The Man behind the Image

Meeting with Lorenzo Mattotti
by Massimo Bran
  • wednesday, 30 august 2023

For the sixth consecutive year, Lorenzo Mattotti designed the Venice Film Festival’s image – both all graphics, with his beautiful illustrations, and animations, the opening title of all screenings is his art. We met him to understand where he’s coming from, and where he’s taking us.

How did this collaboration begin?
It started in 2019, as I was finishing my film The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily. I was looking forward to present my film at Cannes, which only left me enough time to produce the Venice Film Festival’s poster, and not the video title card. The first poster was more classical in style. At the time, I thought that would be the only one I would make, and I had no idea there was so much more to come!
Every year, my job is an adventure under the sign of invention. The year of my debut, I wanted to make a video that showed some continuity with that of the previous year, which resulted in this firework of image and music. I found it was no easy task. Everything had to be mediated with the Festival’s board, which is to ne expected, given the scope of the event. I usually produce several sketches and submit them to Barbera and his team, and I take into account any special occasion. Last year, the Venice Film Festival celebrated its ninetieth year, and I had to find a way to integrate this message in powerful, original art. I wanted something that reminded the symbols of the early editions and looked modern at the same time. We thought of the lioness – the lion of Saint Mark with an extra dose of personality and femininity, a modern persona. I think we did a great job in producing the title card of the 2020 edition, one of the few large international events to be held during the pandemic. The image of the acrobats represented the precarious, complicated situation the world was living at the time. It worked!

Venezia 80, Manifesto

This current eightieth edition benefits from an on-the-road image. The reference to an epoch far gone, when the future was there for everyone to seize, years of economic boom, of youth participation. In one word: the Sixties. What does it mean to look so bravely at the future while taking inspiration in yesteryear?
This image means so much to me. Obviously, the Festival wants to project a positive image in style, colour, atmosphere. It is a moment of joy. Within the festival, we find the diverse complexity of film. Motion pictures are the visual testimony of the times. And yet, the Festival is first of all a festival, that was the core idea that we always wanted to integrate in the art.
A car speeding into the future is not through prairie, but through a rich, diverse, abstract land, a territory of fantasy, of powerful, complex imagery. The machine of cinema travels through it, knows it, discovers it with the eyes of hope, ideally looking in all territories it can explore and renovating its language at the same time. The style I used is light, the drawings are non-classical and experimental. I am exploring new territories myself. “Cinema can have this future” is my message, and as far as I know, it reached its destination.

Cinema, according to Lorenzo Mattotti: filmmakers, movies, and revelations.
I have been going to the Venice Film Festival since I was an architecture student in Venice, back in the years of protest. 1972 was my first year. Between 1975 and 1976, I remember going at the extra screenings in Campo Santa Margherita. I love these memories, I remember the whole city participating.
My relationship with cinema is quite complicated, ever since I was but a boy. The best way to tell about it is to check out my upcoming exhibition in my hometown of Brescia, at the Santa Giulia Museum. The exhibition is a collection of all my work for cinema: posters, videos, shorts, sketches, storyboards, and has been curated by Melania Gazzotti.

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, Lorenzo Mattotti, 2019

Animation today. How did it change over the years, and what will future surprise us with?
I am not an animation specialist; I don’t watch much animation at all. I might be prejudiced, but the latest animation movies don’t interest me, unless their style is really rich and original. Honestly, I usually find animation boring. American animation is the richest in style, but it employs unoriginal constructs and narratives. One movie I can’t wait to see is Miyazaki’s latest – who could? – I am looking forward to memorable magic and vision. The life and blood of this sector comes, in my opinion, from short movies, and in particular, from productions by younger generations, students, up-and-coming filmmakers. Animation is a form of expression that is perfect to experiment new ideas that cannot easily access the larger market. An expressive universe that might be difficult to follow, but is where creativity resides nowadays, I believe. The issue, here, is to be able to make feature-length films that keep true to the same visual force, the equivalent originality, the same attractiveness, which are essential elements to win the larger audience and keep investors happy.
Today, I believe we can make feature-length animation films, both using stop-motion and other techniques, of very interesting content and on themes that it wasn’t easy to address only a short time ago. With modern technology, everything is easier to make. You need less money to produce films that once required incredible effort, though it needs to be said that small budgets do have an impact on quality and hence, attractiveness. The challenge is to create strong expressive force and be original at once, contradictory though it may sound. If you are original, you can be original even with little money, but you cannot access the larger audience. If you want to win over the larger audience, you must follow tried-and-true strategies, to the point of stereotype.
I think The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily has been a little miracle. We didn’t have the largest budget, but the film did establish itself as a great story, beyond the sometimes off-putting label of auteur cinema that occasionally saddle my works. The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily was well-received by families, adults, and children. I am very proud of it.

Upcoming project, real-life and animated.
Projects give me a hard time, always… but I do have one coming up: I will soon be in France with a theatre show based on Hänsel & Gretel. Both featured are my drawings and myself drawing on stage. I will be accompanied by an actress telling the story and by two pianists playing songs by Engelbert Humperdinck and romantic music by Hänsel & Gretel, the opera. It will be a very visual show, with my hand on screen alternating with illustrations. We will present it at the Paris Philharmonic, and I’d love to bring it to Italy, too. We’ll see.

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