To Melburnians of a certain age, they’re words etched on the memory like gold leaf on a rococo chair leg: “Grand sale, grand sale, grand sale. Where? In Brunswick and Footsgray.” And now, the man who has uttered them countless times in countless late-night TV commercials since the early 1980s is set to be immortalised with a feature-length documentary in his honour.
Palazzo di Cozzo this week received production funding from Screen Australia that will help writer-director Madeleine Martiniello and producer Philippa Campey bring the story of the 83-year-old furniture salesman Franco Cozzo to life with all the pomp and grandeur it demands. But it won’t just cover his journey from penniless Sicilian immigrant in 1956 to millionaire father-of-10 today.
“It’s partly a biography of Franco Cozzo, but I’m also really interested in looking at the broader cultural ideas around furniture and migrant home life,” says Martiniello, a 30-year-old graduate of VCA film school. “There are going to be portraits in the film of people who have bought Franco Cozzo furniture over the years, showing the evolution of the clientele and the styles of people’s houses. So there will be these beautiful cinematic scenes that present the furniture in its full glory, in context.”
Martiniello grew up in Melbourne, with Italian immigrant grandparents, and her parents own some Cozzo pieces. But she only discovered the cult of Cozzo thanks to YouTube, where many of his trilingual ads (in English, Italian and Greek) live on.