NON MI MANCA NIENTE (Italia, 2007, 6'10”)
TINNITUS (Italia, 2008, 5'40")
SENZA TESTA (Italia, 2010, 5'20")
DJUMA (Italia, 2012, 4')
LOST IN EMOTIONS (Italia, 2015, 3’50”)
VENDITORI AMBULANTI (Italia, 2015, 5')
FOR PINA (Italia, 2015, 4'55")
MERCURIO (Italia, 2018, 9’55”)
Meeting with the autor by Pierpaolo Loffreda.
Two characteristics stand out in the films of Michele Bernardi: eclecticism and experience. The latter has matured over several years devoted to work in the art of drawing (of which Michele is a master), of animation, and organization of multimedia complex texts. This is a both free and methodical practice developed alongside masters such as Altan and Osvaldo Cavandoli, but also in the company of his colleagues that have emerged from the creative atmosphere that dominated the artistic, poetic-literary, musical, dramatic, and film scene in Emilia (between Bologna and Modena above all) at the turn of the seventies and early eighties. Many records – the best, in my opinion – of that atmosphere are to be found in Bernardi’s original production of the past 15 years, after decades devoted to sheer work (others’ productions, opening themes, commercials, and music videos, all proving great creative depth), with the artisanal dimension going hand in hand with the taste for adventure, being able to question oneself and not to take anything for granted.
After his first narrative music video Non mi manca niente – a dreamlike, stylized one – made for the band Tre allegri ragazzi morti, he made his first film conceived all by himself, the gorgeous, amazing Tinnitus, originally divided in two parts. The question of the individual’s identity – as it is not only on the edge but actually distorted by changing shapes – is explored departing from an initial moment of daily life, i.e., shaving on front of the mirror, an action that, according to Scorsese’s lesson in The Big Shave (1967), can not be a neutral, harmless action… From here, literal tangents go off leading to broken down subjectivity, screaming and insanity, to an obsessive, pressing rhythm. Different natural worlds – the human, the animal, and the vegetal – blend seamlessly, while crows lurk until they encumber the thoughts, the heart, existence, and thousands of small insects chase each other in the galleries of veins and arteries, in a hallucinated and monochrome visual synthesis.
The deformation/alteration of the perception of reality is followed up in the film’s second part but on another level – where you inhabit fear, and a black nightmare ensues, from which you cannot escape. Here the influence of Lynch’s poetics can be perceived, especially Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, along with the free-wheeling spirit that characterized the season of Cannibale and Frigidaire, as mentioned above. Great expressive freedom and restlessness as well. Senza testa is different but equally amazing: a hallucinated story, featuring humans (well at ease after having lost their brains), inhuman beings (the oppressors and the indifferent), and invertebrates united in the same destiny, i.e., cataloguing and accumulating. The heads fallen from the bodies will be shipped to another destination. With Djuma, Bernardi changed his tune. We are in a post-apocalyptic setting, following the angry raids of a wild boy who lives with a pack of wolves. He is one of them, but with a destructive drive that is all human: the taste for “cupio dissolvi”, incendiary devastation, and revolt (against collective spirit). Hence, the choice of solitude. And the metamorphosis of lycanthropy. In one sense and the other too, the human can turn into the beastly in a world whose colours fade, leaving only those of the night, fire, and blood. Lost in Emotions is as dreamlike and melancholy as a lonely travel by train while you watch thoughts, memories, faraway figures through the window, and desire to soar higher, or to swim in deep water. Your thoughts are on hold. Music and sounds are strongly evocative, while accompanying the story unravelling.
Through harsh, ragged drawn images, Venditori ambulanti gives life to a piece of musician and performer Alfio Antico, an expert of Sicilian folk music, whose spirit he reinvents. Here, we have a red/black, strongly contrasted image to evoke the mythology of shepherds, and thus the presence of the Devil in the countryside (a kind of tradition to be found in other parts of Italy and of the Western world too, thinking of how the devil’s feet have been depicted for centuries). For Pina is an extraordinary homage to Pina Bausch, with changing shapes drawn on the movements, the face, the body, and the presence of the artist in different phases of her life. Mercurio, the latest, is a dense, meaty story in pictures drawn with a richly fascinating style. It is the film, with its complex structure, that made Michele Bernardi known internationally, departing from a humbly sincere family memory.
Film-maker and animator Michele Bernardi was born in Finale Emilia in 1958. He began his apprenticeship at the Studio Secondo Bignardi and at GLM in Modena (Pimpa by Altan and La Linea by Cavandoli).
Djuma was selected at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2012 and was in competition at Animafest (Zagreb), Animateka, Anibar, Fest Anca, Anima Mundi, ReAnima, and several others. Besides several special mentions, Mercurio received the Best Animated Short prize at Animaphix. It was shortlisted at the Silver Ribbons and a semi-finalist at the David di Donatello Awards.
He made commercials for Barilla, Mulino Bianco, Nestlé, Istat, Pomellato, Zanotta and Rai Tre "Viva la Crisi", and Ayrton Senna Foundation.
He animated about fifty music video, including those for Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti, Luca d’Alberto, Le luci della centrale Elettrica, Colapesce, Punkreas, 24 grana, Prozac+, The Zen Circus, Alfio Antico, Teresa De Sio, Extraliscio, and other bands.
In 2020, he made the animations for Alessandro Preziosi’s documentary La legge del terremoto.
He has been teaching digital animation at the Palermo Academy of Fine Arts since 2019.
Other awards: Bit Movie (Riccione), Jazz bit di Turku (1994, Finlandia), Foreign Animation Silver Award (13th Shanghai Television Film Festival, 2006).
Non mi manca niente, 2007
Senza testa, 2010
Lost in Emotions, 2015
Venditori ambulanti, 2015
For Pina, 2015
VIDEOCLIP ANIMATI ANIMATED MUSIC VIDEOS
GIANNA NANNINI -L'ARIA STA FINENDO (2020)
EXTRALISCIO- SBAGLIATO (2020)
EXTRALISCIO- GIRAGIROGIRAG (2020)
BILLIBRASS- CALL (2018)
ALFIO ANTICO -VENDITORI AMBULANTI (2015)
COLAPESCE -REALE (2105)
COLAPESCE - RESTIAMO IN CASA (2012)
GIANNI MAROCCOLO- ALONE (2018)
GIANNI MAROCCOLO- THE ABYSS (2019)
GIANNI MAROCCOLO- STORIA DI LOLETTA (2019)
GIANNI MAROCCOLO- SOGNANDO (2020)
GIANNI MAROCCOLO- TSERVI DEI SERVI(2020)
LUCA D'ALBERTO-FOR PINA (JULY 27, 1940-2015) (2015)
LUCA D'ALBERTO, RAY CHEN- OMAGGIO A BACH (2016)
TESTAINTASCA -IL GIORNO IN CUI NON SONO NATO MAI (2015)
THE ZEN CIRCUS -IL NULLA (2015)
THE ZEN CIRCUS- PUNK LULLABY (2008)
PACIFICO - IN COSA CREDI (2013)
VOV - AMARSI A GOMORRA (2012)
LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA - QUANDO TORNERAI DALL'ESTERO (2010)
LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA - I DESTINI GENERALI (2014)
LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA - LE RAGAZZE STANNO BENE (2014)
LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA - LA LOTTA ARMATA AL BAR (2008)
LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA - PER COMBATTERE L'ACNE (2008)
PROZAC+ - SONO UN'IMMONDIZIA (2008)
GIORGIO CANALI - FALSO BOLERO (2007)
24 GRANA - STAI MAI CCA' (2006)
SENOR TONTO – FORTUNELLO (2006)
MELT - L'INTENSITA' STANDARD (2005)
OTTO HOM – DOMANI (2005)
PUNKREAS - VOGLIO ARMARMI (2003)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI -QUASI ADATTI (2003)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - OGNI ADOLESCENZA (2002)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - OCCHI BASSI (1999)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - BENGALA (2018)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - NON MI MANCA NIENTE (2007)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - FRANCESCA HA GLI ANNI CHE HA (2007)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - FRANCESCA HA GLI ANNI CHE HA (2005)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - ALLE ANIME PERSE (2012)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI - COME MI GUARDI TU (2012)
TRE ALLEGRI RAGAZZI MORTI -SIGNORINA PRIMAVOLTA (2004)
TARM & ABBEY TOWN JAZZ ORCHESTRA – VOLO SULLA MIA CITTA' (2015)
THE UMAAN – UNA SOLA VESTE (2017)
TERESA DE SIO- SAREBBE BELLISSIMO (2019)
TERESA DE SIO- PURO DESIDERIO (2019)
CHRISTIAN FROSIO- APRI LA FINESTRA (2018)
B R FRULLI-TOMMASO CERASUOLO- DOVE DORME LA LUNA DI GIORNO (2018)
By Pierpaolo Loffreda
You come from a long experience and have now reached a great maturity of expression. Can you tell us your story?
I come from a family with a working class soul and a longstanding rural tradition; nevertheless, they have always looked at art, even if unaware.
I don’t have a background of arts studies, no art schools; in the early eighties, I dropped out of the Bologna University, where I was doing Foreign Literatures and Languages, and enrolled in a course of animation, possibly the first one in Italy, in Secondo Bignardi’s atelier in Modena. Like others, it had risen from the ashes of Campani’s Paul Film, which was renowned for the Carosello commercials. You still could breathe the air of the TV advertising show, figures like Governi and Max Garnier, De Maria, Zavrel, Bonvi, Pratt, and the staff of Supergulp would still hang around. My classmates would be the dear departed comics author and best friend Giampaolo Chies and, for a few months, Silvia Pompei, who went on to work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and permanently for the Simpson series.
After the Bignardi period, in 1981/82 I had the greatest stroke of luck in joining the Modena studio GLM, which made the first series of the Pimpa cartoon produced by RAI and Quipos. I worked there for two years as an animator, even though I didn’t have any actual experience in that realm. Over those months, I also decided that my passion was to become my profession. Unfortunately, Pimpa was also the last cartoon produced by RAI for a long period.
These were the last years of film stock, moviola, 35mm, gel, and acrylic colours that would smell like mould. Over the next few years, from the early nineties up to the turn of the century, a slow, rocky, and difficult transition from film to digital took place. In my opinion, it was a really dark period for Italian animation. In those early nineties, my ‘artistic’ evolution also began. This is why I still consider myself a self-taught cartoonist and not even an artist.
Which authors, in the visual arts, film, comics, drama, and so on have influenced you most? Or those that gave you the more suggestions?
I can say that, as a child, I would hate Mickey Mouse, but would still read it because it was available at home. I would prefer Peanuts. I never loved superheroes, but I was amazed by the plates of Milton Caniff, Jack Kirby, John Buscema – they left me agape. And then Magnus, Pratt, Moebius, etc.... with Pazienza, I can still cry. About cinema, I cannot stand fantasy. Instead Fellini, Jarmusch, Lynch, Herzog, Kurosawa… even too much beauty! My son protests that I only like black and white film… About animation, I must have seen too much American animation from the sixties and seventies, I may have sublimated it.
Talking of Miyazaki is too easy now, as is about experimental animation cinema of the sixties: McLaren etc. I like all animation cinema, especially when it tells a story; when it’s too evanescent, or merely artistic or poetic, it bores me. But I can say that I have always looked with admiration at Italian artists such as Bozzetto, Manuli, DeMas, or Cavandoli, but also at my almost peers, like Manfredo Manfredi – who I believe is the master of us all – and then Toccafondo and Catani, whom you know very well…
Can you describe your collaboration with Altan? And with Cavandoli?
Obviously, I met Altan and Cavandoli when I worked at GLM in Modena, during the making of Pimpa. It was a brand-new project, Pimpa had to be invented from scratch, so Cavandoli was the best one to direct the series. Altan would drop by Modena for the supervision every two months, whereas Cavandoli would come at the studio much more often and present the new episodes. I was already in love with the revolutionary Pimpa after reading it in Linus. I adored the animated series La Linea for its commercials. The two authors were altogether different in character, and I feared them both.
But then they would put you at ease. Altan would always appreciate the ‘interpretations’ of the movements of his characters. Cavandoli would make you laugh out loud in a minute. When the series Pimpa was over, I had one more stroke of luck when I had the chance – working from home, though – to make five or six episodes of Cavandoli’s La Linea, of all things.
You also worked a lot in advertising. Can you discuss it?
Advertising is a thorny theme… I hardly remember something of which I can really be proud. I made several commercials, from Barilla to Mulino Bianco to Nestlé, from institutional ads to the opening theme of the Sanremo festival – a horrible one – but also many others, I may get confused. They gave me very little, along with a lot of stress and money…
I don’t feel like I’m suited to advertising, and the other way around too. The only episode I like to remember, and it’s not real advertising, is something I did years ago for the Ayrton Senna foundation, that is about providing education to Brazilian destitute children. Besides the rightful initiative, I was also given maximum creative freedom. You couldn’t ask for more.
How about music videos? How did you work along with the authors/performers?
I began working with animated music videos very long ago. Mine was an almost casual encounter, in 1998. At lunch with Igort, in Bologna, we were joined by Davide Toffolo, already a famous comics author and leader of Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti. Later on, Davide asked me to make his first animated music video, Occhi bassi, which we did working side by side in 1999. From then on, for Tre Allegri and other bands of their record label, La Tempesta, I have made a thirty-odd music videos. I learned a lot from Davide, who taught me the freedom in watching and telling stories. Something difficult to do with him, who is an extraordinary cartoonist and an eclectic artist, but I managed over time.
I emancipated myself, I managed to create music videos that were far from his imaginary and more personal, but still keeping in mind how to watch things, reverse them, and then again, detach yourself, and go back. I never worked with a musician or artist who said, “this is the script, will you do a video for me?”
With Vasco Brondi - Le Luci della centrale elettrica, Colapesce, Teresa DeSio, Nannini, Extraliscio, or Pacifico, I have always asked the maximum freedom, and they always agreed. What is important, in the making of a music video, is to accompany the emotion of a piece of music without captions, and at the same time to ‘tell’ something else, on the same wavelength. This is my own recipe.
From 1999 onwards, I have made over 50 music videos. Some of them still work very well, some less. For me they are like a training ground to experiment with things; this is why I don’t feel the urge of making shorts for film festivals, music videos already meet this kind of need. You have something to tell? Well then you can do it. This happened with For Pina or Venditori ambulanti, or the four animated music videos that I made based on the illustrations of the great Marco Cazzato for Maroccolo, or for Call by Berio of Billibrass, or yet Umaan’s Una sola veste – but with all of them in general.
Music videos put you to the test in physical terms too. I never had the opportunity of having more than a month and a half for making them. The 3-4 minutes of a song ask of you the maximum focus both creatively and productively. You get into an existential blender.
Your films feature great versatility and language complexity. Can you discuss your modes of expression?
There isn’t a single imaginary guiding my works. I know one thing for sure: what interests me most, however banal, is to tell a story… whether based on reality, intimate, or invented, as long as they’re true. I’m not interested in poetry: when it is there, then it surfaces. I don’t have this ambition. The same can be said of the supports I use: they are just supports, tools, I am not fixated on the paper or the digital; I prefer dynamics and motion to ‘nice’ style.
What is the meaning of teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts for you?
I have been teaching at the Palermo Academy of Fine Arts for some time now, as a guest instructor. I wasn’t so sure about this decision, in the beginning; it was not my first teaching experience but I was afraid it would steal time from me and my works. Now I am super happy, it’s me who learns every day; the dialogue with pupils the age of my children keeps me alert, every time it is like a reset, an update.
In the end, what I do is tell about my experience, disseminate courage and creativity. There are no rules or principles in animation, but intuition, observation, and creativity, precisely. I am really very glad when a ‘student’ of mine becomes a pro, it means that I did a good job – and there are a few of them.
At last, in Italy animation schools such as those of Turin, Urbino, the Fine Arts Academies, and many others are becoming important training grounds and workshops for the new generations of animators, thus getting closer to the more renowned ones in Europe.
What perspectives do you think there are (or there should be, in which ways) for auteur animation film in Italy today? And for a budding film-maker? What is your advice?
In Italy everything is still very complicated, it’s difficult to describe what I do to an interlocutor. This seems to be a job for the few. Animation is not yet a concern for State TV, not to mention auteur animation. Something’s going on thanks to film or animation festivals, that are helping a lot for the sake of the few.
I’d say to young film-makers that which I say to my students: animation is hard work, very hard work, and passion. You need to be passionate and very creative. Never follow the mainstream. And at the end I also tell them, “if I did it, you can too”.
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE WITH RESERVATION
BOOK YOUR TICKET