Monika Zanchi – The "99 Donne" book interview

Monika Zanchi - The "99 Donne" Interview :Riccardo Freda déclara un jour à un journaliste judicieusement présent à la rétrospective consacrée au maître à La Cinémathèque Française en l’année 1987 : « Le cinéma, c’est le mouvement ». Que n’a-t-il travaillé avec Monika Zanchi ! Cette tornade blonde née de père italien et de mère suisse passe les quinze premières années de sa vie entre Berne et Bergamo, avant de se découvrir une étrange passion pour l’auto-stop. De retour au bercail trois ans plus tard, la vielle Europe visitée « du Maroc au Danemark », elle croise la route de « Ce mec qui m’arrête dans la rue et me propose de devenir modèle ». A Milan, elle rencontre Versace, bosse pour Kenzo mais ne peut s’empêcher de trouver l’univers de la mode trop clinquant et superficiel pour être honnête… Au gré des rencontres et des amitiés, Monika se laisse tenter par le cinéma et devient en un rien de temps une figure discrète – Elle tourne peu – mais chérie des amateurs de la chose Bis italienne. En 1977, elle collabore à deux reprises avec le binôme Gemser/Tinti : Tout d’abord dans le pétillant Emanuelle et les collégiennes de Giuseppe Vari – qui restera à jamais gravé dans le cœur des Gemserophiles comme l’un des plus grands moments de rock n’ roll de la filmographie de la javanaise tant Zanchi dévaste tout sur son passage – puis dans le sympathiquement con Viol sous les tropiques alias Emanuelle & the last cannibals du non moins sympathique Joe D’Amato. Les extraits de l’entretien (fleuve) ci-dessous reproduit sont issus de l’ouvrage de référence élaboré par Manlio Gomarasca et Davide Pulici : « 99 Donne – Stelle e Stelline del cinema italiano« , malheureusement introuvable en France mais disponible via le site du magazine Nocturno.
First of all, let’s dispel the doubts about your nationality, Monika: are you Swiss or Italian ?
Half Swiss and half Italian, really: my father was bom in Bergamo, while my mother is from Berne. I lived in Berne until I was eight years old.
Zanchi is your real surname, isn’t it ?
Yes, it is.
Haven’t you got anything to do with the surname Ciprari ? Did you ever use it as a pseudonym ?
Ciprari ! No, not at all…why did you ask?
Because we saw you in an Italian film which was released only abroad, Rino Di Silvestro’s The Erotic Dreams of Cleopatra, yet your name wasn’t on the credits. We only found a Monica Ciprari and we thought it had to be you…
Yes, I remember that film. I had a quarrel with this Di Silvestro because he wanted me to do scenes which weren’t in the original script -he wanted to take advantage of the situation…
As usual…
Yes, but it wasn’t really worth the trouble, looking at the final result…
(…)
Monika Zanchi - The "99 Donne" Interview :
Look, Monika, why don’t we talk a little about your life, first ? I mean, we know a lot about your movies well, but not that much of you, really…
As I told you I was born in Beme -my mom was Swiss and my dad Italian. I lived there for eight years, then I moved to Bergamo where I stayed till fifteen. I finished school and started travelling: three years hitch-hiking all over Europe, from Morocco to Denmark, all alone. Then I came back and…one day someone stopped me in the middle of the street asking if I wanted to be a model: so I started working in Milan, at the ‘Fashion’ where I met Versace; then I worked with Kenzo, Fiorucci and so on; we did a lot of fashion shows, touring Italy on a coach, and those were my first experiences on stage. But I didn’t like it: I had a savage temper…I was interested in meeting other people, knowing different cultures, while fashion was such a superficial thing that it had no appeal for me. I liked it as a hobby (I liked doing photos) but wasn’t so pleased with such a world…
So you thought ‘Why not to try with movies ?
It wasn’t me who thought about it, but the others (laughs).I was on holiday in Sicily with a friend when I met Renzo’s (Arbore, Ed.) acolytes – I didn’t know about Renzo at that time-; all those crazy Apulians persuaded me to follow them to Rome. I stayed at the Roccaborena residence, Renato Zero was In it too…it wasn’t finished yet, so all the rooms were empty and we could stay there…
What year was that ?
About I976. There at the residence I met an agent who offered me a role. Therese Ann Savoy had just done Salon Kitty and this guy wanted me to do something like that, another Nazi movie. I declined because I felt I was not ready for this kind of stuff, but the same person offered me to do a photosession for Playmen : that was the first important thing I did in Rome. But I was disappointed when I found out they did something to my photos which I hadn’t been told before….it was a bitter surprise…
What do you mean, Monika ?

They did montages, working on my photos: I mean, it was my body after all, but they added drawings, making the nude look much more vulgar. This fact inhibited me since: I learnt that I always had to keep my eyes wide open…Once Tinto Brass offered me a part in a film he was shooting in Paris: he really wanted me for that part…I can’t remember the title at the moment, it was the one after Salon Kitty

Monika Zanchi - The "99 Donne" Interview :

Could it be Caligula

Maybe…I had to shoot it in Paris, and I remember there was a scene where I had to stay in a toilet, pretending to be relieving myself, things like that… My reply ? Anything you want, but I’m not going to do this scene… ’

So it wasn’t Caligula but Action
Sure, Action !
Let’s talk again about that Nazi movie you rejected…
I did a screen-test -don’t ask me the title, ‘cause I don’t remember, but there was a certain Garrone. I refused because they treated us girls as dead meat : ‘Let me see your ass…’ things like that. A bit of style is essential in everything, and I wouldn’t let anyone trample on me, even if I was just eighteen or twenty. I mean, I never had problems doing nude scenes or erotic films, but there had to be at least a minimum of content. When I was eighteen I couldn’t really judge it, especially regarding movies, and those days it was different, as we were somewhat immature…nowadays, a fifteen-sixteen years old girl can express herself, daring to be open-minded. On the other hand, my generation was very introverted and this was much more difficult.
OK, so you refused the Nazi movie, told Brass to go to hell, and then…?
Then I did my first movie, which was…- please help me ! -…was it Spell ?
Mmm, there should be Hitch Hike first -it’s dated 1975…
Yes, you’re right ! Pasquale Festa Campanile saw me in a restaurant with my agent and liked me : He came to my table and told my agent that he had a part for me in his new movie -we shot it in L’Aquila…
So you finally got into the movie biz, as ‘the naked girl by the bonfire’…
Just afier we finished shooting I almost swooned: it was so cold, and I had this nude scene -I felt frozen. I worked for a whole week, and Festa Campanile was always very kind with me..

(…)

8c288-489053418_zanchi_13_123_564loLet’s talk about Spell : how did you manage to get into Alberto Cavallone’s sweet abattoir (a reference to the film’s original title, Ed.)?

Through my agent, I think…
Wasn’t it Martial Boschero, who played in the film as well, who recommended you to Cavallone?
Martial was in touch with my agent: I had been in France for two years and Martial was French, so we got along quite well. I remember Alberto Cavallone very well: he was an intellectual, had a great culture and his own peculiar ideology; he was a fascinating person, and I felt somehow similar to him. I mean, I always had a similar temper, always had certain ideas and never abandoned them…of course, people change, but there must be something firm and steady inside you. These are the people who really fascinate me, the ones with a strong personality. I liked Spell, it was surreal, with no dialogue but with beautifull images…
That was the heart of the film, as well as the unusual things happening on screen. By the way, was it really so hard to persuade you to shoot the infamous ‘billiard table’ scene?
I just did not want to do that scene, it was too embarassing for me. It’s difficult when one’s not used to strip in front of the camera. Moreover, I had to keep my legs wide open, and that guy had to hole the ball…I never even thought about such things ! (laughs)
(…)
Rambling on : Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, the title says all…
Oh my God ! (laughs) truly hallucinatory ! I really felt ashamed. They used a double for the scene on the couch.
The lesbian scene with Maria Baxa…
We didn’t want to do it, absolutely. This is the trick: you shoot a scene, then they make a totally different editing, so that the head is yours, but the rest -the part you refused to do, kisses and so on- is a body double. And, worst of all, the audience doesn’t know it’s not you. I went to see the film with my sister -I knew the scene I had shot- and had to flee the theater…
(…)
You had alread done sex scenes, anyway…
Yes, in Sister Emanuelle, but they were not so daring and detailed. I also had a quarrel with Mariani…
The producer of Sister Emanuelle …
Yes, because he absolutely wanted to shoot that scene on the train, the one where i’m kneeled, kissing a man. Nothing happened at all in that scene, anyway, so it wasn’t hard for me to do it…but the audience perhaps…Anyway, who cares, I thought. So l accepted.
In Sister Emanuelle … you had a lesbian scene with your college roommate, a brown-haired girl whom you ‘corrupt’, so to speak, Vinja Locatelli…
Vinja was from Bergamo, we had been schoolmates…
e0e05-448901279_zanchi_11_123_475lo
It was her first and last film experience…
You’re right. Mariani did not like her, but he accepted because we were friends, to make me feel at easewhile shooting that scene. But something incredible happened, anyway: Vinja, -and I thought of her as my best friends!- possibly driven by jealousy or rivalry, hid cheap jewelry (which we were using in the film) under my mattress ! The director was searching for it among all the girls and she wanted to frame me – I don’t know why…to have my part, perhaps. But then (I don’t recall how) the director realized that it was Vinja who stole the jewels and slapped her.
When you had to shoot a lesbian scene, did you agree with the director on what to do or was it just you and the other actress who decided?
We talked about it with the director: he told us what he wanted and we decided the limits: we will do this, we won’t do that and so on…
And what about your tête à tête with Laura Gemser?
We just burst out laughing: we had to kiss, but in fact there was no physical contact at all -anyway, just pretending it made us laugh. I got along well with Laura, as well as with Maria Baxa, the Yugoslavian actress of Incontri... : she was very pretty and we had the same ideas about those scenes…
Did you ever feel uncomfortable with any of your female partners?
No, almost never…
(…)
By the way, in Sister Emanuelle you had a number of sex scenes with Laura Gemser’s husband, Gabriele Tinti… wasn’t Laura jealous ?
I reassured Laura and she understood I wasn’t that kind of scheming woman. I’ve been always respectful with my partners, while other actresses liked these kind of teasing games. I did not care about it, as I had other interests, I’d already had many experiences for my age, travelling across Europe.
Let’s talk about L’occhio dietro la parete: in your curriculum Enzo Gallo is credited as director…
It was Enzo who cast me for the film; he was the producer, while the film was directed by Giulio Petroni. I remember that I had a scene where someone had to slap me (just pretending, of course), while he punched me for real – I got hurt ! Ok, so it was a violent scene, I was running away from someone and so on, but that was too much ! (laughs)
Femando Rey, John Phillip Law and José Quaglio were in the film …
Yes, it was Jose who punched me by accident…they were all very good, but I was particularly impressed by Olga Bisera -she was a really great actress! I had only a very small part in it…
Exactly: in your career you’ve always been wavering between starring roles and cameos: you knew no half-measures…
That’s true (laughs) but do you know why? When I was looking for a director or a film, nothing happened, while when they were looking for me, I was somewhere else, so…
(…)
Monika Zanchi - The "99 Donne" Interview :
Do you have good memories of anyone in particular, among directors for instance ?
Together with Dino Risi and Pasquale Festa Campanile, Aristide Massaccesi, no doubt. He was very sweet and I recall him with much sympathy: I would have liked to work with him again. He’s very funny and extroverted, a real adventurer… I find this very fascinating. Among all the directors I worked with, he’s probably the one I remember with more pleasure. And Cavallone, of course -but Alberto was an introverted person, while Aristide was much more playful, just like a big baby.
What about Emanuelle and the last cannibals?
I remember when Laura saves me from the cannibals, pretending to be a water Goddess. Then we had to go into the water, almost crawling, as it was so low (laughs). And all those fake severed heads …
Do you remember your partners among the cannibals, Nieves Navarro.. .?
Only vaguely…
And Anna Maria Clementi…
Oh, yes, black-haired, with perfect breasts: she was so nice and sweet…anyway, I got really angry during the shooting because the costume designers hated me, you just can’t imagine how much! They would do anything not to give me a proper wardrobe: I chose a costume and they gave me another one. I told Massaccesi about it: ‘Look, I have to feel what I’m wearing…’. I remember that red-haired one, she was cross with me…
Was she called Ewelyn Melcherich ?
Yes, I think so, a tiny little woman…
The movie was shot in Italy, anyway: you did not move to Mato Grosso to shoot among real cannibals…
Of course (laughs). We were filming in Mazzano Romano, in four weeks I think… In that period – it was I976 or 1977 – I had a story with Angelo Infanti, who often came to see us as he and Gabriele were good friends.
That was the only film you did with Massaccesi, anyway…
That’s because I began a career as a pop singer: I travelled a lot and my life was satisfactory then, so I kinda rested on my oars. My lover was a musician, a famous composer, who didn’t want me to do such films, so I dedicated myself to music: I even got #1 in the Mexican Hit Parade (even if you can ’t make much money in Mexico).
When did you start singing?
It was 1979/ ’80. I published a single, Plastic Doll, and also did a video which was shown at Cannes… That was the beginning of local TVs in Italy, and my video got heavy rotation. I also did a number of TV shows, thanks to Salvi (Salvetti???) who organized the Festivalbar.
(…)
… Then what did you do?
I was tired of that artificial life, of things like playing golf, yachts, jet set…I just got bored, I simply couldn’t go on: I started asking myself what I really wanted to do -and I started anew, anonymously. I wanted to understand what could I do apart from cinema, where I just had to wait for someone to offer me a role. So I gave up acting and said to myself: ‘Let’s see what I can do now, without any man to rely on. Then I made some concerts in Denmark, together with some jazz musicians (…) In Switzerland we recorded a cd -all songs were in Italian, just voice and guitar, without arrangements: they were just demos, yet very well done. I went to Sony Records in Milan and they were interested -I also met Muti, the artistic executive at Polygram, and he liked it too. The problem was that we had to arrange the songs, but we had no money…My idea was to go back to Rome, but I hadn’t enough money for the trip. So I came back to Switzerland and opened a shop with a friend of mine: we started buying dresses from Italy, and we had just a million liras to start…I had to rise from the ranks, really. Then we started buying antiques all over Europe and selling them in Switzerland. I know it seems nothing much, but I had a little shop while now I own a very big shop… (laughs).
Why did you settle in Zurich?
It wasn’t my own choice, but because of a love story…
Back to your career in the movies: we forgot Chabrol’s Quiet Days in Clichy, made in 1989/90…
I was one of the girls in the hall, dancing with the leading actors. Just a cameo, as always (laughs). Chabrol is very professional and mature as a director, and an excellent person; he knows his job.The film was a flop, anyway: it had a good visual style but it was terribly slow…
What can you tell us about the tv series Helena, which you did with Helmut Berger ?
It was made for Fininvest, and was later shown on Canale 5. The leading lady was Paola Onofri, who then made an important film with Vanzina, if I’m not wrong. I did just one installment, the only one with ‘name’ actors, as Helmut Berger, for instance. I was cast because I was half- German, I don ’t know…
Helmut Berger… ?
He was trying not to drink -he was a chronic alcoholist. I remember that he had a scene where he had to drink some beer, and he did not want to…he couldn’t, otherwise he would get stone drunk. He was great, anyway -I already knew him through Gil Cagne, the beautician. Gil did the make up for my first video…
Your latest film was Gegen Drogen
It’s a TV movie, hopefully it’s going to be shown soon. It’s based on a topical subject, about Spitzplatz park in Zurich, which is a gathering point for junkies.
How did you get the part?
I read an article about a French director looking for an actress…there are no agencies in Switzerland, so I showed up and got the part, because my French is very good.
Why are you credited as Mona Zanchi ?
Everybody here (in Switzerland, Ed.) calls me Mona, because my pseudonym as a singer was Mona Matisse…I guess I couldn’t use this name in Italy (laughs), it would be a drama. (Ed: Mona is a dialectal word which in Northern Italy means ‘pussy’).
(…)
Have you got any regret, sweet Monika?
Only that they were always looking for me while I was away: ‘Where’s Monika Zanchi? Where the hell is she‘?’, then I came back and ‘Ohhh, darling, you might have been cast in that film…! ’. I paid for this ‘fault’, so to speak: once I showed up late on the set, and they said that I was a junkie and so on…and I never took drugs in my life!… However, it’s you who make your own life, good or bad it may be. I always tried to be myself, to do what I thought was right – and perhaps other people did not understand this. If I knew real professionals, I think I might have had my chances. I liked what I did, I liked to sing on stage, and I think I had the maturity to be a singer as well as an actress. I’ve always been unbiased towards myself: I do what I am capable to do, and I don’t do what I’m not capable to…

 

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