Stealing Chanel is a 5-star rated romantic comedy streaming on the Lifetime Movie channel and Amazon Prime. It is also the feature movie debut of an accomplished actress more than ready for her comic and dramatic close ups. Anna Maria Cianciulli is a hoot as the lead actor’s mother.
There was a time when American cinema was much more welcoming of Italian acting talent. Think of the firecracker performances of Anna Magnani or Sophia Loren and you have a good idea of the energy Cianciulli brings to the screen. Like a Vespa zipping through a narrow, crowded Roman street, she cannot be ignored.
The movie is about a small-time thief (Adam LaVorgna) with a penchant for stealing designer clothing who falls for his court-appointed psychotherapist (Lydia Hearst). The thief’s mother (Cianciulli) is an addicted gambler with a hilariously twisted and unrelenting energy. “Why do you have to be a small-time thief?” she asks her son, while trying to cadge some money to pay her bookie. “Why can’t you be a big-time thief, like your uncle?”
Director Roberto Mitrotti, who won Best Director for Stealing Chanel at the International Film Festival Manhattan, noted that Cianciulli brought thoroughness to the role that translated very well to the screen. “She was even sending me notes on the character’s development. She’s a super actor. She’s great to work with.”
While Stealing Chanel is her first featured appearance in a full-length movie, she is anything but a newcomer to acting and filmmaking. A senior faculty member at both the New York Film Academy and the Acting Studio New York, as well as an award-winning writer, producer, director and actor in some acclaimed short films. She’s got the necessary chops both in front of and behind the camera.
In addition to creating her award-winning short movie Stay, she wrote and produced Life After Her, which was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. The late Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin gave Cianciulli permission to adapt their collaborative poem The War in Heaven into a short film, and a multimedia theater production.
For years she was a respected member of the experimental theater world in New York City, working with such entities as B.A.M. and The Kitchen, and running her own theater. Luminaries such as Kevin Bacon, Brian Dennehy, Susan Batson, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, and Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni flocked to work with her.
She served as co-creative director and was a member of the artistic committee for Tribeca in Rome – a cultural partnership between the Tribeca Film Festival and the Rome International Film Festival – including the Steps and Stars Award received by Robert De Niro. She also presented Discovering the New Italian Cinema, a retrospective of films from her native land, at the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village.
Her services as an acting coach and as a teacher of the Meisner Technique are in much demand on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to her teaching schedule at NYFA, she gives acting workshops in Rome, her native Florence, and elsewhere in Italy, a couple of times a year. The legendary Sanford Meisner, one of the founders and leading proponents of The Group Theater, personally chose her to translate his book On Acting into Italian.
There is a certain integrity that comes through in all Cianciulli’s work. She cares about the smallest details. She starts from a concept and alchemically uses all her talents to turn it into beautiful art. “I strive for truth, to leave something behind that I am proud of, a message of love.”
To find out more, visit her website www.annamariacianciulli.com.