Avati, Pupi


Avati, Pupi
(1938-)
   Director, producer, screenwriter. A prolific and popular but extremely eclectic director, Pupi (short for Giuseppe) Avati has directed over 30 feature films, which have ranged widely across a variety of genres to include everything from gothic horror to musicals, from historical dramas to romantic comedies.
   After graduating in political science from the University of Bologna, Avati played clarinet in a jazz band for a number of years before directing his first film, Balsamus, l'uomo di Satana (BloodRelations, 1968), a bizarre and rather surreal tale about a dwarf with presumed magical powers. In both subject and style, the film, now apparently lost, displayed that propensity for the absurd and the grotesque which would frequently reappear in Avati's subsequent films. It was quickly followed by the equally quirky gothic fantasy Thomas—gli indemoniati (Thomas and the Bewitched, 1969), which, however, was never released in Italy. Avati then achieved a wider following with his irreverent satirical comedy, La mazurka del barone, della santa e del fico fiorone (The Mazurka of the Baron, 1974), and Bordella (House of Pleasure for Women, 1976), a provocative musical set in a brothel for women; the film was severely attacked by the censors for its alleged affront to public morals.
   After collaborating with Pier Paolo Pasolini on the screenplay of Salb o le 120 gionate di Sodoma (Salb, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975), and several other successful forays into the gothic and horror genres with La casa dalle finestre che ridono (The House with Laughing Windows, 1976), Tutti defunti... tranne i morti (All Deceased Except for the Dead, 1977), and Le strelle nel fosso (The Stars in the Ditch, 1978), Avati returned to two of his old passions with the extended television miniseries Jazz Band (1978) and Cinema!!! (1979). He produced another classic horror thriller, Zeder (1982), before changing direction and style completely with Una gita scolastica (A School Outing, 1983), the nostalgic recreation of a romantic school outing in an idealized Tuscan countryside at the beginning of World War I. Subsequent films continued to alternate between the past and the present with Noi tre (The Three of Us, 1984), depicting the short period that the young Mozart spent in Bologna in 1770, being followed by Impiegati (Personnel, 1985), a caustic portrayal of Italian yuppie culture in the early 1980s. Set in the 1950s, Festa di laurea (Graduation Party, 1985) pitilessly recounts an unmitigated fiasco in place of the celebration announced in the title, while the similarly ironically titled Regalo di Natale (Christmas Present, 1986) focuses on a harrowing all-night poker game set in contemporary times.
   The late 1980s brought one of Avati's best-known films, Storia di ragazzi e di ragazze (Story of Boys and Girls, 1989). Reliving all the stages of an extended engagement dinner prepared by the girl's rural family for the urban middle-class family of the groom-to-be, the film received the Nastro d'argento for Best Direction and both the Nas-tro and the David di Donatello for Best Screenplay. Two years later Bix—un ipotesi leggendaria (Bix: An Interpretation of a Legend, 1991), Avati's affectionate portrait of legendary American jazz musician Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, was similarly awarded a David for its meticulous production design as well as being nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes. Avati's long-held fascination with the Middle Ages produced Magnificat (1993) before he returned to the gothic genre with L'arcano incantatore (Mysterious Enchanter, 1996) and to his native countryside of Emilia at the end of the 19th century with his charming romantic comedy Il testimone dello sposo (The Best Man, 1997), which was nominated for a Golden Globe and presented as Italy's submission to the 1998 Academy Awards.
   Avati's subsequent films have continued to range widely, from another foray into the Middle Ages in I cavallieri che fecero l'impresa (The Knights of the Quest, 2001) to Il cuore altrove (The Heart Is Elsewhere, 2003), an unusual love story set in Bologna in the early 1900s. More recently he has filmed an effective sequel to his earlier Il regalo di Natale in La rivincita di Natale (Christmas Rematch, 2004) and found a way of bringing together all his favorite themes of friendship, music, and coming of age in Ma quando arrivano le ragazze? (When Will the Girls Arrive? 2005). At the same time with La seconda notte di nozze (The Second Wedding Night, 2005) he furnished mature opera star Katia Ricciarelli with an opportunity to make her film acting debut in a zany love story set in the immediate postwar period. The film, as eccentric as any Avati has ever produced, was nominated for the Golden Lion Award at Venice, with Ricciarelli herself being awarded a Nastro d'argento for her performance. Avati's most recent film, La cena per farli conoscere (The Get-Together Dinner, 2007), is a bittersweet comedy in which a middle-aged man (Diego Abatantuono), deep in the throes of a midlife crisis and on the brink of suicide, is rehabilitated through a dinner organized by his three daughters.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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