Master Class – Paolo Sorrentino

Paolo Sorrentino

“Movies are a serious work for me, but not a serious thing” was how Sorrentino explained his inability to provide a decent answer to the interviewer’s inquiries. The Italian director was asked about symbolism in his works, apparent symmetry in his mise-en-scenes and his movies’ genre. “I… I don’t know”, his most common reply, was surprisingly charming rather than condescending. Because there was no secret ingredient he was reluctant to reveal that we all knew was the key to the recipe. No. He just plainly didn’t know. And, frankly, none of us really does, but he was also not afraid to show it. His honesty struck a chord with me, and I would say because unfortunately, the deep roots of truth are such rare ones for most minds to acknowledge as true, or at all.

The interviewer introduced the director to the audience and filled us in on Sorrentino’s works – His shorts, features and documentaries. Paolo raised his hand for permission to get a word in edgewise. “Never documentaries” he apologized with confidence, shaking his head. “Oh” the interviewer laughed uneasily “So you have 3 sources to correct”. But it was the very first minute that fairly concluded this humble two-hour-long master class, in which the interviewer complimented Sorrentino on his numerous achievements. When asked for his opinion about his professional feats, Sorrentino kindly replied: “Well, there are better directors”. He also kept apologizing for his bad English, sipping from a glass of wine, and stating that directing is easy –  Writing is where it gets hard. To the audience’s amusement, Sorrentino refuted most of the interviewer’s speculations with his IDKs and simple OKs. The surprise, and I guess what provoked a great deal of the laughter, was the sheer elegance with which he had done so. He did not back the interviewer’s attempts at pinpointing his characteristic genre, because, as he explained it, “it’s like trying to give a child the same game to play with again”. Of course the child would prefer a different game. He did however confess to his initial attraction to grotesqueness and said “I was really young and thought it was cool”. Indeed, when you are young the bizarre seems more logical and even easier to create, but according to Sorrentino it is actually the most intricate of all genres.    

The class included intermittent screenings of snippets from the opening sequences of some of Sorrentino’s films, including The Consequences of LoveIl Divo (which was later on screened in entirety), and his 2009 short La Partita LentaHe jokingly displayed his gratitude over that, for a critic once declared Paolo’s movies are good only in their first 10 minutes. So when the later screening of Il Divo was about to begin I honestly didn’t know how I was to survive it. It was late, I was exceptionally tired, and a 2-hour-long film with only 10 agreeable minutes after a 2-hour-long discussion was threatening. But I watched the movie to the bitter end, and even though I do have to watch it again for detail, I am proud of my ability to fight my heavy eyes with flying colors. Also, of course, the critic was mistaken, otherwise I would have definitely fallen asleep. Yet the heaviness I couldn’t ignore, and so my ears became the main participants. As I can’t make out a sentence in Italian, the music in the film was my last resort – and not at all a disappointing one. Paolo’s soundtrack choices invigorate his shots to an intense degree. I don’t know why they feel different, but for some reason it seems like a bunch of other people would have chosen the same something else, while only Sorrentino could have chosen that which he had. I recalled him talking about music in the discussion, explaining that he doesn’t work exclusively with composers because he enjoys the process of finding music by himself. And why should we limit ourselves, really, when we have all the music in the world to choose from? “It all starts with the music for me” he shared his big secret. And all I could think of was ‘Me too!’ .That’s the way I work. That’s the first thing I have, before the story, before the idea. Music.  And for some reason, having that to grasp on at that moment seemed to ease my mind into thinking that maybe it was doing something right. 


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