Giuseppe Capotondi on Setting the Mood for The Burnt Orange Heresy as a Film Noir [Exclusive Interview]

Giuseppe Capotondi
Giuseppe Capotondi directed The Burnt Orange Heresy that stars Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki

Giuseppe Capotondi has a particular special love for the old film noir of the forties and fifties.

Those black and white films show a cinematographic style that exhibits the mood of sophistication, fatalism, and motivation. The Burnt Orange Heresy was a mystery crime drama that Capotondi hopes to take audiences back towards the film noir genre.

Here’s the synopsis:

Charming and ambitious art critic, James Figueras, has fallen from grace. He spends his days in Milan lecturing witless tourists about art history. His only glimmer of hope is a newfound love interest, the enigmatic American, Berenice Hollis. An opportunity strikes when he is contacted by wealthy art dealer Joseph Cassidy who summons James to his villa on Lake Como and asks him to steal a painting from the legendary, reclusive artist, Jerome Debney. Soon, James’ greed and ambition get the better of him, and he finds himself caught in a web of his own making.

The film stars Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Donald Sutherland, and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.

LRM Online exclusively spoke to director Giuseppe Capotondi over the phone about this project. He told us about setting the mood with the location, artwork, and actors.

Giuseppe is a known music video and commercial television director with more than 250 TV ads and music videos credit to date. His first feature film, La doppia ora, premiered at the 66th Venice Film Festival to excellent reviews and helped earn Kseniya Rappoport the Coppa Vopli award for best actress. He directed two documentaries and television episodes for Epix’s Berlin Station, Netflix’s Suburraand, and ITV’s Endeavour.

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The Burnt Orange Heresy is available on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD today.

Read the exclusive interview below and let us know what you think.

Gig Patta: Congratulations on The Burnt Orange Heresy. I remember this was supposed to come out earlier this year. I’m sorry that the pandemic hit.

Giuseppe Capotondi: Well, we’re a casualty.

Gig Patta: At least it’s coming out now. Appreciate that. Tell me why you wanted to make a film like Burnt Orange Heresy as your second film.

Giuseppe Capotondi: First of all, I’m very much drawn to film noirs from the fifties and sixties. Like those classic black and white Hollywood movies with Barbara Stanwyck. This one reminded me of that in a way with the sophistication with dialogues. The script was perfect. The story gave me the chance to work with nice actors.

Also, it talks about truth in a way. It’s a fantastic tale about what’s true and what’s not. Bad critics that can rule our view of the world or can create a new narrative to make it look like it’s the real one. So, lots of reasons.

Gig Patta: Talk about the changes from the book where the book was set in Florida, but you had the setting in Milan. Was that originally in the script, or did you make that call?

Giuseppe Capotondi: That was changed while we were working on it because of budget reasons and production value reasons. Also, the script was sort of very different from the book in the way the dialogues are much more sophisticated and more film noirish. A little location like Lake Como has a certain size and feel of history. It helped to establish the whole feeling of the film.

It’s also impossible to shoot in Palm Beach for obvious reasons. Trump is there frequently, and we cannot shoot in Palm Beach. I think it works with this change. It makes the film darker in a way. The fact that Lake Como is so steep with the area surrounded by mountains–direct sunlight rarely gets there. It creates a very, very moody atmosphere. Much moodier than if it was shot in sunny Florida.

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Gig Patta: How did you discover that beautiful museum mansion used in the film? Um, where is that? Is that also in Milan?

Giuseppe Capotondi: The museum? It was shot in Milan.

Gig Patta: Could you, could you talk more about the house used for the film?

Giuseppe Capotondi: The house was on the lake. It is a villa that’s usually used for weddings with mostly the gardens. We had to redecorate everything because nobody lives there. It’s stunning. It’s right on the lake with a perfect location.

It has a very spooky story behind it as well. During the Second World War, it was taken, at first, by the Germans and then by the resistance. They used to kill each other and push the bodies over the cliff. Who knows what’s under the waters there? I told the actors all these stories to create sort of the mood for the film for directing.

Then we shot James’s apartment in Milan. We made it look like a place he lives and work. You can see him paint, which later is a reflection of his personality. It is incomplete in a way. The first shot of the corridor of his flat it’s created in CGI. I mean, there’s no such thing as such a long corridor in real life.

Gig Patta: Could you talk about the artwork that’s used in the film? There’s a ton of artwork decorated all around the house.

Giuseppe Capotondi: Some of them are originals. They’re from Italian painters from the sixties, which are now in museums. They were lent by some collectors, which posed a severe headache for the producers to insure them since they are precious. Then again, some are look-alikes or copies that the art department made.

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Gig Patta: Could you talk about your cast? Why Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki were perfect for their roles?

Giuseppe Capotondi: I was looking to get that old school film noir. The goal is to get very beautiful, obviously outstanding actors. Both actors are very handsome and beautiful–not to mention very well dressed and calm. For Elizabeth and Claes they’re both super tall and super elegant. They would have been perfect for this.

Thank God we got Donald Sutherland, who was very elegant and tall. Now for Mick Jagger, he’s not that tall, but tallish. [Laughs] But, he’s Mick Jagger, you know? I was looking for actors who could embody these characters. I was lucky because there were all fantastic.

Gig Patta: I do have to bring up Mick Jagger. Mick Jagger’s not a professional actor. He is a famous musician. How did you come to a decision and got him for a film like this?

Giuseppe Capotondi: We knew that he was looking for a role. He said he was looking for the last role in a film. It’s not going to be his last from a familiar friend. We sent the script before I went to see him. After talking a bit, he was easy to convince. Jagger is a very nice and humble person. When you speak to him, you’re not talking to a rock star persona. You’re talking to a very nice man, a very nice human being on the production. He was very, very professional like any other actor. It wasn’t a Rockstar then. He was just an actor who was willing to do more takes. He repeatedly asked whether he should do this and that. So t was a pleasure to work with him.

Gig Patta: Well, let me wrap it up with one more question. That artwork deemed The Burnt Orange Heresy; who created that fake art for production?

Giuseppe Capotondi: The art department. The art director and the production designer they did that. I think it’s quite cool. I wish I could have it myself, but it’s stored in the production company warehouse.

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Gig Patta: Did they also created the artwork of Elizabeth Debicki that was shown on the fridge.

Giuseppe Capotondi: That was the wife of one of the producers, William Horberg. She’s a painter and did a terrific job with it.

Gig Patta: That was wonderful. If you ever talked to them, tell them the art looks great. Thank you very much for speaking with me. I’ve watched the movie three times already. It’s perfect for me.

Giuseppe Capotondi: Oh, check it out again. Or at least just the beginning. We made the CGI corridor for the opening titles. You’ll see by the name of Claes Bang on that side. I have made it so that it looks like a set. It’s to play with the effect of truth and lies. It’s a small Easter egg. There are a few in the film. If you watch it again, you’d see a few Easter eggs.

Gig Patta: Now I’m going to have to watch it for the fourth time. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that tip.

Giuseppe Capotondi: Thank you.

The Burnt Orange Heresy is available on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive, Sony Pictures Classic

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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