The screening of the documentary on longtime Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani tonight at the Venice Film Festival is expected to reflect her stature in the fashion industry, with a list of potential guests ranging from Azzedine Alaïa and Miuccia Prada to Renzo Rosso, Diego Della Valle, Riccardo Tisci and Donatella Versace. The glamour quota will be further raised by the house of Valentino holding a dinner in her honor, in the presence of Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti, the brand’s newly appointed sole creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli and chief executive officer Stefano Sassi.
The likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Bruce Weber, Marina Abramović, Jeff Koons and Baz Luhrmann appear in the film, expressing their views on Sozzani’s work and persona, but, to Sozzani’s relief, the comments are more controversial than, as she puts its, hagiographic.
“I didn’t want a ‘santino’ [holy picture] of me, or anyone saying I am a genius. There are people I’ve had clashes with,” Sozzani told WWD. Case in point: Condé Nast chairman and chief executive officer Jonathan Newhouse’s comments that he “thought she’d taken Vogue too far. I said, ‘If you keep going in this direction, I might have to fire you.'”
But the film “Franca. Chaos and Creation,” is not mainly about Sozzani’s public life and accomplishments, although thousands of photos provide a background to the tale. The documentary was directed by her son Francesco Carrozzini and was filmed over the course of four years, highlighting the bond between the two. It does not shy away from very personal material, such as Carrozzini’s discovery on camera that his father was already married at the time of his relationship with Sozzani. The death of his father four years ago triggered Carrozzini’s desire to connect even more deeply with his mother.
“It’s a real and natural need to try and capture one parent when the other is gone,” explained Carrozzini.
Given Sozzani’s reserved nature, he admitted it “was not easy” to convince her to go public with the film. “She wasn’t sure and she often wanted to stop, but I believe that, as a mother, she must have seen this as a real need for me, not a rhetorical or aesthetic one, and slowly she let herself go.”
“It was not born as a public project, the idea was to tape a memory between us– it was all very easy, he and I, with images at home in New York,” contended Sozzani. “When he said he wanted to do a documentary, at first I said: ‘No way. I am a private person.’ But then slowly, talking about it, I realized people see me as bossy, cold, not nice. Just by reading Instagram comments…My work reflects who I am, my social battles for raped women, black [equality], my work with the United Nations. I don’t need them to change their opinion of me, but here you see life, children, the loves and home behind it all. Behind the glamour there is real life, and one must not give it up, it’s a message for young people.”
To be sure, Carrozzini came to realize Sozzani “has balls, excuse my French,” he quipped, and the challenges she faced as a busy single mother, which meant that, in the end, “she did not have it all.”
The film changed him, he admitted. “I understood that the relationship with your parents, and the conversation with them, will continue for ever. They are the center of life, everything we do and say, comes from there. Any mistakes my dad made, I forgave him, and I don’t hold a grudge.”
The film changed Sozzani’s perception of her son, and of herself, too. “I thought I was stubborn, but I can agree to compromises. He doesn’t. He did the film his own way, despite the difficulties, and I have more respect for him. You think you know your own son, but now I see him as an assured man, he listens but does not give a hoot about what other people believe, and that’s different from me. And I found out I am more patient than I thought,” she said with a chuckle. “We are even closer now.”
While there is much eight-millimeter footage from Sozzani’s father, Carrozzini’s is the only family voice in the film. “It’s one thing to do a documentary on a person that is no longer active, but she is, and people may have had reservations about exposing themselves. I think I made a choice that worked, as I did not talk to close, daily collaborators. I was dealing with the more personal side with my own questions, while the work element was left to the outside — directors and artists,” noted Carrozzini. For example, Sozzani’s sister Carla, who owns the 10 Corso Como boutique, was not called upon, “to avoid showing 2,000 different sides of the same person.”
The soundtrack was composed by Daniel Heith, whom Carrozzini met through his ex-girlfriend Lana Del Rey. There is also an original song performed by Raffaella Meloni, produced by Marius de Vries, who also produced “La La Land,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, which was also unveiled at the Venice Film Festival earlier this week.
While at press time Sozzani had not seen the final version of the film yet, the first takes she viewed left a mark. “I realized I was crazy. I wonder how I did certain things and how they let me do them,” referring to both her cutting-edge editorials and her personal choices. “Seeing everything all together is surprising for me, too, and I think of my life, the trips to London as a young girl, part of a bourgeois family, how I broke the rules, with a three-month marriage, living six months in India and hitchhiking in the U.S.”