Tinto Brass

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Tinto Brass
Tinto Brass 01.jpg
Brass in 1990
Giovanni Brass

(1933-03-26) 26 March 1933 (age 90)
Occupation(s)Film director and screenwriter
Years active1963–present
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Carla Cipriani
(m. 1957; died 2006)
Caterina Varzi
(m. 2017)
AwardsVenice Film Festival:
Best Italian Film

1971. For La Vacanza.
Award of Excellence

2012. For Brass' early works.

Giovanni "Tinto" Brass (born 26 March 1933) is an Italian film director and screenwriter. In the 1960s and 1970s, he directed many critically acclaimed avant-garde films of various genres. Today, he is mainly known for his later work in the erotic genre, with films such as Caligula, Così fan tutte (released under the English title All Ladies Do It), Paprika, Monella (Frivolous Lola) and Trasgredire.


Avant-garde cinema[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Brass was considered a promising experimental and avant-garde director, and his debut film Who Works Is Lost got very favorable reviews after screening at Venice Film Festival 1963.[1] In 1964, he was commissioned by Umberto Eco to create two short films experimenting with visual language for the 13th Triennale di MilanoTempo Libero and Tempo Lavorativo.[2] Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Brass directed films in many genres, including western (Yankee) and crime (Col cuore in gola), all using a very experimental editing- and camera-style.[3] In 1968, Warner Bros.[4][unreliable source?] offered Brass the job of directing A Clockwork Orange, which did not happen due to scheduling conflicts.[5] In an article about the filming of Dropout from 1970, he was called the "Antonioni of the 70s".[6] His early period has been referred to as "rebellios [sic], anarchistic and experimental".[7]

L'urlo was shown in competition at Berlin Film Festival 1970.[8] La Vacanza, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero won the prize of the film critics for the best Italian film at 1971 Venice Film Festival.[9][unreliable source?] In 1972, Brass was a member of the jury at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival.[10]

Erotic cinema[edit]

After Salon Kitty (1976) and Caligula (1979), the style of his films gradually changed towards erotic films. Caligula was originally supposed to be a satire on power instead of an erotic film, but the producers changed and re-edited the film entirely without Brass's consent, removing many political and comical scenes, and shooting sexually explicit sequences, to make the film a pornographic drama. The director demanded that his name be stricken from the credits, and he is only credited for "Principal Photography".[11] Despite this, the film remains his most widely viewed work (and the highest-grossing Italian film released in the United States). Other notable works of Brass's later period include The Key (1983) and Senso '45 (2002). He was making films into his seventies.[12]


Brass' films since his early works follow an impressionistic style – they tend not to show immense landscapes, but bits and pieces of the scenery and peripheral characters and objects through pans and zooms, thus imitating how the viewer might see the events if he were actually present. This also gives the films an extraordinarily rapid pace. He often uses a television-like multicam method of shooting, with at least three cameras running at once, each focusing on something different.

There are many other directorial trademarks throughout his films. From Salon Kitty onwards, mirrors play a large part in the set design. Sometimes he even goes as far as to begin a scene with a mirror shot, then pan over to the action being reflected, giving a disorienting feeling. His erotic films – especially The Key, Miranda and All Ladies Do It – often accentuate women's ample buttocks and pubic hair as well as underarm hair.

Brass' films in the 1980s and early 1990s had mainly been adaptations of famous literary works usually in the erotic genre, namely The Key (La chiave), The Mistress of the Inn (Miranda), the novel Le lettere da Capri by Mario Soldati (Capriccio), the novel Snack Bar Budapest by Marco Lodoli and Silvia Bre (eponymous), Fanny Hill (Paprika), and the novel L'uomo che guarda by Alberto Moravia (The Voyeur), while 2002 film Senso '45 is an adaptation of Senso, previously filmed by Luchino Visconti.

Many of Brass' works qualify as period drama set during World War II (Salon Kitty and Senso '45, set in Berlin and Asolo respectively), in postbellum Italy (Miranda and Capriccio), antebellum Italy (The Key), and in 1950s Italy (Paprika and Monella).

Brass almost always works in a cameo for his friend Osiride Pevarello and himself as well. He was also featured as the presenter in the direct-to-video erotic short films compilation Tinto Brass presenta Corti Circuiti Erotici released in four volumes in 1999.

Personal life[edit]

Brass and Caterina Varzi at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

Brass' nickname Tintoretto (later shortened to Tinto) was given by his grandfather Italico Brass, a renowned Gorizian painter.[13]

He was married to Carla Cipriani (b. 1930, nicknamed "Tinta"), from 1957 until her death in 2006. Carla was the daughter of Harry's Bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, who managed the restaurant Locanda Cipriani on the Venetian island of Torcello and also collaborated as a screenwriter in Brass's films. The couple had a daughter, Beatrice, and a son, Bonifacio.[14]

After his wife's death, Brass began a relationship with lawyer Caterina Varzi (b. 1961) who starred in his 2009 short film Hotel Courbet. They married in 2017.[15]

Brass is politically affiliated with the Italian Radicals.[16]

On 18 April 2010, he suffered an intracranial hemorrhage.[17]


In 2012, Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival did a retrospective on Brass' early 1960s and 1970s films, screening newly restored versions.[18] The restorations were done in collaboration with Alexander Tuschinski, who in recent years researched Brass' 1960s/1970s works and has been called "the foremost scholastic authority on Tinto Brass".[19]


Year Original title International Note
1963 Chi lavora è perduto In capo al mondo
1964 Ça ira - Il fiume della rivolta Thermidor documentary film
1964 La mia signora My Wife segments: "L'uccellino", "L'automobile"
1964 Il disco volante The Flying Saucer
1966 Yankee
1967 Col cuore in gola I Am What I Am
1968 L'urlo The Howl
1969 Nerosubianco Attraction
1970 Dropout Dropout
1971 La vacanza The vacation also Producer
1972 I Miss Sonia Henie short film
1976 Salon Kitty
1979 Caligula
1980 Action
1983 La Chiave The Key
1985 Miranda The Mistress of the Inn
1987 Capriccio Love & Passion, Capri Remembered
1988 Snack Bar Budapest
1991 Paprika
1992 Così fan tutte All Ladies Do It
1994 L'uomo che guarda The Voyeur
1995 Fermo posta Tinto Brass P.O. Box Tinto Brass also actor
1998 Monella Frivolous Lola
2000 Trasgredire Cheeky
2001 SCTMV (Sono come tu mi vuoi) Know what this is about? Short film; Producer only
2002 Senso '45 Black Angel
2003 Fallo! Do It!, Private
2006 Monamour
2008 Kick the Cock short film
2009 Hotel Courbet short film; also Producer
2022 Chi ha ucciso Caligola Who Killed Caligula? pre-production

Filmography as actor[edit]


  1. ^ A definite new talent. Gene Moskowitz, "Few 'Quality' at Venice: Emphasis on Art via Austerity". In: Variety, 11 September 1963, S. 5. Scan found at: [1]
  2. ^ "Article about Tempo Libero and Tempo Lavorativo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  3. ^ "TINTO BRASS". Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. ^ "A Clockwork Orange". imdb.
  5. ^ Tinto Brass: Audio-commentary on the Cult Epics DVD of "Deadly Sweet" ("Col Cuore in Gola") DVD075
  6. ^ Sally K. Brass (not related): "Director's Quest for Reality". In: Los Angeles Times, 2. September 1970, S. 13.
  7. ^ "il periodo ribelle, anarchico e sperimentale", found in: Article about Tempo Libero and Tempo Lavorativo Archived 5 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Tinto Brass: Audio-commentary on the Cult Epics DVD of "The Howl" ("L'Urlo") DVD072
  9. ^ "List of awards that were awarded at the 1971 event". imdb.
  10. ^ "Berlinale 1972: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  11. ^ "Tinto Brass discusses his original ideas for the film, plus talks about the style of the current film as it was released (video)". YouTube. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  12. ^ Evolver, "First, I check out the butt" Brass interview on the occasion of his 75th birthday, May 2008
  13. ^ "Tinto Brass fan website - Italico Brass". Rjbuffalo.com. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  14. ^ "Locanda Cipriani". Archived from the original on 21 April 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Chi è Caterina Varzì, moglie di Tinto Brass". Viaggi News (in Italian). 10 July 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Tinto Brass candidato con i Radicali". La Stampa (in Italian). 22 January 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Cinema: Tinto Brass e' grave". ANSA (in Italian). 18 April 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  18. ^ "Films in Review: Article about Nerosubianco, and about the retrospective". Archived from the original on 29 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival: Article about Tinto Brass retrospective" (PDF). Retrieved 5 November 2014.

External links[edit]