Carmelo Bene in his own words

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Carmelo Pompilio Realino Antonio Bene – much better known as Carmelo Bene – was born in 1937 and died 64 years old, in Rome, on March 16, 2002, twenty years ago. He was an eclectic and provocative, complex and controversial character who experimented with various forms of art and expression, especially in theater and cinema but also in radio and television, in poetry, music and literature. During his eventful life he had to deal with, among others, Eugenio Montale, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alberto Arbasino, Salvador Dalì and Michel Foucault. And in the middle he did not even disdain to go and argue and reason about big issues a Sunday Infrom Maurizio Costanzo or even to MTV.

Carmelo Bene was born in Campi Salentina, in the province of Lecce, the son of the managers of a large tobacco factory. He went to high school and started but did not finish law. After that he went to a couple of acting schools, even there without getting to the end, and managed to avoid compulsory conscription. He moved first to Rome and then to Florence and Genoa.

His theatrical debut came shortly after the age of twenty, in Caligula by Albert Camus. In the early 1960s he made theHamlet, which years later he would have rebuilt and adapted, and shortly afterwards a phase of ever greater experimentation began. At the end of the decade she wrote her first books and began working in film, among other things acting in Oedipus the king by Pier Paolo Pasolini and then directing the films between 1970 and 1973 Ventriloquy, Hermitage, The Lecce Baroque, About “Arden of Feversham”, Our Lady of the Turks, Capricci, Don Giovanni, Salomè And One less Hamlet.

He arrived on television after the cinema, and in the seventies and eighties several of his shows and some of his readings had their television versions. On television, then, he was often a guest, especially between the eighties and nineties. From Costanzo in particular, Bene went several times and there is still a rich online testimony of those interventions. Particularly known and notable is a broadcast of June 1994, which had the format of one against all. The one was Bene who, on the stage next to Costanzo, answered the questions of everyone, who were journalists, critics and various commentators. The format was also proposed with other guests, but with Bene – who allegedly agreed to go to talk about himself and sell more tickets for one of his shows – something different came out. He wrote on Link Antonio Pascale:

«The one against all, that is the triumph of micro opinions, that type of format that still reigns today, immediately went into short circuit. It became the infinite doubles of Carmelo Bene against the monothematic nature of the many. When asked about private facts, Bene replied on an existential level, pressured by journalists he replied that the press informs about the facts not about the facts, when asked about the commitment he replied “I don’t give a damn about Rwanda” (making everyone feel the chill of our constant disengagement), instead to listen to the opinions of the questioners pointed out that not only were they microopinions but the drama was another: microopinions found democracy that becomes demagogy, a theme that we still struggle to accept today

[…] Carmelo Bene spoke by quotations of quotations of quotations and only to reiterate that we do not speak but we are spoken (do not inform – he said – misinform), or he dismantled everything through the highly cultured profanity: I am not talking about ontology, you speak with Mr. Heidegger and go fuck yourself. And he allowed himself moments of great tragic truth, democracy guarantees the unlivability of life, it does not solve it, whoever chooses freedom chooses the desert. Or: true freedom is freedom from work, not from work ».

“For me intelligence is misery,” said Bene at one point after quoting Eugenio Montale, who translated Friedrich Nietzsche, and while Jacques Lacan was there too.

“I lack consistency, I don’t have it, I don’t want it, I’ll give it all to you, old man.” And then: «here there is too much stench of God».

In the episode of the following year, initially more calm and then gradually more agitated, Bene uttered a phrase that would often be remembered out of context: “you die democracy, you die the Republic, you die the President of the Republic”.

In the theater, Bene was a constant, fervent and often controversial experimenter. Among the premises of Bene’s approach to theater was the belief that the source text was no more important than many other aspects, such as props or lights. On Everyday occurrenceAdriano Ercolani he wrote:

For those who have never seen anything by Carmelo Bene, we could try to summarize it like this: imagine an actor technically gifted with a frightening vocal register, with the charm of a diva, the elegance of a dandy, the sharp intelligence of an existentialist philosopher. , the mystical fury of a poet singer of excesses, a culture as boundless as his ego. Yet, it would be misleading: if superficially it seemed to embody the formula “genius and recklessness”, Bene’s theatrical theory and practice aimed precisely at eliminating the actor (and the author) from the stage, restoring to the theater its ancient and sacred value of “Musical darkness”, a place of aesthetic ecstasy and not critical investigation or ideological propaganda.

Here, however, Carmelo Bene acts in Hamlet (from Shakespeare to Laforgue).

And again, with different tones, in Hommelette for Hamlet.

Despite its being complicated, perhaps for someone almost cryptic and obscure, Bene’s theater often managed to be popular and successful as well. In the cinema, where he was active first as an actor then, also as a director and in other roles between the late sixties and early seventies, Bene devoted himself mainly to experimental and cultured films. This is an excerpt from Our Lady of the Turks, a film he directed and based on one of his books, which was then also taken to the theater. Starting from a link with a battle of 1480, the film is above all a complex and philosophical inner journey.

About cinema – in general, not his own – Bene happened to say this.

Well he also recited the “Songs” of Giacomo Leopardi.

And those of the Comedy of Dante. She did so, for the first time, from the Torre degli Asinelli in Bologna, exactly one year after the massacre of 1980. Maria Antonietta Epifani he wrote on Braids:

«Carmelo Bene climbs a fireman’s ladder and is greeted by a tightly packed crowd in devotion (as he himself will tell in I appeared to Our Lady) settles on top of the Asinelli Tower. He stands behind the illuminated lectern. «It is a masterpiece of scenography, the ancient glory of the palaces used as wings and curtains bathed in violet light» (Goldoni 1981). Below, listening to him, a flood of people, as if it were a rock concert. He asks Lydia Mancinelli (stage and life partner) to keep his ankles still for the whole time of reading because she suffers from vertigo. The lights gradually dim to give light only to his face. A flood of people in silence, «the whole center of Bologna, as if fallen into a trance, seemed not to move, as if it were afraid of being able to break the spell» (Maenza 2005: 75).

For those who are thinking of that other famous recent reader of Dante, before becoming one, he went to class at Bene himself.

Speaking of great readers of things, Bene also happened to discuss with Vittorio Gassman, whom he then in 2000, interviewed byExpressed, he would have said: «As for my friend Vittorio Gassman, I once jokingly said to him: ‘You cannot be satisfied with being the best of the worst, that is, the worst’». Gassman, instead, said to Bene, on another occasion: “I would not one day want you to believe yourself that God you know does not exist.”

Bene also gave voice to several of the interviewees Impossible interviews, the radio program of the seventies in which people like Alberto Arbasino, Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino interviewed historical figures. He was, among others, Marcus Aurelius, Tutankamon, Montezuma, Giacomo Casanova, Marat and Jack the ripper.

Another famous interview by Bene – with much calmer tones than those by Costanzo – was a Culture Mixer, at the end of the 1980s. As usual, Bene spoke a lot: “I don’t mattatorizzi the transmission, ”he was told. “I don’t mean,” he replied in silence.

Bene had a very bad opinion of the critics: «I don’t really have relations with the critics. They are the ones who are paid to have it with me. So it’s a job for them. I am not paid to have relations with them ». He also said that «critics live from 10 pm to midnight, that is, two hours in the evening. You cannot understand for two hours in the evening what instead I continue to experience hour by hour ».

Among other things, Bene also ended up talking about death, faith, identity, work and other issues on MTV, in 1999, at sushi.

Other questions and other answers from Bene, including a “vattelappésca” ending.

Finally: «the speech is not the speaking being, I who am speaking is not me».

– Read also: Sergio Leone told by Sergio Leone

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