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If you think about it, it’s almost impossible to find – in the whole history of worldwide cinema – a film that doesn’t include at least a few scenes featuring food. Food as comfort, like the "Pasta e ceci" eaten in the Mario Monicelli’s 1958 masterpiece, I soliti ignoti; food as a killer, like in La grande abbuffata by Marco Ferreri (1973); food as a healer and seducer, as in Chocolat by Lasse Hallström (2000), or calming, peace-making food likeBabettes gæstebud (Babette’s Feast) by Gabriel Axel (1987).
In Italian films, the act of eating, feeding yourself and others, has always played such an especially relevant role that, through its films, viewers can understand the evolution of the country, as well as his inhabitants.
This, in conjunction with the Cannes Film Festival, is precisely the aim of the Trailers FilmFest in The World (the itinerant spinoff of the international festival Trailers Filmfest which has been held in Sicily since 2003). For three days, from 14-17 May, the event is tempting and delighting the eyes and palates of the Croisette’s sophisticated festival-goers. Bringing "a taste of authentic emotions", the Italian Pavilion will be hosting three tastings each featuring high-quality Italian products, accompanied by the trailers of legendary Italian films.
From the "peasant" flavours of a simple, genuine Italy – the country as it was shown in films like Ladri di biciclette by Vittorio de Sica and Amarcordby Federico Fellini - to more rarefied tastes represented on today’s screens as seen in movies like Mine Vaganti by Ferzan Ozpetek or Happy Family by Gabriele Salvatores.
The event’s program offers a particular focus on the great Italian director, Mario Monicelli, and the most cinematographic of Italy’s region, Tuscany. The film journalist and writer Laura Delli Colli, who publishes an annual almanac called Il gusto del cinema – gives an interesting insider’s perspective on the famous food scene that signals the finale of Monicelli’s masterpiece, I soliti ignoti.
«That unexpected finale, with its conviviality and family feel, had been written into the script with Monicelli’s blessing. But the finishing touch was not his at all, it was a culinary whim of Marcello Mastroianni’s. Hence, after the bungled heist, the gang consoles itself not with that leftover soup for the children sitting on the sideboard, but with a hearty dish of Roman-style pasta e ceci – the actor’s favourite – prepared according to the traditional recipe, with the chickpeas soaked overnight and seasoned with fresh rosemary», explains Delli Colli.
«What kind of relationship did a filmmaker like Mario Monicelli have with cooking, dining, and food culture anyway? The answer lies in his films themselves, to be found in that blend of tradition, simplicity and a penchant for “home cooking” running through his filmography and, above all, in our memories. It’s rather like the way the current “eat local” trend has resulted in a reappraisal of seasonal produce and the agriculture on our doorstep».
In Cannes, Trailers FilmFest in The World is dedicating a special section to the legendary Italian actor Alberto Sordi, who may be best remembered, while still very young, in his role as a “an ‘American’ in Rome” in Un americano a Roma (Steno, 1954). The iconic scene in which he – dressed in blue jeans and baseball hat, trying to adopt the eating habits of a true Yankee – yells at a plate of “maccheroni”, accusing the pasta of provoking him and then devouring the whole plate of to punish it, is perhaps one of the most beloved among Italian film buffs of all ages.
«’Maccarone’ was the generic and almost derogatory term that was used at the time to call everything that came from Italy, » explains cook, food critic and author Viviana Lapertosa who has also written a book about food in Italian movies from post-WWII to today. «He called the pasta ‘maccheroni’, which is how it was called in the olden days, but what was on his plate was probably either spaghetti or bucatini.» She explains that «In the ‘50s, when Italy had finally gotten out of the war and the nightmare of poverty and hunger, movies were a testimony of new social norms and eating habits. The first signs of well-being lead Italians to turn their backs on even their most deep-rooted traditions, especially when it came to eating. Italians were ready to forbid pasta, bread and the most traditional of foods in favour of yogurt, milk, mustard and jam. But as Sordi shows, the temptation of the bucatini was too strong to resist…».
And since Italian cinema is an endless source of inspiration for Viviana Lapertosa, she adores trying to recreate the same recipes as shown in the movies, sometimes transforming them into smaller portions, perfect to serve as an appetizer. With the recipes found here at the right, you can try to get a flavour of Italian films at home. Each one is dedicated to a masterpiece: “Amatriciana in a glass” pays tribute to Alberto Sordi; “Spaghetti to eat with your hands” is in honour of Totò; and “Pasta e ceci in a cup” is dedicated to Monicelli and his gang.