Director Luca Guadagnino Says Documentary Is ‘Highest And Noblest Form Of Cinema’

Luca Guadagnino is perhaps best known on these shores as a director of lush scripted films like call me by your name, sighs and this year bones and all. But since the beginning of his career, he has also made documentaries (Bertolucci on Bertolucci; peasant cook, about one of Italy’s most inventive chefs; among others), which he calls the “highest and noblest artistic form of cinema”.

His latest is Salvatore: the cobbler of dreamson the rise of master shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo, which opened November 4. farmers who started training in the field when they were 9 years old. Salvatore follows Ferragamo from those humble origins to Santa Barbara, California, where he made shoes (particularly boots for Westerns) for a fledgling film industry, and later to Hollywood itself, where customers included Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. His work has also appeared in films like The ten Commandments and The Thief of Baghdad. Eventually Ferragamo returned to Italy, where he patented a modern wedge shoe and invented a steel upper that would support the arch of a shoe, prioritizing comfort while continuing to create looks for glamorous icons like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn.

Guadagnino’s portrait of Ferragamo’s journey to the pinnacle of his profession is based on extensive interviews with family members and footage of Ferragamo’s manufacturing process, as well as archival footage and photographs of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Michael Stuhlbarg (who worked with Guadagnino on call me by your name and bones and all) recounts, reading passages from Ferragamo’s 1955 memoir cobbler of dreams. Guadagnino wants viewers, he says, “to understand what real genius is, to confront them with genius.”

THR spoke to Guadagnino about his access to the Ferragamo family, the mystery that still surrounds the iconic shoe designer, and topics he would like to address in future documentary work.

How did you start getting interested in making a film about Salvatore Ferragamo?

I’ve always been interested in documentaries and I’ve always loved telling stories about people. I remember I was working for the Ferragamo brand, I was doing an advertisement, and I came across the book cobbler of dreams, the autobiography he wrote with the help of a couple of Hollywood screenwriters at the time. As I read the book, I realized that there was something about this man’s personality that appealed to me a lot: the outsider, the maverick, the eccentric who is dedicated to a mission in life and pursues her with all his instincts and all his strength. has in itself. And the idea of ​​craftsmanship and the idea of ​​inventing things, and the idea of ​​the last century, was pretty powerful for me as well.

Given that you’ve worked with the brand before, how was the process to bring Ferragamo’s family on board to participate in the documentary? Did you have to develop trust over time?

It was quite smooth. I met a few years ago Diego di San Giuliano [Ferragamo’s grandson], so we had known each other for a long time. So I think it was a very good way to enter the family and it allowed me to express myself with the family.

Did they have any conditions for the film, given that it was about a member of their family, or were they happy to accept what interested you?

I was interested in the genius of Ferragamo, I wasn’t interested in anything else, so because of that they were really ready right away.

How much archival material did you have access to in the production of this film?

All. We have just had the opportunity to browse everything that is kept in the great archives of the Ferragamo Museum. Absolutely everything.

Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo, the subject of Cobbler of dreams.

COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

What was that process like, to have access to so much information for the film?

Well, not only did we have access to the actual Ferragamo archives, but we also dug very deep into many other archives, including the Maison Dior archives, or the historical archives of Italian national television, where we could get footage from the ’10s and 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s. And all the archives we could go to in Hollywood to see the world of Hollywood in film. I think in a documentary, when you bring together so many ingredients, it’s about its richness but at the same time the rigor of shaping that material into something cohesive and strong.

Why did you decide to partner with fashion journalist Dana Thomas, who wrote the film, and what did she bring to the end result?

I met Dana a few years ago, and her fashion books are just fantastic. She has such a reputation in the field. I think the way she looks at things is what fascinates me [by] because she, like me, likes systems, and she likes to decipher the level of systems and what the system means. She’s really curious, curious, curious, curious. I think she brought the rigor of her beautiful state of mind, the journalistic precision that she has in everything she does, and also a lot of fun. Because I love Dana, I love Dana very much.

You’ve made a mix of documentaries and scripted films throughout your career. Do you bring particular elements of your work on scripted films into the documentaries you make, or vice versa?

I think the effort in filming, especially in scripted filming, is always to make sure that you can find a way that doesn’t feel like drama but more like behavior. I think this documentary is about that too, like you can see things happening without having the idea of ​​the drama behind what is happening. Salvatore is more of a talking documentary genre, so it’s a bit different. Of course, I haven’t tackled my behaviorist documentary yet, which I would love – something like Leviathan, which I think is a masterpiece, something like that. But one day.

Yes, I was going to ask you, for the documentaries to come, which subjects interest you?

Oh yeah, I saw that movie that really captured my heart so strongly called honey country Few years ago. It was just beautiful and it was so humbling, [a] beautiful movie. One day, I’ll probably stop making fiction and really devote myself to it. I think it’s the highest and noblest art form in cinema, the documentary.

Did you learn anything in the process of making this movie about Ferragamo that really surprised you or challenged your view of him?

Well, I think Ferragamo is very reserved. And he was very determined, he was a genius, he was someone who was focused on making things happen the way he wanted. And he really knew how to show a part of himself through his work, a sense of form and color and boldness. But he was very reserved: We don’t know much about his love life until he met Wanda Ferragamo. It’s something that interests me, it’s kind of a mystery, what was this desire like? Where was his desire and how was his loneliness in LA, in Hollywood, at the time? How did he… I know it was a different time, but at the same time, desire is desire, so that’s something that remains a big question mark for me.

Why did you choose Michael Stuhlbarg to narrate this film? Why was he the right voice for this?

Well, because Michael is one of the greatest living American actors and is one of my good friends and someone I happily work with whenever I can. Why not?

Finally, what do you expect What do viewers take away from this film?

I hope people can understand that you can’t put yourself in one dimension of your life, that there are things you can achieve with your sense of willpower and your sense of effort, but I want also that the public understands what a true genius is, to confront them with the genius. He’s a genius.

Besides releasing two new films, what are you currently working on?

I start to mix Challengersmy new film with Zendaya, Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, which will last until January.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in a standalone November issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Director Luca Guadagnino Says Documentary Is ‘Highest And Noblest Form Of Cinema’ – Deadline