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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
Nanni Moretti: Darling of Italy
Nanni Moretti, left, in The Son's Room
Nanni Moretti, left, in The Son's Room
Italian director Nanni Moretti's win at the Cannes Film Festival has been greeted with delight in his native country.

It is the first time in 23 years that an Italian has won the Palme d'Or. The last was Ermanno Olmi, for his 1978 film The Tree of the Wooden Clogs.

Moretti's face beamed out at the start of all TV news bulletins on Sunday night.


I'm so happy - again, bravo Nanni!

Italian Culture Minister Giovanna Melandri
State television network RAI was especially proud of the triumph, pointing out that it co-produced Moretti's film.

"Nanni Moretti's film justly received the maximum recognition from the Cannes jury because it succeeds in speaking the universal language of emotion, pain and rigour," network president Roberto Zaccaria said.

Italian Culture Minister Giovanna Melandri said: "Moretti won and convinced the jury and the public at Cannes with his most intense, perhaps his most mature, work to date.

"I'm so happy. Again, bravo Nanni!"

His countrymen are not just proud of him - they like the film too.

Moretti's latest film has been mainly responsible for a 20% rise in ticket sales for Italian films shown in Italy over the past few months, according to a group of Italian cinemas.

Cannes jury president Liv Ullman congratulates Moretti
Cannes jury president Liv Ullman congratulates Moretti
Giovanni Moretti, 47, was born in Brunico, Italy, in August 1953, and now lives in Rome.

As a child he devoted himself to cinema and water-polo, ending up playing for the Italian water-polo first division and the junior national team.

He was also committed to leftwing politics.

When he left school he sold his stamp collection to buy a film camera, and started making short films with friends in 1973.

In 1976 he directed his first full length feature, Io sono un autarchio (I am Self Sufficient).

He began making professional movies in 1978 with Ecce Bombo, which became his first national success and remains a cult movie for many Italians.

Other films include Bianca in 1983, La messa e finita (The Mass Has Ended) and the film for which he remains best known, Caro Diario (Dear Diary), in 1994 - for which he won the best director prize at Cannes that year.

Moretti with the coveted Palme d'Or
Moretti with the coveted Palme d'Or
Aprile, in 1998, was a typical Moretti venture - it recorded of the birth of his first child and starred himself and his wife.

But despite being beloved of his native Italy, he does not like private life, refuses to talk to journalists and does not appear on TV.

He has said that he is not a film director, but someone who only makes a film when he has something to say.

The Son's Room, in which he stars - as usual - seems to have met the Cannes jury's stated aim of honouring a film that provoked an emotional response.

It immediately attracted attention when it was screened, and had already received three David di Donatello prizes - the Italian equivalent of the Oscars - following its release in Italy.

A panel of international movie critics at Cannes had also awarded The Son's Room its Fipresci prize ahead of the official festival's prize-giving ceremony.

Criticised in the past for often marring his softly humorous films with narcissistic navel-gazing, Moretti has made a restrained, sensitive movie of loss.

The first part of the film is set in the northern Italian port town of Ancona, where a family, parents Giovanni (played by Moretti) and Paola (Laura Morante) and their two teenage children, daughter Irene and son Andrea, happily go about their lives.

Tragedy

But one Sunday, while Giovanni is visiting one of his psychiatric patients, Andrea dies during a diving expedition, plunging the family into shock.

Giovanni, a man who divides his time between his work, family and daily jogs, is obsessed and tormented with the idea that the tragedy could have been averted if he had taken his son for a run that day instead of seeing his patient.

Paola, meanwhile, clings desperately to what she learns of her son's life from a letter written by a girlfriend that arrives for him after his death.

Trying to drown his pain, the distraught father throws himself into bursts of activity and is unable to listen to his patients tell of their own suffering. All the while, his family slowly disintegrates.

"I'm very happy when I'm told that this film is very hard and very gentle at the same time," Moretti told a media conference after the prize ceremony.

He said he had been at home in Rome when he was called on Friday to come to Cannes for the closing ceremony - but had not dared believe it was to pick up the Palme d'Or.

"Often in Cannes, there is no relation between the reaction by audiences and the jury's decision," Moretti said.

Roberto Benigni won the Cannes Grand Jury prize in 1998 for Life is Beautiful - and went on to win the Oscar for best foreign film.

All Italy is no doubt hoping that 2002 could be Nanni Moretti's year.


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