I arrived from Venice very late last night and I was so tired that I just had the strength to crawl into my bed, and that’s why my report arrives so late. Sorry! Here’s what happened in Venice on Sept, 8 2001:Venice:
Venice: Well, what to say? It’s unique, extraordinary! As Johnny said, it’s shocking. I arrived by train at 6 o’clock in the morning as it was clearing up. You have the impression that the train is floating on the sea and before you appears a skyline of colorful, medieval houses immersed in the water. It’s a vision you never forget. Every corner of the town is a jewel, you walk on through small streets and every few steps you find a wonderful bridge on an amazing channel shaded by ancient buildings, so beautiful it cannot be described. And the Venetians are so warm, kind and helpful. Really stunning!!
The Festival of Venice: If you love movies and cinema…forget it! It’s a circus, a horrible merry-go-round organized only for journalists, producers and politicians. The audience is completely ignored and kept apart. You imagine it’s a cultural event, a celebration of the cinema, and you have a very bad surprise! Ok, I won’t go into details because it would be boring, but really, if you like cinema, avoid the festivals!
The Premiere: When I arrived in Venice, I first went to the ticket office to buy the tickets for the Premiere. The poor dreamer! The two girls who worked there killed every illusion. The tickets for the premiere were not for sale. Someone decided that only the ones with invitations would be allowed to enter. Moreover, only a few accredited would have entered, if there were seats left. Of course I had no invitation and I was not accredited, so my last hopes disappeared. Another projection was scheduled the same evening for the audience in another theater, but of course the start time was an half hour earlier than the premiere, so if I had decided to go there I would have also missed Johnny entering the movie theater. What a dilemma! I was shattered. Anyway, I bought two tickets for the second projection (one for me and one for Luca) and went visiting the Palace of Cinema. At 10 o’clock in the morning, Luca calls me on the mobile and tells me his friend in Venice has found two invitations. Suddenly I jumped “From Hell” to “Paradis” 😉 I couldn’t believe my ears…and I was right! Because when Luca arrived we found out that actually there was only one invitation! OK, by that time I decided that the life of the fan was not for me! You must have a strong heart and iron nerves to get by; instead I just felt I was about to breakdown! But not everything was lost. Luca’s friend (a girl whose name is now impressed with fire letters on my heart) said: “OK, I will lend you my accredidation and you’ll try to enter”. I looked at the picture on the badge…well, maybe it could work with a little imagination and a pair of glasses, in the crowd and the darkness of the entrance and with a BIG, BIG, BIG luck!
Well, after two hours of waiting in an incredible crowd at the entrance of the theater, with pushes and elbows in the back and without even breathing, the horrible security men begin to let small groups of people go in, one step forward, two steps forward, another small group, at last I’m in the next group or so it seems. Another ten minutes of endless wait and then they let other people enter. I’m the next one, when the two assholes join their fists exactly before my chest and scream “Stop! Nobody else”. What ???? I think. And for the first time I really took advantage of my small stature, I bow and manage to pass under their arms; they try to lower the hands to stop me going… but it’s too late, I’m in the theater. I fly near the girl who checks the accredidation badges with a finger on the photo and run into the room…I’m so confused and increduluous that I don’t know where to go… I stand in the center without knowing what to do, when a girl comes near to me and says “Miss, you have to sit down, please” I turn back to her “But he? Where is he?” She smiles and says “He’s there!” And points her finger some rows upstairs. I follow her direction and…he was there.
Johnny: I stood there before him trying to let every second, every instant last forever. He was there, surrounded by a magnetic aura which cannot be described by words. You can see thousands of his best pictures but not one of them gives you the least idea of what he looks like in person. Pictures and cameras put a filter which dims the power, the fire which burns into his eyes. You suddenly understand at once without any doubt left why he became what he is and why he made all he made. You look into those eyes and see what John Waters, Tim Burton, Jim Jarmusch, Terry Gilliam and the others have seen, and you understand why he’s special, different, unique. You also understand that he’s not happy, that he feels uncomfortable, dressed like a prince with every eye on him. He never stops moving, he tries not to look at the audience, talks with the directors, holds firmly Vanessa’s hand, touches his face. You almost feel guilty to be there, because this is a torture for him and you know that it’s because of you, because you want to see him and he cannot help it. Suddenly the speaker calls the directors names, the audience applauds, then Heather Graham’s name, another applause, then Johnny’s…the room bursts, standing ovation, everybody screams his name, he tries to disappear in the seat, but someone tells him he has to stand. He stands up for one second and seats again with the most embarrased smile I have ever seen, and you feel again you shouldn’t be there.
At the end of the projection, when the lights turn on, another standing ovation, he has already his cigarette in his hand, tries to smile at the audience, then grabs Vanessa’s hand (the most intimate gesture I have ever seen) and they go away.
Vanessa: We have always said: What a lucky woman she is. Now, I say: What a lucky man Johnny is. Her beauty is amazing. That kind of beauty that makes you feel better. The perfection of her face, which is completely distorted by the pictures, is spectacular. But this is the minor aspect. She is a powerful woman. As soon as you look at her, you would like to know her better, to talk to her. Her intelligence is something that you can perceive just by looking at her. I was stunned! She was there in all her beauty and elegance just to support him. That was his night, and she didn’t care to appear, to be photographed, she was there only to help him. I almost had the impression that she directed him, there was an amazing contrast between his anxiety and her utmost composure. The class of that woman is not something you can describe. I was so happy for Johnny! And I hope, really hope, that she will be patient forever and look after our boy, because she’s really the kind of woman he needs. The love that surrounds that stunning couple radiates like the sun on a summer day!
From Hell: The movie is extraordinary, unique!! Johnny-fans will find all the answers to their secret dreams and new breeds of fans will be born from it. I must say that watching a Johnny movie knowing that you’re watching it with him is a one-time experience. But in my case, instead of distracting me, all my senses were awake and sharpened, and I watched every scene as though I could comment on it with him. I almost felt his breath behind me. In the role of Inspector Abberline, he is in a state of grace! He could make the mistake of proposing again Ichabod Crane, but he reinvented a brand-new character with all the features we all love. He explores the depth of a damaged man who has an utmost complex personality, conveying all the nuances of a great soul with only the power of his eyes. This is the kind of movies in which he stops being an actor and becomes a poet, if we intend for poets that special category of persons who are able to express universal feelings, like the love and pain, in a unique way. The atmosphere of London at the end of the 19th Century is perfectly rebuilt, the plot is brilliant and the rythem is breathtaking. Heather Graham is a good actress, but she suffers Johnny’s titanic interpretation. Ian Holmes is, instead, a great counterpart. Also the soundtrack is wonderful.
Inspector Abberline is in the line of Johnny’s characters who are cursed, because they are destined to SEE. I thought about the myth of Cassandra, the priestess of the ancient Troja, who was a seer and forecasted the ruins of her people, but nobody trusted her and her own people repudiated her. Abberline is a seer, too, and for this reason he is destined to suffer. So if you wonder why Johnny accepted this role, I think this is one answer. Nobody else is able like him to express the suffering of the ones who can look and read into other people’s souls. And the movie is also a wonderful love-story, the kind of story that Johnny feels very deep inside. So, once again: thank you, Johnny!
The most moving thing: One minute after the end of the movie, I saw a little girl of 7 or 8, hand-in-hand with her mother. She was about to burst into tears and screamed to her mother: “Oh mum, please let’s go and look for Johnny.” I’m sure that if Johnny had seen her, he would have kissed her on her cheek and promised to marry her one day.
The funniest thing: Outside the Palace of cinema there was a message board on which you could write all you wanted about the Festival. One message read: Johnny, we left work and all to come here and see you. Please, show up!
It seems that all Johnny-fans have the same problems.
Acknowledgements: My endless gratitude to Luca and his friend in Venice. Without these two wonderful people I would have never been able to see Johnny and enjoy the movie with him. I really hope I will be able to do something in return, one day.
Conclusions: Well, I learned a great lesson: I love and respect Johnny too much to chase him again. I will never do it again. If you have a great admiration for a painter, a look at his paintings is enough. And so it should be for Johnny, he talks to us through his movies and those should be enough for me for the rest of my life.
This whole experience and the vision of him in Venice inspired me to write this small poem I would like to share with you:
After seeing Johnny in Venice
And now be happy
the way you don’t know
Wearthat face and the smile
they will hardly forget
They tell you to go
and you walk on
They ask you to stop
and you turn back
But in the evening
alone in your room
you hang the face on the wall
and with the hands on your eyes
you think of nowhere
With all my love,