Francesco Piccolo
La bella confusione (The Beautiful Confusion)
Einaudi, March 2023, 280 pages

1963 was the year of Fellini and Visconti, a decisive year for Italian cinema. It saw the birth of two epochal films: Il Gattopardo and Otto e mezzo. The incredible adversities of their creation are intertwined with those of a famous novel that was rejected and then rediscovered, and with the personal and public events of two sublime adversarial directors. Francesco Piccolo’s passion for cinema, politics and literature blazes in this great story – unique and overwhelming – about the strength of genius and destiny.

Two absolute masterpieces: the power of art, the secrets of cinema, the duels of an Italy that we would no longer know how to imagine.

As in the most enthralling of TV series, Strega winning author Francesco Piccolo looks behind the scenes to let us relive the unrepeatable spirit of a country and an era.

The history of cinema is not so different from life: littered with fortuitous encounters, met or missed appointments, decisions made at the last minute and unpredictable coincidences. Crucial fatalities that allow a work to come to light, with the precise characteristics that everyone will then remember. The choice of an actress, the light on the set, the sentimental vicissitudes of the director or a supporting actor, as well as budget cuts or a scene that has suddenly changed, can in their own way write a page of the universal genius.

Otto e mezzo and Il Gattopardo are two epochal films, which we know very well. Yet we know nothing of what surrounds them. They were shot at the same time, released in theaters around the same days, and for a long time critics would put them side by side just to provoke. Because before becoming the masterpieces that we know well, they were two incredible bets, as well as the battlefield between two rival and profoundly different artists. While Claudia Cardinale ran from one set to another, changing her hair color according to the whim of whoever directed her, the entire Italian cultural context was preparing to marry one or the other vision of cinema and the world. After all, the two directors were accustomed to such trip-ups, because Marcello Mastroianni, before becoming Fellini’s alter ego, had been Visconti’s actor. And certainly no one had forgotten that epic row at the Lido of Venice in September ’54, when the Viscontians and Fellinians faced off publicly for the first time.

For La bella confusione, Francesco Piccolo sifted through letters, videos, notes and diaries, interviews, gossip, and eyewitness accounts like a detective chasing the figures and episodes that made history. Because in this novel, unlike any other, the secondary characters’ names are Ennio Flaiano, Sandra Milo, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Camilla Cederna, Burt Lancaster and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Cinema and literature, the author’s two great loves, light up in the passion of the story. Moving between myth and anecdote, his unmistakable voice awakens millions of memories and gives us the light of an era.

Francesco Piccolo

Francesco Piccolo - © Andrea De Meo

Francesco Piccolo is a writer and screenwriter. His latest books are: Il desiderio di essere come tutti (Strega Prize 2014), L’animale che mi porto dentro, and the Negligible Moments trilogy. He has signed screenplays for Nanni Moretti, Silvio Soldini, Paolo Virzì, Francesca Archibugi, Daniele Luchetti, and Marco Bellocchio, among others. He scripted the TV series L’amica geniale. He collaborates with la Repubblica.




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