Pietro Francisci

F.: Augusto Tiezzi. Mus.: Carlo Innocenzi. Canzoni: Eduardo Di Capua, Giovanni Capurro. Int.: Diana Lori (Gina Lollobrigida), Aldo Fiorelli. Prod.: Excelsa Film. DCP. Bn

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Think of Pietro Francisci and the first thing that most likely comes to mind is Hercules. The director was in fact one of the undisputed champions of Italian post-war mythological and adventure films, with catchy popular titles such as The Lion of Amalfi, The Queen of Sheba and, of course, Hercules (the film which, according to Mario Bava, “saved Italian cinema” with its record box-office revenue). Francisci’s journey originally started much earlier, producing a multitude of short films from the mid 1930s and throughout the 1940s. Among the various “genres” he worked in (with a particular preference and skill for art documentaries and city symphonies), a cohesive group of romantic sketches, hovering on the wings of famous Neapolitan and Roman songs, stands out.
During the same period, a young, small-town woman was trying to make her way into the world of entertainment with film appearances and beauty contests. She was also successful on the pages of photonovels where she went by the name of Diana Loris. The girl in question would become a global star under the name of Gina Lollobrigida. Her debut as a leading actress in Francisci’s song-based shorts is almost undocumented. We are screening three of them (Stornellata romana, ‘Na sera ‘e maggio, ‘O sole mio!), in which an “s” disappears from her temporary stage name and the magnetism that made her sublime is indelible.
Complementing them are two performances by another young hopeful who would not be as successful, Anna Nievo: an incursion into the nostalgia for the café chantant (Come facette mammeta?, pepped up by the chanteuse performance by Diana Nava), and the sentimental romance between a country girl and a fisherman in Marechiare.
The shorts in this series are a distillation of simple splendour: imagery similar to contemporary photonovels, a spare narrative framework that awaits the title song’s arrival to demonstrate its full romantic potential, a collection of postcard-like glimpses that invite us to immerse ourselves in fairy tale worlds Francisci, here as in many other examples from his career, masters every detail with the utmost success, demonstrating that achieving simplicity that is beautiful is a rare talent.

Andrea Meneghelli

Copy From

Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from 35mm vintage prints provided by Paolo Francisci, Pietro’s son