Silvia Bizio HFPA

Girl From Nagasaki

Director Michel Comte with Eduardo Ponti

Cho-Cho San (Japanese actress Mariko Wordell), is a young geisha who survived the atomic bomb that leveled the city and marked the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. She is seduced and later abandoned by a handsome American pilot, Pinkerton (played by a very seductive Edoardo Ponti, son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti). Scenes of Cho-Cho San’s story are alternated with others set in a opera theater where a surreal Madame Butterfly performance takes place in front of a mysterious man - maybe an older Pinkerton - played by Christopher Lee. Famous dancer Polina Semionova and other young ballerinas, wrapped in plastic kimonos and often dripping blood, give life to a fascinating performance inspired by various forms of bondage, as Comte himself told the HFPA after the crowded premiere in Park City.

“My wife is Japanese, her father is one of the few who survived the Nagasaki bombing,” explained Comte, who took three years to make the film and funded most of the nearly $25 million budget. “My wife and I have always been in love with the opera, especially Puccini and Madame Butterfly. The idea came to us as a way to bring opera to an audience of young people who can't afford to spend $400 or $500 per ticket. First we thought about making a 3D graphic installation in New York, but then, since I had an accident, I was forced to stay home and had time to start writing the film. A few friends helped me to set it up, and it used to be a small movie. Now it isn't anymore,” he added laughing.

“Japanese women are very strong even when victimized,” he continued. “This is something I wanted to show in the film. All the women in the film are in bondage, they wear a corset or various forms of restraints, even if we do not see them. Their posture changes completely when tied up, they straighten up. All of us have poor posture, both when we are standing or sitting, we have forgotten how to stand up straight. The symbolism of bondage, the cocoon where the butterfly forms, in our case the bloody women hanging on the ropes in the film, also refers to this.”

“I am a director, not an actor,” added Edoardo Ponti, in Park City with his wife, actress Sasha Alexander (Rizzoli & Isles) who has a small part in the movie as Pinkerton's wife. “So it was particularly important for me to work with Michel and learn what it means to be directed. Besides, Michel works totally differently from me. I prepare for months. When I get on the set everything needs to be controlled, while Michel is extremely spontaneous and improvises a lot. It was good to learn a different way of making movies.”

Ponti just finished directing his mother Sophia Loren in the short The Human Voice by Cocteau.

Silvia Bizio