I don’t care about Sanremo, for about twenty years now. I realize that the festival has started again this year, just by the video of the performance by Achille Lauro, magically popped up on my YouTube Home. Two o’clock in the morning, I don’t know anything about it. I curiously listen to the first notes, concentrating on the words. Then, at a certain point, he unbuttons himself in a single stroke, drops his black and golden dress to the ground, and the piece goes live. Lauro stands “naked”, posing, served to well-thinking.
The gesture refers to the famous scene attributed to Giotto in the upper basilica of Assisi. A completely crucial moment in the history of Saint Francis, the one in which he undresses his clothes to marry an existence made of privations and prayer. The same scene is taken in an exemplary way by the director Franco Zeffirelli for his Brother Sun, Sister Moon, only here, on the Ariston theater stage, Lauro’s smile is not that of the young Francis, sincerely amused towards those who try to remedy the scandal by covering him with a sumptuous cloak, but that far more mischievous of his companion Giocondo who, slave to his senses, will never carry on his mission as a jester of God.
We are in Italy on February 4, 2020, but the reactions of some people to the performance do not seem so different from those of about eight centuries earlier. The considerations on “deviated youth”, on balance, are more or less the same in every age. The same of those outraged by the Glam movement, led by Marc Bolan and David Bowie, in the UK in the 70s — also well framed by director Todd Haynes in his sparkling Velvet Goldmine — and, in the Belpaese, discreetly represented by Renato Zero. The same as the children of those outraged folks who, actually still susceptible to such deeds, today persist in murmuring that they are “things already seen a thousand times”.
As far as the outraged people on the religious level, one would think that they are nothing more than the direct descendants of those who condemned Francis for his “provocative” gesture. Certainly more accustomed, in our day, to accept an exhibition of saints and crucifixes for purely political purposes, rather than “a dump” like that of a tattooed pusher who was allowed to tread the same stage trodden years before by a certain Domenico Modugno.
History repeats itself, you know, but Lauro has already responded to all these things with his song, entitled Me ne frego — I don’t care —, and a typical, tender clever humility from township which, once again, he doesn’t fail to exhibit when at the end of the show he leaves the audience with a bow, “Thank you all, ladies and gentlemen. Honored.”
That of Saint Francis, anyway, has not been the only outfit shown by Lauro during the nights of the festival. He’s been Ziggy Stardust a.k.a. David Bowie, the Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe, Luisa Casati Stampa, and the “Virgin Queen” of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor. All linked someway by art and freedom.