Thursday, March 18, 2010

From Images to Music and Back Again - An Evening with Vinicio Capossela and Gianfranco Firriolo

Vinicio Capossela.

On March 4, 2010 Manhattan’s Italian Cultural Institute played host to Vinicio Capossela and Gianfranco Firriolo as they showcased their film, La Faccia Della Terra (The Face of the Land). As a creative force, enigmatic storyteller and vagabond Capossela defies easy categorization. He is a musician, composer, author, performance artist, actor and screenwriter (so far). Firriolo is a film director, photographer and host for the Italian TV magazine, Nonsolomoda.

Capossela and Firriolo collaborated on the film to illustrate the creative process of Capossela’s latest CD, Da Solo, and to document part of the U.S tour. The storyline turns in on itself, weaving circles and figure-eight’s, blending beginnings and endings. Rather than shoot another ‘behind the scenes’ style documentary, Firriolo shot La Faccia Della Terra more as an impressionist painting emerging in a sea of realism. It’s not necessarily the journey you expect, but if agree to go along for the ride, your world will expand.

Gianfranco Firriolo.

The film opens and closes in a very similar way; the same snow-covered tram glides on the tracks of the Milanese street and the same song is heard. The same man in the same flannel shirt carries wood in the falling snow. According to Firriolo, this tram is significant because “it passes by Vinicio’s house and it carried me when I was a boy.” The film itself lies between these repeated images. Vinicio is seen in his home writing the film on a typewriter. From there, certain images reference the songs he had already written for Da Solo, and other images gave birth to songs that would later appear on the CD. Circles within circles.

Throughout, the film plays with sounds, images and expectations. Capossela coaxes music out of a toy piano and unevenly-filled water glasses. In Texas he and his band play at the Broken Spoke Bar. Capossela says it made him feel “very exotic. Usually you find some Italians in every place, but not at the Broken Spoke.” The audience, dressed in cowboy boots and hats, were ready for their usual night of line dancing. Despite his unexpected appearance, Capossela says he was received warmly by the crowd.

Jump to New York City where a cabdriver re-tells the day he saw Sophia Loren on the sidewalk. He called her name, she smiled and nodded as if to say, “Yes, it’s me.”

A Midwestern carnival and sideshow provided a somewhat disturbing segment, where passersby were encourage to step inside the trailer to see assorted oddities of Nature, including a stuffed 2-headed animal. According to Caposella, the sideshow provides a metaphor for, among other things, the way we invite people into our lives to see how beautiful we are, but “underneath we are so flawed; we are circus freaks.”

Another segment introduces us to Christopher Magic Wonder, a magician who Capossela says “can hypnotize himself and a chicken at the same time.” When the film was over and Capossela played the piano for us, Magic Wonder appeared from the audience and performed some magic tricks. When he was finished, he lifted up his shirt to show “TA DA” tattooed large on his stomach.

Vinicio Capossela and Christopher Magic Wonder.

Capossela and Firriolo answered questions from the audience about the film, the music and their impressions of America. It was an evening of surprises as they gamely tried to explain what is ultimately unexplainable; how they blended images and music to tease the intellect and stir the emotions.

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