EUROCRIME!

« Le poliziotteschi par­fait pour moi – que ce soit un film policier ou un film de gang­sters – suit le schéma du «seul con­tre tous». Soit c’est un flic coincé entre les loubards de sa rue et la bureau­cratie sym­bol­isée par ses supérieurs, soit un gang­ster trahi qui doit échap­per à la fois à la loi et au syn­di­cat qui veut sa peau. Ces per­son­nages finis­sent par ressem­bler trait pour trait au héros soli­taire et flingueur du West­ern Spaghetti, mais ils sont manœu­vrés dif­férem­ment dans les films Euro­crim­inels. L’Empire du Crime (La mala ordina) ou Street Law (Il cit­tadino si ribella) sont de grands exem­ples de films «seul con­tre tous».

En sur­face, cer­tains de ces films étaient des clones de Dirty Harry, ten­dance droitarde. Mais si tu regardes de plus près, tu réalises que tous ces vilains étaient sou­vent représen­tés par des gens riches, et les voy­ous de la rue évo­quaient plutôt de la sym­pa­thie. On peut donc aussi trou­ver un sous-texte gauchiste dans l’Eurocrime. Et ce n’est pas sur­prenant lorsque tu t’aperçois que la plu­part des équipes de tour­nage – et même sou­vent les réal­isa­teurs – étaient des com­mu­nistes pur et dur.

Si l’on con­sid­ère les tour­nages de scènes d’action dans les lieux pub­lic façon guérilla, et la cou­tume qui voulait que les stars effectuent eux-mêmes leurs cas­cades, je ne vois pas com­ment les pro­duc­tions de poliziotteschi pour­raient êtres encore assurées aujourd’hui. Et puis bon, ce n’est pas très poli­tique­ment cor­rect non plus d’hurler après des femmes et des trav­e­los pen­dant 90 min­utes. »

Tout ça, c’est Mike Mal­loy qui le dit. Après avoir réal­isé le doc­u­men­taire ultime EUROCRIME! — The Ital­ian cop and gang­ster films that ruled the 70’s, il vient de ter­miner DJANGO LIVES, le chapitre final de la trilo­gie ini­tiée par Ser­gio Cor­bucci en 1966 (pas Taran­tino non), avec Franco Nero, le seul l’unique, dans son rôle de flingueur au sang glacé.

Son inter­view en français à lire sur VICE.

Son inter­view orig­i­nale à lire plus bas.

TRAILER / SOUNDTRACK / SITE / FACEBOOK

How many years it took to make “Euro­crime!” alive ?
It started ear­lier than ’09. I’m a film-journalism refugee from print media, and once I saw the hand­writ­ing on the wall in that indus­try, I tried to be proac­tive with a cin­ema doc. But I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know what I was doing at first, and the eco­nomic col­lapse fac­tored in. That’s why I have to make another cin­ema doc — to cap­i­tal­ize on all the mis­takes I made the first time around!

Has the shoot­ing been dif­fi­cult ?
We never got any­thing close to a real bud­get, so despite direct­ing and pro­duc­ing EUROCRIME!, I’ve still never been to Italy, where most of these films were made. I found a great Ital­ian film­maker, Fed­erico Cad­deo, who was shoot­ing a lot of inter­views for sup­ple­ments on cult DVD releases over there. He’d tell me whom he was inter­view­ing next, and if it was some­one I wanted, I’d pig­gy­back my ques­tions onto his shoots.

Who was the most hard-to-catch euro­crime pro­tag­o­nist ? They’re mostly all still alive, right ? (From Castel­lari to Testi to Lenzi…)
Well, the sin­gle most iconic Euro­crime actor is the late Mau­r­izio Merli, whom I like to think of a flesh-and-blood Robo­cop. His char­ac­ters were just on a single-minded mis­sion to bust the skulls of hood­lums. Mau­r­izio died in 1989 at a sur­pris­ingly young age, and he should’ve had some great story con­nected to it — like dying in a hail of gun­fire after mafiosi caught up to him. But he died play­ing ten­nis. It’s a giant bum­mer that he wasn’t around to tell his story.

What is the cra­zi­est story you heard dur­ing your research ?
There are almost too many to choose. But one of the first I heard dur­ing my inter­views was John Saxon crouch­ing for his life behind a car fender while a marks­man shot that car up with live ammo. It was quicker to do it that way than rig the car with bul­let hits. And Saxon did that for a little-seen Ital­ian crime film — I KISS THE HAND — dur­ing the same year ENTER THE DRAGON, one of the biggest hits of his career, was released.

Why poliziotteschi is called “Euro­crime” since it’s strictly ital­ian?
Well, there are French crime films — like the moody LE SAMOURAI — and those tech­ni­cally fall under the umbrella term of “Euro­crime.” But it’s true: When the aver­age cinephile hears the word “Euro­crime!” (espe­cially if it’s fol­lowed by an excla­ma­tion mark), he or she imme­di­ately thinks of bloody shootouts, tiny Fiats rac­ing down even tinier streets and ter­ri­ble things hap­pen­ing to naked women — all the hall­marks of ‘70s ITALIAN crime films. And keep in mind — even when it was a major­ity Ital­ian movie, it usu­ally was a French, Ger­man, Span­ish or Turk­ish co-production.

The doc­u­men­tary stud­ies above all the meth­ods of pro­duc­tion of the films. Were they inher­ent to the genre ?
All the Ital­ian film gen­res (West­erns, sword-and-sandal films, etc) made movies by shoot­ing with­out live sound and by expect­ing their lead­ing men to per­form their own dan­ger­ous stunts. But the Euro­crime movies — because they had modern-day set­tings — were able to take this run-and-gun film­mak­ing a step fur­ther by “steal­ing shots.” That means they would film car chases, shoot outs, etc, out in pub­lic, with­out the bystanders know­ing a movie was being made. Cam­eras would be on rooftops or under giant card­board boxes with a cutout.

Quite a bunch of Euro­crime movies involved the Mafia. Did the organ­i­sa­tion man­i­fest itself toward movie mak­ers ? (I mean film­ing a crime movie in Palermo must been touchy…)
Yeah, the lines got pretty blurred, espe­cially when mak­ing movies in Napoli, it seems. The Camorra, Napoli’s ver­sion of the Mafia, some­times got involved with the film pro­duc­tions. Actor Richard Har­ri­son has a story about being hired to act in a movie, where the Camorra pro­duc­ers decided to cast them­selves as the leads also. So Richard Har­ri­son, an estab­lished actor, kept get­ting bumped far­ther and far­ther down the cred­its list. And then those pro­duc­ers decided to cast some Neapoli­tan police offi­cers as the vil­lains of the movie, so they could shove them around on camera.

How were per­ceived these films in Italy back then ? Were they pop­u­lar ?
How can you tell that an Ital­ian film genre was pop­u­lar? When the Ital­ians start rip­ping off the Ital­ian clones of the Hol­ly­wood films rather than the Hol­ly­wood films them­selves. Sim­i­lar titles, looka­like actors, etc. The inter­nal copy­cat­ting in Ital­ian film fads meant that you were even­tu­ally watch­ing a xerox of a xerox of a xerox.

In France, we had same type of films, between exploita­tion and pop­u­lar cin­ema, with the likes of Bel­mondo and Delon play­ing bad cops. But in Italy, the over­dose of real­ity and vio­lence made it kinda car­toon. Was all of that seri­ous?
I think these movies, like the other Ital­ian film fads, began with an intent to be escapist enter­tain­ment — just rip­ping off some Hol­ly­wood hits. But since those Hol­ly­wood hits hap­pened to be DIRTY HARRY and THE GODFATHER, that meant Ital­ian were mak­ing cop films and gang­ster films. And given the vio­lence and orga­nized crime in 1970s Italy, those kinds of movies couldn’t help but to touch on the issues of the day. Many of the stars we inter­viewed said Euro­crime vio­lence was not gra­tu­itous, a few said it went too far.

Its direct link to social or polit­i­cal prob­lems made it more per­ti­nent than… mac­a­roni com­bat.
Right. If Spaghetti West­erns or Spaghetti War or any other Ital­ian film fad wanted to address cur­rent social ills, they had to couch it in metaphor and alle­gory. But the Euro­crime movies could speak directly and specif­i­cally about ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions like the Red Brigade or orga­nized crime like the Mafia or Camorra — the soci­etal ills of the day.

The fact some great actors as Oliver Reed, Klaus Kin­ski, Alain Delon, John Saxon or Charles Bron­son played in some of these movies is a pledge to the cred­i­bil­ity of the genre. Or maybe they just needed work…
Regard­less of the answer to that, those rec­og­niz­able actors are the gate­way for many casual film fans to dis­cover Euro­crime movies. For me, Bron­son, Van Cleef, Savalas and Palance brought me to the genre. And some­how, it never dawned on me that it WAS a genre until many years later. I just thought these were ran­dom action movies made in Europe with Hol­ly­wood tough guys. It didn’t occur to me that some sort of film fad must have replaced the Spaghetti Western.

At some point, poliziotteschi films were called fascis­tic by the press. Why ?
That seems strange to me. On the sur­face, yes, some of these films were clones of the right-leaning DIRTY HARRY. But if you look closely, you real­ize that the bad guys are usu­ally rich peo­ple, and the street-level thugs are some­times meant to be sympathy-evoking. So there’s some left­ist under­cur­rents in Euro­crime too. And that’s not sur­pris­ing when you real­ize that most of the crews — often even the direc­tors — were diehard communists.

What is a per­fect poliziotteschi for you ?
To me, a per­fect poliziotteschi — whether a cop film or a gang­ster film — fol­lows the “one man against the world” theme. It’s either a cop caught between the hood­lums on the street and the bureau­cracy of his supe­ri­ors. Or it’s a double-crossed gang­ster, run­ning from both the law and the syn­di­cate that wants him dead. These char­ac­ters end up every bit the loner as the drifter gun­slingers of the Spaghetti West­erns, but it’s just han­dled dif­fer­ently in Euro­crime movies. Some great exam­ples of “one man against the world” movies are THE ITALIAN CONNECTION and STREET LAW.

What is your favourite one ? And the worst you’ve ever seen ?
Per­haps my favorite is the little-seen THE PERFECT KILLER, star­ring Lee Van Cleef. It uses the “one man against the world” theme at the sleazi­est extreme of the genre. Peo­ple get shot in the gen­i­tals, trans­ves­tites get slashed with straight razors. And Van Cleef man­ages to be badass even in a ter­ri­ble hair­piece. All set to one of the most wah-laden gui­tar scores the genre has ever heard.

The worst is per­haps VIOLENCE FOR KICKS, which fea­tures dub­bing that sounds like car­toon voices and fea­tures recy­cled, Casio-level synth music. In one scene, the hero needs to repair a motor­cy­cle, so the script has him accom­plish this by putting a lucky charm on the bike’s fender. Still, peo­ple seek it out because of the sadism. A woman’s face is raked up and down a barbed-wire fence at one point.

Could we still shoot this kind of movies today ?
Con­sid­er­ing the guerilla film­ing of action scenes in pub­lic places, and con­sid­er­ing the prac­tice of mak­ing stars per­form their own stunts, I’m not sure how polizieschi pro­duc­tions would get insured these days. Plus, it’s not very PC to whoop on women and tran­nies for 90 min­utes, either.

Why Ital­ian cin­ema is not as flour­ish­ing as before ? What’s going on over there ?
The Ital­ian cin­ema indus­try took a major step down in the late ‘70s, when the coun­try started get­ting satel­lite chan­nels and more options beyond just the two RAI chan­nels they had had pre­vi­ously. So the prac­tice of going out to the movies four and five times a week ceased to hap­pen. Plus, ris­ing Red Brigade vio­lence put a damper on the street cul­ture that Italy enjoyed pre­vi­ously — the cul­ture of going out to din­ner and going to a movie almost every night. That’s when the coun­try ceased to be a major exporter of movies to the rest of the world.

The Euro­crime! sound­track is great. Is it the work of cur­rent ital­ian artists ?
The main sound­track con­trib­u­tors are an Ital­ian funk band (Cal­i­bro 35), an Amer­i­can funk/jazz band (Glows in the Dark), and a com­poser (Aaron Stiel­stra) who has lived in both the U.S. and Italy. Mus­cu­lar grooves cre­ated from Tuc­son to Milano.

What are your next projects ?
Meet­ing leg­endary Ital­ian tough-guy Franco Nero dur­ing a EUROCRIME inter­view — and hav­ing helped pro­duce a West­ern recently too — led to me co-writing the final offi­cial DJANGO film, DJANGO LIVES. Franco Nero will be repris­ing his world-famous Django role, and a EUROCRIME col­lab­o­ra­tor, Eric Zal­divar, co-wrote it with me. We have a bunch of other devel­op­ments on the project I’m unable to announce, but suf­fice it to say, we’re very excited.

When could we see the movie in France ?
When some­one there decides to make me a halfway decent offer.

Got it.

LACHER UN COM

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