Paolo Sorrentino, between It was the hand of God and Dragoncelli di Fuoco, between cinema and life

“Become what you are” said Friedrich Nietzsche, quoting an ode from Pindar. And Paolo Sorrentino really seems to have managed not to disunite. The film It was the hand of God entered the shortlist for the 2022 Oscars. On February 8, we will know if the film will be nominated for best international work. So, after being the last Italian to win the statuette with the Great Beauty, Sorrentino could try the double. Not bad for someone who, likewise in Maradona, did what he could. And perhaps to understand the enormous critical and public success of the latest film directed by Paol, or available on Netflix, (also visible on Sky Q and via the app on Now Smart Stick), we need to observe the phenomenon from a certain distance. For example, through the book “Dragoncelli di Fuoco”, the story of Paolo Sorrentino’s first non-film, written by Stefano Loparco and published by Bietti Fotogramma, a series directed and edited by Ilaria Floreano. Set in the Naples of the 90s, the author signs a poetic and biographical novel. The portrait of the future Oscar winner, told through the memories of Bruno Grillo, Giacomo Matturro, Maurizio Fiume, Stefano Russo, Pappi Corsicato and Gianni Ferreri, friends of Paolo Sorrentino’s youth.

Dragoncelli di Fuoco, the first non-film by Paolo Sorrentino

“Written, directed and performed in 1994 by a Neapolitan student of Economics and Commerce, Fire Tarragon is the first non-film by Paolo Sorrentino.

Movie, because it is a finished work, a 55-minute independent medium-length film conceived with the trappings of major cinema. Do not, because it was never presented to the censorship commission, it was never distributed and – except for the small audience of the time – it was never seen. “

With these words, Stefano Loparco introduces us to the pages of his book. The plot revolves around Peplo Palatone, an internationally renowned chef, determined to win the Platinum Apron, a very prestigious gastronomic competition. The cook invites some of the most influential critics of the moment to his villa, proposing the creation of a surprising dish: the tarragon of fire, an ancient Egyptian dish that, according to the curse, would lead those who prepare them to death by midnight. Sorrentino plays two characters, Filippo Bed known as Filippetto, the food critic and Ciruzzo, the drug dealer. The few who have seen the film confirm that his acting performance is extraordinary. Fire Tarragon it was screened on November 27, 1994 during the “Days of Invisible Cinema” at the Youth Center and at the Federico II University. The film was unsuccessful, but The Cassette shot in the cinematic environment. So much so that Sorrentino was asked to improve the script and he completely rewrote it. In 1997, with the title Neapolitans, Fire Tarragon – Paolo’s version – won the Solinas Prize ex aequo for Best Screenplay. In the same year, Antonio Capuano, after reading it, sent for its author to assist him in writing Powder of Naples.

Paolo Sorrentino, between It was the hand of God and Dragoncelli of fire

Dragoncelli di fuoco was released in unsuspected times, that is, before we knew the first details about It Was the Hand of God. However, we can really consider it a sort of counterpoint to Sorrentino’s film. Embellished with an eclectic playlist that ranges from Talkin Heads to Franco Califano, from Motörhead to Enzo Gragnaniello, it is the adventure of three university students from Vomero who dream of cinema where there is none, the story of a friendship and a challenge won. With modesty in the addendum, Stefano Loparco reconstructs the moment in which Paolo Sorrentino discovers the death of his parents poisoned by carbon monoxide during a weekend spent in Roccaraso, in the country house. To save the future director was Maradona: Paolo had received permission from his father to stay in Naples and then go and follow his favorite team away to Empoli. A mourning that is at the origin of the film It was the hand of God. And the words of Fabietto Schisa come to mind: “Life, now that my family has disintegrated, I don’t like it anymore. I don’t like it anymore. I want another one, imaginary, the same as the one I had before. I don’t like reality anymore. Reality is poor. . That’s why I want to make movies- “

Dragoncelli di fuoco, Paolo Sorrentino between cinema and reality

So with style, delicacy and talent, Stefano Loparco’s book excites, moves and amuses through memory and imagination. A small coming-of-age novel that does not claim to provide answers to explain how the Paolo Sorrentino phenomenon could have happened. Because Dragoncelli di fuoco is a trip to Naples in the Nineties, between Diego Maradona and Martin Scorsese. And as Bruno Grillo writes in the preface: “Stefano Loparco was able to activate my memory, making me return to a distant and beautiful time, indelibly fixing it in these pages.” And as Bernardo Bertolucci teaches: “Knowledge increases mystery.”