Pour L'Amour de Roseanna a.k.a For Roseanna (1997)
Director: Paul Weiland
Writer: Saul Turteltaub
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Tagline: A romantic comedy about the things we do for love.
Also Known As:
For Roseanna (1997)
For the Love of Roseanna (1997)
Photos (click on thumbnail for larger version, you will have to use the back button on your browser to return to this page):
Large article on the movie: (from the best page on For Roseanna: http://www.flf.com/roseanna/)
A radiant romantic comedy that combines knockabout farce with heartfelt emotion, For Roseanna pairs rising international star Jean Reno and Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl as Marcello and Roseanna, a husband and wife whom death will, perhaps, only nominally part. Steeped in the timeless beauty and warm sensuality of a small Italian village, For Roseanna is a celebration of life and love in the face of death that is both poignant and delightful.
Marcello, a trattoria proprietor in the tiny village of Travento, is a man with a truly life-or-death mission. He is determined to secure his terminally ill wife's dearest wish: to be buried next to their long-deceased daughter in the local cemetery, which only has three plots left. While Marcello goes to increasingly extreme lengths to keep everyone in the village alive, well, and out of his wife's intended graveyard spot, Roseanna occupies herself with taking care of her husband's life after her death.
For Roseanna is directed by award-winning British director Paul Weiland, from a script by the veteran television writer/producer Saul Turteltaub. Joining Reno and Ruehl are Polly Walker (Emma, Enchanted April) as Cecilia and Mark Frankel (Leon the Pig Farmer) as her earnest suitor, Antonio. Rounding out the cast are some of Italy's leading actors: Giuseppe Cederna (the Academy Award-winning Mediterraneo), Renato Scarpa (Il Postino) and Luigi Diberti (Immortal Beloved). The film was produced by Paul Trijbits, Alison Owen and Dario Poloni. For Roseanna is being distributed in North America by Fine Line Features. Spelling Films International is distributing outside North America.
It was while he was on holiday in Italy that the idea for the romantic comedy For Roseanna first began gestating in the imagination of Saul Turteltaub, the veteran writer-producer who worked on television classics like "The Jackie Gleason Show" and "The Carol Burnett Show." When Dario Poloni read the resulting script about a man frantically striving to keep everyone in his small Italian village alive, he wanted to bring more experienced hands to the project, Poloni linked up with Paul Trijbits (Hardware) and Alison Owen (Hear My Song), who have separately emerged as two of Britain's most energetic producers and who together worked on Danny Cannon's thriller The Young Americans, starring Harvey Keitel.
"What really attracted me to the project, apart from its wonderfully funny script, was the chance to make an English-language comedy set in Italy. What's so original about this film is that it was produced in Europe with a British director and completely financed from America," says Trijbits.
While the Italian locale gives the film its own unique flavor, Alison Owen believes the story of For Roseanna is universal. "It has a very simple core, in that it deals with very basic human issues of life and death, but in rather a farcical way, which gives the film a real heart. For this reason, it avoids an imagery that might be cutesy or patronizing towards Italy in general and its characters in particular."
Having secured backing from Spelling Films and Fine Line Features, the producers began to think about a director who could handle both the breakneck comedy and moving drama of For Roseanna. They chose Paul Weiland, a British director whose keen visual talents made him a top name in the creatively progressive world of European commercials. Weiland had also distinguished himself at the helm of several award-winning television programs, including "Mr. Bean" and the Comic Relief film "Oliver II: Let's Twist Again" starring Jeremy Irons and Diana Rigg.
Weiland responded immediately to the warmth and humor of For Roseanna. "What I liked about the script is that it is a lot more than just a comedy," he explains. "At its heart, it's a love story, but there are some very strong emotions because Roseanna is dying. At the same time, the fact that her husband is rushing around trying to keep everyone alive makes for classic farce. That mixture gives endless possibilities for a director: you can make people laugh and then turn around and deliver a big emotional punch.
"This is the first real movie I've done that I can call my own," he continues. "City Slickers II, which starred Billy Crystal, was pretty much made to order; I was in effect just one of the cast. For Roseanna allowed me to be more original and express myself more directly. The irony for a director like myself is that when you make the transition from the advertising world to feature films, you are seen as a commercial filmmaker. Proving you're not is hard. In a sense, perhaps you have to make a straightforward commercial film before you can do other, more personal projects. For Roseanna was a great opportunity to make a smaller film, in a shorter time span. I've done my best work with smaller films."
For Roseanna is set in the Italian countryside, and it was decided that the English-language dialogue would be spoken with an Italian inflection. But, as producer Trijbit notes in discussing the casting process, "The actor's nationality wasn't important. Paul wanted the best, so even if they weren't Italian, or were Italian who didn't speak English, it didn't matter. The question we asked ourselves was 'Would he or she be believable?'"
"We're not trying to make a piece of cinema verité here," Alison Owen comments. "The film has a fairy tale quality to it. The important issue was getting the best actors."
They decided the ideal actor to play Marcello was Jean Reno, the charismatic Frenchman whose performances in Brian de Palma's Mission Impossible, Lawrence Kasdan's French Kiss and Luc Besson's The Professional have considerably raised his profile in Hollywood. Reno had the right mixture of acting talent, earthy sex appeal and, crucially, an instinctive knack for comedy to bring the hero of the story to life.
"Jean is quite simply a first-class comedy actor," enthuses Weiland. "He's intuitive about humor, he knows exactly how to make something funny with the subtlest of gestures a shrug of the shoulders or a roll of the eyes. He's just one of the most talented and generous actors. He was totally committed to doing a fantastic job, and that meant he created a fabulous atmosphere on the set. The crew all loved him. I've learned to be a better director thanks to Jean."
For Roseanna marks Jean Reno's first English-language comedy, but in his home country he is best known for his performance as the time-traveling medieval knight in the record-breaking comedy Les Visiteurs.
Reno responded to the script because of its "mix of heart and humor. You laugh all the way through the film and at the end you realize that you have been touched emotionally. The most difficult thing was to be completely believable," he explains. "To disappear completely inside Marcello the character. He loves his wife so much that it makes him do some extremely stupid things, but not because he is a fool. He's just a simple, naive man with a very big heart. And that makes him anxious and nervous and impetuous."
"I know Italy very well and speak Italian fluently," he continues, "but I wanted to remind myself how Italians move, speak, behave. So I spent a few weeks staying with a friend in Bergamo, going to the market and watching how the men walk, how they drink coffee, how they react to other people, listening to the way they speak, the cadence of their voices. I'm a great believer in research through observation."
Playing opposite Reno as the dying Roseanna is Mercedes Ruehl, one of America's finest actors and an Academy Award winner for her performance in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. Ruehl describes her character as someone "in the middle of a lot of paradoxes. Her daughter died some years before and she wants to be buried next to her. But she also feels responsible for her husband and her sister Cecilia and thinks that if they got together when she's gone, things could work out for the best, even though on an emotional level, she's fiercely jealous of Marcello. Roseanna's got a weary strength, a stoical resilience, because she's been through a lot of tragedy, but with a healthy sense of humor that cuts through that and makes it all bearable."
Ruehl was already an old-hand at playing Italian women both on screen (in The Fisher King and as the ferociously jealous Mafia wife in Married to the Mob) and on-stage (in the recent Broadway revival of "The Rose Tattoo," for which she studied the films of Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren and Alida Valli). The actress, who describes herself as a "League of Nations" American given her Irish-Cuban-Spanish-Alsatian heritage, spent several weeks with the film's three dialogue coaches perfecting her Italian accent. "They did a great job reeling us all in if we overdid the accent," she says. "For an Italian accent, you've got to keep the tongue at the front of the mouth, between the teeth. Any further back and it turns into Russian. We had to be very vigilant, which made the job all the more challenging. But Paul Weiland was very astute, very encouraging, he knew exactly what he wanted and made everyone feel very secure. I can honestly say that this was one of the most enjoyable experiences, and that's in no small part thanks to Jean Reno, who really brought everyone together."
Rounding out the main cast are Polly Walker as Roseanna's headstrong younger sister Cecilia, and Mark Frankel as Antonio, the lawyer nephew of the landowner Capestro.
Walker first came to the filmgoing public's attention for her performance in Mike Newell's Academy award-nominated period piece Enchanted April. The British actress relished the chance to play a more contemporary character after "being stuffed into corsets" in her two previous movies, Restoration and the Spanish Civil War romance Talk of Angels, opposite French heartthrob Vincent Perez.
"It was very liberating being an Italian woman," laughs Walker. "I have lived in Italy for the past five years, so I know the country and its people very well. Cecilia is a bit of a flirt, she's aware of the effect she has on men, but she's not manipulative or calculated. She's a good person, quite spiky and not easily impressed, and she isn't on the best of terms with Marcello, at least not at first. What was most challenging about the film was to stop myself going too overboard with the Italian accent. Ultimately, one strives to remain true to the story and that prevents one from tipping over into parody."
Mark Frankel, the gifted young actor who best known for his role in the award-winning comedy Leon the Pig Farmer, played the lawyer Antonio, who has loved Cecilia since their schooldays. "Antonio is perhaps the one pure soul in the village, there's no hidden agenda with him." he believed. "He's very smart, but still hasn't really recovered from being the head boy in school, the kid who wore glasses and was always studying. He's perhaps a little more cosmopolitan than the rest of the village, because he's been away studying to be a lawyer, but his heart is in the village. That and his yearning for Cecilia is why he comes back."
Beginning with his career as one of Europe's leading directors of commercials, Paul Weiland has reinvented the rules of comedy filmmaking, bringing a new style to humor on film. His subtlety and creativity shines through in For Roseanna.
Weiland notes: "What I love about the movies is that you can lose yourself and step into someone else's world. I loved the foreignness of this film, because no one really knows how it is, so it allowed us to invent the characters, the situations, the whole flavor of the film. Although it's definitely Italy, I was keen to create a whole world of our own, an Italy that perhaps we'd like to exist.
"When you do comedy, there's an unwritten rule that you have to light it brightly so you can see every joke." he continues. "That's not my style. Photographically, we wanted it to look very beautiful, which is why we chose the locations and why we shot in wide-screen anamorphic."
The director knew that a wide-screen anamorphic camera would provide the texture and depth he sought; finding the right locations would be trickier. Both Weiland and his producers agreed that the film should be both contemporary and timeless, picturesque without being cute, full of the flavor of Italy but not stuffed with clichés a demanding brief which fell on production designer Rod McLean to translate into reality.
"Being in Italy gave us a wealth of beauty to tap into," McLean acknowledges. "We were, however, very keen not to make the film too chocolate-boxy. That was why we decided to avoid Tuscany, which has been so many times on the big screen, and instead go for a town that had a sturdy, slightly rougher beauty."
The crew found what they were looking for in the hilltop town of Sermoneta, a magnificent, unspoilt example of Romanesque architecture which dates back to 449 AD. The town boasted a medieval castle, a beautifully preserved limestone church and a perfectly intact synagogue which marks Sermoneta's historical placement as a haven for the Jewish community. All around these landmarks is a tight network of narrow cobbled streets overlooked by limestone houses. The town is rightly considered one of the hidden jewels of central Italy.
"Sermoneta's not too pretty-pretty." McLean notes. "The Italian cliché is a pastel-colored village where every window brims with geraniums. Paul was quite exact in his brief: he wanted rich colors with real punches of strong primary colors in among the browns and ochres of the town. I took my cue from photographs of America, because there are a lot of elements to the landscape that look as though they come straight from the mid-West isolated hotels with neon signs in bright colors, gas stations with old 1950s-style hoardings. I liked the idea of inserting punctuations of synthetic blues and reds, for example, the bright chairs outside Marcello's trattoria."
Just as Weiland wanted to show audiences a different part of Italy, he also wanted For Roseanna to have a different cinematic look than other comedies. "Paul wanted a story-book look, in keeping with the slightly fairy tale quality of the film," says director of photography Henry Braham. "And he wanted to break with the traditional conventions of comedy which says everything must be bright and highly visible. Italy is all about keeping cool and out of the sun and Sermoneta has very narrow streets, which are dark except for sudden bursts of very bright sunlight. That gave us the excuse for a lot of contrasts. Additionally, the marble cobbles in Sermoneta gave off fantastic kicks of light which really made for a warm glow."
A warm glow is at the heart of For Roseanna, a hilarious comedy that is also a rich celebration of life, love and the enduring romance between husband and wife. The film commenced principal photography on March 4, 1996 in Sermoneta. The seven-week shoot took in locations in Latina, Anzio and several smaller towns in the Lazio region of Italy.