This just in from the AP: “Filmmaker Carlo Lizzani, a much-lauded protagonist of Italian Neorealism, has died, Italian state news media reported Saturday. He was 91…. The state RAI news agency and the ANSA news agency said Lizzani died after a fall from the third-floor balcony of his home in Rome and that authorities were investigating whether it was a suicide.”
Lizzani worked with Roberto Rossellini as a scenarist and assistant director on Germany Year Zero (1948) and was nominated for an Oscar, along with director Giuseppe De Santis, for his work on the screenplay of Bitter Rice (1949). Among the nearly 70 films he directed are Chronicle of Poor Lovers (1954) and Bandits in Milan (1968), for which he won a David di Donatello for best director and a Nastro d’Argento for best screenplay. Along with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard, and Marco Bellocchio, he contributed to the omnibus film Love and Anger (1969). He received a second David di Donatello award for his screenplay for Celluloide (1996), a fictional feature about the making of Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945). In his later years, he concentrated on documentaries, many of them about filmmakers such as Rossellini, Visconti, and De Santis.
Update, 10/6: “He directed the Venice Film Festival from 1979-1982, and was a member of the jury of the Berlin Film Festival in 1994,” notes the BBC. “Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale—which includes the film festival—praised Lizzani’s work. ‘The Biennale is crying on the day of Carlo Lizzani’s death,’ said Baratta. ‘He knew how to give the festival new energy. He knew how to create a nucleus of young students and experts that would represent in future years the true elite. The world of Italian cinema owes him a lot.'”
Update, 10/15: “Lizzani had an idea for a film he wanted to direct,” notes John Francis Lane in his obit for the Guardian, “but could not find a producer prepared to take a risk on a movie about partisans in Genoa. He would make Achtung! Banditi! (Attention! Bandits!) in 1951 thanks to the enthusiasm of workers in Genoa who formed a co-operative and obtained help from the Communist party. It was a success, helped perhaps by the appealing presence of the young Gina Lollobrigida, not yet a star, in the female lead…. Lizzani never became, or aspired to be, an auteur. ‘I use the cinema to help me live my own life, to get to know my country and the world,’ he said, and was never ashamed to make popular films. He would change genre willingly, because he enjoyed experimenting. He made a zany comedy, Lo Svitato (The Screwball, 1956), with Dario Fo, then known only as a Milanese cabaret artist, who gave a scintillating performance…. In 2007, [Lizzani] published an autobiography, Il Mio Lungo Viaggio nel Secolo Breve (Long Journey Through the Short Century), the title a homage to the historian Eric Hobsbawm, of whom he was a fervent admirer.”