The Italian Almanac

Tonino Guerra

Tonino Guerra

Legendary Italian screenwriter and poet Tonino Guerra, an Oscar nominee for Federico Fellini's much-loved film Amarcord who also wrote all Michelangelo Antonioni's films bar one, died in his Apennine home town a few days after turning 92.

Early tributes included that of ex-culture minister Walter Veltroni, a former film critic, who said "Italy has lost a genius". Yuri Liubimov, the veteran patriarch of Soviet and Russian theatre, described his old friend and Russia lover as "an artist who came from the Renaissance era". Film director Francesco Rosi, like Fellini an old friend, said he would miss "an inimitable friend and a truly, profoundly irreplaceable artist".

Guerra worked with nearly all the great names of Italian cinema including Fellini, Antonioni, Rosi, Vittorio De Sica, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Mario Monicelli and Giuseppe Tornatore, as well as foreign directors such as Germany's Wim Wenders, Greece's Theo Angelopoulos and Russia's Andrei Tarkovsky. He is perhaps best known for Amarcord (1973), which won the 1975 Oscar for best foreign-language film and received two Oscar nominations, for best original screenplay and best director.

A former elementary school teacher, Guerra started writing in his native Romagna dialect to keep up the spirits of fellow inmates of a German prison camp in the Second World War. He first broke through as a poet thanks to famous writer Elio Vittorini and the eminent critic Gianfranco Contini, before getting into films and meeting fellow Romagnan Antonioni, all of whose films he wrote except for Professione: Reporter.

Guerra was famously optimistic throughout his life and made the clarion call "optimism!" his sign-off in a popular series of TV ads he made for an electronics chain in the early 2000s. He said: "Optimism isn't something you achieve but something inside you. It's something that picks you up, like imagining snow turning another colour or money raining down from the sky. "I'm crazily optimistic in that way".