A year ago, Italian director Paolo Virzi was working on a movie version of Stephen Amidon’s novel “Human Capital.” That project surprised me only because his story seems like such an American tragedy (see below).

But now that film has become a hit in Italy. “It briefly topped the Italian box office,” Amidon says. “I’d like to take all the credit, but to be honest that goes to the screenwriters and the director, Paolo Virzi, who made a terrific film. It is very Italian and yet somehow remains true to the core story. I guess money knows no borders.”

Amidon is currently in Torino, Italy, working as “Storyteller-in-Residence” at the Holden School, an arts college founded by writer and director Alessandro Baricco. “It’s a good gig,” Amidon says. “I like the students, and I’ve hosted events with Jhumpa Lahiri and Philipp Meyer.”

The American premiere of “Human Capital” will be at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 18.


February 19, 2013

Filming began yesterday in Italy on a movie version of Stephen Amidon’s “Human Capital.” Paolo Virzi (“The First Beautiful Thing”) is directing Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Golino and Giovanni Anzaldo in the leading roles.

Jonathan Yardley chose the novel as one of his five favorites for 2004 (I loved it, too, writing then for the Christian Science Monitor). But there’s something surprising about seeing this quintessentially American tragedy of suburban aspiration moved to Old World Europe.

From his home in Greenfield, Mass., Amidon told me, “I was a little apprehensive at first, but once I became familiar with Virzi’s work, I could see that we were of like minds. He is very concerned with the ‘new’ Italy of social mobility and Berlusconi. And then when I read the script, I understood that I was a lucky boy indeed.”

Amidon can speak and read some Italian, from his student days in Venice, but the producers had the script translated into English for him.

Surprisingly little needed to be changed to move the action from Connecticut to Varese, north of Milan. But the powerful hedge fund manager in the novel has been given an “old money” background in the film. “Paolo explained to me how ‘new money’ characters in Italy tend to have social ramifications they do not over here,” Amidon said. “Also, his house looks to be a Palladian villa, whereas in Connecticut, it’s a fairly brutish Frank Lloyd Wright knock-off. I think there’s a sort of aesthetic inflation that takes place when you move into Italy. This can also be seen with the actors: There aren’t a lot of people in Connecticut as good-looking as this lot.”

Shooting is expected to be finished in six to eight weeks, with a premiere next winter. Plans for a U.S. release haven’t been finalized, but Amidon is hopeful because “Virzi’s last few films have played here,” he said.