Jasmine Trinca in Valeria Golino's Honey (Miele)
The Film Society’s Eugene Hernandez spoke with Honey (Miele) director Valeria Golino at last year’s Cannes Film Festival as part of our Daily Buzz podcast. Ahead of this week’s theatrical release of the film at the Film Society, Brian Brooks spoke further with Golino and her star, Jasmine Trinca, in New York. Listen to the Cannes interview here:
Julie Taymor, Sean Penn, and Barry Levinson are among the American filmmakers who have influenced Valeria Golino, known primarily for her work as an actress (The Indian Runner, Evita, Rain Man). Now she’s switched to the other side of the camera for her directorial debut, Miele (Honey).
At Cannes, where the film premiered, Golino explained that as an actress her point of view is not crucial to the director’s vision, which is why she wanted to direct. “That point of view is what I am interested in,” she said.
Her film is the story of an independent Italian woman who is helping terminally ill patients die.
“‘Miele’ is a code name for a girl who has a double life,” Golino explained during our conversation. Her camera spends a lot of time observing Miele (played by Jasmine Trinca) as she tries to protect her secrecy and maintain her dignity.
“I thought it was a very contemporary female character [who] also seemed cinematic to me,” Golino continued. “I wanted to [portray] her in images. What I am really curious about is the visuals of cinema… the form.”
Born in Naples, Golino has had a busy career in Italy, but said that she learned a lot from specific American filmmakers.
“I was very young when I worked with [Barry Levinson] and he was very astonished by the lack of discipline that I had,” Golino admitted in Cannes. “He taught me, during Rain Man, to become more disciplined. He was very severe in that way. I took a lot of things for granted. I thought my youth, beauty, and talent were enough. Good actors don’t have only that.”
In New York this week, Golino delved further into how her acting career has informed her turn as director.
“I think that it helps that I have acted,” she stated. “That said, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good director. I’ve learned so many things from directors in my acting career. There are even some things I’ve learned that I didn’t want to do. There are those directors who’ve really made me shine and others who’ve made me opaque.”
She added that typical social mores that rule most facets of life frequently break down on set, but are sometimes necessary. She admitted that there were moments during filming when her star Jasmine Trinca experienced her harsher side.
“At times as a director, it can be [necessary] to be nice or an asshole [in order to] help an actor achieve a certain [emotion],” said Golino. “This isn’t acceptable elsewhere in life, but in this context it is necessary—though it’s always done with underlying respect. There were times I was cruel.”
Trinca, who joined Golino in New York for the chat, quickly laughed at Golino’s admission, confirming there were some tense moments.
The two first met a decade ago during a dinner and Golino approached Trinca later about the role.
“I looked very different four years ago,” said the actress. “She asked me if I would cut my [long hair] and from there we started this incredible journey. For me, it was something very, very special.”
Golino said she wanted to challenge Trinca’s more feminine persona with this role. Though her title character is disciplined in her work helping terminally ill patients choose their own time for death, she appears to have less control over her love life.
“I didn’t want her to be as soft. I wanted an energy that was harder. I wanted things taken away,” said Golino about Trinca, who began her career in 2001 in Nanni Moretti's The Son’s Room. “I wanted femininity taken away to a degree; I wanted that indulgence gone. It appears that I've transformed her, but honestly, she was ready for this experience.”
Added Trinca, “It was an incredible experience of freedom. I had always been concerned by how others perceived me, but Valeria helped free me of that through this character. Her sensibility is close to mine.”
Honey (Miele) opens Friday, March 7 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center with Valeria Golino and Jasmine Trinca in person for a Q&A at the 6:45pm screening.