Antonella Fulci on "Fulci For Fake" and the complexity of Lucio Fulci's legend
Antonella Fulci sounds energised when she addresses her contribution to "Fulci For Fake", the part documentary and part biopic about her late, great father Lucio Fulci, which Fractured Visions show at Chapter on December 7th. "I was lucky enough to have a good relationship through the entire production. People love my father and there is nothing like this film around. They could only watch his films, now they can see a film made about him in 2019," says Fulci, who gave director Simone Scafidi never seen before home footage, photo's and a rare interview. We sat down with the maestro's daughter to celebrate and discuss the only screening of "Fulci For Fake" in Cardiff, the re-appraisal and re-discovery of the Italian godfather of gore's films, memories of being on set for "Zombie" and more!
There are many! I think that the best were when it sounded like the worst for me, so I think that his suggestions were maybe very peculiar and not the classic suggestions that a father can give you when you have problems. You would think that they were crazy solutions but he was always right, so I think that the most important thing in our relationship was that I could trust him.
The documentary treads the line between what made your dad so brilliant and what made him so misunderstood. How important is it for you that people remember his imperfections as well as his perfections, as a way to measure his genius and the myth surrounding his legacy?
I think it's very important because they were a part of him and knowing these things make him more human. A lot of people only know him as a director of gory movies and there are legends about him that he was grumpy, that he was not a kind man and everything, but I think that when you see his flaws you can recognise them as being very similar to yours and everybody else's. So I think that "Fulci For Fake" is a very, very nice experiment of telling who the man is behind the character, because he has become a character for fans. I think it's very important to see his imperfections because they were also very important for him. Not only was he the master of horror but he was also the master of human error, because sometimes you thought that he made errors to see if he was brave and good enough to correct them. He was a very unique man with a unique personality. You had to know him very deeply and I think that this documentary, as an experiment, totally wins everything because you don't see the usual people who talk about him. It features someone (Sandro Bitetto) who prepares to play Fulci's role in a film; he goes around investigating and at the end figures out the most important things without looking for them.
Your father was a man who accepted the chaos in his work but was not always accepted by that chaos in his personal life. How do you think his life would have been different without the chaos?
I can't imagine his life without the chaos because he was stimulated by the chaos, even by the bad things that happened in his life he had a unique way of using them to create other stories. I think that his life without chaos would have been the one of a very common man with a normal job and not very interesting. I think he was shaped by his life.
In the documentary you liken your relationship with him as a character "outside of the frame in one of his films". Do you place any blame on the film industry for the type of relationship you had with your dad at all?
No, absolutely not because I was lucky enough to share with him a part of his work as a filmmaker, because he was a film maker and a film lover. I was always on the other side of the story. I think that nothing would have changed or harmed our relationship, because our personalities were very strong. I think he knew that he couldn't be understood at the time by the movie industry. He always said "I'm not with any political party. I'm not a person who can make movies for families" and he became a lot more successful after his death.
That's true. It's a beautiful thing to see your dad's films continue to shine and extend their influence in Horror in 2019. To use a phrase that comic imprint Eibon commonly use, Fulci lives! What are your thoughts on the re-appraisal, rediscovery and celebration of your dad's work after his passing?
I am very sorry that he passed away just two years before the internet was in every home, because I think that he would have had much more self esteem if he saw what he had become. I feel that he deserved this but I think that maybe the world wasn't ready for him, his films were very ahead of the times. Maybe they should have been made today to have the success they deserved.
Of all the genres he ventured into, is there a film that in your opinion best represents his essence?
I think the comedies. The comedies in the early seventies, the one with Lando Buzzanca ("The Eroticist") and "Dracula in the Provinces". My father was a very lively man and he was very funny. Sometimes when I watch those movies I see little glimpses of realities or characters that look a lot like people we met during our lives. They were made during a happy time in his life! When he had the nice times he was a really wonderful person to be with.
Most fans of Lucio Fulci's horror films often cite the "eye splinter" scene in "Zombie" (aka "Flesh Eating Zombies"), as one of many favourites, a scene that would earn the film its status as a Video Nasty over here in the UK. Do you have a favourite single scene from any of his films?
It's a hard choice because all of them, some of them - many of them are good for different reasons. There is the classic of the classics; "Don't Torture a Duckling" and a lot of the scenes in those comedies that I mentioned. I have a real soft spot for a movie that is not very widely known, "Beatrice Cenci" ("The Conspiracy of Torture") in 1969. It's about a story that happened in Italy in the 16th century but it's so modern. If you watch the movie it has many meanings and he knew already in 1969 that a story so old could be eternal, even if it had been told by other directors. If you did it today it would work in the same shape with the same scenes.
How would you feel if it was to be remade in 2020, if not any other film of his?
I'd love it; I'd love it because it's an historical fact. It's very, very modern and could happen today. I'd love to see not only a remake of "Beatrice Cenci" but even other remakes of the movies, that in my opinion have marked his career. I don't want for him to be remembered for his last movies that were made only for work; I'd love him to be remembered for his different movies like the Giallos and the Comedies.
Knowing that you're such an aficionado of contemporary American horror cinema, is there a director that you would want to direct one of your dad's films?
Yes and it's a woman, Jennifer Kent, the director of "Babadook".
She has a vision but not because she's a woman, I'm not a feminist at all, but because the film that terrorised me the most in a genuine sense in recent years was "Babadook". Her vision is very similar to the one for example that my father had in "The House by the Cemetery". The location in "Babadook" is like a character in the film itself, the same as "The House by The Cemetery". She's great in my opinion.
I want to go back to you saying you aren't a feminist at all. Among the many things "Fulci For Fake" deals with, is the sexuality within his work. One of the most revealing revelations is a clip in the documentary of your dad talking about himself being a misogynist. Was there initially any hesitation about this making inclusion?
He was not a misogynist because the proof is that his life was always run by women. He wasn't mean with women, he was mean with everybody and when I say mean it's not in a bad sense. He treated everybody in the same way but he was a free man, so relationships usually for everybody are not an easy task, so can you imagine a man who would work for six months in another continent and have a normal family, a normal relationship?. I'm his daughter and I knew how I felt being home alone for months with other people because he had to work. Relationships are not easy for anybody; can you imagine what it was like for him?
In a way the clip almost created this illusion that made it so that it was an elaborate joke that only he was in on
He played with the things that people said, it was like a game for him to play. He was kidding, he was joking. He was always kidding and wanted to please people. When he talked to someone he said the things that they wanted to hear.
Your mother was famously a film critic. You've been vocal about Horror journalists and their words about your father. Have you ever wanted to become a writer yourself to tell your dads story in your own words?
Yes! It's something that other people have told me I should do but you know, you always think that your stories are not interesting, that if you talk about yourself and your family as a family or you talk about your father as a father nobody's interested. I'm not the type that has ever idolised my father. I can talk about him as the director of "Zombie" or the famous people we met. I don't know, maybe I could try but I'm sure that it's not something that readers would want to read me to talk about his legend. There were very bad times. We had a lot of bad times but usually we had a very normal life. We stayed home and watched movies and then he was sick for a long time.
Do you think it's a good time or a bad time to be a film critic? How do you feel about cinema today?
I think that it's a good time. It's a very good time to be a film critic because too many people pretend that they are film critics. On social media you can write anything you want and if you write five reviews you are a journalist, you are a critic. I think that it's a very good moment for good critics to come out and start talking about cinema in a more respectful way.
There are so many fascinating interviews in "Fulci For Fake" with some of the closest collaborators of Lucio Fulci. Did any of the interviewees say anything that you disagreed with about your dad?
I don't disagree but there is a story that one of them tells that in reality was more interesting. Unfortunately it's the story that Paolo Malco says about my father’s ex fiancé that ran away from the hotel in New York. The last night when my father decided that he didn't want to marry her, he said to her "move to this restaurant and wait for me". She went there with a friend and he never showed up and he went with Sergio Salvati to see "Cats", one of the big musicals in Broadway. The next day she ran away and left this note that said, "You're miserable". He was terrorised, somebody told him that if he got married, half of what he owned belonged to his wife and he started to say "Oh my god, what happens? I don't know what to do". Daddy was the type that was maybe very childish sometimes and would ask to get married and the next day he thought about it and was terrified. That story from my point of view, I don’t think would work because this woman thought of him as a an American director, all glamour, all of the riches, but my father was very different from that.
In the documentary your sister Camilia says that there is a piece of him and your family in every film he's made. Are there specific films that for this reason are affecting on your life and are there films that you watch now that remind you of periods in your life and a time and place that you were in?
Yes, many of them. My sister said the truth but I think that it can happen with every director. I think that every director puts some of themselves in their work. I have memories, many of which are before the horrors."Don't Torture a Ducking" was the first time that I saw special effects and at the time there was no CGI. Even later with "Zombie" I remember that I appreciated that I went to meet with my father on set and when I arrived I saw a scene that I will never forget. There were beach chairs and on each chair there was a zombie that was drying the clay that they put on their faces, so it was like the zombie beach. It was incredible because I arrived and I saw this long queue that was like a beach but with zombies that were drying under the sun!
Taking it back to your sister, do you think that your dad made "New York Ripper" as a way to cope with your sister’s tragic accident when it happened?
Absolutely not. First and foremost my sister walked during that time and was ok in her health. Can I connect back to when we were talking about critics? I think that the critics really think they know things and they don't. Originally "New York Ripper" had a different story, the first screenplay was about a man who was never caught because he had a disease, specifically progeria, where he got old every week and became so old that they couldn't catch him. They didn't like the story and it was re-written, so it’s impossible.
Does it bother you when critics incorrectly make assumptions about your fathers work, particularly with "New York Ripper" for example?
It does because they describe my father like a desperate man and it's not true. Everybody who knew him describes him as if he was the funniest man on earth. My father would have been scared of putting such an intimate thing in a movie. He was really respectful and was very superstitious.
Was it challenging to revisit any of the unseen footage or the photos in this documentary?
No, they were my family movies. I've seen them so many times and I decided to give them to the director to use them because I thought that they could explain it better. It wasn't hard for me, it was funny for me, I enjoyed it.
This is the first documentary to shine a light on your dad in the way that it does. What separates "Fulci For Fake" from the rest?
I think that this documentary is very important for the knowledge of what will never be explained. This is a documentary about a man that was never explained. Other people that have tried to do that failed. This film for once doesn't want to explain, it just wants to spread the love for a director that entertained so many people and still entertains people and people love him. His films, talk better than me.
"Fulci For Fake" is out 7th December at Chapter.
Interview by Luke 'Menace' Bailey for Fractured Visions