A FOND FAREWELL TO JOE D'AMATO
One of the high points of my still short career as a film journalist was the interview I did with the undisputed king of the italian b-movie, Joe D'Amato. Somewhat ironically, this interview took place during last year's edition of the Rotterdam Film Festival; now, literally on the eve of the 1999 edition, I'm given a slap in the face by the news that Joe d'Amato has died of a heart attack at the age of 62.
Want more irony? Last week I ran across a copy of one of his films, Emanuelle In America, at a Rotterdam street market and bought it. It's in many ways a quintessential Joe D'Amato movie. One of the entries in his hugely popular 'Black Emanuelle' series, it starred his frequent lead Laura Gemser as the title sexpot and featured, among lots of soft-core frolicking, a fake snuff-movie recording that gave the film incredible notoriety all over the world. It was banned in quite a few countries as a result, censored in many others.
It's typical of the work of Joe D'Amato (the most famous - some would say infamous - of his many pseudonyms, his real name was Aristide Massaccesi). Many of his films ran into censorship problems because of their content. Sex, violence, horror, these were the thing made his films great. In the early days of cable tv in Holland, his films, especially the Black Emanuelle series and the Conan-styled Ator flicks, were shown what seems like weekly. I was in my early teens then and developing a real passion for films. I'm quite certain that my exposure to those films back then helped shape my odd tastes of today (and with that the existence of this very magazine).
Joe D'Amato was a true original of cinema. Not in his choice of subject matter - he was an exploitation filmmaker above all -, but in his versatility. He was a still photographer (starting with Jean Renoir in the fifties), combat photographer, cameraman, director of photography, writer, producer (giving people like Michele Soavi their first start in the movies) and of course director. He made over 150 films, working in every genre imaginable: action, sci-fi, horror, up to and including hard core porn. And he was never ashamed of anything he did: "I am very proud to do movies, any kind of movie, I am a filmmaker. For me it is good to make really any kind of movie. I also make porno movies, and I do a porno movie like I do a horror movie", he said during last year's interview.
For me, what's left is the memory of having met the great man, spoken to him and shaken his hand. They are fond memories. Thankfully his films survive. I bought one last week. I think I'll buy the other 150 as well.
Aristide Massaccesi, mille grazie.
The Joe D'Amato interview, held in January 1998