Interview with Mario Sesti
Senza Lucio: Interview with Director Mario Sesti
Saturday, December 12, at Genesis Cinema we will show the documentary Senza Lucio (Without Lucio) , an intimate portrait of Lucio Dalla through the voice and the memories of Marco Alemanno, who was closest to the singer in the last ten years of his life, before his untimely death, in 2012.
Mario Sesti , a friend of both as well as the film director will be our guest after the screening. We have interviewed him exclusively for the readers of Italian Kingdom .
Why a documentary about Lucio Dalla ? When did the project start and what was your motivation – as a friend and as a director – to make it happen ?
Since Lucio died I started to think about it and the idea of doing something to remember him has always been very much alive. Films are made because there is a necessity: mine was to continue to have a relationship with a person that had had a massive impact on me in recent years , and do so deepening my knowledge of him.
Senza Lucio speaks of an absence ( that is first of all in the title ) and is steeped in nostalgia . It seemed that Lucio would live forever. For those of my generation, his songs have marked adolescence, and maturity, moments such as marriage, children, separations, work, job loss … In short , many people may go through their entire lives, almost like a montage, with Dalla’s songs as a constant soundtrack.
This meant that when he disappeared so suddenly his absence was felt immediately and with it the need to find a way to tell it.
How to talk about Dalla without slipping into the “already said” ?
Once I knew I wanted to tell the story, the next step was to understand exactly how to tell it in a way that made sense . Lucio was very famous, he had been much on television, had experimented with many different media, but nevertheless there was something about him that was known only by those who’d had the privilege of knowing him directly
The film speaks of a versatile personality , of a nature and a volcanic brain
Absolutely yes. The versatility first: Lucio was passionate about cinema, but he also loved literature, had a particular passion for poetry, knew and practiced the arts, at one point had even set up an art gallery.
He was curious and would get passionate about very different things.
Most people knew only the most famous aspects about Dalla: Lucio the singer-songwriter and his music, the media personality , but not these other aspects.
When Massimiliano De Carolis( producer but also co-author of the film in all respects) understood and identified this new angle, a spark was lit and that’s when we decided to start this journey .
The peculiarity of the documentary , in fact , is that what emerges is very different Lucio from what we were used to know; the testimonies are unusual as well. In a way these are not people you would expect to hear from when it comes to Dalla.
Yes , in this sense, we have made a clear choice : Francesco De Gregori , Ron , Franco Battiato and many other well-known names have rightly talked a lot in the aftermath of his death , and their relationship with Lucio was always represented by the media . What we wanted to do, however , was to try to say something that was not yet sufficiently known or , in some cases , it was not known at all. And then, finally , I also wanted to know more.
Films basically need that too.
About this , was there something new about the artist and the man – who you knew personally – that you discovered while making the film?
Lucio had a secret, we all have some, but in his case there was a very pronounced chiaroscuro, almost violent, in his personality and in his life that I realized just doing the documentary .
The first impact was with a very open and generous man in giving himself to others .
Exactly, Dalla was someone extraordinarily open : every time we went out people would chase him and he never refused a selfie , a pat on the back , a question . Indeed, sometimes it was funny and when they approached and said , “Excuse me , can I take a picture with you? ” he replied : ” right! I was going to ask you the same thing. ”
He struck for this very high level of empathy , energy , the ability to empathize with people , as well as a bulimic curiosity about the world . Meeting him was like watching a small explosion and knowing him meant be part of all this , enjoy this beauty .
On the other hand, there was also a strong discretion, a strong secrecy about his personal life, about his sexuality. In this sense, Dalla was a mystery?
That’s right. I knew him for ten years but there were old friends (as, for example, Piera Degli Esposti who speaks in the film) who knew him better than I did and even with them however, he maintained that confidentiality.
Even his sexual orientation has been taken for granted by most, but he has never admitted and sometimes also explicitly denied being homosexual. So I think that as Fellini – which was for another big fan – had its “game plan” with respect to its intimacy and privacy.
Were lies also part of this strategy? It’s said that Dalla was a liar, who liked to tell fibs to see how people would react.
I think so. I also think the way he played with the father figure that up to a certain period has been a painful lack, but then it became a kind of mythology that Lucio enjoyed and fuelled. He was a storyteller and everything was part of his style of irony and humor, of his being a tornado which was impossible not to be sucked in. He had the talent even in living his ife, in a full, positive, eager.
In the documentary, there are also the places in the heart of the singer .
Lucio had a strong bond with some places , he was a kind of genius loci of some places in the south, Puglia and Sicily in particular . In addition , of course , a great love for his Bologna . In the film we see , in some cases for the first time , hundreds and hundreds of photographs that Alemanno took of both Lucio and the places he loved, those of his daily existence , as the stages of his moving around the world .
And what was Lucio’s relationship with cinema? What were the singer’s Italian favorites?
His was a deep, genuine passion. As good cinephiles we had some great chats about films and he was always excited to participate in festivals and film projects, even low budget ones , when I proposed them to him .
I was always amazed at how available he was, unlike what happens with most of the celebrities who tend to put a filter between themsleves and the world around them . Italian film, besides Fellini, he had a very special relationship with Avati ( for which he composed the soundtrack of Gli amici del Bar Margherita ) and also loved Monicelli , Germi , Ferreri and many others .
You said ” I wish that after watching the documentary people went home and blasted Lucio’s music out loud. What is your favorite song by Lucio?
It would have been a staggering banality to make a film about Lucio using only his music; the music that I used in the documentary represents Lucio but underlining his absence as well (which is the central feeling of this film). But I hope this feeling is accompanied by a desire to go back and listen to his songs. The one I’m most attached to is was Anna Bellanna ; it belongs to a particular stage of my life , halfway between childhood and adolescence , and made me realize how interesting and full of beauty a song could be. As with those movies or books that seem to really talk to you, even when there is no apparent link with your personal history , those we know by heart yet are so perfect they still fill us with awe every time.
And now we ask you, what’s your favourite Lucio Dalla’s song, the one you can’t miss in the soundtrack of your life ?
And come join us on Saturday 12th December at Genesis Cinema for a special screening of Senza Luicio (in Italian with English subtitles) followed by a Q&A with the Director Mario Sesti.
See you at the cinema!