Giovanni Anton (Director)
Born: 1934, San Donato Val di Comino, Italy
Difficult, remote, brilliant and daring are words used to describe Giovanni Anton. However characterized, he remains one of the greatest directors of Italian cinema and a master storyteller of his time. A brilliant technician who deftly blended violence, suspense and sex.
Born in San Donato, Italy into an upper middle class family, at age 20, and with the encouragement of his sister Antonia to paint, the goodlooking and dynamic Anton travels to Rome to pursue his craft. Through family connections and friends, he mixes in with members of its cultural elite. His introduction into cinema comes via the ciné-clubs (film societies) which become his regular haunts and where he would meet fellow film auteurs Michelangelo Antonioni and Franco Zeffirelli. It’s rumored that his inspiration for the cult classic Moto Assassin’s was based on actual events. While dining with a young Dario Argento in an outdoor cafe in Rome, three beautiful women on motorbikes pull up to the restaurant. Mesmerized by their appearance, they effortlessly walk up to a well-known local crime boss and placed three, 9mm rounds into his forehead, effectively removing the back of his skull.
The level of violence, contrasted by the calm demeanor of the assassin’s exit is forever ingrained in the psyche of the young Anton. In later interviews, he mentions that the event played out as if in slow motion, noting that one of the killers smiled and winked as she passed him and sped away on her motorbike. He is helplessly seduced. Anton develops a penchant for the fast life and even faster women. As his star grows, there is never a lack of a young model or wide eyed starlet on his arm.
Giovanni serves as assistant director and editor of ‘Industrial Murder’ (1954) and wins critical and popular acclaim for his intense psychological thriller ‘A Woman’s Work’ (1956). A story of a young struggling single mother who stabs her abusive boss to death after he continually torments and tries to seduce her. Shot in shadowy black and white, he is applauded for his ground breaking use of camera angles forcing the viewer into an unsettling form of voyeurism. The film is also the first time he is paired with actress and frequent collaborator Allessandra Leone. Anton and Leone eventually marry after the birth of their second child. The marriage falls apart when rumors surface about Leone and her new leading man. What follows in real life eclipses even his most contemptible movie plots which include intimidation, kidnapping and murder. Anton is cleared of any wrong doing, mainly due to his powerful connections, but the event and his addiction to cocaine takes its toll on his spiraling career. He does not work for the next eight years.
In June of 1978 Anton reappears like a phoenix rising from the ashes to direct his last (unknown at the time) noir film ‘House of Whispers’ and what most acknowledge as his masterpiece. The film becomes legendary among critics and filmmakers, often cited as one of the best examples of the craft. The film was later mired in controversy as connections to mob funding, pay-offs and coercion were uncovered.
In April of 1980, Anton is seen for the last time waving to fans at the premier of Whispers. There are many rumors and speculation about the fate of Anton and the uncertainty if he is still alive. Nonetheless, he left a lasting impression on cinema and lived a storied and enviable existence, one if only found in the movies.