Neapolitan Massimiliano Gallo comes from an artistic family. His father Nunzio was an Italian singer and his mother Bianca was an actress. Following this creative legacy he forged himself into a versatile actor, performing both on stage and on screen. For the latter his first film was Fortapàsc directed by Marco Risi and he then continued with director Ferzan Ozpetec in Loose Cannons and Magnificent Presence. His filmography grew exponentially, making him work also with Academy Award-winning Paolo Sorrentino in The Hand of God, and now he has also tested his skills behind the camera.
His hometown is the inspirer of this new endeavour and a particular story captured Gallo’s attention, the one of necktie company E.Marinella. The famous brand has been worn by famous leaders from all over the world including US Presidents. In 1994 during the G7 Summit in Naples the gift for all the world leaders was a box of E.Marinella ties. The most distinguished men in the world have worn this Made In Naples accessory, whether they belonged to the world of politics like Winston Churchill, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Helmut Kohl, François Mitterand and Jacques Chirac; entertainment like Marcello Mastroianni, Totò, Vittorio De Sica and Elton John; or the beau monde like Gianni Agnelli and Aristotle Onassis.
E.Marinella was founded in 1914 by Eugenio Marinella and has been thriving ever since, showcasing in cities across the globe from Tokyo to London and being sold in the most prestigious shops across the planet such as Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche de Printemps in Paris. These neckties are considered works of art, to the point that in 2017 there was an exhibition at the MoMA of New York, called ITEMS: Is Fashion Modern? that featured the Neapolitan label. Thanks to the youngest generation — represented by Alessandro Marinella who is among the 100 young leaders of the future according to Forbes Italy — the Italian brand is keeping up with the times, embracing sustainability by using Orange Fibre and supporting awareness campaigns to support scientific research. At the same time E.Marinella honours Italian history, tributing the courageous acts of Magistrate Giovanni Falcone who found death at the hands of Cosa Nostra in 1992. Since this year marks the 30th anniversary of the mafia massacres in Palermo, the Italian brand decided to reproduce in a limited series a tie worn by the anti-mafia judge and name it after him, with all the proceeds going to the Falcone Foundation.
The inspirational stride of this Neapolitan family-lead company has inspired the very Massimiliano Gallo to portray on the silver screen the history of E.Marinella. The documentary called Una vetrina che guarda il mare [A shop window overlooking the sea] — written by Italian tv filmmaker Francesco Pinto — marks the actor’s directorial debut. In this Exclusive Interview Massimilano Gallo shares the making of his first feature:
Q: Una vetrina che guarda il mare [A shop window overlooking the sea] marks your directorial debut, why did you choose E.Marinella’s story for your first time behind the camera?
M.G: I wanted to convey the charm of my city, I took advantage of telling the story of E.Marinella because it was the ideal way to channel the concepts of elegance, passion, beauty, grace, colours, sunshine and Italian charisma.
Q: You acted in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God, what inspired you in that occasion for your work as director of this documentary?
M.G: I have been trying to “steal” secrets on sets for a lifetime. I was never satisfied with being just an actor, I am very curious and quite resourceful. I had the dream of telling something through my own eyes, but I wanted to do it when I felt ready. I wanted to understand how it worked and how important the so called cinematic story could be. It had to be personal somehow. Seeing Paolo directing a set is a bit like seeing a great conductor at work. You are spellbound!
Q: Naples is your hometown, and the place where the Marinella family began its trade, what are the characteristics of this city that you feel can be found nowhere else?
M.G: I think Naples is the most unique city in the world, for its features and beauty. It is the cosmopolitan city par excellence, today more than ever. In this globalised world Naples is one of the few cities that manages to maintain its identity, its origins. It is able to mix different cultures, it is ancient and modern, it is still close to pagan rites but also embraces the new. It manages to be influenced without being contaminated. It has always been like this also in its art, inspired by different sounds and cultures, but full of Neapolitan identity. It welcomes everyone. Naples is hospitality.
Q: What are the anecdotes regarding this fashion brand that surprised you the most?
M.G: Understanding that you can be an international brand without losing the roots and values that have made this company great. Knowing that the employees still eat together. Knowing that the shop opens at half past six in the morning following the tradition of the founder. Knowing that the “flawed” ties are worn by the employees and members of the Marinella family. In short, Italy has become grand thanks to the values and perseverance of families such as this one. We cannot lose this identity.
Q: How did you approach the Marinella family for the making of the film?
M.G: We approached Mr. Marinella for an interview. From that moment on, we were fascinated by the history of his company. That triggered the dream of telling this story through film.
Q: This menswear label boasts many illustrious clients, from Presidents to actors, were you a customer before working on this film?
M.G: When I was a boy Marinella was the unattainable brand, you saved up your money and bought yourself one of their ties. You would then wear it with pride.
Q: Marinella has channelled its creativity also to support important causes, such as spreading awareness on health matters or promoting sustainable fashion, which one of these resonated the most to you?
M.G: It always impresses me when a company is involved in supporting ethical campaigns. Marinella is always at the forefront and receptive in promoting these initiatives.
Q: What are your thoughts on how the new generation, represented by Alessandro Marinella, is carrying on the brand’s legacy?
M.G: The challenge is important. Alessandro has what it takes to carry on the Marinella name. He is a young man with proper training, discipline and drive. What I wish for him is to be able to further internationalise the brand without ever losing sight of the values that made the company so outstanding.
Q: Where will Una vetrina che guarda il mare [A shop window overlooking the sea] be released?
M.G: We are negotiating with various platforms. The release will be worldwide because it is an attractive brand on all markets that love Made in Italy.