Neapolitan melodrama, in a hail of bullets
Article by Michela Greco, Cinecittà News

Visconti’s own Villa Erba and the tree on the Isola Comacina, the island where a famous scene in Hitchcock’s The Pleasure Garden was filmed; George Clooney’s lakeside villa in Laglio and Villa del Balbianello, the setting of a string of romantic scenes in Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Como, the city on the eponomous lake, has been closely associated with cinema every since the Lumière brothers, who filmed some of their panoramas on the water, and that bond has just gotten even closer with the 26th edition of Noir in Festival, the first half of which unspooled in Como, with its guest artists in attendance. Brothers Marco and Antonio Manetti and French filmmaker Jalil Lespert made the lake crossing on Sunday and got served some very noir tales connected with the lake: stories of heinous crimes and serial killers who made the waters run red and cast an air of mystery over the Alpine scene.

Fixtures at Noir in Festival for several years now, the Manetti Bros. treated audiences to a sneak peak of their new film Ammore e malavita, which comes out three years after their hit Song’e Napule. "It’s going to be a cop film turned musical," they explain. "It all started when we met with Carlo Macchitella, who asked us to do Passione 2, which was intriguing, but that film didn’t look at Neapolitan music, which ranges from the classic melodrama to the more recent neomelodici, and it was just that area of music we were interested in, so the project changed, and turned into Ammore e malavita."

The story is about a killer (Giampaolo Morelli) whose mobster boss has charged him with killing a young nurse (Serena Rossi). When they meet, however, he realizes she’s the girl he went out with before getting into organized crime, and he decides to make a clean start, even if it means a sizeable body count. Even his boss (Carlo Buccirosso), with the support of his wife (Claudia Gerini) would like to become respectable again. "The film combines three different genres: love story, cop movie, and Neapolitan melodrama. There are thirteen songs performed by the actors; our model was Grease, our very favorite musical. Italy hasn’t come up with any musicals for years, but we’re going to try to bring back the classical formula, with the story that occasionally gets moved along by the songs themselves."

It’s an original experiment, one well suited to the two brothers, who are filmmakers and directors of an array of video clips, with the musical aspect of their films a top priority from the start. "As for the music in all our films, the songs have been composed by Pivio and Aldo De Scalzi," the directors go on, "while Nelson has written the lyrics. And for the first time, we’ve also acted as music producers. But the newest thing of all for us was writing the dialogues with meter, because the words of the songs double as the words of the film."

In the run-up to the March 2017 release of Ammore e malavita, Marco and Antonio Manetti have this to say: "Success didn’t happen to us overnight. We’re two workers who are faithful to our own conception of film, and we’ve never been overly drawn to easy solutions, in the form of more commercial choices. In the last few years Italian film has changed along with us, to a certain extent, and right now this is just the film we wanted to make, the film we feel is our own and we can make with more freedom, thanks to a bigger budget than usual. If Ammore e malavita doesn’t go over," they conclude, "then it’s the underground for us."