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Marrakech ’12: Monica Bellucci On ‘Rhino Season,’ Changing Priorities & Future Projects, Including A Film For Emir Kusturica

Marrakech '12: Monica Bellucci On ‘Rhino Season,’ Changing Priorities & Future Projects, Including A Film For Emir Kusturica

With Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s (“No One Knows About Persian Cats“) new film, “Rhino Season,” screening Out of Competition at the Marrakech International Film Festival (our review is to follow shortly), we got to speak with the film’s Italian star, Monica Bellucci, in a small press group. Once our eyes recovered from the dazzle a bit (no, she really is very gorgeous), she was asked about her motives for taking a role that could be seen as quite a step outside her comfort zone.

“Well yes, it wasn’t really comfortable to make this movie! But it’s good to have the chance to work with great people, so when Bahman Ghobadi met me and asked me to play an Iranian character I was really happy that he thought about me for that. I do this job because it gives me the chance to get in touch with cultures, with realities so far away from mine, and these people, they are suffering so much,” she said. “The director cannot go back to his country, actually his brother is in prison right now, they don’t know where and so it’s incredible that someone like Ghobadi is fighting using his art. He is making films without money in situations that are so very difficult… He’s like a warrior in an arty kind of way.”

“European actors are in a much more lucky situation,” she continues, “and we have to help these people to express themselves. Also I think for an Iranian actress it would have been difficult for her to accept a role like that and go back home. I am much more free and can give life to a character like that. Even though she is so far away from what I know I can understand her, because I come from a country where women had to fight for their rights… I come from a macho culture. Until six years ago in Italy a woman could be killed by her husband and he would not go to prison because it would have been described as a crime of passion. And still now in the South if you don’t have your virginity it’s very difficult to find a husband. It is a country still very conservative where women have to fight. I know what it means to fight to have a voice.”

However, she is proud of her contribution to an emerging canon within world cinema. “…right now Iranian culture is really important, in every festival we have new Iranian directors and after ‘A Separation’ Iranian culture is becoming really part of the world of cinema.”

One of the aspects of her performance that piqued interest early was the fact that in it she speaks Farsi, a language she previously knew nothing of, but she demurs a little here: “I have to say this movie is more about the images, and actors work much more through their eyes, their bodies, their body languages than through dialogue. But there is dialogue and every time I speak I have to be perfect, I can’t have any accent, nothing. So I had to work with a coach, I had to be really Iranian, and they told me that it works.”

The next film she’ll be seen in is a French comedy from director Daniele Thompson, “Des Gens Qui S’embrassent,” about which Bellucci says “we are in the atmosphere of Daniele Thompson and she has this light was of saying profound things. It’s a film chorale — so many characters — and my role is an Italian woman in a Jewish family so I don’t understand any of the rules, and I make one mistake after another and say things I shouldn’t say, so it’s so funny.”

But while she enjoys comedy, tragedy and drama are more where she feels a kinship. “I have drama inside me, I don’t know where it comes from. I love to do comedy too, but when I have to play drama, I feel so in touch with my spirit inside me. I understand drama so well and sadness… I love tragic stuff. My tragic soul! I had great parents, they loved me, I loved them, so I don’t know where it came from…”

Perhaps she will be able to merge her comedic and dramatic impulses with a newly announced project: a collaboration with last year’s president of the Jury here, Emir Kusturica (“Underground,” “Arizona Dream”), who is known for the somewhat tragicomic aspects of his style. “It’s not the Pancho Villa one, [‘Wild Roses, Tender Roses,’ also on the filmmaker’s slate],” she says, “it’s a love story and Emir is going to play my partner and he’s going direct. We’re going to film in Serbia and I will play a Serbian woman.”

And as a vocal fan of Indian cinema saying, “…one of my favourites is ‘Bandit Queen,’ ” and she has apparently been offered the chance to star as Indian leader Sonia Gandhi in a biopic. However “…the script was not good… It was not ready, it needs much more work. But when it’s ready I’ll be very happy to play Sonia Gandhi. She’s incredible, amazing.”

However Bellucci’s priorities have naturally changed since becoming a mother. “Of course my ambitions are different, because it’s not only about me any more. My life is not my own… you have to be careful that your kids don’t become victims of your work.” And of course, that provides some logistical issues when your husband is also an in-demand actor. “We see each other once in a while, we make kids. . . and then we have to find a way that ‘if I work you don’t work,’ so it’s ‘you work January-February and I’ll stay with the kids, and then I shoot March-April and you’re gonna stay with the kids.’ ” She frowns a bit (beautifully). “We hardly see each other.”

And indeed, the Rio Carnival-set film that was in planning stages as a possible onscreen reteaming of Vincent Cassel and Bellucci will have to wait for now, it seems. “We have a project but not right away.”

Possibly identifying the feeling in himself, someone asks Bellucci if she ever gets starstruck, especially in relation to working with Robert De Niro recently (in Italian comedy “The Ages of Love”). “No, I was not nervous, not at all, he was so nice we had a great relation, I would love to work with him again… I am too old. When I was young, I remember first working with Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman and I was trembling. And now [makes an airy gesture].”

Aging, albeit as imperceptibly as she seems to be doing it, has other rewards too. Not only does she suggest that fifteen years ago she would simply not have had the life experience to play the role in “Rhino Season,” but also that in general she feels like a better actress now than she was before. “I’m sure that I’m better now, because I am less scared now. And the less scared you are the more you open your heart, and the more you open your heart the better actress you are.”

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