Masseria Cinema: A Director’s Best of List

Fancy a film night? Why don’t you join one of our highly entertaining movie nights, with the big screen on Masseria Maizza’s rooftop terrace and a couple of drinks, if you like even dinner going along? We usually pick one out of hundreds in our big movie selection, always a matter of taste, no doubt about it, sometimes more than that though: Christian Lyngbye from Kopenhagen, a longtime Maizza client and friend, gave us some professional advice. He spent nearly a decade as a highly active commercial spot director and worked with major clients such as Cartier, Dior, Garnier, Heineken, Nike etc. and won three Gold Lions from Cannes, a New York Art Director’s Club Gold Grand Prix, a Grand Prix at the London Midsummer Festival and a Grand Prix Crystal Award, just to name a few. We proudly present his personal Maizza movie selection and, moreover, his arguments on cinema in general – and Puglia which became one of his favorite places on earth. Looking forward to joining you on our film terrace next time, dear Christian!

“A couple of years ago I came out of a dark editing room in Berlin. Just finished another commercial that I had shot in southern Florida on the premises of one of the most beautiful hotel sites in The Sunshine State, The Moorings Village (http://themooringsvillage.com).

Berlin was hot and sticky. The German ad agency could not decide if they liked version A or B of the spot.  And while these highly paid creative’s debated their fears to get the approval of the client, I searched the internet for options to spent some time off on vacation. For more then 25 years of consecutive holidays in Punta Ala in Toscana, I was in a new phase of life, and choice of holiday spot. I was madly in love with My Woman, -  as a local Fasano lawyer always phrases his wife – and we just wanted to escape Berlin for almost anywhere else.

What I did not know at the time in that dark editing room was my life was about to change forever. It became the start of a journey that reminds me about the only real achievement and contribution my small native country Denmark has ever given to the history of Cinema with the invention of Dogma. That day was the beginning of me and My Woman’s travel to Italy and the incredible adventures of Puglia. It was, and still is, like being part of the most seductive Dogma film starring ourselves and all the wonderful characters of the area around Fasano and Savelletri.

The principal rules of Dogma are the many restriction to avoid any kind of cinematic tricks and manipulation. All invented to get a pure and very natural perspective to the story.  Make it pure and simple.

Our holiday became a discovery of an area, a culture and a population that is as pure and natural as a Dogma movie. It is a place on earth that has no need for Hollywood tricks or other cinematic manipulation to make you love it.

But for us the best part of Puglia is not the best Italian food, not the endless beautiful panoramic landscape with millions of olive trees, or the sandy beaches, nor the picturesque villages and Baroque cities. It is the people! Without the people with their stories, dramas, passion for life and the heritage of all the other good reasons I just mentioned before there would be no Puglia. Like there is no good movie without a good story, a good script and a convincing performance. And I still feel we are part of the best Dogma movie that has it primary locations around Masseria Torre Maizza with the charming owner Vittorio Muolo as the Regista (director) and himself in a leading role.

It is a true honor that Vittorio has asked me to write and give my 5 favorite film recommendations from the library of the Masseria. I feel extremely humble as I have a huge respect for the knowledge and passion Vittorio has for art in general and his special love for movies. Which any guest who has seen the exquisite list of films can confirm is quite impressive. Not so much due to its quantities, but the excellent quality. Vittorio is a connoisseur of film, and great taste, as his two Masserrias truly expose.

With a list of more than 500 movies it is almost Mission Impossible to select 5 films that are better than the rest. And why would you want to spend your time in Puglia watching movies anyway? I would always recommend you to go out and start your own Dogma experience and discover the true life around Savalletri and Fasano or buzzing Poligano. Day or night.  You’ll easily become a part of a scene that could have been directed by Fellini, Tornatore, De Sica or Antonioni. Go to the beach any weekend and you’ll realize where Fellini’s baroque perspective of Italian lifestyle was naturally fed like milk from a mother’s breast. The life of the streets, in the small bars, at the petrol stations, the barbers and in the pescherias – it represents the seeds that made the famous Italian neorealist directors highly acclaimed exposing every Italian man or woman’s ability to develop a drama in the highs or lows as obvious as the law of gravity.

I wish my task was to give my 5 best Puglia meals, characters, wines or locations – but why would a Dane with the heritage of natural depression and a dark perspective to life ever be the right one to recommend anything truly authentic about Puglia. So now I will finally accomplish my objective of giving you my selection of movies I would watch if a snowstorm appeared and made it completely impossible to leave the Masseria – no, the room, because a full day only around Paolo, Sergio, Vito and Onia, just to mention a few, would be better than the illusions of the Silver screen.

I have decided to make my selection based on films by directors who have had a major influence on my own way of making films and the ones who I think are among the very best in the history of film making.

In the business of advertising it is general acknowledge that Britain has always been the best creative spot. Two of my absolute favorite feature film directors came out of directing commercials in London in the 70ies. Ridley Scott and Alan Parker made the cross-over from TV ads across the Atlantic to Hollywood and became some of the most important players in cinema since the 80ies. “It is important for movies to have a message, without which there is little point in making a film” is a typical statement of Alan Parker and his true-story drama from 1978 “Midnight Express” is a perfect proof of that.

Ridley Scott is one of the most visual important filmmakers ever. All his movies are very atmospheric with memorable imagery and a unique sense of art direction. “Alien” and “Blade Runner” were so far ahead of times and are still the best ever sci-fi classics. Both are part of the Masseria list, but I would not watch these here in Puglia, but recommend the only real successful female road movie ever. In 1991 Ridley Scott directed Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in “Thelma and Louise”. A drama about a waitress and a housewife who decide to leave their limited and boring middle class life and take off in a 66’ Thunderbird. Unfortunately their journey turns into an escape not only from their suburban life but also from the police when they kill a rapist. The film was nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Film.

One of the most influential directors for Steven Spielberg and many other great filmmakers in the last 50 years has been the honorable Sir David Lean and his Grand “Lawrence of Arabia”. This is a must see for any film lover. It received 7 Oscars, including Best Film and Best Direction, and it is the quintessence of a movie that uses all the medias potential. Leans mythical mammut film is a grand epic drama and a sensitive and controversial portrait of on of the 20th century’s biggest and most flamboyant legends, T.E.Lawrence. The cast is fantastic with Peter O’Toole, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif. This film was produced long before the option of using digital generated effects such as crowd multiplication. When 1000s of warriors gallop towards the dessert village Aqaba, it is the real deal of 1000s of extras on horses and camels. There are so many memorable moments like the sequence of Omar Sharif appearing in the desert horizon like a fatamorgana and the sequence of the sun that just grows bigger and bigger to end filling the entire screen during an endless dessert walk. The film is a true cinematic masterpiece. The cinematography and the editing are unique. A must see!

Now I’ve got 2 more films to recommend. It’s a tough job as there are so many options and I have such a big respect for the many fantastic movies and all the great moviemakers. But for me the most important director in my life has been Francis Ford Coppola. It is also an obvious choice when sitting in Italy, knowing about his heritage to this country, him having a beautiful hotel not far from here and his general passion for Italian wine and food. Of course you expect me to choose his genius massive Mafia trilogy, “Godfather”. But surprisingly enough it is not part of Vittorios film list. Actually I am surprised about the obvious choices of classic Italian movies that as well are missing on the list like “Il Postino”, “La Dolce Vita”, “Cinema paradiso” “La vita e bella”  and “Ladri di bicicelette”. But I guess this is due to a philosophy of not doing the obvious. Anyway I am going to pick Coppola’s monster movie “Apocalypse Now”. That is an epic war movie about the horrors, torments and sickness of the American participation in the Vietnam War. I would like to make a promise of a present to supply the documentary, “Heart of Darkness” his wife shot and produced of the making of Apocalypse Now, which is a fascinating insight that shows how mad an achievement it was for Coppola that nearly destroyed his life and career.

Now I am at the Martini – which is a cliché expression on a film set when the last scene of the production is about to be shot. I have decided to choose a film directed by one of the greatest Italian directors, “Death in Venice”, by Luciano Visconti who actually has not influenced me too much. Though I have to admit the use of Mahlers 4th. adagietto from his 5th. Symphony made such an impression on me even I was only 9 years old when I watched it in the cinema. The music is so beautiful even it is very melancholic, but it supports the story of a music composer’s last days in life as he is falling apart, during a stay at the luxurious Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido of Venice around 1900. The film is a dream of beauty and sensitivity, which develops into a nightmare. The theme of the movie is about unfulfilled desire and obsessive fear of death. Visconti was an esthetic master. The film creates a memorable detailed image of the rich and lavish aristocratic lifestyle around 1900 on the Lido, in contrast to Venice’ more humble areas where impurities and poverty is plagued by a threatening epidemic. Visconti was obsessed with details. I once worked with one of his art directors when I was filming in the legendary Cinecitta Studios in Roma, and he told me that Visconti could not accept to film in a room with a chest of drawers or a cabinet that would be empty inside even if they were never opened. He insisted to have very neatly stacks of ironed beautiful shirts, cloths or what ever would be appropriate inside. Otherwise he did not feel it was right and it would feel fake.

I don’t expect anyone to compliment the selection of movies for being overwhelming full of surprises. These are all classic movies done by some of the most fantastic directors, so most of you have likely seen the films before. But for me this is my homage to a great place, a great man and a fun friend.

Maybe Vittorio will continue his outdoor movie nights in the Masseria and you’ll get the opportunity to discover some of his favorite picks.”