Written and translated by – GIULIA CUCARI
As many cinema lovers probably know, Francis Ford Coppola will be in Milan at the Teatro dal Verme as a guest for an event called “Ritrovare le radici per incontrare il futuro” (roughly translated as “Recover the roots in order to meet the future”). Here he will talk about his strong bond to Italy, most of all to his beloved Basilicata (a region in the Southern part of the country). The tickets got obviously sold out in no time, but for those brave enough to wait in the cold evening weather there is still a waiting list where they can put their name on and at least hope to see Mr. Coppola. As far as the event is concerned, we felt obliged to write about F. F. Coppola and one of the films for which he personally chose Italy as a marvelous background: The Black Stallion, directed in 1979 by Carroll Ballard and based on the 1941 children’s novel by Walter Farley about the thoroughbred Man O’ War.
Talking about Coppola, there are few things we could say: we all know that he is the creator of many masterpieces and that he has repeatedly proven his skills as a director, screenwriter and producer- which made him one of the legends of Hollywood along with people such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. He revolutionized the vampire movies, made us ask ourselves how the smell of Napalm in the morning would be (you did it at least once, be honest) and eventually let us heal a sigh of relief when a Mafia boss managed to survive a gunfight while he was buying some oranges.
In other words, Francis Ford Coppola made us feel unique but opposing emotions, the same we can find watching “The Black Stallion” as it deals with the touching friendship between 10-years-old Alec Ramsay and a marvelous Arabian stallion after a catastrophic shipwreck. Let us start with a proper dose of hearts and flowers, shall we? We all remember “The NeverEnding Story”, right? And we all remember how much of a river we cried when Artax, the horse of Atreyu, died in the Swamp of Sadness – anyone who denies it is either lying or has never lived a true childhood. Well, “The Black Stallion” could be the spark of light for those who never got over that scene; and if you add the majestic landscape of Costa Paradiso (Sardinia) to it, you will be almost all right. Now, the following 30 minutes represent the core of the story: the coast during the sunset, the crystal-clear water and the dry soil of the island’s mountain perfectly mix with Alec’s progressive success in approaching Black (that’s the name he chose for him, how original), as he will subsequently teach him how to swim and they’ll eventually get so close that they’ll start riding across the island every day. Furthermore, Alec sets Black free twice –the first time during the shipwreck and the second one cutting the ropes of his lashing while on the island- while the horse literally saves him from being attacked by a cobra. A masterful use of the photography and the events that follow prove us again how intense and touching their friendship is: when Alec is found by a group of fishermen ready to rescue him, he yells and shouts when told that he cannot bring Black with him; and you know what? Black manages to reach their boat swimming. One morning, while both in the US, Alec spots Black running away – but manages to find him in a barn, property of a man called Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney, anyone?), a retired horseracing jockey. Here the 10-years-old child shows us how unique its bond with the horse is, as we find out that he is the only one able to tame and ride him, despite the outstanding speed he can reach while running.
Even though the plot looks extremely basic, this film is filled with historical references: since its beginning, we get to know about the legend of Alexander the Great and Bucephalus, his coal-black horse whose resembling statuette given to Alec by his father recalls the gift Philipp II of Macedon made to Alexander (Bucephalus, indeed). We also hear about a so-called “Iceman”: it refers to George “The Iceman” Woolf, lived between 1910 and 1946, whose skills in riding made him a champion for ten years in a row; he also rode the well-known thoroughbred Seabiscuit during the legendary “Match of the Century” (another reference we can find in the movie) against War Admiral, as the two of them were considered the fastest horses in the USA. Anyway, since I don’t want to spoil every curiosity of this film, I’ll just recommend you to watch it: “The Black Stallion” is a more than acceptable picture show, and who knows, maybe you’ll want to book your next holiday in the wonderful Sardinia after watching!