Italian writer and filmmaker Corrado Farina is the director of the 1973 pop-art giallo/mystery BABA YAGA (aka KISS ME KILL ME, BLACK MAGIC, DEVIL WITCH). After this film he turned away from directing feature films and made several documentaries and commercials for television. He is also the author of two movie-related crime novels. Read the interesting interview below his filmography, it was originally made for a fanzine in 1999.
Official site (in Italian language): www.corradofarina.com
La Notte dei Fiori (1970; ass dir; aka Night of the Flowers)
L'Amore Coniugale (1970; ass dir)
...hanno cambiato faccia (1971; dir, coscr; aka They Have Changed Their Faces)
Baba Yaga (1973; dir, coscr; aka Kiss Me Kill Me; based on comic strips by Guido Crepax)
1) How did you get started in the movie biz?
I was infected by the cinema illness at a very young age, by attending screenings in movie theaters where the dangerous virus of cinephilia was lurking. As my disease grew worse and worse, I started writing about movies, I became one of the organizers of the Centro Universitario Cinematografico di Torino (Torino's University Movie Center), I began shooting short films in 8mm along with a group of friends of mine. Between these activities I would give university exams that I couldn't have cared less for, until I found myself with a degree in Law and realized I had to get myself a job. I could not find anything closer to cinema and farther from Law than entering the Studio Testa, a giant advertising company: there, I directed about 500 "caroselli" (the commercials of that period) in five years.
2) If One looks your name up in reference-books your are credited for "...Hanno Cambiato Faccia" and "Baba Yaga", have you made other featurefilms?
I soon realized that most of the advertising people were afflicted by a much worse disease than mine (it is called "omnipotence delirium"), so I moved to Rome: that was the only Italian city where Cinema was made so I figured it was the only place where I could cure myself from the virus. There, I was an AD for some time, then I shot my two only feature films. The only reason why I did not do more films is that producers cared a great deal about the financial results of my films (which, I have to admit, were disastrous) but not at all about the "artistic" one. I was therefore forced to dedicate myself almost entirely to documentaries and TV programmes.
3) You've made a lot of documetaries, how or why did you get into making fantasy films? (I mean going for something real to something more or less invented)
I do not see myself as a documentarist who moved to fiction, but a fiction director who has been lent - for about 30 years - to documentary. I think this is proved by the fact that whenever possible I used, in my documentaries, actors and the structural codes of fiction narrative.
4) Where did the idea to "...Hanno Cambiato Faccia" come from and why did you use the vampire-myth?
The idea for "Hanno cambiato faccia" (the dots before the title do not exist, the distributor added them unilaterally) comes from the meeting of my love for the gothic or "horror" cinema and the political climate that you could breathe in Italy and in Europe after 1968. It was a time when western culture was protested against, when everyone went in demonstration marches in the streets and read Herbert Marcuse; I believe it was a sentence by Marcuse ("Terror, today, is called technology") to suggest to me the equation "power = vampire" which became the base of the film.
5) What was it like to work with Adolfo Celi?
Adolfo Celi was the nicest man and a great professional. I believe his character (along with Geraldine Hooper's Corinna, Nosferatu's assistant) remains the highlight of a film that looks to me as extremely aged today - as aged as most of the movies that were made in that particular time.
6) Where did the idea to make a movie based on a comic come from?
The idea of doing a movie based on a comic book came from another of my teenage passions - obviously comics. As a critic and as a viewer, I had always been disappointed by the transfers from comics to cinema and it just felt natural to try to do it myself (however, I don't think I really succeeded). The reason why I chose Crepax' stories is I was literally fascinated by his works, which at the time were basically re-designing the whole map of worldwide cartooning. I'd already written an essay, a few articles and a short documentary on Valentina, and "Baba Yaga" was but the "climax" of a love affair with one of the most fascinating paper heroines of comics history.
7) Did Guido Crepax help with this film in any way?
I had and I have a great relationship with Guido Crepax, although today we do not meet as often as we used to. It was me who contacted him around the end of the 60s, due to the fascination his stories had on me. However, he had nothing to do with the creation of the film "Baba Yaga". He only sold the copyrights, he came to visit the set and, after the film was finished, he wrote me a letter with his opinions - both positive and negative: and I must say I almost totally agree with all he said.
8) It seems to me that George Eastman/Luigi Montefiori always is playing the bad guy in films, how is he in real life?
My relationship with Gigi Montefiori was more occasional. He mostly made actioners and italian westerns and -although we both tried not to let it happen- he brought to his character an attitude that had not a lot to do with the rarefied and intellectual world of Crepax.
9) Why did you choose Carroll Baker to play the Baba Yaga-character?
Quite often the cast of a movie is the result of accidents, of commercial compromises or compromises between director and producer. I would have liked to cast Ingrid Thulin or Ornella Vanoni as Baba Yaga. Eventually, we hired Anne Heywood instead, but she backed out of the movie at the very last moment - proving herself quite unprofessional and rude. Carroll Baker had not a lot to share with Crepax' Baba Yaga, but she happened to be the best actress that was available at the moment. Luckily, her great professionalism was enough to make up for the lack of the right look.
10) There is something Mario Bava-like in "Baba Yaga", is he one of your favorite-directors? If not, who is your favorite director/-s and why?
Mario Bava was actually one of my favorite directors, at least as far as horror movies go. I must admit I like his early films better, like "La maschera del demonio" or "La ragazza che sapeva troppo" (both low budget), much better than such bigger vehicles as "Diabolik" (which I am probably the reponsible for, since at the time I was writing comic-book screenplays for the Giussani sisters; they asked me whom I would feel it would be the best director to make the Diabolik movie they were starting to talk about; and I suggested Mario Bava). I only met Bava when I came to Rome, in 1969. He was shooting some cheap police actioner and he seemed to be a worn-out and disappointed man, a destiny that sadly often strikes talented people within the show business.
11) I've heard a rumour that the producers cut out 20 minutes of footage from the film, because of the sociological content, is this true? If so, it looks to me like; if the film has graphic violence in it... that's OK, but if you critizise the government... your in a lot of trouble (e.g. the Pasolini-case). Is this a correct assumption?
"Baba Yaga" was in fact messed up with by the producer, who chopped about 20 minutes out of it, working directly on the original negative; what made things worse is this massacre was done without even telling me, after my cut was finished and approved by the producer himself, and they did it without any hint or threat about their intentions. That means: utter and moronic contempt of any right to the author. After my reaction had a great echo on the newspapers, they gave me back the ruined negative so that I could fix it, which was physically impossible for some of the scenes. Along with the film editor, Giulio Berruti, I decided to re-cut the whole movie, putting some scenes back in and cutting some other out. Therefore, the final cut of the movie was still some 20 minutes shorter than the original cut. However I must say that, if these 20 minutes had been left in, they would not have modified substantially the final result: eventually some scenes were cut that were in fact "political" (if only in the intellectual and "radical chic" key that was typical of Crepax) but ultimately inessential to the plot. I would not venture into claiming that the producer's cuts were hiding some kind of "political" censorship; however it is true that the State censorship had us cutting a few seconds of full nudity both of Carroll Baker and Isabelle de Funès - who played Valentina. We were in that phase of our sexophobic culture when tits could be tolerated but pubic hair was not. Which is like saying: we were feeling better, but we still were not that well.
12) After "Baba Yaga" you went back to making documetaries. Why? What do you do for a living now?
In recent years my survival - both on an economic and intellectual level - mainly rests on making programs totally or partially assembled from stock footage. I deem the "montage film" an extremely stimulating experience, and I love using pieces of old films as a commentary (and sometimes as a backbone!) on different subjects. I am only giving you one example among many: a short called "Cento di questi anni" (Transl: "100 of these years") shown in 1994 in the Venice Film Festival, where it was greatly successful. I shot a speech of Vittorio Gassman telling the history of the Italian Cinema, but I padded my footage - besides scenes of the films he was talking about - with "listening shots" taken from hundreds of older and newer films: so that it looks as if Gassman is talking to an audience featuring the greatest actors of international movie history, from Charlie Chaplin to Greta Garbo, from Humphrey Bogart to Marilyn Monroe, from Kevin Costner to Julia Roberts, from Gene Kelly to Orson Welles.
14) Have you considered to make movies again? If so, will it also be in the "fantastic"-tradition?
As I said before, the only reason I never shot another feature film is the commercial flop of the first two made it impossible for me to get a third one financed. I have pitched many projects in all these years, all of which were rejected by producers with various motivations generally beginning with "too": as in "too intellectual", "too sophisticated", "too difficult", and sometimes even "too fantastic". Yeah, because the fantasy genre is not very beloved by italian producers, who'll rather produce more light and mediterranean fare. Instead, most of my projects were related - more or less closely - to the fantasy realm that I've always loved, both in its "lower" level of horror film, its "medium" level concerning the interplay between fantasy and reality, and its "higher" level of the metaphor (more or less SF-oriented) on human existence. Some examples? "The prize of Peril", based on a Robert Sheckley story; "La morte di Megalopoli" (Transl: "Death of Megalopolis") based on a Roberto Vacca novel; "Storia di sesso e di fumetto" (Trans. "A Tale of Sex and Comics") a sex comedy that I wrote which was loosely based on the ideas from "Les belles de la nuit" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". The project that came closer to actually being shot, about ten years ago, was "Un posto al buio" (Trans: "A Place in the Dark"): it was based on a novel of mine which got published in 1994, and it was supposed to be a modern-time "noir" variation on Leroux's "Phantom of the Opera". The producer was to be Franco Cristaldi, which was in my opinion the last, great, italian producer... but it all stopped at the last minute due to the problems that Cristaldi had with Tornatore's "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso". I still have the letter where a saddened Cristaldi says he found himself unable to keep pursuing the project. In that letter there's a sentence that I can make my own, and I'll use it to close this chat: "...If only I could have all the flowers I did not pick, I'd have enough of them to completely cover the stage in the Sanremo pop-music Festival".