For all we know of the movies of Lucio Fulci, how much do we really know about the man himself? What drove him to make films of such stunning cruelty? And what is meant in this film when they discuss that each film formed a mosaic made up of the tragedies of his life?
The conceit of this film is that an actor (Nicola Nocella) is getting ready to play the Godfather of Gore in a biographical movie, yet he must research the life of the man as well as his work. We never see the actual film that gets made, but is that even the point? We do get to learn plenty of stories of the director and attempt to get a richer image of who he was and how his life shaped and was shaped by his art.
Driven by new interviews with composer Fabio Frizzi, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, former actor and assistant Michele Soavi (an incredibly important artist in his own right) and Fulci’s daughters Antonella and Camilla Fulci, we discover how many of the stories of Fulci’s legendary hatred of actors and misanthropy are true. But a better image emerges as we learn of a man who hid his deepest emotions within his increasingly obtuse films. And we cannot forget that after a thirty-year career, the main films that he’s known for all emerged in a five year or less burst of body fluids.
Written and directed by Simone Scafidi (Eva Bruan), this is a movie that may not have much new for Fulci hardcores, but would form a nice starting point for neophytes to understand why these movies inspire such devotion. The interviews are the best part of the story, obviously, but if you have 2008’s Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered, you already have around four hours of folks talking about him.
There is one moment of absolute truth in here, as the actor is meditating on the fact that producers wouldn’t even give Fulci a movie to make for the last five years of his life — other than his “rival” Argento, who was going to hire him to make The Wax Mask — and yet today, whatever movies he would have made would still be making money as limited edition reissues, bought by people like, well me. After all, I got this movie in a set with Demonia and Aenigma. I’m the kind of person who would buy a $50 version of Manhattan Baby. I am the exact audience for this.
That said, you can see how Camilla’s condition — she was in a riding incident soon after her mother’s death and further diseases weakened her (she has since died) — informs the reasons behind The New York Ripper‘s rampage, taking what would be a pornography of violence in a lesser artist’s hands and more of a vacant stare at an unfeeling void, shot at the dead center of the end of the world.
While the actor framing device never really works, the interviews and idea shine. The whole blu ray is worth it just for the extras, which include interviews with the director and crew, longer cuts of the interviews from the film, home movie and camcorder footage of Fulci scouting locations and even working on set and audio recordings of the director working with Michael Romagnoli on his memoirs.
I really don’t think that there can ever be a definitive Fulci biopic. Instead, we should look to his films — this effort makes quite the case for The Beyond, which I wholeheartedly agree is filled with messages — and wish that he had lived long enough to know that his name is spoken in the same hushed tones reserved for the greats.