BEATRICE CENCI 1971
First SECA Award in Film SF MOMA
BEATRICE CENCI was shot on location in Rome during the summer of 1970 under highly unusual circumstances. Chase had visited in the spring to make arrangements for the filming, but he needed a great deal of help. Almost ten years before when he spent time at the MacDowell Colony, a friend, novelist Mary Lee Settle, had given him a list of names for his tour of the Southern states. One of the names was Eugene Walter who had entertained him in Georgia in 1958. Fast foward to Rome of 1970 --now Eugene Walter was the reigningAmerican expatriate, having his finger in all pots--friend to the Italian directors, the set designers, writers and actors. He had found Chase an assistant director (Pier Luigi Farri), a production manager and a hotel. That summer Roma was still basking in its reputation as the center of the European film world. The twelve day shoot fell into place by a series of accidents.
Central to the difficulties of filming was a small budget which meant the lack of locations and actors. Almost all the locations Chase had wanted to film belonged to the Vatican, and permits took months. Almost 20 actors were needed for a series of murders happening in the street. Eugene Walter had the perfect answer..." beg your actors to volunteer, and simply steal your sets..." So the day's schedule went as follows. Every evening Chase and his assistants would wander the streets after dinner. The streets were teeming with actors, or at least ones that looked like they fit a film set in the Renaissance. Most of the cast when approached, thought acting was a great idea and agreed to film (for a day only). The next morning they would converge at Rome's most exotic costume house. Here all the costumes for an array of the finest Italian period films could be found. The "actors" were now beautifully dressed. Next, crew and actors would drive to a authentic location. the scene would be talked through in the car. Stealthily the camera would be set on a tripod, and actors in place. Out would come the custodian forbidding the shoot. Out would come some money to placate the custodian for "only 15 minutes". Shooting would begin. Custodian would appear after 15 minutes. Out comes more money., etc. Scene finished.
The actors turned out to be a very good reflection of the later European Union. They were Polish, German, Swedish, English, French, Spanish & Italian. Of the 20 actors found in the street for this film, 13 of them appeared in Fellini's Roma the next year! These were the unusual circumstances surrounding this production.