Q&A: Luigi Cozzi Returns to Directing with “BLOOD ON MÉLIÈS’ MOON”News Roberto E. D'Onofrio
Deacon of Italian Science Fiction films, Luigi Cozzi (or Lewis Coates, the pseudonym he used to sign some of his movies for the USA market) doesn’t need any introduction. Director, screenwriter and film critic, Cozzi’s last full length movie was DE PROFUNDIS (THE BLACK CAT) back in 1990, after which he made a bunch of documentaries on Dario Argento and, having witnessed the slow death of Italian “genre” Cinema, has since decided to open, with Argento himself, “Profondo Rosso” a retail movie memorabilia store which also publishes books.
During the past twenty four years, when questioned about his possible return behind the camera, he always replied that Cinema, as we know it, was dead and there was no market or interest for small Italian Horror or Science Fiction movies. Imagine our astonishment then, when last July he announced he was shooting a new movie—BLOOD ON MÉLIÈS’ MOON—and even showed a trailer at the “Italian Horror Fest” in Nettuno, where we sat down with the STARCRASH director for an exclusive interview…
FANGORIA: After your previous affirmations, what made you decide to make movies again?
LUIGI COZZI: Well, as usual in my life, it happened by chance. Today, modern technology makes it easy to make a movie. Until some years ago, you needed a lot of money and a big crew to do it. Nowadays you can shoot a film with your smartphone, then you edit it in a lab, add some music and you can screen it in a theater! It’s like when I decided to become a publisher, until then, to publish a book you had to print at least one or two thousand copies. That meant a lot of money and often your storehouses were full of unsold copies. After the advent of digital, you could print even only thirty copies of a book and so I decided to start publishing books and novels. So, basically the main reason is the new technologies that made possible what you could only dream of.
FANG: I know that Alexandre Jousse, who is sharing directing duties with you, had a great role in bringing you back behind the camera?
COZZI: Yes, I was in the jury of a Festival and I saw a French short movie which I loved, so I did all I could to make it win, it won an award and I met Alexandre, the director. As I thought it was a great short, I insisted to show it at last year’s Italian Horror Fest in Nettuno, where it had an amazing success. One of those nights, we were talking about doing something together and, as at the end of the Festival everyone was going back to Rome, Alexandre and his friend, Philippe Beun-garbe, decided to visit the city for a couple of days.
We said, “tomorrow morning let’s meet at Profondo Rosso to shoot a scene!” But it was just for fun, in fact I had no idea of what to do, Jousse and Philippe wrote a sort of a story for it. We had great fun, then they took all the material to Paris, edited it and sent it back to me. I really loved it and we were all willing to film some more scenes. This time I suggested to do it during Halloween, so they could come back and meet Dario Argento. Besides, as the weekend right after Halloween the store was closed, we could film some scenes in the basement, where the Argento museum is. The idea was to set a murder there, following the scenes we did before. In the end, we had a movie eleven minutes long, which everybody loved, therefore we decided to make a full length picture, and we began writing a script around what we had already filmed. While the story started to take shape I called some friends, as Lamberto Bava and Antonio Tentori asking them to play themselves, and did additional scenes.
FANG: What can you tell us of the story?
COZZI: Well, it’s a very original and a bit of a crazy story, almost everybody is just playing himself, there are some murders and the end of the world happens! You know, at first I was writing worried about the budget, I mean, I was just thinking about what I could be able to film, but then I thought, “Fuck it!! Why do I have to restrain my imagination? I will write what I like and then I’ll find a way to realize it! In my life I’ve always found a solution.”
It’s not just a giallo. In a crescendo of strange situations we even have the Eiffel tower collapsing! I hope I will be able to shoot it in a believable way. I happen to be involved in a crazy spiral of strange circumstances, where I have to save the world. It’s a bit paradoxical, and that’s really me, but I like the whole situation, it’s the kind of story I love to see in a movie. The script alternates thrilling with science fiction and ironic moments. If I’m again making a movie today, it has to be fun, otherwise it makes no sense for me. We know we are not getting any money, so at least we are having some fun. If the fans will like it, it will be fine, otherwise….
FANG: Why did you decide to also star in it as yourself?
COZZI: First of all, for convenience. As I am filming in my spare time, I knew that this way I could always be on the set, then to be believable. I thought that the best thing was to be me.
FANG: Have you brought in other producers?
COZZI: We have thought about it, but as long as I am able to do this movie with my own money, I can do whatever I want. I have spoken with some people interested in the movie and they did begin questioning me about the screenplay, the cast and all these things. Producers are always trying to change things, so until now we are trying not to have financiers in this project, if along the way, due to the complex of special effects, we’ll need more money, I will think about it.
COZZI: Actually, the movie is not a Horror, there is a sort of irony. The moon in the poster is red to recall the colour of blood, but it’s homage. The title is an idea of mine, but it’s not a new one, it was a project that I did propose at Cannon around 1984. The original script was a bit different: I imagined that while George Méliès was shooting VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE, strange things began happening in the surrounding area, a creature from another dimension was killing people and Méliès got involved in the investigation and had to solve the mystery, in order to complete his film. He then was taking inspiration from this alien to give shape to his Selenites, I wanted this way to pay homage to Méliès and his movies. Unfortunately the producers asked me: “Who the Hell is George Méliès?!” and I was so disappointed by that, that I put the project in a drawer.
FANG: How was the script revamped?
COZZI: Basically, it’s still about the birth of the Cinema, and the premise is a fact that I discovered while writing one of my books. We all know that the Lumière brothers invented the first film projector, but if you go to their house museum in Lyon, you’ll see a plate where it is written that Louis Augustin Le Prince, seven years before the Lumière brothers, invented the Cinema! And here comes the mystery, this man on September 16th, 1890, while he was travelling on a train from Dijon to Paris, disappeared with all his luggage and his Cinema projectors. What happened to him? We still don’t know! And there is another mystery: about twenty years later, his son was murdered in New York by someone unknown.
It’s a very unsettling story. I start from these facts to give a fanciful explanation to what really happened to Le Prince, but also to give this inventor the notoriety he deserves. My movie begins with a four minute, animated introduction title, made by my assistant Andrea Pieroni, where we trace the story of Cinema, starting from Leonardo Da Vinci and his studies on the “dark room.” Then we move forward to modern times and…..well, you have to go and see it!
FANG: Aside from your friends whom are playing themselves, do you have some real actors?
COZZI: Yes, about half of the cast is made of actors and actresses, although not very known ones, as I will take about one year to complete this picture and we can’t afford to pay someone for such a long time, calling him or her on the set anytime we can do a scene.
I have also my friend, filmmaker Luigi Pastore acting in the film, and that is absolutely hilarious, he really looks like Tor Johnson in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, so we did a scene where I have a nightmare of being considered by the critics as the Italian Ed Wood. We changed his name into Pas-Tor Johnson, and in my nightmare I see the trailer of my new movie: BRIDE OF THE MONSTER 2, starring Pas-Tor Johnson. We filmed Luigi carrying his wife in a real cemetery, where there is the Sergio Leone tomb, which you can see in the background.
Another of my friends I have asked to star in the movie is “L’Ecran Fantastique” editor in chief Alain Schlockoff. He is a long-time friend, we met for the first time in 1972 or 1973, I am not sure. I went to Paris on holiday and the first day I arrived there, I looked on the local newspapers for some Science Fiction movie screenings. In an old building I saw they were showing about six, seven different pictures each day. It was the first embryo of what later became the “Paris Fantastic Film Festival,” where Alain was the Artistic Director, and where I was subsequently invited many times with my films. We became friends and co-operate often when I organized my Festivals in Italy. I remember that, in a sort of favor exchange, I offered him Vincent Price as a guest. We shared flight tickets for Price and his wife, and both festivals benefitted by the attendance of this great actor. We have still to shoot the scenes with Alain. In the script I am going to Paris and, as I want to research about the history of silent Cinema. I go to Schlockoff’s office and ask for his help, as he is the biggest Cinema expert in France. It’s a short scene, an homage to our friendship.
FANG: How much of the film have you already completed and when will be screened?
COZZI: We have filmed around sixty minutes, and the first edit is about thirty minutes long. We still have to shoot the part set in France, which will be mainly done by Alexander Jousse. In a couple of months, I will fly to Paris to do that. The completion of the film depends a lot on the special effects, which I have entrusted in the hands of Jean-Manuel Costa, who also worked on my THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES. I hope to be ready by September 2015, so I’ll be able to screen it at European Festivals like Sitges.
FANG: What do you think is the health of Fantastic Cinema today?
COZZI: I believe it’s getting much better than a few years ago, we have some new talented filmmakers that are refreshing the genre. I like directors as James Wan or Rob Zombie. Today we have to adapt Cinema to the new technologies and to modern audiences. You can’t shoot a movie like we used to do thirty years ago, otherwise people get bored. Wan has conceived new way to actualize in a modern way the creepy atmospheres of fifty years ago.
Unfortunately we have just a bunch of good directors and an endless list of wannabe filmmakers that are doing again and again the same old stuff. I think that the formula for low budget films today is the result of a big misunderstanding. Today, the technical apparatus you need to shoot a movie is very cheap, if you want you can make something that looks like a Hollywood picture with a few bucks. But I don’t know why young filmmakers continue in making films where you have a group of teenagers or a bunch of people in a confined space, fighting against a monster, a serial killer or a ghost. In BLOOD ON MÉLIÈS’ MOON, I have over sixty different locations, because they are the real riches of the film. Today you can shoot in the middle of Rome without people even noticing you are making a movie, we did a scene in Castel Sant’Angelo, with hundreds of people around us, and nobody knew what we were doing.