Baba Yaga

There are events and circumstances in those years, the 70s, not yet fully considered that have nevertheless had a great influence in my life’s path.They have been decisive, for better or worse, in creating  a predisposition in me which made it possible for certain  other changes to take place which could otherwise be incomprehensible.
This is just the beginning of my pleadings!
I am trying to relate the facts in order to make the causes of the events understandable, to connect them to one another, so as to show cause and effect even when the causes seem casual episodes hardly relating to the devastating effects produced. My Blog project  on the 70s, which is not yet finished, features an analysis of those circumstances which have become a base for me, from which  I have been able to cope with reality every time my instinct of survival has forced me into turning over the pages of my life. For this reason I’ll try to remember , as best as I can, the pros and cons in the circumstances and in my readings, which were extremely positive, a sort of cornerstone, a stronghold even for my future years.

                                               The view from our house in Rome

In the first period of my marriage to Carlo I had enjoyed a time of great fame thanks to the fact that many of the bestknown magazines had published my photos. “ L’ Espresso”, “Il Messaggero”, and “Playboy” competed to get my pictures!
The author of these shots was Bruno Oliviero, just a beginner then.
If we consider that there was no computerized photo retouching at the time, and that the pixels were patiently handretouched with steel-nib and Indian ink…what came out was of excellent quality and therefore highly successful.
My pictures had filled, as early as 1971, the pages of every newspaper from those of the “ Enalotto” (Italian lottery) to those of the various daylies .But , for me, it was just an empty image of myself , without any depth, an empty shell in which I could not see any depth whatsoever. I was happy to see my naivety published but at the same time I was also scared of the missing values  I started to perceive  that nobody helped me to find.

                                                                  The Italian Lottery 

I was engaged for the cast of a film adaptation of a Guido Crepax’ cartoon : “Baba Yaga”, under the direction of Corrado Farina with Caroll Baker and Isabel  De Funés.
I was at first fascinated by the idea of taking part in the making of a film whose author was commonly considered the inventor of the sexy cartoon, the creator of  “Valentina”.
My film agent Guidarino Guidi, a former assistant director and a  friend of  Federico Fellini, had been able to get me an excellent fee for my participation even though my role was practically speechless.It was just a  symbolic character.
I had to interpret the role of a doll that the witch Caroll Baker transformed into a human being charging it to commit perfect crimes and reducing it afterwards into its original dimensions.A character totally devoid of any soul. A pottery doll with no feelings at all.
Was this the reason why they had chosen me for the role?
I was tremendously uneasy at the costume fittings, as reduced to the lowest terms as they were, when they asked me to make a plaster cast of my face in order to reproduce it in miniature in the doll.

                             The Doll                                                     …and me !

When this cast was ready I found that it bore no resemblance at all to my face; it lacked my look to lighten it up and the two glass eyes they had put on it were deprived of whatever expression.It seemed to me that I had been completely annulled by this inanimated copy of myself. If before I had been a beautiful shell with a little spirit in it, now I was totally empty…It was disheartening. Moreover I was asked to act the robot, walk and move like one, gazing  straight in front of me. I really didn’t like to take part in the shooting of this film and, once the initial enthusiasm was over, I couldn’t wait to get out of that fetish!
But, ironically, the off stage pictures taken by Oliviero landed onto every newspaper making the film so successful that, up to the present, people still congratulate me for that role. I had become a sex icon, a fetish “par excellence” a lifelong symbol…But of what? Of nothing…despite my glamorous youth !

                                                      Off Set

When,  25 years later, I happened to watch the film together with some friends…the role of the alien doll wasn’t a surprise any more and one of my friends exclaimed “But,Eli, don’t you even say a word ?”. Deep in my heart I had ever since known that I was no Eleonora Duse and that I had never interpreted any complex roles; I had only been a beautiful picture which the film industry had used at will…now all that façade wasn’t just enough !
With only that I would never be successful in the present world…

In the 70s I worked to become financially independent, even though money seemed to flow out of my hands : for this reason  I just couldn’t afford to refuse any job.
The hardships suffered in my childhood still weighed me down.I could still see myself coming out of my house in via Carnaro, in Rome, with a bag full of empties to return to the wine-seller so that I could immediately afterwards  indulge in the luxury of buying me a glass of lemonade !
I’ve always been proud of myself for being able to support myself and bring a certain relief at home, to my mother. How many times have I seen her gather the small change from the coats’ pockets to have enough money to shop for food. My father’s alimony check of 150.000 Lire for our sustenance, wasn’t that much !
At nineteen  I was already working at full capacity, though I had never taken a  diction  course , not to speak of being  a Drama Academy student …
I had made television commercials, had done auditions to try and get a job as a special walk-on at first and then in small roles and I was finally able to get major roles thanks to my knowledge of English which allowed me to take part in the castings of the Italo-American productions where it was essential to speak English.
I had been chosen for all the films  produced and distributed by the Titanus through the good works of my friend Silvia Monti who had wanted me with her in the castings. This is the plain truth.
I knew all too well that it wasn’t due to my capacities that I had made a progress.

                                            …on the magazine

In order to keep working I had accepted roles in photonovel for the” Lanciostory” and ” Skorpio” which I felt a bit ashamed of.
In the Summer 1973 I was invited to a sailing cruise from Civitavecchia to Sardinia. The small sailing boat had a very hard time at the Bocche di Bonifacio during the night so that when we finally arrived in Porto Cervo the morning after  we were more dead than alive.
The harbour was small at the time, just as  large   as the square  where a few shops sold their merchandise.There were a newsagent’s, which also sold cigarettes and salt, a fruitseller’s and a baker’s.
I went to have breakfast in the little square and after bringing peace to my gastric juices upset during the crossing with a good cappuccino and a brioche…I went, still a bit dazed, to buy something for the boat’s storeroom. At the fruitseller’s I bought some peaches and after weighing them the fruitseller wrapped them up, as they used to do then, in the pages of a newspaper, or better said of a photonovel of  the “ Lancio”.

                                                   The photonovel

I ran away blushing with my peaches wrapped up  in a magazine from which my face showed everywhere in black and white .
For nothing in the world I would have wanted my friends to know that I lent my image to these photonovels  only in order to support myself …!
To get to Porto Cervo, aim of the glamorous jetset of the time, to serve as a fruit wrapper made me feel tremendously ashamed.
The problem was that I didn’t want to appear who I really was, and moreover I would have wanted someone to correct  my way of thinking nor give vent to my apprehensions to anyone, because I lived, for my own choice, like an orphan child without even an appointed  tutor to  guide me. Where could I get the right directions ? Whom could I turn to ? 

When I went to visit my friends of the Liceo, who lived  in some kind of commune near the Piramide Cestia, I brought them some financial help and in return, I enjoyed their hospitality for a few days. In those occasions Pino Cino, Serena Dandini  e Sergio Baldi introduced me to the reading of a particular book, the I Ching, that opened a door to the comprehension of our Being: we would sit on mats, throw six coins on the floor and then try and analyze which was the correct way to handle.

                                                      The I Ching

I learned to use the I Ching, the Book of Transformations, ancient Chinese divination text, reading it with all the attention it deserved. Translated in 1923 by Richard Wilhelm, it became for me then and still is the object of my daily consultation.
I am very grateful to this writer for introducing me to this landmark of Chinese thought so infinetly different from our modus vivendi. The Oriental philosophy is concerned about the accidental aspect of reality because the instant taken into consideration contains the totality of all the componentst. The philosopher C.G. Jung  was a great admirer of the Book of Transformations, and in 1948 wrote a passionate essay on the subject whose extract I have added here below.
The I Ching is a book of advices on how to interpret life and find the needed help in order to live it fully, since our relationships to the others do not depend on the others, but often almost exclusively on us even though we are not aware of it.  

So was it with the advice given to  Socrates “ You should make more music”…after which Socrates bought himself a flute… !
I believe that the ancient Chinese mind contains more than it appears at first sight and the I Ching insists continually on the necessity of knowing one’s  Self, accurately scrutinizing one’s own character, aptitudes and motivations. It gives clear indications  on how to act properly. As long as things are still in the making they can be directed. The Book of Transformations shows the images of what is happening and becoming in its statu nascendi, thus helping us recognize the germs it allows us to forsee the future and to understand the past. Its advices make the reader able to decide freely  whether to abandon a certain course of action, if it is unfortunate, and this possible change of action is subject, according to the ancient Chinese culture, to that all pervading law, the Sense (Tao).
To this book of wisdom I have turned innumerable times in the course of my life; with its help I was able to skip by the deepest   potholes and arrive safely to the present day…it is still my guide in the careful scrutiny of the events in my life!
After all  why would we be shown our future if not to allow us to change it ?

Note: C.G.Jung’s Preface to the “I Ching”…” As for the text of the I Ching I chose to denominate with the term “synchrony” the principle of a viewpoint (Oriental) diametrically opposed to “causality” (Occidental) because it considers  the         coincidences  of the events in time and space as an indicator of more than a pure chance, that is of a peculiar interdependence of objective events to one another as well as to the sujective (psychic) conditions of the observer or observers…The 64  Exagrams are now the instrument through which can be determined the meaning of 64 different but also presumably typical situations. Such an obvious truth can only be meaningful  if one is able to read these signs and verify their interpretation, partly through what the observer already knows  of his own subjective and objective situation, and partly through the confirming subsequent events…To this purpose I did an experiment quite rigorously according to the Chinese conception: in a certain sense, I personified the Book, asking its interpretation of the present situation,  i.e. my intention of presenting it to the Western conscience –Rerum novarum cupidus- . I used the coins and the answer I obtained was the exagram 50, Ting “the melting pot”. In accordance to the way I had asked the question we must interpret the text of the answer as if the I Ching itself was speaking :”as the tool of a refined culture the melting pot suggests the care and alimentation of valuable men which then goes to the benefit of all. The Book of Transformations was therefore saying of itself :”I contain spiritual nourishment”…

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