a team of thirty people, as if the film were a full-length feature. Everyone my producer engaged was known to be a top professional
in his or her field, but when the production ran over schedule, I had to take charge of all the post-production work myself.
I enjoyed working with each and every member of the crew, and especially Giulio Pietromarchi, the cinematographer. I remember that,
before we started filming, I asked him to watch Lady in White by Frank La Loggia, an excellent horror film that is also set during Christmas,
and which used pastel shades to convey a fairy-tale atmosphere, and to great effect, as I saw it, all of which convinced me
to go with the same types of colours. Then there is Maniac by William Lustig, a horror feature from which I borrowed the shaft of light
that falls on the killer’s wide-open eyes at the start of the film, using the same effect for the evil glare of my killer stretched out on the table
in the final scene. As for the cast, I got along especially well with Ulf Kusdas, the Austrian actor who played
Father Christmas. He was physically imposing, and an actual baritone singer, so that his voice augmented the character’s presence.
In fact we tried dubbing him with an American actor, in order to get a plain voice, without the Austrian accent, but we ultimately decided against it,
after realizing that the character had turned out flat and one-dimensional, as if it were being played by a mere extra.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after making this film?
That filmmaking may be one of the most intense ;team efforts imaginable, and therefore one of
the most difficult, meaning that, to do it well, you have to turn your life upside down.
What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to address the unresolved issues of our times, attempting to propose alternative approaches or responses on the screen,
the way David Cronenberg did in his excellent film Cosmopolis, where Robert Pattiuson plays the lead role of a cynical young
millionaire who passes through the limbo of a city immersed in the violent chaos of a libertarian system, sitting in a limousine which
appears to be a hearse metaphorically carrying him towards an appointment with death, in the form of one of his own employees,
a crazed, left-wing fanatic who is ready to shoot him in the head. Though I have absolutely no affinity with Communism, I
often wonder what type of scenario could be proposed as an antidote to the extreme materialism of our times.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for the distribution of this film ?
I have received some proposals from cable broadcasters, but I have held off on accepting any,
because I still want the film to be seen at festivals on a preview basis.
What is your next project?
I have founded a production company of my own, Machnich Film Theatre, and, as I mentioned earlier, I have written a horror film against the
extreme materialism typical of modern-day life. I think it will be anything but easy to get the
project accepted, but never say never.
GOOD LUCK Luca,
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