Les Films du Losange Takes Sales on Mafia Drama ‘Sicilian Letters’ as First-Look Images of Elio Germano and Toni Servillo Are Revealed (EXCLUSIVE)

France’s Les Films du Losange is taking international sales outside Italy on “Sicilian Letters” (“Iddu”), the hotly anticipated drama about Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro – who was dubbed “the last godfather” – directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza (“Sicilian Ghost Story”)

Published Time: 27.06.2024 - 16:31:24 Modified Time: 27.06.2024 - 16:31:24

France’s Les Films du Losange is taking international sales outside Italy on “Sicilian Letters” (“Iddu”), the hotly anticipated drama about Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro – who was dubbed “the last godfather” – directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza (“Sicilian Ghost Story”).

“Sicilian Letters” pairs two top Italian actors — Elio Germano, who plays Messina (see first-look image above) and Toni Servillo (first-look image below) as his antagonist Catello, a shady secret services operative — working in tandem for the first time. The title refers to a surreptitious correspondence between them using “pizzini,” the small slips of paper that theSicilian Mafiauses for high-level communications.

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The film – which is expected to launch on the fall festival circuit – looks at a time during Denaro’s three decades as a fugitive from Italian justice, when he was at the peak of his nefarious powers. After being on the run for three decades, Messina Denaro was arrested in mid-January 2023 outside an upscale medical facility in Palermo, where he had been undergoing cancer treatment for a year under a false identity. The top mafioso, convicted of masterminding some of Italy’s most heinous slayings – including the killings of prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – subsequently died in September 2023 in a maximum-security prison.

In their first interview about “Sicilian Letters,” the directors said they had been researching the figure of Messina Denaro way before the mobsters’ arrest. They described Messina Denaro as an under-the-radar figure, “the significance of which was underestimated for a long time” and noted that compared to other Cosa Nostra bosses, he had very different traits. While studying the boss from judicial documents, they came across the fact that in 2004, an attempt was made by Italian secret services to capture him by recruiting a former local politician who had been incarcerated due to Mafia ties to begin a surreptitious correspondence with him. After a couple of years, Messina Denaro sensed that he was being played and vanished. The directors described their correspondence as a “dance between the world that tries to frame Matteo and the world within which he hides.”

As for Messina Denaro’s distinctiveness, the directors said that as a fugitive he kept up with current events, had a passion for movies and TV series, and was also quite well read. In his hideout, police found “hundreds of DVDs, including several Antonioni and Coppola movies and the e -

ntire first season of ‘Sex and the City,'” as well as plenty of novels, some of which quite highbrow. The directors also noted that, though he was forced to be a recluse, Messina Denaro liked to socialize and was “always surrounded by Sicily’s bourgeoisie,” which really made him stand out “compared to other bosses.” So in depicting this character “we started from there,” they noted.

“Sicilian Letters” marks Grassadonia and Piazza’s third feature after “Salvo,” about a Mafia hitman who falls in love with his target’s blind sister, and “Sicilian Ghost Story,” another non-conventional Mafia pic that mixed fairytale tropes with the harsh reality of a mob kidnapping. “Sicilian Ghost Story” opened the Cannes Critics’ Week in 2017 and was released by Strand Releasing in the U.S. after winning Italy’s David di Donatello award for top adapted script in 2018.

In terms of tone, the film “is definitely not a biopic,” the directors said, adding that they referenced the work of Italy’s late great political dramas specialist Elio Petri (“Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion”) and similarly infused “Sicilian Letters”with a strong element of ridicule because “the world that revolves around this character is a ridiculous world.”

Besides Germano and Servillo, the “Sicilian Letters” cast also comprises Daniela Marra (“Exterior, Night”), Barbora Bobulova (“A Brighter Tomorrow”) and Tommaso Ragno (“Nostalgia”). The cinematographer is Luca Bigazzi (“The Great Beauty”), the ace lenser whom they previously worked with on “Sicilian Ghost Story.”

The film’s original music is composed by Sicilian singer-songwriter Colapesce, whose score is “inspired by Italian soundtracks of the 1960s, in particular films by Petri and Pietro Germi (“Divorce, Italian Style”) and helped the directors find the film’s definitive narrative form, they said.

“Sicilian Letters” is an Italian-French coproduction between Indigo Film (“The Great Beauty”), RAI Cinema and Les Films du Losange, which will release it in France. RAI Cinema’s 01 Distribution will release the film in Italy.

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