It's Valerio Mastandrea
, as we've never seen him before, the protagonist of Paola Randi
's sophomore feature Little Tito and the Aliens
. Seven years after Into Paradiso
, the director is back with a sci-fi film tackling the deep relationship with our emotions and the grieving process.
Playing in Neapolitan dialect and English, Mastandrea is a peculiar scientist, suspended between melancholia and loneliness, living alone in the Nevada desert since his wife passed away. More precisely, he lives close to the Area 51, the mysterious place where a contact with the aliens and with the Other in general, seems to be possible. The man spends his days wearing his earphones and sitting next to an aerial pointing to the sky: officially, he should work for a secret project commissioned by the US government; in fact, he's stuck in his desperate attempt to intercept the voice of his late wife between the sounds coming from the outer space. Total isolation is his way to face grief and loss, while the desert around him represents his research for a direction in a dimension suspended between the fear of forgetting and that of going on. His only contact with the world is Stella (Clemence Poesy
), working as a wedding planner for tourists hunting for aliens. One day, the scientist's life is turn upside down by the arrival of his two little nephews, Anita and Tito, both coming from Naples and newly orphans. They are at loss too, looking to start again after their devasting loss.
As Randi states: "Valerio is a perfect fit for this role: he brings together a strong humanity, the right dose of irony, and that melancholic vein which is fundamental for this character." The director goes on underlining how the film was inspired by facts in her private life that forced her to interrogate herself on the way we deal with the fear of loss: "The film was inspired by an image, that of my father who in his last few years started to lose his memory day by day. One day I found him staring at a portrait of my mother, who passed away over 10 years ago, in the attempt of keeping her memory intact. Accordingly, I visualized this man, all alone, staring at an aerial, standing still while contemplating the space." While tacking the grieving process, Little Tito and the Aliens
doesn't lack a certain bittersweet humour and a poetic lightness: "When you lose your memory, you lose your identity too. What was real before, starts to break up and becomes something new. My father was a man of extraordinary resources, very clevery and full of fantasy, but also with a dieheard lightness. So I tried to see reality through his eyes, I got carried away in his world and by the way he would have told this story. It couldn't but be a sci-fi film, a genre which I am fond of since I was a child. I've always been a great fan of special effects à la Rambaldi, so I started experimenting with them during the shooting." To the contrary, Mastandrea confesses he's not a big fan of sci-fi; however, he fell in love with the script right away: "At first, I was curious about the fantastic genre, but only 10 pages into the story I found myself deeply moved by the worldly side of it. I found it very poetic and I think the core of the film lies in that human attempt of being in harmony with our own emotions despite all the losses and delusions."
Produced by Angelo and Matilde Barbagallo
and still looking for an Italian distributor, Little Tito and the Aliens
was shot between the US - "in a small village in Nevada where people are truly convinced that the aliens are helping out the army to invent new technologies to support human life" - and the Almeria region in Spain, not far from where Sergio Leone used to build his own western sets. In the words of the producers: "We've produced this film because Italian cinema is actually experiencing a deep crisis in its relationship with the audience, also when it comes to those comedies that used to be very successful at the box office. We do believe in the possiblity of a fresh kind of cinema, one with a sensible soul and a sophisticated language, which could be suitable for a larger audience at the same time, and whose life is not confined to film festivals only. We saw this opportunity in this film. Making it was a big challenge though."