L'America A Roma/ Gianfranco Pannone/1998


(Romaine Fielding) #1

http://www.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/America_a_Roma%2C_L'

I’ve watched this film several times this year. I’m not sure how widely available it is to fans. I got it as part of a eight disc DVD collection in which it is the only film viewable in English (subs, in this case). But I bought the set just to get a copy of this film. Unlike most films talked about in this part of the forum, I won’t worry about “spoilers”. This is something of a documentary (but more).
At first appearances, this seems like a nostalgic look back at the by-gone days of the 1960’s when Spaghetti western production was at its greatest. Director Gianfranco Pannone offers a few of his own personal remembrances but, in the main, the nostalgia is channeled through actor/stuntman Guglielmo Spoletini (aka William Bogart/William Spolt) and his mates (fellow former actors & stuntmen). Through interviews, old film clips & photos, the time and flavor of the Spaghetti western golden age is recalled.
Spoletini is an interesting and charismatic guide to the time. He introduces Pannone to his mates, those with whom he has maintained close friendships that have lasted from the Spaghetti era up to the present day. They are: (Remo Capitani/Ray O’Connors, Paolo Magalotti/Paul Carter, Giovanni Cianfriglia/Ken Wood, Luigi Marturano/Jim Martin, Mauro Mammatrizio/Victor Man, & Franco Daddi/Frank Daddy).
In addition to the interviews, Pannone visits (along with Spoletini) many of the old sites used in and around Rome for filming. Among them are Cinecitta, Elios Film Studios, DePaolis Studios, Villa Mussolini, & Tolfa Gully. All currently exist in some degraded or dilapidated form.
In the interviews, the actors recall the “boom years” of economic growth when money and goods were plentiful to many for the first time. A common theme at this point is how the actors were able to splurge and buy fast, new sports cars. Gino Maturano has this poignant recollection: “I had the same pair of shoes for eight years, changing soles from time to time. As soon as I got the chance I got ten pairs at a time. I felt I needed it.” Pannone says: "Westerns were a pot of gold, everyone wanted to be part of the action, driven by the chance of easy money."
Several of those interviewed talk about the roles they played and how they frequently played Mexicans, often peons. Spoletini relates how he identified with these characters because they reflected his own early experiences of poverty in Rome. Spoletini speaks about his own left-leaning political views and identifies himself as a communist.
As Pannone tours the locations around Rome and Spoletini expounds on the gulf between rich and poor a different aspect of the film begins to emerge, moving it beyond mere nostalgia for a lost time.
Pannone says: “But I was interested in something else. The inexorable advance of the city across empty meadows. Since the 1950’s Rome had never stopped spreading. Swallowing fields, towns, the lives of those who lived here.” In one particularly meaningful composition, Pannone frames a ruined building (perhaps an old location set?) as, in the far distance, a giant construction crane swivels like a enormous pistol and comes to a stop, pointing directly at the ruin.
Guglielmo says: “It made me think of Trastevere when I saw people pushing carts piled with belongings, saying: I’m going because they’ve thrown me out.” Pannone: “Mexico surrounds Rome and the city sits in the center.” Then: "In Mandrione Guglielmo shows me the other side of the economic boom. People excluded from the binge. Immigrants from the south, the Roman sub-proletariat. People for who living meant getting by."
Pannone persuades Guglielmo to participate in a vision he has about another film, dressing him with a poncho and six-gun and hammer & sickle pendant! A hero-for-the-people in a showdown in one of those areas around Rome, overrun by progress. Ultimately, Guglielmo leaves, unconvinced of the viability of the idea.
Pannone thinks he has alienated Guglielmo only to find him enthused in their next meeting with the idea of making a film together. Guglielmo’s idea is interesting but undeveloped beyond the beginning stages of a story. But, with a robust Roman enthusiasm, Guglielmo seeks out two different producers (Peter Berling & Manolo Bolognini) to pitch the idea as Pannone films the encounters. But ultimately, he is unable to convince the money men of the worth of the idea.
Toward the end of the film Guglielmo has a dinner for one of the producers at a family restaurant along with his six mates (who would, along with Guglielmo, star in his movie). It’s an interesting scene to watch as the seven friends interact over food and drinks. Mary Spoletini serves as hostess and sings, a cappella, a lovely but untranslated song that seems to be about spaghetti !
The movie concludes with an image of Pier Paolo Pasolini (from his role in the Spaghetti western Requiescant) intercut with Guglielmo watching as three horsemen (from his movie idea) exit screen “left”.

This is a movie that exists on several different planes, often at the same time. Some might find it a confusing pastiche as if it tries to do too much in its short running time of approximately 75 minutes. But, even as an overtly political film, it has more than enough fine stories and insights to make it a “must see” for Spaghetti fans.


(scherpschutter) #2

Nice reading

I knew some people were searching for this documentery on the net (I think it was Shobary’s guestbook, but I’m not sure) some time ago.

Guglielmo’s remark about Trastevere and people thrown out of ther houses will make people who know the quarter and its history shiver. Sergio Leone was born and raised in Trastevere, once a real popular quarter. It’s situated, more or less, between the Vatican and the historical city centre of Rome and attracted richer people during that economic boom. Many poor people were thrown out of their houses, which is a real disaster in a country like Italy, with little social security and a very cynical vison on poverty. Today the quarter is a mixture of rich and poor quarters, beautiful churches, restaurants, gardens and … beggars (especially in the porches of churches: the police dare not chase them from there).

I think I have several of the movies from your box: The Big Gundown, Face to Face, the Mercenary … excellent quality, but not English friendly


(Reverend Danite) #3

…must see! I’d never heard of this. Cheers for the info.


(Romaine Fielding) #4

I just recently obtained a different copy of this film than the one I viewed prior to writing the above review.
As some of you know, I lost the original disc I had. It was a part of The Colt Collection (an Italian boxed set that contained 8 movies) and was the only film in the set that had any English options. I was heartbroken to find the set was no longer available and that L’America A Roma was not in print
The new “version” I recently got (from Video Search of Miami) seems to be recorded off of television. The picture quality is not as good as the original disc but the English subtitles are much, much better.
In the old version portions of the film had no subs and, sometimes, those portions that were subtitled were poorly translated. Some of the quotes I used in my review are better translated in the new version.
The newer subs fill in the gaps and provide more context, making the film a smoother, less herky-jerky experience.

Two examples:
Guglielmo Spoletini shows off a photo of himself with Frederico Fellini and explains that he replaced Ettore Manni when he died during the filming of City Of Women. This tidbit was untranslated on the first disc.

Also,
In the review above I mentioned a song sung by Mary Spoletini, a cappella, which I incorrectly thought might be about Spaghetti. Instead, it is a lovely song about Trastevere and the kind of life lead by the people who live there.

Thanks Video Search of Miami!!!


(Bluntwolf) #5

Nice little movie where you can see lots of familiar faces… quite interesting… and funny to see those ex-stuntmen leading “normal” lives after earning all this money in the '60s and '70s ! Where did it all go ?

I was surprised to recognize Peter Berling participating. He’s done some crazy and trashy films with German comedian Helge Schneider, for example Texas the best Eurowestern there is ;D :smiley: !!! He also took part in, for example, Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo with Kinski or Scaramouche directed by Enzo G. Castellari and many movies more!

Have a look at http://www.peterberling.com/spielfilmindex768.html


(Romaine Fielding) #6

[quote=“Bluntwolf, post:5, topic:1092”]Nice little movie where you can see lots of familiar faces… quite interesting… and funny to see those ex-stuntmen leading “normal” lives after earning all this money in the '60s and '70s ! Where did it all go ?

I was surprised to recognize Peter Berling participating. He’s done some crazy and trashy films with German comedian Helge Schneider, for example Texas the best Eurowestern there is ;D :smiley: !!! He also took part in, for example, Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo with Kinski or Scaramouche directed by Enzo G. Castellari and many movies more!

Have a look at http://www.peterberling.com/spielfilmindex768.html[/quote]

Did you notice the way Giovanni Cianfriglia mocks Peter Berling at the collaborative dinner they have?
As the overweight and somewhat slovenly Berling is getting up to leave Cianfriglia says something like “There goes Orson Welles”. Not exactly what you want to say to a guy you are pitching your movie to…


(Bluntwolf) #7

Yeah right but by then it was already obvious that Berling didn’t have any interest… So I guess he mocked him out of disappointment or something !?


(Romaine Fielding) #8

I think maybe that Cianfriglia, the only one of the group still active in films, knew they did not have much to pitch anyway and was mocking the absurd notion of the whole thing as much as he was mocking Berling. It’ll be interesting to hear what Scherpschutter thinks of this film since he knows Italian and will hear stuff that you and I would never pick up on in this Italian language film.


(ENNIOO) #9

Just viewed this one.

This one is interesting as you are seeing things from a supporting actor / stuntman perspective which is a bit different, and quite touching at times.
Guglielmo Spoletini getting renewed interest in the genre and trying to make a film within the genre was fascinating viewing, but at times I thought he was a bit ‘full’ of himself.