The Festival del film Locarno (August 1-11) will pay a well-deserved tribute to actor and director Renato Pozzetto, a leading figure in 70s and 80s’ Italian comedy, with screenings and a Q&A with the audience, and he will attend the events. Born July 14, 1940 in Lombardy, Pozzetto began his career in the 1970s in cabaret and became famous when he formed a highly successful partnership with Cochi Ponzoni to perform comic songs. Together they founded the “Zelig” which became the temple of Milanese cabaret. The duo was equally successful on television in variety and light entertainment shows. Today we can appreciate the comic genius of this coupling, with their absurdist and surreal inventions, worthy of the best of music-hall and completely original and innovative, with numbers and songs that have entered the pantheon of Italian popular culture, becoming part of the collective unconscious of several generations of TV viewers. After splitting up with Cochi, Pozzetto became a familiar presence in Italian popular cinema, soon becoming a celebrity in hit comedy films.
With his plump little figure, his clown-like face, his expression a mix of dopey bewilderment and consternation, and a thick Milanese accent, Renato Pozzetto was the poetic fool of Italian comedy, the designated fall-guy of a genre that was sadomasochist par excellence, in which domination-submission relationships provide the basis for a multitude of situations anchored in Italy’s socio-cultural and political realities. Far removed from the hysterical over heated theatricality of the great Italian actors, his hangdog air and plump figure gave him a kind of ingenuous serenity. He is the ultimate man without qualities but with a child-like and unusual personality, and a far less assertive masculinity than that of Gassman, Tognazzi etc, which gifted filmmakers such as Lattuada, Bolognini and Festa Campanile were able to use to great effect.
From 1974 on, he made one film after another: notable performances include La poliziota by Steno (1974) – a director with whom he was to work often – and with Mariangela Melato, in René Clément’s La baby sitter (1975)…
In the 70s and 80s, Pozzetto became one of the leading lights in « low » Italian comedy alongside Lando Buzanca, Luigi Poretti, Lino Banfi, Tomas Milian, Adriano Celentano, Alvaro Vitali …
A regular in popular comedies, in which he excelled, Pozzetto also worked with some of the best auteurs in the genre: Dino Risi with I’m Photogenic (Io sono fotogenico, 1980), his finest role, that of a provincial obsessed by movies who dreams of becoming an actor despite an obvious lack of talent. Alberto Lattuada with Oh Serafina ! (1976, a libertarian masterpiece); Steno, Sergio and Bruno Corbucci, Pasquale Festa Campanile also knew how to maximise his comedic talent and unusual personality. Like many other Italian actors, Pozzetto turned his hand to directing with varying degrees of success, making really fascinating films such as Saxophone (1979) and Un amore su misura (2007) Pozzetto’s swansong to comic art, and a disenchanted fable worthy of a Marco Ferreri, about a society obsessed with the pleasure principle and appearances, in which a man can buy the woman of his dreams. As Locarno’s Artistic Director, and a lover of Italian comedy, I am delighted to welcome one of its last great exponents, and the star of some of my favourite films in the genre, Oh Serafina! and I am Photogenic, along with the very odd Gran Bollito (1977) by Mauro Bolognini… and a transvestite cast, the amusing Nessuno e perfetto (with the sublime Ornella Muti to whom we are also paying tribute at Locarno this year) and Salvatore Sampieri’s delirious Stormtroopers (Sturmtruppen, 1976), which revives the surrealist humour of Pozzetto’s cabaret shows… So many cult films featuring an actor to be rediscovered and celebrated, thanks to the Festival del film Locarno and a special issue of the Italian film magazine Nocturno that will be published just prior to the Festival.
Renato Pozzetto will be with us on the Piazza Grande stage for the end of the festival this evening. Before then, in the early afternoon, the public are invited to attend a conversation with the actor, moderated by Manlio Gomarasca, editor of the magazine Nocturno.
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