Always inspired by exceptional women with an extraordinary destiny, the French writer Gérard de Cortanze looked into the life of a silent film star who became a photographer and political activist on the international scene in his new novel, Me, Tina Modotti, happy because free. An intense life, a life of wandering alongside artists and intellectuals.
Born in northern Italy in 1896, Tina Modotti emigrated alone to San Francisco at the age of 17. Legendary beauty, she became a silent film star, then photographer and lover of photographer Edward Weston. Traveling to Mexico, she rubs shoulders with intellectuals and artists, including Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, who will become her close friend.
Fate had a badly cut check in place for him: the murder of his lover, the revolutionary Cuban Antonio Mella, before his eyes. Her life was turned upside down suddenly, making her a committed activist of the Communist Party.
Gérard de Cortanze, author of 90 books, was completely fascinated by the tragic fate of this exceptional woman. He immersed himself in his universe, going so far as to travel to Italy, Spain, Russia and Mexico to better understand it.
“I really like to travel in parallel with what I write,” he comments. I put my steps back in certain territories of Mexico. I wandered around Mexico City, where Tina Modotti walked. It’s the same in Moscow. It’s all part of the novel. “
He wanted to tell how Tina Modotti, a young actress in Italian theaters in San Francisco, was suddenly caught up in silent cinema. “This is a very interesting time. Cinema is being born in the United States. There isn’t really a well-known director – they’re technicians who make films. They’re going to get their actors from Little Italy’s theater troupes. ”
Tina Modotti, very interested in politics, had a completely different destiny. “She, who could have become a movie star living in frivolous circles, feels that her destiny lies elsewhere, in artistic creation and in photography, and then in political commitment. That’s what sets her apart from the huge photographer Edward Watson. ”
“Very quickly, she realizes that she is missing something – and that is really the theme of the book -, it is to link politics and photography. His photographic art is never to dissociate aesthetics and politics. She manages to reunite the two, but she refused to take propaganda photos. ”
Gérard de Cortanze discovered Tina Modotti while working on Frieda Kahlo, subject of a previous novel, Coyoacan’s lovers.
“It’s Tina Modotti who will introduce Frieda Kahlo to politics. And what interests me in this subject is that it brings together my two main subjects, Italy, because I am the son of Italian immigrants, and Mexico, because very early, I had as friends the poets Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar. They introduced me to Hispanic art and the Latin American cultural world. ”
- Gérard de Cotanze received the Historia Prize for the novel for Woman running, telling the life of Violette Morris.
- A six-episode television miniseries on Tina Modotti’s life is in development, with Monica Bellucci in the lead role.
- He has four plays in preparation.