March 04, 2021
An unlikely musical hero whose songs criticised Italian politics and society (one inspired by a Guardian story), appears in a lovingly constructed doc
Per Lucio (For Lucio) review - portrait of an Italian musical icon
Pietro Marcello is the director who recently gave us the much-praised drama Martin Eden, transposing the Jack London novel to Italy. Now he has made this documentary, a labour-of-love tribute to one of Bologna’s most favoured sons: the musician and singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla. It’s probably addressed to Dalla’s existing fanbase, rather than newcomers (which I admit includes me) but this is an engaging study, opening a window into the heart of postwar Italy, and incidentally gives a cameo role to this newspaper.Dalla emerges from the film somewhere between America’s Bob Dylan and Belgium’s Jacques Brel, but otherwise completely in a genre of his own. He was a former cherubic child star who acted, sang and played instruments and grew up to be a somewhat disconcertingly unprepossessing and even ugly man: he cheerfully owned up to the nickname of ragno, or spider, due to his famously hirsute image. (Pictures of him in a swimming costume show someone almost covered in fur.) In his later years of fame and wealth, he actually owned a yacht called Catarro (or Phlegm), due to his habit of coughing and spluttering. But actually, he had a rather humorous and sensitive face, a little like Phil Collins.Dalla had a successful recording career in jazz and pop, but he only became an Italian legend when he teamed up with the Bologna poet Roberto Roversi, who contributed lyrics – a kind of high-minded Bernie Taupin to Dalla’s Elton John – and the pair created complex and daring concept albums, with all kinds of bold commentary on Italian politics and society. A TV clip shows a round-table discussion, featuring politicians and journalists deferring to Dalla.
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