Bertoni documentario

Caro Flaminio: work in progress
We are now producing a documentary film about Flaminio Bertoni: life, design, art, audacity...

Written and directed by Federico Tonozzi
(* working title due to be changed)

In brief
Do you know what Flaminio Bertoni did? Yes, you do. Don't you love Citroën Traction Avant, 2CV, DS? But what about that hidden visionary genius of the renowned Italian design and his second life as an artist? Meteor that left signs but no heirs, emigrant who was looking for fortune like many people and like a few of them found it in art, Flaminio now lives into oblivion. This is the first opportunity to tell his story through the original archives and the passionate struggle of his son Leonardo.

The story
I met Flaminio Bertoni several years ago. I mean, not face to face: I was born 14 years after his death. Nevertheless I could claim I was sentimentally attached to him due to the “steel and plastic fever” that my aunt's old 2CV caused to me. I was a great driver in her garage! It was the time when someone could see me crossing the street and putting my head inside the first Deésse I saw. Some years later I discovered him, Bertoni.

Flaminio is a roughly 20-year-old Italian guy who is much concerned about design at the drawing board when he arrives in Par is in the early 30s. He doesn't think anymore about his old job at the little car factory where he worked in Varese, his home town: he thinks about Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He never forgot, all life long, he had been not only a man devoted to car industry but a lso an art ist. In a few months he is in charge of the Citroën design center. Only two years later he is the touchstone among his colleagues: that is when, first time in history, he creates a car not by drawing but sculpting it from a mass. The shape of the Traction Avant gives him a place in car history and in André Citroën's and French people's heart. The war is still thundering across Europe when he is engaged in another great project, the 2CV's new dress for its debut on the market after the conflict. Thanks to his inspiration and impetuosity, Flaminio is probably the most br ill iant designer of his generation. But that's not enough to give him the glory he deserves, maybe due to Citroën's order to remain anonymous. It was his big sacrifice: the artist always gave in to the designer. Nevertheless he doesn't miss a year without showing hi s sculptures, drawings and paintings at French art exhibitions where he is awarded many prizes. Steel plate is what many sculptures a re made of, a s wel l as his ca rs. Also iron, gypsum, stone, wood are moulded by his smooth and strong gesture. Nature is always the master, it doesn't matter if the object is a st atue or a car.

His works look likecrystallized bodies: movement is their absolute property, not a function reached by instruments that he considered as frills (things such as wheels, transmission, engine...).
That is clear when in 1955 the DS model is revealed to the world: the French name “Deésse” stands for Goddess and makes you get what to expect under its shape, as the crowd at the “Salon de l'Auto” in Paris get.
It is Citroën, it is far beyond others.
And it flies out from Flaminio's hands. Only a few months before, an exclusive report from French magazine “L'Automobile” has revealed to the world: he is the Citroën designer!

Flaminio was for sure neither a meek nor a modest person, but he was totally consecrated to his artistic goals. Even after having conceived the most incredible thing someone could see on a street, he continued being obsessed by art and gave up rest, affection, everything else.
In the 60s he travelled to his home town Varese driving his DS and he told no one that it was his creature. He didn't tell his son either, whose name was Leonardo, like Da Vinci, and whom he had left in Italy many years before.

Today Leonardo is an a ged man. He remembers that day, one of the few moments he met Flaminio, since his father had gone to France and married a woman who ordered him not to see his Italian son anymore. A few years later Flaminio was struck down by an ictus, after his last outburst of anger. He was 61. In his last years he drew the Ami6 model, his most controversial project for Citroën, and became an architect, planning to build rotating villas and monobloc houses! The man who lived in Paris had gone so far from the Italian boy who had left Varese in the 30s that no mention of his death reached his son Leonardo on the other side of the Alps.
It was the beginning of Flaminio's journey into the dark, as the great absent from Italian design book. He was unrecognized, sometimes mistaken for the famous firm Bertone. Too French for the Italians and too Italian for the French? Or maybe too isolated from the industrial system, because his art was a solo performance, which left no heirs. No one even tried to copy his cars: they were his and that was enough.

Some years passed by before Leonardo was called to Paris to look after Flaminio's French wife, who was old, sick and alone. Leonardo went to Paris, he knew that woman was the cause of his separation from his father. Nevertheless they became reconciled in her last moments.
When she died, he was the only hier. And that's when he found his father. Having got the keys of Flaminio's atelier, Leonardo went in and found out hundreds of sculptures, thousands of drawings and paintings. He was closer than ever to the heart of that little and mysterious man. Since then Flaminio is Leonardo's reason to live for and struggle against time.
His next goal is to take to Varese an enormous statue sculpted by his father, that is the last one left in his ancient atelier near Paris.
Now all people must know who Flaminio Bertoni, his father, was.

Access & visual approach: director's statement
My effort is to conquer the spirit of Flaminio's years and to rebuild the imagery he lived in. I pointed my attention to three main research areas (history, imagination and feelings) and three strong narrative solutions.

The first area, history, is represented by Flaminio's private documents, which have been fully provided to me by his son Leonardo and are made of statues, drawings, projects, writings.
All those documents are still unpublished and they are kept by Leonardo in his personal archive. I also have contributions from people who knew, loved and studied Flaminio, such as Robert Opron and Henri Dargent. Also we asked Citroën's support to access their historical archives.

The second area, imagination, is linked to Jacques Tati's films: some Tati's shots, not entire sequences, from Playtime, Mon Oncle, Trafic will be mixed with our shots setting up a relation between each other, as we caught “Tati-like” situations in the real world. (We have just contacted Les Films De Mon Oncle in Paris, that is responsible for the rights of those films). Tati is the benchmark of a visionary aesthetics that was embodied in Flaminio. Our man was a “high-level” Italian emigrant but furthermore a traveller in imagination.

The third area, feelings, is entrusted to Uta Wagner, a German actress who lives near Varese: her goal is to take Flaminio's voice from his diaries and letters onto a stage. We're going to follow her work on the documents as she's going to be the artist's voice in our film, which will be fused with the memory of living people who knew him, especially Leonardo, who wrote an ideal letter to his father.

Leonardo is the four th and vi tal element of the story: he is what brings us inside the present, giving me the opportunity to drive my movie to the “cinema du réel”, as I did with my previous works (you can see L'Anno di Rodolfo as the main example). To honour this choice wasn't easy working with historical archives to make a movie about a man who died over forty years ago. We're going to have no interviews and clichés like voice over comment or didactic reconstruction. The shooting and the editing will have their key in long takes or a limited amount of cuts. It would be easier to make a classic didactic work, but Dear Flaminio represents for me the beginning of a pathway made of elements taken from reality and others taken from imagination. All those elements will be summarized in harmony, their goal being to give unity to the movie.

The construction of such an idea does not betray the documentaristic aim of the film, which is founded on Wiseman's lesson, the French documentaire de creation and Tati too, whose cinema is much more realistic than what people generally believe.

The director
Federico Tonozzi graduated in film direction in Florence. He attended stages held by Vittorio de Seta, Frederick Wiseman, Gianfranco Pannone, Daniele Incalcaterra, Roger Odin, Vincenzo Cerami and worked on cinema sets for Giuliano Montaldo, Mario Martone, Ted Nicolaou, Tonino de Bernardi and others. He co-directed Sulle Tracce dell'Immateriale (about De Bernardi's work) and the documentary film L'Anno di Rodolfo. As director, cameraman, d.o.p. he works for tv and media productions, having founded his own studio named TatticaFilm, which is also engaged in developing new documentaries such as La Comunità della Pietra and Caro Flaminio in association with Ticho and Mano d'Opera respectively.

Federico Tonozzi
+39 333 8347936

Original title (non-definitive) "Caro Flaminio"
Running time 58'
Format HD video 16:9
Produced by Mano d'Opera and TatticaFilm, supported by Torino Piemonte Film