Backstage: Mimmo Cattarinich and the magic of the ...

Backstage: Mimmo Cattarinich and the magic of the scene photographer

Mimmo Cattarinich, a set photographer for many great directors, has captured the most vivid moments of Italian and international film sets since the 1960s, capturing visual pictures that still seem to speak to the viewer today. Born in Rome in 1937, he began his career in the De Laurentiis film studios, the beating heart of Italian-style comedy. In his long career he worked both in Italy and abroad, shooting for some periodicals as a photojournalist. In the film industry he also experimented with the role of screenwriter and director, experiences that remained secondary, however, to his impressive work as a set photographer. He passed away in 2017, the legacy of his work was collected by his son Armando, photographer and president of the Mimmo Cattarinich Cultural Association, from whose archives the photographs on display in the exhibition “Backstage: Mimmo Cattarinich e la magia del fotografo di scena” were taken.

“BACKSTAGE: Mimmo Cattarinich e la magia del fotografo di scena”, installation view at Villa Bassi Rathgeb, Abano Terme (PD), photo Marco De Scalzi, courtesy Associazione Culturale Mimmo Cattarinich

In the evocative setting of the Villa Bassi Rathgeb Museum in Abano Terme, near Padova, through an exhibition consisting of about one hundred photographs, it is possible to retrace the activity of Mimmo Cattarinich, a keen observer of the ecosystem created around a film set. The exhibition is spread over two floors of the villa, the basement and the ground floor, whose reception rooms are richly frescoed. The most beautiful shots, perhaps, are not the official ones, with actors and directors posing, but the “stolen” ones, in moments of pause or play, that manage to tell the story of daily life on the set. Thus we see Franco Zeffirelli engaged in cutting actors’ hair during the filming of “Fratello sole, sorella luna” (1972) or a wonderful photograph of Pierpaolo Pasolini, wearing a coat with fur lapels and the ever-present smoked sunglasses, surrounded by extras from the 1972 film “The Canterbury Tales”, dressed in garish red medieval clothes (visible in the catalog).

Mimmo Cattarinich, Director Pedro Almodovar directs Victoria Abril on the set of “Legami!”, 1989, courtesy Associazione Culturale Mimmo Cattarinich

The shots on display have great historical as well as artistic value, because Mimmo Cattarinich is an artist capable of restoring the atmosphere of a film set, even after fifty years. Face to face with the photographed subjects, one seems to be able to converse with them: his gaze has been able to capture the passion and intensity of the immortalized moments, yet without losing his taste for good humor and irony. The exhibition dialogues, in effective synergy, with the collection of paintings on the upper floors. A beautiful self-portrait as a beggar by Giacomo Ceruti (Milano, 13 ottobre 1698 – Milano, 28 agosto 1767), known as “Pitocchetto,” present in the collection, could easily fit in among Mimmo Cattarinich’s shots. The photographic portraits in the exhibition actually have a pictorial flavor from a compositional point of view. They recover the formal traditions of Renaissance portraiture in the posed shots of the directors, immortalized in three-quarter shots. In any case, Cattarinich’s photographs all succeed in bringing to light a sudden and unexpected emotional expression. Perhaps this is precisely the photographer’s secret: to shoot at the exact moment when the subject is careless and helpless before the artist’s inquiring gaze.

Mimmo Cattarinich, Alberto Sordi in the episode “L’Uccellino” directed by Tinto Brass in a collective film entitled “La Mia Signora” starring together with Silvana Mangano, 1964, courtesy Associazione Culturale Mimmo Cattarinich

from the time, which often seems so distant and difficult to imagine. The exhibition is curated by Dominique Lora and sponsored by the City of Abano Terme and the Villa Bassi Rathgeb Museum. A rich catalog of the exhibition, published by Sagep Editori of Genoa, delves into the photographer’s work with additional images from the archives of the Mimmo Cattarinich Cultural Association, with an introduction by his son Armando Cattarinich and with critical texts by Dominque Lora, curator of the exhibition, and Gianfranco Angelucci, screenwriter.

Giovanni Beta


BACKSTAGE Mimmo Cattarinich e la magia del fotografo di scena
9/02 – 16/06/2024
Villa Bassi Rathgeb
Via Appia Monterosso, 52, 35031 Abano Terme PD


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