Close on half a century of career, 155 films, a piece of the history of the Italian cinema crossed by his unmistakable, haughty and imperturbable presence which has embodied the stereotype of the Southern Italian male – quick to anger and fiery. This was Tiberio Murgia, a Sardinian born in the town of Oristano, who left us in August 2010 aged 81, actor of both the cinema and the theatre, a whole life spent as a successful character actor from the time director Mario Monicelli gathered him up from the street and in 1957 cast him in the role of Ferribotte in the film “I soliti ignoti” (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”) transforming him into a Sicilian. From that time on Murgia passed through the various genres and sub-genres of the cinema, always wearing the mask of the jealous Sicilian lady-killer, occupying a permanent niche in Italian comedy films. Just a few titles: “The Great War”, “L’audace colpo dei soliti ignoti”, (“Fiasco in Milan”) “The Girl with the pistol”, “Costa Azzurra”, “After the Fox”. He worked with the great names of the cinema: Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Manfredi, Totò, Monica Vitti, Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio De Sica, Peter Sellers, Adriano Celentano, Peppino De Filippo, Lando Buzzanca, Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, Nanni Loy and a host of others. The artistic history of Tiberio Murgia links to and blends with his history as a person, a native Sardinian who comes to the fore after a childhood and young manhood of hunger and scarcity: the fourth of nine children, his father a farmer, school until eight years of age and then set to work to help out the family; then the great leap to Rome, a betrayer who betrayed, a labourer with pick and shovel and the only hope of a life as a dishwasher, until his destiny brought him into contact with Mario Monicelli.
This documentary tells the tale both of the man and the actor, focusing not only on his adventurous and reckless private life but also on his intense and fortune-blessed cinema and theatre career, starting from his Sardinian homeland, travelling through his successes right up to our times. The connecting thread pin is a long interview (most of it shown here for the first time, which took place two months before his death, plus archive materials), mingled with conversations with members of his family (his children Manuela, Giampiero, Graziella and Anna; his sister Zaira and his brother Salvatore; his niece Manuela), boyhood friends (Carletto Atzori, Nino Manis and Giovanni Pinna), directors (Mario Monicelli, Corrado Farina; Mariano Laurenti; Filippo Martinez; Paolo Todisco) actors (Lando Buzzanca; Nino Castelnuovo; Vittorio Congia; Enzo Garinei, Riccardo Garrone; Benito Urgu; Marco Leandris) and actresses (Claudia Cardinale, Maria Grazia Buccella; Valeria Fabrizi; Marcella Rufini; Antonella Lualdi; Giorgia Moll; Gina Rovere, Vittorina Ledda) work companions (dubbing director Mario Maldesi); film reviewers (Goffredo Fofi, Emiliano Morreale, Steve Della Casa, Marco Giusti) and interspersed with cuts from films he starred in and TV interviews. A choir of voices piecing together the elusive personality of Murgia and the well-deserved place he occupies in the history of the Italian cinema.
A face that seemed to pierce the screen – jet black hair, bushy eyebrows, a roguish moustache, a chin jutting upwards as if to claim haughty nobility despite his humble Sardinian background. Perhaps Tiberio Murgia would not have deserved a documentary film only for his long career as a character actor. The personage that Mario Monicelli hand tailored for him – the jealous Sicilian, fiery, a womaniser – would become a straitjacket: Murgia repeated his Ferribotte character hundreds of times amidst parodies, imitations, remakes until he voided his caricature of all effectiveness. What exactly was there behind the mask? An adventurous life, almost a screenplay for a B movie. The story of a male Cinderella kissed by good fortune in the sweet life of Italy in the boom years who – unprepared as he was to handle his newfound wealth – ended up by frittering away all his money. His life was like that of a tightrope walker, tethered between whopping lies and the art of getting by, a figure from backward Southern Italy scorched by the bright lights of success. And above all the comical short circuit of someone who unwittingly confused life with the cinema and the cinema with life. Indeed – this is the heart of the documentary.
Ultimately, there was no difference between him and the character of the stereotyped Sicilian he played in all his films, because that was just the way he was - long before the cinema “corrupted” him. Jealous, rash and a cheat, a second class lady-killer, but also gallant, respectful and shy. An impostor who somehow managed to get out of the messy situations he got himself in. His destiny seemed to be marked out from birth: one night, by anagramming his name and surname we found all the key episodes of his life: emigration, Rome, career as an actor, women, bigamy, the years of the sweet life, the lies, the problems. Of course it was just a game, but perhaps more significant than it seemed. The ideal chapters of Tiberio’s story were already clearly defined. What remained to be seen was what he would think of our idea. He was only too pleased to join the project, not least because he hoped to make some money from it, but his illness had begun to take its toll. Money to start shooting never materialised, we decided to produce it ourselves before it was too late. The original screenplay (based on the idea of a trip with Tiberio through the places of his childhood and adult life and the sets of his films) was no longer viable, the documentary would have to follow another path (including extracts from old interviews and the memories of family members, friends and work colleagues). He was living in an old peoples’ home, where he still bravely flaunted his old past in the cinema as if to distinguish himself from the rest of the residents and their fading minds. The management of the care home let us use a whole floor which had not yet been opened: we spent five days there with him. And Tiberio, during those long days, confessed the full truth, taking off the mask of the bragger and shedding the Pinocchio syndrome. Our secret pact – sealed with a pack of cigarettes slipped to him in secret – was this: this time, we’re going to tell the truth. “No problem, just as long as no one offends me”, he said. As a proper sinner he well knew that repentance and pardon are the only resources to save one’s soul. And one’s reputation.
: XDCAM 1920x1080 24P
: 103 min.