Aug. 22--She is Italian and Swedish, the daughter of two cinematic giants.
He is Canadian, the son of a hairstylist and a grain clerk/hockey team manager.
Together, they click: Isabella Rossellini and Guy Maddin have worked together on three features and several short films.
Rossellini and Maddin will appear at the Wexner Center for the Arts to introduce a screening of one of their collaborations, the short film My Dad Is 100 Years Old (2005). Also being shown is Europe '51 (1952, also known as The Greatest Love), which was directed by her father, Roberto, and stars her mother, Ingrid Bergman.
Before the screening, Rossellini and Maddin will chat about the movies.
"We'll wing it, but you might find us surprising each other or disappointing each other. No, she could never disappoint me," Maddin said with a laugh during a phone interview. "You just want to be her after hanging out with her for a while. Maybe everyone will get that feeling."
The two began working together in 1994, when Rossellini appeared in Maddin's first feature, The Saddest Music in the World. Maddin, who was captivated by her work in Blue Velvet, had sent Rossellini scripts in hopes of attracting her.
Rossellini watched one of Maddin's short films, The Heart of the World, and, "Right there, I thought, 'This is a major talent,'" Rossellini said by phone.
Intrigued, she agreed to meet him in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
"We spent a weekend together watching films and more of his work," she said. "I thought he was very much an artist and a very amusing person."
About 10 years after making The Saddest Music in the World, Rossellini approach Maddin about making My Dad Is 100 Years Old, a tribute to her father. Maddin's productions made her think of her father, whose films were fading from circulation.
"The negatives were lost, copies were scratched and deteriorated," she said. "Guy's aesthetic in cinema is like that. His films look like silent movies that were found again after many years. So I wanted to adopt this aesthetic to tell the story about my father.
"He understood my father," she said, "who had an original style, like Guy."
Maddin was excited -- and frightened.
"The honor, and the challenge: I thought, 'Geez, you only get one chance for a centennial tribute for somebody -- I'm not going to be around for a bicentennial tribute -- so I've got to get this right.' The honor of being fused together in IMDb (Internet Movie Database) with a titan; the idea of being asked by the Isabella Rossellini to do something about her father is so flattering and so terrifying, the idea of not getting it right was pretty scary." The two also share an unusual bond: Their fathers died one week apart in 1977.
"We both still have some unfinished daddy business. We both loved our dads," Maddin said. "The very fact we had ongoing posthumous relationships with our fathers was strange enough that we could understand each other. It sounds morbid, but it's very touching to see it."
The 17-minute short written by Rossellini offers loving observations of her father. She watches as her dad (represented by a large belly) defends his style of cinema against critics Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, David O. Selznick and even Charlie Chaplin. Why a bouncing stomach to represent the rotund director?
"It was difficult to imagine an actor playing my father," she said. Rossellini filled all the roles -- except that of her father. The idea was Maddin's.
"Guy said, and I think he was right, I was going to play all the roles," she said. "It makes it simpler production-wise and cut costs."
Maddin acknowledges that production was a factor but said nobody could be better than Rossellini.
"Where do you find people?" he said. "And they're going to be woefully inadequate impersonators. If they're going to be woefully inadequate, it might as well be Isabella presenting her attractively charming essence. It just seemed to make sense, and it kept it inside her head."
Rossellini wanted Maddin to fill the part. He balked.
"I pressured her to go with this mariachi guitarist I knew who weighed in at 400 pounds," he said.The film ends as a love letter from daughter to father, with Rossellini hugging the stomach and saying: "I don't know if you're a genius or not, Dad, but I love you."
"Every girl looks at her dad and says, 'He's a genius. He's the best,'" Rossellini said. "I can never be the perfect critic of any of my parents' work. I will always see it as a daughter. My judgment will always be tainted by my love for them. It's my truth."
Maddin was touched.
"It's a really moving line to me," he said, "and she means it."
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