Brusati, Franco


Brusati, Franco
(1922-1993)
   Playwright, screenwriter, director. More interested in theater than in cinema, Brusati nevertheless began working in the film industry in the late 1940s, first as assistant to Renato Castellani and Roberto Rossellini and soon as screenwriter for many other directors, including Mario Camerini, Luciano Emmer, and Alberto Lattuada.
   After cowriting Camerini's Ulisse (Ulysses, 1954), Brusati was given the opportunity to direct his first film, Il padrone sono me (I'm the Owner, 1955), from an elegiac novel by Alfredo Panzini. A tepid response to the film led Brusati to turn to the theater and write his first play, Il benessere (Affluence, 1959). The critical success of the play prompted a return to the big screen with Il disordine (Disorder, 1963), but the film's very mixed reception led him to turn once again to the stage and write La fastidiosa (1963) and Pieta di novembre (1966), both judged best plays of the year by the Instituto del Dramma Italiano. Again encouraged by this success, Brusati wrote and directed II suo modo di fare (also known in Italy as Tenderly but in the United States as The Girl Who Couldn't Say No, 1968), a Capraesque comedy that paired George Segal with Virna Lisi, which he followed with I tulipani di Haarlem (Tulips of Haarlem, 1970), a profoundly heart-wrenching but thoroughly unsentimental love story that was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes. He then made the film for which he is perhaps best remembered, Pane e cioccolata (Bread and Chocolate, 1973), a tragicomic portrayal of the trials and tribulations of an Italian migrant worker in Switzerland. The film was both a huge commercial and critical success, earning Brusati a David di Donatello for direction and a Nastro d'argento for Best Story. Although poorly distributed internationally, the film eventually received great acclaim in France, where it was nominated for a Cesar, and in America, where in 1978 it received the New York Film Critics award for Best Foreign Film.
   A year later Dimenticare Venezia (To Forget Venice, 1979), a lesbian-gay drama set in the 1920s, brought Brusati a second David di Donatello, with the film also receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In the 1990s, while adding to his reputation as a playwright with several more critically acclaimed plays, Brusati also directed Il buon soldato (The Good Soldier, 1982) and his final film, Lo zio indegno (The Sleazy Uncle, 1989), an ebullient and irreverent comedy that brought Vittorio Gassman a Nastro d'argento for his performance in the title role.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.