The Torino Film Festival, under the direction of Steve Della Casa, launched its 40th edition on Friday evening at the sumptuous Teatro Regio, not with a film screening, but with music. For this jubilee edition, the first one completely in person since the COVID crisis, Della Casa had bet on a real moment of sharing with the public. The audience responded to the event, interspersing the evening with a lot of applause and laughter.
To evoke the links between cinema and music, a talk was organized around the theme of the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, and their love for cinema which made them work with Jean-Luc Godard and Martin Scorsese, among others.
After the official part, which included speeches by the president of the National Museum of Cinema, Enzo Ghigo, and the mayor of Turin, Stefano Lo Russo, the Beatles-Rolling Stones evening was broadcast, for the first time, live on radio on the 30th anniversary edition of the “Hollywood Party” show on Rai Radio 3, a long-time supporter of the festival.
In front of the crowd, the guests told some memorable and sometimes unpublished anecdotes about their history with the two English bands’ music. The director David Grieco made the audience laugh by telling why, while he was initially a Beatles fan in his teens, he became a Stones fan. He had bought his ticket a year in advance for the Beatles’ double concert at Rome’s Teatro Adriano in 1965, “but in the middle of the first song, a woman in the audience, taller than me, threw up on me. It was all over me. I spent the whole concert in this state. That’s why I became a Rolling Stones fan.”
The guest of honor of this 40th edition, Malcolm McDowell, accompanied in Turin by his teenage son Finn, was dressed in black and took his place on stage next to the director, who also translated his words into Italian for the audience.
Also on stage were Italian solo singer Noemi and Samuel from the group Subsonica, the music critic John Vignola and the journalist and former TV host Vincenzo Mollica. The gala was animated by the patroness of the 40th edition of the festival, actor Pilar Fogliati, Della Casa and the presenters of “Hollywood Party,” Claudio De Pasqualis and David Grieco. While the singer Francesco De Gregori participated in the event via videolink.
During the evening, rare excerpts of interviews with the Beatles and the Stones in their early years were broadcast. As well as a previously unreleased version of the Beatles singing “Yellow Submarine” and excerpts from the Stones’ studio recording of their song “Sympathy for the Devil” from Jean-Luc Godard’s eponymous film.
McDowell, who is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of “A Clockwork Orange’s” release this year, spoke about Mick Jagger’s links with cinema. “We used to be friends. We were hanging around in New York. At the time, we were the ‘In Crowd’ with Andy Warhol and all. One evening, we were hanging out at somebody’s apartment on the east side of Central Park. We were sitting in a window seat and talking because Jagger wanted to play Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ Before Kubrick got hold of the property, Mick Jagger and the Stones wanted to do it! Well, I’d like to see that!” From that evening, McDowell shared two other things with the Italian audience: “Mick Jagger said to me, you know Malcolm, I can’t see myself doing this at 50!,” McDowell said mimicking the Stones’ lead singer’s moves. “50? And so what are they now? 80? Fantastic!” Looking out into the dark void of Central Park that evening, Mick Jagger pointed towards the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived, McDowell also recalled: “And he said to me ‘the king lives over there.’ In that moment of course, they knew what John was, and he was the king, and that’s it, end of story!”
The legendary actor who, like The Beatles, grew up in Liverpool, also had a long history with the group: he had seen them many times on stage, in their hometown, when they were still called The Silver Beatles and sang only covers. “My girlfriend took me to see them, McDowell said. I was amazed because I’d never heard a public speaker use such profane language. But I kept going back and back because they were amazing! Of course, they were Lennon and McCartney, the Mozart’s of their day! And their music is as popular now as it was when it came out.” An audio extract of a Beatles cover performed by singer Beckett McDowell, one of the actor’s sons, was also played, much to the delight of the proud dad.
About the Beatles, Malcolm McDowell also reminded the audience of a missed opportunity: “I very nearly worked with Paul McCartney. He was going to compose the soundtrack of a movie I played in, “The Raging Moon,” McDowell said. But the Beatle never showed up. McDowell bumped into him 20 years later, McDowell explained in a perfect McCartney imitation: “He said to me: ‘That film of yours was great! You know, I was so fucked up, the Beatles had just broken up and I was so fucked up, man, I was drunk every night, I’m so sorry cause I loved the movie.’” “He would have made the movie a hit!” McDowell added. “As it was, it sank like a stone,” said the Beatles fan.
For singer Noemi, it was impossible choosing between the two groups. While David Grieco stuck to the Stones and John Vignola clearly leaned towards the unforgettable interpreters of “Michelle.” Vincenzo Mollica brought a much-applauded conclusion to the discussion: “Since I lost my eyesight, I see things that I didn’t see before. And I have discovered my true musical anatomy: my heart beats the Beatles, my liver beats the Rolling Stones, my left lung beats Bob Dylan, my right beats Leonard Cohen, my brain beats Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra.”