Fifty shades of boredom

If I see another article about the novel Fifty Shades of Gray I’m going to scream.
And no, I don’t mean screaming out of extreme arousement.

Its no mystery that the literary world has turned into a pure advertising excersise, selling mediocre authors with good marketing skills as pinnacles of originality. But enough is enough.

We coped with wizards and teenage witches adventures sold as adult books; we watched as shopaholics who turn broken nails into a reason for a mental breakdown were saluted as “chick lit” and compared to Jane Austen; we shook our heads in pain as bookshops filled with thrillers about Templars and secret manuscripts boasting more grammatical incompetence than a fifth grader; we flicked through pages of articles trying to pass a modest, predictable, fairly boring and badly edited story about a Swedish anorexic as the dawn of a new genre – the Scandinavian crime novel – followed by hundreds of similar volumes with snow and blood on their covers, as if anyone born North of Scotland was automatically the new Tolstoy of thriller…

I thought we’d endured the worst but I was wrong.
It’s now time for the female porn.

“So we’ve launched witches, templars, fashion addicts, vampires, northern criminals…” the Don Draper of Books says to his colleagues in Madison Avenue. “What could we possibly feed to our public pretending it’s literature?”
“Bankers going on holiday?”
“No, too controversial”
“Terrorists?”
“No, we want to appeal to our middle eastern markets”
“Football?”
“Sky sports has the copyrights”
“Papuasian horror?”
“Nursery rhymes for pensioners?”
“Ehy, hold on, I have an idea: sex!”
“Sex? Wow, that’s really original, Peggy.”
“Oh but there’s more to it: sex told by a woman!!”
“Ooooohhhhhhh!!!!”
“Incredible! women have sex too? Like, regular women who work in supermarkets? Amazing. I thought it was only models, lap dancers and Paris Hilton who could be bothered! This is so original I want to slit my wrist out of envy for not having come up with such a world changing concept.”

Oh yes. The big brains of publishing have decided that after all those dead bodies in the fjords, it was time for a little “frisson”.

With a woman’s touch.

Enter a blogger who talks rude sex and, surprise surprise, has quite a following on the Internet (where the word “sex” has been rating first on google since its invention)… And voila, a new literary phenomenon was born.

Let’s make it very clear: I don’t have a problem with Fifty shades’ high sales. Exactlly like the Da Vinci Code or Shopaholic or The girl with the dragon tattoo it’s easy reading.
And most people, let’s face it, tend to read on holiday, on the plane or before bed and just want something fun and gripping. They seek entertainment more than literary value
Fine.

I understand this like I understand films like the Hangover or Mission Impossible breaking the box office.

But if all of a sudden every week the review pages of The Guardian
and The New York Times were filled of serious articles about the new filmic horizons opened by The Hangover, I would think the world’s press has gone on a collective LSD trip.
Nobody will ever try to pass a commercial blockbuster movie as a masterpiece of cinema.

So why fo they think they can fool us with novels?

Do you want to be entertained by a “girl talking sex”? Good for you, be my guest.

But stop trying to pass Fifty Shades of Gray for a literary novel, an interesting novel or simply a novel worth talking about for longer than five minutes, because it has no artistic value. And not because it’s about sex.
A good novel can be about anything, seahorses, urban legends and indeed sex. If the writing is good, if the concept is creative, anything goes.
But in this case the plot is unoriginal, the language is flat and for all its trying hard to arouse and shock the book, (that I left unfinished since my time is too precious to be wasted with bad reading) is in fact lame and predictable.

Fifty shades of gray does exactly what it says on the tin: it titillates because that’s what porn does. It’s not great literature and I doubt it ever tried to be.

And no, I’m not impressed that it’s been written by a woman, in fact I find the implied wink infuriating and patronising: hey, women out there, now you can finally read porn too! Thanks to this book full of dirty sex written by a member of the female gender!

Yeah! Open the gates!

Honestly, I do suspect Don Draper to be behind Fifty shades’ marketing campaign because this concept is so troglodyte it could only be conceived in 1961.
I want to read porn, I’ll read porn, whether it’s written by a woman, a man or an alien.
I personally find porn boring, sex being one of those things that it’s fun to do but not fun to read, exactly like eating or dancing. But the idea that this novel has finally arrived to liberate us from our inhibitions is frankly insulting.

Yes, Fifty shades of gray is the Da Vinci Code of sex. It satisfies a need in a quick, simplistic way. And like most self publishing enterprises, it could do with some decent editing and a better syntax.

Now let’s wait for this trend to pass, and start guessing where the next big idea will come from: African comedy? Gay history fiction? Vegan melodrama? The secret sex of mosquitoes?

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Swedish thrillers

When was it decided that Swedes are especially good at thrillers and whose twisted idea was it?
Swedish thrillers suck. Big time! Honestly, it’s the greatest PR stunt of all times in the history of literature.

At least when the Da Vinci Code became a sensation nobody even tried to say it was a good book. Everyone knew it was appallingly bad written, verbose, full of cliches and its story wasn’t even that original. Still, it was a page turner, a typical blockbuster appealing to easy readers so we accepted its ridiculous success as we accept the winners of the X Factor.

But Swedish thrillers have been sold as a great example of genre literature. Not only that, articles have been written about how they show the dark undertow of Scandinavian society, the condition of women, and similar stuff.
This attempt at selling cheap blockbusters as great social novels was immediately evident in southern Europe, where the title of Stieg Laarson’s (the main culprit of this ludicrous trend) first book was changed from The girl with the dragon tattoo into Men who hate women. People rushed to buy it under the assumption it gave an insight into Sweden’s undertow of machism and fascism, whilst it was only a very very long unoriginal novel about a psycho who tortures and kills women in a dungeon, offering some gratuitous graphic descriptions of sodomy and in desperate need of editing (the epilogue, 150 page long, is the ridiculous and incongruous story of how the lead girl manages to get money from a bank account by wearing a wig. Yes yes..)
I mean, really? REALLY? have you not ever seen Silence of the lambs? Seven? Psycho???

The social criticism was supposed to be embodied by the above mentioned female character, a skinny self harmer boasting piercings and leather jackets. Wow, original.
She was abused.
And?
She gets tortured.
And?
Any average episode of “Criminal minds” features women more interesting than that.
When a series of mysterious “numbers” looking like phone numbers appear around chapter three I prayed with all myself, please let them not be bible verses… Of course they were.
I also prayed we would discover at the end the murderer wasnt who it appeared to be from page one. No chance of that. We have the joy of a “baddy” as horrible as a cartoon character.
The whole plot is so pedestrian it can be guessed after 80 pages. Pity the novel goes on for over 500!
I resented Laarson so thoroughly for making me waste a week of my life reading this very badly structured, poorly written, superficial, boring book, he only had to thank he was dead.

Let’s face it, the Millennium trilogy came to fame firstly because his author was dead, raising suspicions about what killed him, speculations about the Swedish neo-Nazi movement’s involvement and so on.
Pure heaven for marketing!! I even suspect Laarson never existed and the whole thing was a publicity stunt…

Problem is, it triggered a boom in Scandinavian thrillers. The BBC is currently broadcasting an unprecedented number of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish series so soporific I almost want a real psycho to appear at my window just to shake me off my torpor. Because let’s face it, despite Laarson’s attempt at proving the opposite, Sweden isn’t exactly exciting. Its nice, beautiful and it has the best political system, social services and public healthcare in Europe, but perhaps all that efficiency and education don’t breed excitement. Everyone is polite and crime rate is low. Thank god for the occasional mad nazi or even miss Marple would commit suicide.

Whatchyoumaycallem? Americans

Americans… One must love them… Or not…

I mean I have lots of very nice American friends and they are perfectly acceptable.  In fact some of them are so refined, multicultural and intellectual (all adjectives that would qualify as swear words within tea party circles… if they knew what an adjective is, of course) they run the risk – should the Republicans win the next election – of having their citizenship removed and their whole family sent to a rehabilitation camp where they will be forced to eat burgers and watch Fox news in the company of President Obama (who would finally be unmasked as the Muslim, African born, socialist traitor that he is)…
No, really, I don’t mind Americans. I’ve visited America many many times, from Lousiana to Illinois, from Nevada to New England… I know that they’re not all like Sarah Palin. I have friends who moved to America and happily live there without being surveilled by the CIA; friends who married Americans and produced American kids; part of my family, in fact, is American… So I’m generally very well disposed towards Americans….

But American… TOURISTS?

Honestly, which planet do they arrive from? Well, er, easy: America. And perhaps they shouldn’t be allowed to leave their little galaxy without attending a course on “how to behave abroad without looking like a post imperialist dummy in very bad clothes”….

I know some of them try hard to lower themselves to the level of us native inhabitants of an ancient continent that doesn’t have the blessing of being part of the United States of America. But it’s a lost cause. They manage to be even more patronising than the Brits, who are finally coming to terms with the fact they’ve lost their empire. The average American tourist still think they’ve arrived from the land of prosperity into poor old little Europe, and therefore walk around like proud pheasants ready to spread the gospel…

No matter which age, size or race, they must make themselves known.

Guys, we don’t need to know you’rer American. It shows!

God forbid they should speak a foreign word (communist! Anti-patriotic), so as soon as they land “abroad” they make up for it by yelling questions at the locals talking loud and slow:

“hey, what’s an aubergine?”
“gee, streets are so narrow, how can anyone drive in Europe?”
“would tap water make me sick?” (ma’am, this is Europe not Afghanistan)
“Does this bus go to I-o no, Ay-o no… Oh, howdahell you pronounce this flipping name?”
Ma’am, this is bus has Ioannis beach written in capital letters at the front where do you think it goes?
In this last instance, I find myself on the said bus, heading towards Ioannis Beach, Mykonos and, in order to speed up things, I reassure the American tourist in question that yes, she is on the correct bus.
“Oh! thanks-very-much!” (why are you speaking slowly to me? I’ve just addressed you in perfect English…).

Five minutes later I find myself sitting next to the american lady who wouldn’t trust sitting too far from the door just in case the bus changed its mind and went somewhere else and she was forced to jump out. Weird things can happen in Europe… Especially Southern Europe! It’s basically Africa…

As most Americans she feels she must chat to you, which I actually don’t mind, being a chatty person myself.
“I’ve been on a cruise around the Greek islands for two weeks, I should really be used to this bus business!” she says. “Oh, is he driving fast!”
“Where are you from?” I ask
“The United States”, she proclaims
Really? I thought you were Nigerian.
“Yes, I guessed that but where from?”
“Oh, are you familiar with the States?” she asks as if she was coming from a remote region of Burkina Faso nobody had heard of.
It turns out she’s from Florida. It’s a safe bet that most “Europeans” have heard of that. I was actually in Florida myself last month but I didn’t bother telling her.

When we finally get to Ioannis, still not convinced, the American lady leaves the bus, walks to the shore and asks to a group of Greek men sunbathing: “Is this, whachyoumaycallit, the nice beach?”
They look at her perplexed.
“No this is the crap beach, madam, we make sure we only sunbathe in horrible places.”
Of course they don’t say that but nod politely and point to a huge sign saying “welcome to Ioannis beach”
I have no idea how the lady found her way back to the village. She’s probably still wandering along south Mykonos desperately looking for somebody who could “speak American” and point her to the right bus for “whachyoumaycallit” the nice old town

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PARADISE AND HELL

I’m boring. It’s official. I could also say I’m old but it’s not just an age thing. I was never that way. Not even at 19. Which “way” do I mean, you ask?

Fun.
Easy going.
Just up for a laugh.

Of course I CAN be all those things on occasion but I’m not quintessentially so.

And now that i’m light years from adolescence and have no desire to be like everyone else I’m kind of cool with it.

I’m in Mykonos, having run away from rainy London where this year summer has decided not to show up.
The island is beautiful, a bit too crowded for my taste, but I found myself some lovely spots to hide and write. When I finish I take a bus to the beach and have a swim. Not a bad life.

But I must admit when I first arrived I panicked for about four hours.
The owner of the hotel where I’m staying, possibly assuming I’m younger than my age (or just more fun), immediately pointed to what he described as the best beach on the island: Paradise. The name was appealing so I jumped on a bus and went.
That Mykonos Paradise was in fact my personal idea of hell should have been clear from the moment I got on the bus and found myself surrounded by Australian youngsters and Japanese trendy types (You know the ones I mean: spiky hair, funky hats, twenty something years olds who pretend to be rebels before graduating and beginning to work for Toyota wearing a suit).
On entering the beach I’m welcomed by a supermodel couple – a blonde with big boobs and a tiny skirt and a mixed race guy with dreadlocks and a spectacular six pack.
“are you coming to Paradise party tonight?” they ask me in an American accent handing me a pink leaflet. I take it and smile politely, shyly looking for a free sunbed and umbrella.
On the beach, I stand out like an eye sore, or so I feel. I’m not necessarily the oldest one – there are quite a few muddle aged gay men dancing around holding a cocktail and pretending to be young, but I’m clearly the only one who doesn’t think this us the coolest place on earth.
Huge loudspeakers bang out techno music, so I can’t hear the waves breaking on the shore. Groups of men and women stand in the sea holding beers and giggling. Everyone looks like they are having an amazing time… I sigh and ask myself: ok, where is the grown ups area? What do they do with adults in Mykonos, cordon them off to a reserve like native Americans?

I know I sound like my granny. But as I said before, I was always like this, I would have hated Paradise at any age.

I’ve never really drunk. I mean, I do, one beer, or one glass of wine, but I can’t stomach more than that. I’ve never seen the point of getting drunk. Where is the fun?

I never even tried smoking…

I love dancing but I find techno and hip hop so boring and tuneless I’d rather have a punch in the eye than a night in a club.

I left Paradise determined never to return, and resigned to accept my boring status forever.

The following day I found a lovely quiet beach only populated by a couple of families and gay honeymooners and I feel at home. Silence. Space. Waves breaking on the shore….
Sorry kids but THIS is Paradise…

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expressions

Today I was fed up and bored for a number of reasons, so I did one of those stupid things I assume most people do – but don’t admit: I typed “che palle!” on Google. Che palle is an Italian expression of sheer boredom. After clicking, a website came up explaining in details the meaning of the expression:

The expression “Che palle!” is one of the most vital and most used in the Italian language. Since it is important that you get this right, we are even going to give pronunciation pointers: “Kay PAWL-lay!”

It means, literally, “What balls!” These are balls, testicles, that are figuratively dragging on the ground from eccessive boredom or irritation. The slightly dated slang phrase “What a drag” is in fact a good approximation – if without character…

I thought it was a brilliant explanation. So I’ve decided – out of sheer boredom – to add more (avoiding some obvious ones like Vaffanculo and similar). I invite all my Italian friends to contribute. Never mind if your English isn’t good

“Che maroni!”: absolutely the same as “che palle” and referring to the same anatomical part of the male body. The only difference is that  the word “maroni” to describe testicles tends to be used mainly in the North. The fact that Maroni is also the surname of one of Berlusconi’s ministers is a pure coincidence. Or maybe not…

“Du cojoni…” Absolutely the same as “che maroni”. Coglione (or cojone in its Roman version) means, like palle and maroni, balls, testicles. “Mi hai fatto du cojoni cosi'” means “you made my balls this big.” If your girlfriend says this too often, you might want to reconsider proposing to her as she’s probably about to run away with the plumber. If your boyfriend says this, don’t assume he’ complimenting on your hand job technique…

“mmmmmmmmm”: This typical expression -or rather noise- isnt to be confused with the noise one makes when uncertain about or pondering something (“Hmm?) nor with the noise one makes when seeing tasty food (Hmm!!) No, this is the typical noise an Italian makes when deeply bored or annoyed by something another person says. Imagine a siren. It’s similar to that. It starts low and quiet and it progresses up in pitch only to go down again.  mmMMMMmmm. Massimo Troisi was great at this. Also Toto’. I’ve been looking for clips on youtube but I can’t find them. I invite all my italian readers to send me one if the have it, or to try a better way to explain such a noise. Basically, like the previous expressions, mmmmmmmmmmm also means “che palle”…

Uffa! More child-like, onomatopoeic expression of boredom, dissatisfaction, and disappointment. “Uffa, mamma, voglio la Nutella!”

I never realised we have so many ways to express boredom. Italians have very limited patience

Rompicoglioni” OR “spaccamaroni”: A person who’s bored you a lot, to the point of breaking your balls. Balls are a very recurrent item in Italian conversation. You can also say “rompicazzo”, which is more painful as it means somebody so annoying they’re able to break somebody’s penis. Which is notoriously worse than having just your balls broken.

Boh: Means “I’ve no idea and I’m not really bothered”. What is your opinion on the issue of cows farting too much in Australia? Boh… What do you fancy eating for lunch? Boh… What do you want to study at University? Boh…

Boh is an absolute favourite with teenagers and with boyfriends who just can’t be bothered. Damp the boyfriend and force the teenager to work in a mine for a week

Palla: fib, lie. Balls never leave us alone in Italy. Why we compare a lie with a testicle I dont know. “Pallista” means someone who lies a lot.

Coglione: There we go again. If somebody says you’re a “coglione” they’re basically saying you’re a dickhead, an idiot. In Milan we also say “pirla”.

Basta!: If an Italian person says “basta” to you and you happen to be British, dont punch them in the face. They’re not calling you a bastard, they’re just asking you to stop (because you’ve bored them sick, breaking their balls etc etc)

Dai!: Even in this case, if an Italian person says “Dai” to you (pronounced DIE), they’re not wishing you dead, so don’t hit them. They’re just saying “come on!” (because you’ve bored them sick, breaking their balls etc)

Once I was with my cousin in the US and she started saying “Basta, dai!” to her daughter and was almost arrested for child molesting as people thought she were insulting her kid and telling her to die…

attaccati!”: Means “sort yourself out, it’s your problem”. It’s actually shorter for “attaccati al tram”, which means something like jump on the moving tram. Dangerous

And to finish, a little “chicca” I found on youtube, because the best Italian expressions are the gestural ones. LOOK:

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I’ll finish here for tonight… Suggerimenti???

Italians, accents, dialect test and Roman actors… OR “Quelli che a Como sono tutti de Trastevere…”

I don’t often agree with Northern League representatives. In fact, I deeply despise their racism, narrow mindness, and public display of “masculine and Nordic dominance”. I’m often scared of their abusive outbursts. Other times I find them totally hilarious, like when they recently proposed that teachers from the South working in the North should take a local dialect test to prove that they can really blend in and understand the people they’re teaching (how many kids speak dialect in Northern Italy, really? If you know one, please, take a picture of him/her, as they’re as rare as white bears as far as I can see).

The idea of the test immediately reminded me of comedians Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo and the sketch where a Southern Italian Vampire sneaks into some farmers’ house looking for “victims” only to be confronted by two racist “Northerners” who not only aren’t scared of him, but immediately suspect him to be a “terrone” (derogatory for Southern Italian). In order to confirm their suspicions, they test him with “l’inganno della CADREGA”. CADREGA is a Northern word for “chair”. When the farmers ask the Vampire, “would you care for a CADREGA,” he panicks as he has no clue what they’re talking about. He tries to buy his time by using all the Milanese expressions he can think of. But the farmers aren’t impressed…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqmTdtoCmEs

A few days ago, another member of the Northern League complained that all actors on Italian TV spoke with a Roman accent. No matter where a series is set, Roman is what we hear. He went on to mention a TV drama about the life of Pope Giovanni XXIII. The much loved pontiff was from the mountains near Bergamo, and spoke with the distinctive accents of that area. However, Massimo Ghini, the (usually very good) actor who portrayed him on TV spoke with a Roman accent. This, according to the Northern League’s guy, was unacceptable and another proof of disgusting Roman dominance. Of course, once again, his “externation” was followed by choruses of criticism. The mentioned Ghini said that he tried to portray the man, his essence, his humanity, not his “exterior”.

Ay me, ay me… what am I forced to say….

Ghini is blantantly wrong.

I totally support the Northern League guy. AHHHHHHH

Before you call an ambulance to check on my mental state, let’s make one thing absolutely clear:

I agree with the complaint raised by the politician for diametrically opposed reasons, ie not out of narrow-minded parochialism and irrational hatred for “Roma Ladrona”, but because Italian actors, if they really want to be as good as their foreign counterpart, have to grow beyond the limits of our little country and go further. Bey0nd provincialism, neoralism, beyond the boundaries of their native regions! They’re ACTORS for God’s sake. They have to stop playing themselves and learn what their profession is really about.

Acting is hard work.

Of course, yes, there are actors who become a sort of “universal archetype”, actors who can just be themselves and by so doing portray something that is so specific, so true, so human, it goes beyond geography and time. I think of Chaplin, Tati, of the Italian Toto’, comedians who became eternal masks, like Arlequin. But such actors don’t usually play “roles”, really. Stories are written around them. They’re a separate category.

Outside that narrow category are all the great, professional actors who play roles. They are blank canvasses ready to receive characters, turn into them, prepared to be moulded into a new creature who might vaguely look like them but who isn’t them. Of course they will always bring their own humanity into a role, their emotions, truths. I don’t believe much in pure “method”, in loosing yourself into somebody else’s story to the point of forgetting who you are. It’s dangerous, and it’s unnecessary. How can anyone, really, ever stop being themselves completely? We all bring our own humanity and being to the characters we play.

As one of my teachers said, acting is about being totally true under a set of made up circumstances. Being true, though, doesn’t imply speaking only in your every day accent. That would be simply lazy. It’s as if Meryl Streep had refused to do a Polish accent in Sophie’s choice and gone for her native New Jersey twang saying “the important thing is the humanity of the character not how she speaks.” Sophie was a Polish immigrant! Of course how she spoke was part of who she was, her identity, her humanity. In the USA or in the UK or even France, no actors will ever think that they can spend their all careers just using their native accent. A good ear for accents is considered a crucial skill anywhere outside Italy.

Because an accent isn’t just a way of pronouncing or pitching a word. It’s a whole way of being. I know it very well, as a foreigner living abroad. I’ve been trying to master my British accent for a number of years now, and recently my coach said something that was totally illuminating: “Lara, you’re Italian in the way you move, in the way you do your hair, in the way you look at people. You’re Italian before you even open your mouth. Think English, dress English, use your body as an English woman and you will also sound more English.”

It’s so true. The English sounds are produced by placing the whole of your body in a different position. Each idiom, each accent is only the final result of a whole culture.

Pope Giovanni XVIII was a simple man from a small mountain village. His delivery had the sweet, dark, slow cadence typical of that area. It had nothing to do with the more uptempo cadenza of the Roman accent. He came from a cold, hungry, underdevelopped region where winters were harsh and God could be seen in the beauty and the terror of the surrounding Alps. In his accent he carried this whole world.

If Ghini had been born in the US he would have spent two months in Bergamo in order to master his accent before beginning to shoot. But in Italy old Massimo feels perfetcly entitled to say “it’d be ridiculous for a Roman actor to do a Bergamo accent, it would have been fake and prevented me from portraying the character’s real soul.”

No, mate, it ‘s ridiculous that a Roman actor can only play Roman, that is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that Italian viewers are so used to the equation Roman-accent-equals-TVlanguage that they didn’t even NOTICE! If you had used a Bergamo accent, it wouldn’t have been ridiculous. It would have been “acting”. Ever heard of it? Unless what you’re saying is that YOU would have been ridiculous, because you can’t do accents, in which case it’s your problem. If you can’t do an accent without sounding funny or loosing your ability to be believable you’re lacking a skill, pure and simple. 

I actually rate Ghini quite a good actor, and if even such a professionist can be so adamant about the unimportance of an accent, it means that Italian acting is totally out of sync with the acting we see in the rest of the world. This because our TV and Film industry are still set in the past. In a pre-multicultural, pre-multilingual, pre-internet, pre-alphabetized Italy, where people didn’t really know much about what was going on outside their own town, and couldn’t understand any idiom other than their native dialect and standard Italian. In such a world, the media had the important role of educating the masses, getting them to speak proper Italian – often with hint of a Roman accent because TV and Film companies were based in the capital and so were most of the actors.

This is why it’s normal in Italy to hear actors speak with Roman accents no matter where something is set. It’s normal for actors not work on their accents as if it wasnt’t part of their characters and it’s normal for viewers not to notice. 

The Italian soap “Vivere”, that concluded in 2008 after running for 10 years or so, was set in Como. People in Como have a STRONG accent. Not a particularly pleasant one, let’s face it, but very distinctive, almost Swiss. Do you think the production bothered keeping that detail in mind? Of course not. In fact, mainly because of political reasons, they ended up with a cast of mostly Roman actors. The few Milanese actors who did get a job in the soap and who could have at least brough some more authentic Northern flavour, spoke Standard Italian. They sounded like a dubbed version of themselves. DOPPIAGGESE is the term… If they had used a Northern accent I’m sure they would have sounded ridiculous to most viewers. Because Italians aren’t used to accents on TV. Especially, and the League guy is unfortunately right, to Northern accents. Proof is that when they cast the soap “Un posto al Sole”, set in Naples, they wanted Neapolitans. For “Montalbano”, set in Sicily, they use Sicilian actors (or people who can do the accent). So why is it that every inhabitant of Como in “Vivere” sounded as if they’d just arrived from Trastevere? Why can’t we have actors from Como, Milano, Genova, Bologna, Trento, Torino, speaking in their own accent rather than being forced into a standard diction that takes spontaneity and personality away? 

It’s time for a revolution here…

There are cases when standard diction is necessary. On stage, for instance. If you act Shakespeare in Italian, or Checov, or Ibsen, it makes sense to have a neutral diction. In period drama set at the court of some noble man, neutral diction is also welcome.

But in 2008 Como??? Where are the COMASCHI? e be’ be’, il comasco l’e’ un po’ bruutto neh?

Another example:

I was probably the only person in Italy that, at the end of the excellent movie “Giorni e nuvole”, wondered why was the film set in Genoa when Margherita Buy had a Roman accent, Alabanese a neutral accent and the girl playing their daughter a strange East Northern accent. Were the characters from somewhere else and had only recently moved to Genoa? They didn’t act as they were. Why didn’t the daughter speak like her parents and why in fact she didn’t speak Genoan, as any kid in that city would? Italians don’t think such details are important, the film is good, the actors were good, what’s the difference?

There’s a big difference. The difference is that I would have asked Margherita Buy to do a Genoan accent. Because she speaks the same in every single movie. She’s good but she will never be as good as a Kate Blanchet or a Meryl Streep because she’s a prisoner of herself, of her Roman accent and of her repetitive delivery. She can just play neurotic Roman. And she’s lucky enough to work in an industry where that is not only accepeted but demanded. So good for her. But don’t be surprised if our actors aren’t rated much abroad. They don’t push beyond their own limits. They comfortably sit on their own glories and go on playing “generic”. Because that’s what happens when you don’t care about they way a character speak. You turn them into “anybody”.

This trend in my opinion is the sum of two opposite fenomenons: dubbing and neorealism.

Neorealism brought Italian cinema to the big screens of the whole world back in the ’50s thanks to films portraying the situation of the country in the aftermath of the war. “Bicycle thieves” or “Rome open city” are incredible masterpieces where real people were taken literally from the streets to act their own life. This led to the idea that good acting equals being natural and being natural equals being yourself.  Slowly but surely neorealism died but the prejudice it created remained. Leading, for instance, to the silly idea that stage actors can’t do films because they’re too “trained”. Because stage actors speak standard Italian and sound fake, while film actor speak… er… Roman, mostly. Sometimes Neapolitan, because somebody at some point in history decided Neapolitan is a “language” so Neapolitan actors in Italy have a special status and they’re allowed to do their own thing. Or, some times, they speak other accents, but only if they’re “characters”  verging on caricatures (like Abbatantuono always playing the arrogant Milanese, Angela Finocchiaro playing the “sfigata” Milanese).

Perhaps if stage actors were allowed to act, and therefore cast as coming “from” a particular place (requiring a particular accent, rather than as some generic “person” who speaks as if they’d landed on Earth from an Episode of “Sentieri”) they would do a better job. If somebody for a change forced them, required them to act, to learn a skill, to use a REAL accent, they might actually prove that they have the capacity to do it.  

But let’s talk about dubbing, and I’m walking a very thin line here because I’m speaking against my own interest, since dubbing is what has been feeding me for a long time…

Italian dubbing is by far the best in the world. And I’m not saying it because I’m part of it, it’s a simple truth. We work at the highest standard. Italian “dubbers” are far more than voice over artists, they’re great actors who really re-create the acting of the big screen stars they voice on the dark. Sometimes, even to improve it, believe it or not. To the paradoxical point of turning, for instance, a poor actor such as Silvester Stallone into a very fine thespian thanks to the talent of an artist such as Ferruccio Amendola.

However, for all its highly accurate technique, finely tuned skills and amazing talents,Italian dubbing has one huge flaw: No dubbed film bothers with accents. No matter whether actors are British or American, speaking with a Tennessee or a York accent, no matter if they’re foreigners speaking English with a German or Spanish accent, no matter what, dubbing is done in STANDARD ITALIAN. Full stop. With very few exceptions such as the Godfather – dubbed with a Sicilian accent – or My Fair Lady, where Eliza was given a ludicrous Pugliese accent (which raise another issue: who do you translate accents? Impossible task?). 

Now, traditionally the great dubbing (the one for films) happens in Rome. Roman “dubbers”, despite protesting the contrary, very often slip into Roman habits (“sarebbe” with a closed “e”, “vabbene” with two “b” and various double consonants appearing in the wrong place…) Even those who aren’t from Rome try their best to colour their impeccable diction with some Roman hints, in the attempt to achieve the much requested “naturale, buttato via” tone…

Can you start seeing a pattern developping here..?

The result of 80 years of dubbing is first of all a general standardisation of acting. The moment you take accents away, all films pretty much sound the same.

Second, the Italian audiences have grown up, generation after generation, with the innate, never questioned convinction that great acting equals standard Italian (with a hint of Roman). Regional accents from anywhere else are just funny, you cant take them seriously, they make you laugh. Standard/Roman Italian is what all Hollywood actors speak in every film showed in Italy. Consequently, Italian actors think that Standard/Roman Italian is how you need to speak in films. Or TV. Simple.

The world has changed so quickly in the past 80 years that dubbing is, regrettably, a thing of the past, but Italians are conservative at heart and I suspect another 80 years might pass before people in my country will seriously consider subtitles.

Dubbing and the residues of neorealism have generated this shared belief in the acting/directing/producing community that characters on TV and in films exist as “entities” totally independent from their surroundings and the language spoken around them. As if there was a dicotomy between what a character is and how he/she sounds. As if the voice wasn’t part of the body, as if it didn’t have any history, any background. People, real people, are the way they sound. The soul doesnt only speak through the eyes, it also speak through the quality of the sounds we produce. Even now, in Italy, beautiful but inept girls are cast in main TV roles and then dubbed (with a neutral, slightly Roman accent). As if a voice could be forced upon a person, as if the voice was an exterior thing, an accessory – like a hat or a dress – as if the voice was always a voice “over”, as if we were all born mute and waiting to be dubbed.

PS:  To Romans. You live under the  – unfortunatly wide spread – delusion that Roman equals “general Italian”, as if it was a sort of Esperanto or a Swiss passport guranteeing neutrality.It is not. Roman is spoken in Rome. Roman is a REGIONAL, not national accent. And a very strong one. Get real.

Dear me, I do sound like Bossi now….

Oh mia bela Maduninaaaaaaaaa

Un gigantesco basta…

…se dovessi esprimere un desiderio per il 2009, al di là della pace nel mondo, salute eterna, fidanzarmi con George Clooney, essere scelta come co-protagonista per il prossimo film con Meryl Streep e solite cose, avrei una richiesta specifica:

veder sparire dall televisione italiana tutte le veline, letterine, meteorine, e qualsiasi altra -ina tettuta e seminuda il cui ruolo è sculettare per 30 secondi e sorridere ebetemente in camera.

     

Da persona che passa gran parte del suo tempo all’estero sono imbarazzata davanti ai commenti che il resto del mondo fa sull’Italia e la sua cultura TV.

“Ci sono ancora le donnine tettone in TV?” Mi chiedono ridendo come pazzi.

“Li fanno sempre i programmi con il comico maschio furbo che fa le battute e la bonona scema sculettante a fianco?” Domandano strabuzzando gli occhi.

“Ma le donne in Italia non si ribellano a vedersi trattate così?”  Vuole sapere la gente in Inghilterra, dove se la BBC dovesse presentare una velina in prima serata il giorno dopo Trafalgar Square sarebbe invasa di dimostranti che chiedono le dimissioni del direttore generale per offesa alla dignità femminile…  

Che posso rispondere? Ehm… evidentemente no, le donne in Italia non si ribellano. Non capisco come questo sia possibile, eppure è così. Siamo tornati indietro di 30 anni. Le donne hanno smesso di provare ad opporsi all’incombente maschilismo, al crescente cretinismo, e hanno deciso di accettarequesto perverso “gioco” come fosse il solo possibile. Bambine di 8 anni dicono che da grandi vogliono fare le veline e le mamme sorridono benignamente. Una povera giornalista 40enne osa presentarsi senza lifting facciale e tutte a commentare su quanto è invecchiata e grassa… Pure le femministe in Italia sembrano essere sparite… Che la tv sia piena di ragazzette sculettanti e tonte è una cosa normale, come la nebbia d’inverno, il tacchino a Natale e il caldo a Ferragosto. Meglio velina che disoccupata. Meglio sculettare che “perdere tempo” a studiare. E’ così che si diventa famosi e ricchi, mica con una laurea o anni di accademia. Poi si sposa un calciatore, ci si fa mantenere a vita e il gioco è fatto.

Evviva l’emancipazione!!!

Certo, tutto questo in Italia è normale come le raccomandazioni sui posti di lavoro, i governi che non vogliono riconoscere le coppie di fatto, il Vaticano che sostiene che la pillola inquina l’ambiente e Berlusconi indagato per corruzione. E’ una delle tante cose che rendono retrogrado, primitivo e povero (dentro, nell’anima) questo paese. Uno dei motivi per cui siamo culturalmente i fanalini di coda del mondo occidentale. Che vergogna…

Ecco io vorrei che nel 2009 le donne italiane si riunissero un giorno per gridare un gigantesco basta a questa immagine della femminilità da poster di Playboy. Che facessero una gigantesca pernacchia a tutte le -ine tettute della TV e sopratutto a chi le sceglie, le produce, le concepisce.

Perché il modello zoccola-velina non è l’unico. Andate all’estero e accendete la TV: non troverete alcuna biondona sculettante. Nel resto d’Europa le donne vengono ascoltate anche se arrivano in TV con la dolcevita… Incredibile ma vero… E’ possibile. Ma bisogna crederci…

Invece al momento tutte le donne che vanno in Tv o sui giornali, anche quelle brave, anche quelle intelligenti, è come se dovessero giustificare la loro presenza mostrando un po’ di coscia o un po’ di tetta. Come se fossero convinte che senza quelle in vista gli uomini non concederebbero loro nemmeno 2 minuti del loro tempo. Come se fossero in dovere di farlo, per non fare brutta figura… Non importa se hanno 18 anni o 68, sembrano tutte Cher alla notte degli Oscar: scollature gigantesche, labbra e zigomi rifatti, trucco da “battaglia”… 

           

Sono orribili… Sono finte, bamboleggianti, sembrano stupide anche quando non lo sono. Parlano delle bombe su Gaza e nel frattempo stanno attente che le tette non escano dal push-up troppo strizzato… Annunciano un cantante e intanto col culo fanno le mossette. Spiegano come si cucina l’ossobuco e dalla maglia esce un capezzolo. Descrivono un progetto di legge e si tirano giù la gonna che a malapena copre il sedere.

E’ come se la TV italiana fosse uscita direttamente dall’immaginazione di un adolescente in crisi ormonale. Tutte le donne sono zoccole e pronte a dartela, alè!!

Perché questo è il sottiliSSSSimo messaggio subliminare della nostra TV. Le ragazzine di 12 o 13 anni che la guardano pensano che o sei figa e seducente, o sei orrenda e perdente. E’ talmente raccapricciante da diventare esilarante.  Non c’è più alcuna differenza fra pin up da strapazzo, presentatatrice attempata, attrice intellettuale o reporter… Il look zoccola è imperativo, pena l’essere considerata “cesso”, che in questa cultura primitiva è molto MA MOOLTO peggio che essere considerate scema o senza talento – prova ne sono le decine di incapaci che vengono scelte non solo come showgirl, ma come presentatrici e attrici – carabiniere, commissarie e Elise ombrose e solatie…  

Le “cesse”, che la maggiorparte delle volte sono semplicemente delle donne normalissime, magari con un chilo in più, o poco seno, o una faccia non rifatta in cui le rughe non si nascondono, possono ambire solo a fare le “comiche” (in Italia se non sei bella fai ridere, ovvio no?) o l’ intellettuale noiosa che va in onda su Rai3. Persino la Bignardi ha le iperscollature. Persino Bianca Berlinguer (Berlinguer!!!! per cosa hai lottato, poveretto?) ogni tanto arriva col reggiseno che le spunta dalla giacca bianca…

Unica eccezione di brutta di succsso è Maria De Filippi, che pur essendo il solo vero cesso della TV italiana (nel senso che ha ideato le peggiori cacche televisive degli ultimi anni) e meritevole solo di essere spedita con un cargo in Papuasia con biglietto di sola andata, è sposata con Costanzo e quindi intoccabile.

La mia amica Veronica Pivetti, ha la fama di quella brutta. Ora, la Veronica non sarà Monica Bellucci, ma è una ragazza carina, con una faccia simpatica. Certo, lei non si mette le scollature e non fa i sorrisini ammiccanti… Risultato: cessa. Lei lo usa a suo vantaggio perché è intelligente, e fa la Befana in prima serata, e meno male. Ma se sua sorella non fosse diventata presidente della Camera 10 anni fa, Veronica sarebbe stata ancora a Cologno Monzese, in Merak, a doppiare i cartoni. Perché quando era andata a Roma, agli inzi degli anni ’90, Veronica non l’aveva voluta nessuno. Perché non era “figa”.

Due mesi fa ho incontrato un agente a Roma. Questo mi ha fatto mille salamelecchi, parlandomi di quanto creda nel talento e di quanto apprezzasse il mio Cv, e mi ha detto che di certo mi avrebbe inclusa fra i suoi clienti. Prima di Natale, non avendo sentito più nulla, ed essendomi accorta che la mia foto non appariva sul sito dell’agenzia, l’ho contattato per sapere se era tutto ok. Risposta: sì, sì, ma non possiamo metterti sul sito perché le tue foto non vanno bene. Ora, le mie foto recenti sono credo tra le migliori che mi abbiano mai fatto. Ma guardando le foto delle attrici presenti non solo sul sito del mio agente ma di tutte le altre agenzie di Roma, mi sono resa conto che in Italia le foto da book ormai devono essere zoccole pure quelle. Sguardo ammiccante, scollatura, labbra socchiuse… Io mi rifiuto di fare quelle foto. Principalmente perché sono dotata di un forte senso dell’umorismo, e ritengo che per mettersi in certe pose occorra prendersi troppo sul serio.

“Aoh, guarda npo’ come so bona…”

occhi

hahahahahahahahahahah

E poi mi chiedono perché sto a Londra… Andate su Spotlight, che è l’elenco di TUTTI gli attori che lavorano in Gran Bretagna. Trovate solo primissimi piani. Sguardo dritto in camera, niente sorrisetti, niente labbra da pompino (e diciamolo chiaro e tondo!), niente scollature. Eppure…

Eppure mi risulta che le attrici inglesi vincano almeno un Oscar all’anno.

Quand’è stato l’ultima volta che un’attrice italiana ha vinto l’Oscar?

Aspetta che ci penso… Negli ultimi dieci anni niente…

Negli anni ’90 niente…

Negli anni ’80 niente… 

Come dite?

Anna come?

Magnani?

Millenovecento… quando? Ah, MILLENOVECENTO CINQUANTASEI… Ma va? 53 anni fa… Ma guarda… che strano, eh?

Altre domande?