Studio: Severin Films
Director: Simone Scafidi
Writer: Simone Scafidi
Producer: Giada Mazzoleni, Daniele Bolcato, Claudio Rossoni
Stars: Nicola Nocella, Antonella Fulci, Camilla Fulci, Fabio Frizzi, Paolo Malco, Davide Pulici, Michele Soavi
Lucio Fulci¡¯s daughters and creative collaborators look at the life and career of the celebrated Italian horror film director.
¡°Fulci for Fake,¡± a brief but sincere biopic about Italian movie maestro Lucio Fulci, avoids echoing the plainness of a talking head collage that feels like a bland Blu-ray bonus feature instead of a bona fide documentary. Thinking outside the box, ¡°Fulci for Fake¡± frames itself around a premise that an imaginary movie about Fulci¡¯s later life is starting production. To get into the mindset of the man he has been cast to play, actor Nicola Nocella embarks on a small tour of Italy to talk to the friends, family, and filmmakers who knew Fulci best. After his indoctrination, Nocella hopes to return to set with a deeper understanding of who Lucio Fulci really was.
The gimmick doesn¡¯t work. All told, Nocella¡¯s shoehorned scenes probably add up to only five minutes of filler. Some of his inserts are ponderous, like when he wanders an empty racetrack, presumably deep in thought over lessons learned on his informative journey. Other scenes are just weird, like when Nocella reflects on Fulci¡¯s complicated relationships while putting his latest lover¡¯s panties alongside other underwear in a cardboard box of conquest trophies.
Nocella¡¯s character could never become a more fascinating figure than Fulci, who is the reason anyone is watching this film in the first place. So why invent an alter ego?
Independent of missing that mark, I still admire director Simone Scafidi for trying something different, even though the conceit doesn¡¯t become the glue it wants to be to link separate segments together. I¡¯d be willing to bet Scafidi even realized the narrative device didn¡¯t add anything substantial. Yet he stays committed to seeing the bit through to the end because it at least makes ¡°Fulci for Fake¡± a legitimate creative endeavor as a documentary instead of a routine assembly of interviews.
The bulk of ¡°Fulci for Fake¡± nevertheless consists of the usual talking heads. Many major players from Fulci¡¯s personal and professional lives are present, though certainly not all. Composer Fabio Frizzi, who scored several Fulci films, offers the most musings while recalling what it was like working with Fulci. Director Michele Soavi, someone fans might want to hear more from, surprisingly appears least. He puts up a few quick hits about assisting Fulci early in Soavi¡¯s career and then ghosts right out of the rest of the film. Other interviewees range between these two in terms of airtime and contributions.
Undoubtedly the biggest ¡°get¡± is Fulci¡¯s daughter Camilla, who sadly died not long after her interview. Tears accompany recollections, both fond and not so fond, of her father as though Camilla is reliving events from yesterday, not 30-50 years ago. She and the film are both oddly cagey about certain details. For instance, Fulci¡¯s wives and girlfriends aren¡¯t directly referred to by name. Yet Camilla has a great way of curving her smile and altering her eyes so she can retain propriety about unflattering facts while still revealing the unspoken truth nestled between her words. She¡¯s sweet, sympathetic, and unquestionably the heart of the whole film.
Selective anecdotes are balanced by critical insight from film writer Davide Pulici. While actor Paolo Malco remembers how an argument on the set of ¡°The House by the Cemetery¡± led to a lifelong friendship between he and Fulci, Pulici counters with commentary about connective themes in the films themselves. Pulici comes across as unwaveringly biased regarding particular critical assessments. Some of his beliefs run contrary to how casual fans and pundits popularly regard Fulci¡¯s work, so disconnects exist there. But Pulici points out parallels between Fulci¡¯s life and his filmography that sketch a bigger picture of how Fulci¡¯s personal history influenced his oeuvre.
Tragedies such as his first wife¡¯s suicide, Camilla¡¯s accident-induced paralysis, and his own ill heart health fueled Fulci¡¯s filmmaking. Having previously depicted women as vibrant vessels reflective of his own optimistic outlook in the 1960s, female figures transformed into untrustworthy executioners in his ¡®70s thrillers. Ongoing turmoil further fomented Fulci¡¯s fears. Rooted in personal pain, his shifting perspective on women could subsequently be seen in the ¡®80s horror of brutally butchered victims. Fulci¡¯s intentions weren¡¯t to be cruel, but to caution against the dangers of becoming too close to another person.
Fulci for Fake¡± is far from a comprehensive primer. Behind-the-scenes footage and still photos accent interviews, but you won¡¯t see any clips from Fulci¡¯s films. In touching on topics that can be perceived as troubling, the movie plates food for thought, though it doesn¡¯t do much masticating of its own. You get a basic outline of an underappreciated person who became an underground icon after the fact. Much of what gets made from that mold is up to you.
It¡¯s strange to realize Lucio Fulci has been beloved by fans for decades, yet his legacy as a filmmaker remains uncertain. You don¡¯t see his movies being remade. You don¡¯t see him cited as a major influence on anyone either. No one sets out to emulate Fulci like they do Carpenter or Craven. They also don¡¯t attach his name to filmmaking vocabulary like they do for ¡°Argento lighting¡± or the distinctive ¡°Raimi-cam¡± effect. ¡°Fulci for Fake¡± skims the surface of that unusual disparity without really reconciling the reasons behind the divide¡¯s existence. Why does Lucio Fulci¡¯s continued popularity with viewers eclipse any quantifiable impact on filmmakers following in his footsteps?
Fulci¡¯s other daughter Antonella sums up the director¡¯s enigma, and Nicola Nocella¡¯s goose chase, better than anyone else could. She says, ¡°Perhaps it¡¯s better not to (understand him). Instead, listen to him, watch his films, and absorb all the madness in the images.¡± Excellent advice. I think I¡¯ll do just that.
Review Score: 65