The Film Festival is an intriguing experience. This tiny two-street town which seems to be a French annex to the Luxembourgish town of Esch-Sur-Alzette is suddenly infested with cars heading towards the Hotel de Ville. We (strictly speaking it should be "I", but I love the collective responsibility) parked Maltese style, on the pavement just across the street. We left the car there among others with Luxembourger, French or Italian number plates - worried more about a possible burning inspiration of the marginalised youth of Villerupt than any police fines on the night. In the end the car turned out to be fine and the young of Villerupt happily integrated, without any hot opinions to express.
Inside the Hotel cum theatre reminded me of a large version of a village kazin (club) that had been last decorated in the seventies. The organisers of this 28th edition had attempted to transform it into some mega museum of Italian cinema but only succeeded to reinforce the idea of 70's tobacco-stinking, aluminium-shining and ugly-suit bearing decadence. You almost expected everyone inside to have a packet of Du Maurier's or Royals in their pocket. French smoking laws did nothing to abate the feeling of stuffiness in the area as people were crowded through the atrium as they purchased their €6 tickets for the occasion.
A queue (composed undoubtedly of those among us who had been exposed for too long to Luxembourger radiation) had been formed on the stairs leading up the left side - following the arrow indicating "Cinema". The other stairs (leading to the same level) were mysteriously empty and according to the sign adorning the center of the two staircases led to the "Ristorante". Which is were our survivor of queues in Lecce, Bologna and San Siro stadia led us, with the keen nose of queue avoidance. The cunning Pugliese plan worked and we found ourselves sitting on a table in the front part of a queue leading to the cinema. Our pretext for the occupation of aforesaid table were four cokes (in period bottle) and two objects which to my mind would be called calzone siciliana but which were subject of a heated explanation by Carmine because of the wrongful denomination used by what he calls "these immigrant famrers of the north". (They called the food in question "pasta fritta").
Anyways, we were shuffled into the auditorium in the due course of time. A capacitous hall that lived up to the expectations that had been built in the various antechambers. It was seventies kitsch and ugly. More posters on its sides - from Totò to Maciste. We had observed the Italian emigrants stampede into the place (and I made a mental note to remember that it is not just the Maltese). We could now watch them settle down and await the arrival of the night's heroes.
On the stage, underneath a roll-down screen (Jesuit style - like at St. Aloysius), four chairs were placed. We knew that we would be seeing them before the film. Even better. They marched in to the joy of the crowd. Giovanni - nose first, smile second. Giacomo- as warm and well-dressed as ever. And Aldo - his walk almost apologetic for his contrasting stature but bearing a homely smile.
It turns out that they do not travel much. Giovanni has a fear of flying and most of their work centers around Italy. Not much of a surprise. Their Q&A with the crowd was candid and you did not get the feeling that you sometimes get of a famous asshole who has been forced to speak to the plebs. They confirmed my idea of the trio - three men who many would like to describe as never growing up. I prefer to see it as growing up in the right manner. They see the humour of life. They know how to laugh about it all and most of all they live life as a continuous learning experience. There is no feeling of pressure. No fake artistry and public mask. That is what struck me most about the trio.
And that is why when they walked of stage I forgot all about the film. I pushed to the side of the hall where they would be making their exit with my copy of "Non solo I Corti" in hand and managed to obtain (by hook or by crook) the signatures of Aldo and Giovanni. Unfortunately Giacomo had already sped forward. I felt like a teen fan of some pop star when Giovanni looked me in the eye and said "Grazie". As corny as it may sound there is nothing as great as being acknowledged by a comic hero of your youth. I would have loved to say something witty, something friendly, something that makes you feel one of them and not part of the crowd who you are sure do not understand half of their (theatrical) genius... but I could not. Aldo had already taken my pen and added his illegible scribble to the equally illegible scribble of Giovanni. I got a pat on the back and a ciao.
You might find this emotional description childish. You might find this fetish with the trio ridiculous. I have not had much brushes with famous personalities in the past. Once in Milan I got to chat for three minutes with Dario Fo - I do not remember one thing he said but I do remember he seemed more interested in the young ladies next to us. I spoke for more than that to Beppe Severgnini about the ills of the Mediterranean. I delivered a speech and sat next to Jacques Santer (a few weeks before his ignominous downfall). As silly as it may sound... none of these meetings can be equated to the joy of sharing a split second of time with Aldo and Giovanni.
Excuse me while I wipe away a few tears. This getting old business is getting at me. This is my last day of my twenties. I am twenty nine no more. I just hope that my ageing happens in much the same way as that of the heroes of my youth.
Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Quanto sono invecchiaaaaato!