The art of the bizarre, exclusive interview with Fulvio Risuleo

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Like a note on a strange pentagram, Fulvio Risuleo’s studio is set between an aqueduct, tracks and the Casilina, which together watch the Pigneto pour into Tor Pignattara. There, we meet him at the November 17th theatrical release of Ghost night, presented at the 79th Venice Film Festival in the Horizons section. Fulvio Risuleo’s third film is the starting point of the conversation with an author capable of extricating himself from different media and different themes. We go from cinema to video games, from the unconscious power of sound to the limits of the word science fiction, all in the name of bizarre.



How is the presentation tour of Ghost night?

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Fulvio Risuleo: It started a week ago, I’ve been to Sesto San Giovanni, Monza and Milan. The beauty is that in the latter city it was also a festival linked to schools and Ghost night won the boys’ first prize. For me it’s beautiful, because I didn’t think it for them; among other things the film is forbidden to minors of 14 years for some reason unknown to me. It seems to me a confirmation that the works for boys don’t have to be for guys, what the targeting excessive is disabling. Thinking about my 16-year-old me, I only wanted to see grown-up movies.

Yesterday instead (November 13, ed) did you submit to Modena the new version of the interactive project Bizarre reporting.

It is a project carried out in 2014, after graduating from the Centro Sperimentale. I had this small inheritance from my grandmother, a thousand euros: with half I rented a room in Paris, while the other half had to be for budget something. Then I went a little overboard, since I hadn’t considered that the room I had taken didn’t have a kitchen. The only fixed point I had, however, was a web content in twenty episodes. It was a wonderful experience that I remember with great pleasure even after many years. This is why I wanted the site to be redone. Bizarre reporting it is full of mysteries, and they remain so even today. There was durian, there were dinosaurs, a killer, water… The idea was to build a screenplay paranoidin which there are many connections and suggestions.

A project that, according to the caption initial, arises from the need to forget.

After three years of academicism, however very important for me, with this project I said to myself: “Here, I can also make something with a compact and a microphone“. I found a method, building with what I found. I didn’t have a cell phone yet and I moved around the city with a compass that a friend had given me. This type of freedom in a very intense month gave me a charge and an enthusiasm that can be seen in the short film. People who later collaborated on my films also participated: Irene Zincone as editor and Francesco Lucarelli as sound.

The sound is a very important component in bizarre reporting, like in all your films. THEno ghost night, for instance, there are no supernatural moments, but apparently normal situations are derailed with sound, from the music by Francesco Rita to the sound effects.

I understood that I really like working with sound during the Centro Sperimentale, thanks again to Francesco Lucarelli. He moved to Madrid years ago and that’s why we made sound there. The sound also directs the story narratively, without the viewer realizing it. It is one of the least definable aspects by the average spectator, sometimes even by insiders. It is an element that works subliminally, unconsciously.

On the other hand, in the initial caption of Bizarre reportingI really recommend headphones.

There was just the basis, the sound as an idea. I am happy every time I see the rotisserie with the chickens spinning with the sound of a music box underneath. The same sound is compared in another sequence to a carousel, creating mysterious and diabolical connections. Attention to sound makes the difference: let’s think about Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch Project, which at the level of images they are low-fi, but whose sound is very accurate. However, it’s not only important in horror or surreal contexts. If the sound doesn’t work as it should, there is a sense of amateurism.

Let’s stop for a moment on the connections. The worlds you create always give the feeling of being alive, of being containers not only of the story you tell in the film, but also of a myriad of other sub-plots, sometimes even partial, interrupted and which I can fantasize about as a spectator. How do you handle all of this in writing?

I really like digressions, but they are also very complicated to manage. In the comic you can take the liberty of telling something that apparently has nothing to do with the main plot, while in the cinema the risk is that the digression distracts you. Neither The hit of the dog I had created many digressions that I was very happy with, but which we then cut in editing because they didn’t lead the main plot anywhere. It is important that they have a narrative value, so as to become cuttable, otherwise it is not a film but a synthesis. I would never, for example, do a 10-hour TV series just to digress more. A film, however, must always have deviations, other atmospheres, mysteries. In Italian cinema, for example, despite being passionate about the surreal and science fiction, I like films that have a strong connection with reality, which as such is always unpredictable and mysterious.

From this point of view how did the collaboration for the videogame Hell is Others?

I know well the people who created it and who have been working on it for five years. The game gradually grew and they always asked me to collaborate. So, I and Andrea Soriniwith which I wrote Look up, we started working on the dialogues. Then Andrea devoted himself more to the characters, while I alienated myself in this sort of TV series in the video game, which has yet to come out. Our contribution was therefore limited compared to what they did, but it was nice to be able to experiment in a medium that was not mine, an imaginary that was not mine and work with people I respect and who have created an artistic video game. Attending them also opened me up to video gaming as an art form: the Witness, Inside, Limbo

So video games?

Not so much, but since I was little I’ve watched others play, I love it. From Final Fantasy VII to GTA, I was a great sidekick. It’s a nice share. Board games are also a form of storytelling that I find very interesting. I like contamination, the beauty of creativity is precisely that of creating bonds. In the end, from videogames to cinema, there is always a small community of different people, from the toolmaker, to the screenwriter, to the composer who coexist and collaborate for a result that is not a simple sum, but an unpredictable work.

Going back to the cinema, are you looking for unpredictability even on the set?

I look for it starting from the choice of actors. Working with Edoardo (Pesce, in his fourth collaboration with Risuleo, ed) brings realism and spontaneity to the set, despite being a controlled and technical actor. Characters are alive when there are actors behind them. Even on the set I’m open to changing something, but considering the medium-low budget films I make, in which so many minutes are shot a day, I can’t afford too many luxuries. A thought, in this regard, struck me while reasoning on the scene improvised by Joe Pesci in Those good guys. In what sense improvised? They didn’t leave the camera on and Joe Pesci came out like that; it was improvised during rehearsals and then readied for shooting. We need to carve out spaces for improvisations and integrate them into a system.

The characters played by Edoardo Pesce have many lines in common. You write them with him in mind?

The mattress man And ghost night, Yes. I know his tools, I know his strengths and I work on those. On those characters, however, there is also his signature. For me, the actor is also a writer, he writes the details, completes the character and perhaps also thanks to this work there is the feeling of constancy, of connection.

They are all gods freaksbizarre individuals who could easily be judged at first, but who then unfold their derailed life and humanity.

Going beyond things, going deeper than the surface is a theme that interests me. I like it when you manage to go beyond the first thought about a person and knowing him, he finds himself faced with something completely different. I don’t even think I have that ability to understand people right away, so I find that feeling in myself too.

Speaking of telling beyond the surface, you tell Rome in a different way than usual. There is no clear separation between center and periphery, the two communicate.

Because Rome is like this. The way it is represented in cinema is misleading, simplified and even superficial. Rome is chaos. Intellectuals live in the suburbs, while in more central areas there are the kind of people cinema would put in the suburbs. There is a theater master, who was my greatest mentor with whom I spoke about theater and science fiction, who lives in the quintessential drug dealing district in Rome. There was this contrast between big gray buildings, bridges and his house which was a temple to me. When one grows up in such a context he cannot accept a certain type of representation.

And yet, alongside this underlying realism, a fantastic aspect of Rome remains, I dare say science fiction in the Ballardian sense of the term.

I like Ballard and that kind of science fiction, which kind of shows the limits of the term. You take The concrete island, all set under the highway, there is an extremely contemporary absurd. For me the stranger a story, the more important it is that human microdynamics are believable. Therefore science fiction is perhaps a misleading word, like magical realism. For some time, then, I have found a word that best describes what I do: bizarre.

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The art of the bizarre, exclusive interview with Fulvio Risuleo