I just received news today that Tonino Guerra passed away this past Wednesday after some months of illness. A storyteller and screenwriter of the highest degree, Guerra’s work with directors ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni to Federico Fellini to Andrei Tarkovsky have provided the backbone and structure to a wealth of wonderful films in World Cinema.
Born in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy on March 16, 1920, Guerra was a survivor of an Italian concentration camp during the second World War. It was here that he began writing, which after the war, blossomed into a successful career in film and television. Guerra fashioned himself as a tool for the directors with which he worked, often times helping them structure and pen their own concepts and stories, rather than presenting a completed script of his own accord for production. Working in this manner is quite different from how most screenwriters prefer to work, many wanting as little bother from the director as possible. However, in Guerra’s method, the beautiful stories and ideas of such iconic directors as Fellini and Antonioni were able to fully come to fruition and soundly transfer from mind to celluloid image.
Among Guerra’s noted works were Antonioni’s L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Blowup and The Red Desert; Fellini’s Amarcord (a personal favorite of mine); Theo Angelopoulos’s Landscapes in the Mist and Eternity and a Day; and Tarkovsky’s late entry Nostalgia, among many others. Well awarded during his long and prosperous 50 year career, Guerra received three Academy Award nominations, those being for Amarcord, Blowup and Casanova 70.
I try not to write posts about every celebrity who passes, as many get more than their fair share of Rest in Peace articles in the news and blogosphere; however, for Guerra, whose work is largely in foreign cinema and possibly lesser known to many American audiences by name, I wanted to pay dues to a true icon in the motion picture industry.