Saturday, May 23, 2020

CFF ’20: Fulci for Fake

He was the second “Godfather of Gore.” Herschell Gordon Lewis was the first filmmaker to be dubbed with the title, but Lucio Fulci was a genuine film-stylist many consider a true auteur. He made films in nearly every genre, including White Fang, starring Franco Nero, but his reputation firmly rests on his giallo horror films of the 1960s and 1970s. Fulci, the filmmaker and the father, is profiled in Simone Scafidi’s slightly hybrid-ish documentary, Fulci for Fake, which screens (virtually) as part of the (online) 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival.

Scafidi (a.k.a. “Saigon”) sets up the film with a fictionalized conceit. Supposedly, actor Nicola Nocella will be playing Fulci in a biopic, but to better understand the man he is to portray, he must learn from those who knew him best. Therefore, he is the one ostensibly conducting all the on-camera interviews. Frankly, it is a questionable device, since the film still largely functions as a traditional, career-surveying documentary. Of course, that also means Fulci fans will indeed learn quite a bit about the master.

As one would hope, we do indeed get a fair supply of behind-the-scenes dishing as well as critical analysis of Fulci’s major giallos. Fans will be interested to hear from Fulci’s frequent cinematographer Sergio Salvati and composer Fabio Frizzi, as well as his protégé, Michele Soavi (who directed Cemetery Man and The Sect). However, the real surprising emotional centerpiece of the film are the reminiscences of Fulci’s daughter, Camilla Fulci, whose unfortunate accident profoundly affected her father. She is also well-qualified to discuss his work, having served as a 1st assistant director or script supervisor on many of his films.

Ironically, viewers probably gain more appreciation for Fulci as a father and a husband, who endured more than his share of trials and tribulations than as a defining giallo master. Sadly, Camilla Fulci passed away shortly after Fake was completed. Hopefully, she had a chance to see her father get his documentary-due, but in any event, it is hard to overstate what she brings to film. For the record, Fulci’s other daughter Antonella also participated, but she only appears towards the end.

If you are not intimately acquainted with the Fulci filmography, Fake will definitely whet your appetite to see more. It presents quite a full psychological profile of the gore artist. Despite the head-scratching attempts at stylization, it is a sensitive and insightful, but not entirely uncritical portrait. Recommended for giallo fans, Fulci for Fake screens virtually (5/22-5/25) during this year’s Chattanooga Film Festival.