Italian writer-director Carlo Lizzani has died at the age of 91, after jumping to his death from the third-floor balcony of his apartment. Variety reports that Lizzani left behind a note indicating his death was a suicide.
After an early career as a film critic, Lizzani entered the arena as co-writer and actor on Aldo Vergano’s 1946 film Outcry, an early example of postwar Italian neo-realism. Two years later, he worked on the script of the Germany Year Zero, the last in the “war trilogy” of one of the fathers of neo-realism, Roberto Rossellini. In 1950, he earned an Oscar nomination as one of the screenwriters on Giuseppe De Santis’ Bitter Rice.
In 1951, Lizzani made his own first feature as a director, the World War II drama Achtung! Banditi! Although Lizzani was never as famous in America as Rossellini, he became a fixture of the international festival circuit, and four times served as the director of the Venice International Film Festival. (In a statement to the Associated Press, Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale—of which the Venice festival is a part—said, “The Biennale is crying on the day of Carlo Lizzani’s death. He knew how to give the festival new energy.”) His best-known films as a director include Chronicle Of Poor Lovers (1954) and Bandits In Milan (1968), also known as The Violent Four, in which he applied the documentary-style techniques of neo-realism to the gangster thriller. He also made one American movie, Crazy Joe (1974), starring Peter Boyle as Joey Gallo.
In his later career, Lizzani often combined his earlier interests as a film critic with his skills as a filmmaker in such pictures as Celluloide (1996), a fictionalized account of the making of Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, as well as in documentaries on Rossellini, De Santis, and Luchino Visconti.