Pudgy and hirsute, favoring floppy hats and spherical glasses, Lucio Dalla didn’t look very similar to a pop star. A jazz clarinetist who reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter, Dalla nonetheless grew to become one among Italy’s most beloved troubadours within the later many years of the twentieth century. His songs had been rhapsodic and discursive, polemical and observant — typically throughout the span of a single verse — and his voice might shift from conversational intimacy to full-throated ardour simply as shortly.
“For Lucio,” Pietro Marcello’s new documentary, provides a portrait of Dalla that’s each informative and enigmatic. Extra an essay movie than a normal musical biography, it emphasizes character over chronology, and dwells extra on the work than the life. As a substitute of assembling the standard squadron of speaking heads, Marcello concentrates on simply two interview topics, each of whom knew Dalla properly.
His supervisor, Umberto Righi — everybody calls him Tobia — seems alone within the first a part of the film, placing flowers on Dalla’s grave and recalling the early years of their affiliation. Later Tobia is joined by Stefano Bonaga, who knew Dalla after they had been youngsters in Bologna. This being Italy, the 2 males sit and reminisce over a leisurely pasta lunch, pausing to sip wine and light-weight cigarettes. Their dialog typically veers into abstraction, and the methods they describe their outdated pal (who died in 2012, at 68) don’t at all times paint a vivid image. We hear that he was unpredictable, sensible and beneficiant, however there’s a curious scarcity of anecdotes which may convey these traits to life.
Extra satisfying is the archival materials Marcello assembles. We get to see Dalla in live performance, on tv selection exhibits, in proto-music-videos and in dialog with journalists. These moments go a good distance towards explaining his enchantment. They present a plain-spoken mental who may very well be impish, ardent or gnomic, and whose songs captured each the exuberant spirit of Italian fashionable tradition and the nation’s political agony and social turmoil within the ’60s and ’70s.
Although Dalla launched hit information by way of the ’80s and ’90s, it’s the ancient times that the majority pursuits Marcello, particularly the years within the early ’70s when Dalla collaborated with the left-wing Bolognese poet and writer Roberto Roversi. The filmmaker, who has made each documentaries and fictional options (not too long ago, and notably, “Martin Eden”), is fascinated by histories of sophistication battle, ideological battle and mental agitation. He juxtaposes photographs of battle, poverty and labor unrest with Dalla’s songs to underline their messages and clarify their context. A grim climax is supplied by the bombing of Bologna’s central train station in 1980, an act of right-wing terrorism that was the deadliest single incident of political violence in an period identified in Italy because the Years of Lead.
Even when a tune’s topic isn’t explicitly political — as in “Nuvolari,” a rambling ballad a couple of celebrated racecar driver — there’s a feeling of urgency and battle in Dalla and Roversi’s lyrics and within the voice that delivers them. Probably the most hanging passages in “For Lucio” is a efficiency, in entrance of an viewers of manufacturing unit employees, of “Itaca,” a tune that evokes Homer’s “Odyssey” from the standpoint of unusual sailors. That form of romantic populism hyperlinks Dalla to the Latin American Nueva Canción motion, whereas his music incorporates influences from Brazilian bossa nova and tropicália in addition to European and North American fashionable types.
For all his cosmopolitanism, he stays a distinctively Italian determine, and “For Lucio” is a film preoccupied above all with Italy’s cultural reminiscence and id. This could make it a little bit of a problem even for Italophiles or college students of historical past, musical and in any other case. This isn’t “Lucio for Freshmen” by any means. Neither is it a greatest-hits anthology or a “behind the music” tell-all. It’s a tribute and an invite to additional analysis.
Not rated. In Italian, with subtitles. Working time: 1 hour 19 minutes. Watch on Mubi.