Month: July 2015

La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti, Italy, 1948)

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The first time I saw La Terra Trama was about thirty years ago and I was at least as deeply moved seeing it again yesterday. I found myself consulting Geoffrey Nowell-Smith’s indispensible Visconti (London: BFI, 1967, 1973) to find out more but there were so many interesting facts to take into account – for example, a small amount of capital for the film was advanced by the Communist Party for what was originally meant to be a short; then it evolved into a three-part epic on the liberation struggles of fishermen, peasants and miners before finding its current form – and I found myself wanting to argue to such an extent with Nowell-Smith’s interpretation of some incidents, that my writing risked bypassing the film in favour of Nowell-Smith’s take on the film. I concluded that I had better put Nowell-Smith aside for now and just focus on writing down my impressions, what I felt and thought upon seeing the film again, and why and how it had moved me so.

I find La Terra Trema to be one of the treasures of Twentieth Century Art and the work of a poet with a generous heart, an incisive mind and the skills of a virtuoso (as a an aside, but perhaps worth noting, Francesco Rosi and Franco Zefferelli, as opposite as directors can be, both worked as assistant directors with Visconti). The film begins by showing us a way of life that has persisted for centuries: men going out to fish, women cleaning up the house as they await the men’s arrival, a return that is not always certain; young people desiring love and a better way of life whilst clearly knowledgeable and observant of the limits placed on these desires by the changing wealth and social position of their families and focussing on what they think is important: home, family, society. These houses and how people use them evoke a way of life – places, people, relationships to places and relationships amongst different peoples — as well as a structure of feeling – a felt way of understanding these changing relationships — which to my mind no Hollywood film has even come close to.

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The Valestro family is composed of one set of grandparents, a mother and seven children who all live under the same roof. The father has already died at sea but everyone else, no matter what their age, contributes to the family’s subsistence and survival. I found the depiction of the houses, the clothes, the furnishings, the rituals, recognisable; and I daresay this would be the case for many a Southern European born even into the last half of the last century (and certainly by their parents). The film’s on-location shooting and non-professional actors add an awkwardness that is also a series of grace-notes to what we see. It feels a document even as we are at all times aware of the way the drama is being shaped for us, acted out, narrated. The film, which in some ways seems to fall within a particular tradition of documentary, perhaps Grierson’s ‘creative shaping of actuality’, is ostensibly loosely based on Giovanni Verga’s novel I Malaboglia (1881)/The House by the Medlar Tree.

I was moved also by the grandfather’s sayings — ‘Strength of youth, wisdom of age’, Every wind is a bad wind for a sinking ship’ — which reminded me of the sayings my grandmother uttered as she slapped her hands on her knees to end a conversation: rhymes appropriate to the occasion that encapsulated the wisdom passed down to the family through the ages from and to people who could neither read nor write.

The film offers a complex account of the duties and obligations involved in being a member of the family and the oppressions and pleasures, the aid, ease, (as well as limitations) of being part of the village and the community, which is why it’s loss will be so felt. It begins with women, getting up and getting the house ready for the men of the house who have been out fishing all night, the money being shared equally except for the youngest, who must be no older than seven, and gets half. All of the first part is devoted to showing us this way of life in all its complexities, with its clear-cut economic exploitation but also with many variegated pleasures in spite of being a subsistence economy. All of this will be lost when the eldest son, Antonio, decides to fight for a better and more just way of life.

After a spontaneous revolt against the injustice of the wholesalers at the port in which Antonio, the eldest son, gets jailed only to be arbitrarily released, the family together vote to try for a new way of life, to mortgage the home that has been in the family since time immemorial to try to bypass the wholesalers and get a better deal for their fish. Initially, they strike it lucky with a shoal of anchovies, though even here good fortune extolls a price, as some of the siblings – such as Mara, the eldest, are now too rich to marry those they’d set their heart on when poorer: The film, whilst giving a complex and variegated of love and desire, is completely unsentimental about money and marriage. But then, the need to pay bills, force them onto recklessly fishing in bad weather. They’re lucky to return with their lives but their boat is lost, and with it the ability to earn an independent living. And things get worse, as the wholesalers now refuse them day work

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From this point, the film turns into tragedy. As the narrative tells us each branch of the family withers and falls: Antonio is so depressed, he sleeps and drinks, Cola, the second oldest brother leaves home for the sea and the film hints also at a life of crime, the grandfather’s in hospital, the eldest sister now has her marriage hopes dashed because she’s too poor instead of too rich, and the second eldest sister first shown to us looking in a mirror and arranging her hair has now fallen into accepting cheap gifts from men in a way that is whispered about and makes her un-marriageable. ‘Your pride has made you the worst family in Trezzo’ Antonio is told. But that is not the end of their suffering. Antonio, who had thought himself so poor he dreamt of food before, is now forced to sell the good and practical clothes he has left in order to get food, and finally has to suffer complete humiliation in front of his whole community and dressed in tatters before being given a job again and returned to much less than his wealth and position was at the beginning of the film.

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Visconti shows us all of this in very beautiful and complex long shots and long takes with a whole view of life expressed in the background. The frame is always full except for select moments, those striking simple images of the women on the rocks waiting for their men, or the moment where Lucia cries and clutches at the bracelet she too quickly accepted. Visconti usually lets your eye wonder but these people are always individuals in a community. They are rarely alone; that is their strength and that is also what ails them. The Valestros could be the family that will emigrate to Milan in Rocco and His Brothers.

What I found a weakness thirty years ago, the voice-over narration, I now find a strength for it’s not a Voice-of-God, this-is-the-way-you-must-think narration. It’s explicatory, parenthetical, indicative, and it renders poetic that which it dramatises. I find it beautiful. I also love the way Visconti lets the viewer’s eye wonder along the frame; there’s a focus on a particular character and action, but all other kinds of things are going on in the background — the setting is always social, people are usually interacting, working; these people are always individuals in a community. The only times we are shown individuals filling a frame are poetic moments of interiority but usually the result of and a comment on the  communal, social, contextual. I love that Visconti makes these people beautiful, dignified. Their feet might be bare and their clothes ragged but their hearts are full and their faces and bodies as beautiful as those of any.

There are a few things that strike a discordant note. The way the rich baroness is shown toothless and eating, the melodramatic and overdone attacks on the wholesalers by linking them to Mussolini and fascism… But to me these are rendered very minor in the face of the film’s accomplishments. That La Terra Trema shows these beautiful and dignified people revolting is so moving, their conditions of existence so bare, the depths they could yet fall to, so great. The impossibility of fighting against these conditions individually is made so clear. Yet, there is hope in the struggle, in the same community that oppresses one, and someone might yet be fixing the boat you sunk in your struggle and ask you to come and visit it one day.

I wish someone had made such a film about my people. Others can quibble, though there is very little indeed to quibble with, but only Visconti made such a film, and only in Italy. Thus it has to stand for all the other Southern European, or Mediterranean conditions and ways of life, not so dissimilar from that depicted, as a record, a warning, and as we hear reports of slavery amongst fishermen in the South Seas, as a reminder of such exploitation that the very earth trembles in indignation. It’s a truly great film.

José Arroyo

Hollywood Home Movies From The Academy Film Archive (USA, 1931-1970)

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Hollywood Home Movies From The Academy Film Archive (USA, 1931-1970)

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Il Cinema Ritrovato showcased a program of home movies donated to The Academy Film Archive and, in this instance, narrated live by Michael Pogorzelski, who told us where these movies came from (Fred McMurray, Douglas Fairbanks Jr’s estate, etc.) and who was in them (the audience sometimes seemed to know more than Pogorzelski). The collection of short home movies was exciting to see because these people figure in our pasts, sometimes in an intimate way, so this was a way of making part of their private life intersect with part of ours.

It was wonderful to see Randolph Scott gently stroke Cary Grant’s shoulder in a the way familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a couple, as a gesture, tender but proprietary, that only established couples do to let the other know they’re there, besides them, and that they are thinking of them, with love. And perhaps to let others know to buzz off – that person’s taken, mine. That gesture did more to convince me of something between those two, than all the gossip I’ve heard and photos I’ve seen thus far.

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I loved seeing: Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. pretending to be Tyrolean peasants in their huge mansion-size ‘little cottage’ whilst changing into dozens of outfits; Cary Grant, more handsome than I’ve ever seen with practically no upper lip and a lower lip three times the size of anyone I know, on the set of Gunga Din; some rare colour footage of Carole Lombard, always the liveliest and most beautiful person in any film she graces, including these home movies; Fred McMurray’s home movies, in three-strip technicolor, and showing him as the athletic and handsome leading man he was but that can be so difficult to detect in some of his films, particularly the later ones, or for that generation of people who grew up with him as a Disney star or as the father in My Three Sons. Also who knew he was a blond?

I adored also the footage of one of Hearst’s 1930s parties, all of the stars on their best behaviour, like at the boss’ house, and pretending to enjoy the prank of a shaft of air being wooshed up lady’s dresses from below. Marilyn was to be shown enjoying a heightened and eroticised version of this two decades later in The Seven Year Itch. But practically every ‘30s star you care to mention is shown here in that very human contradiction of being extremely annoyed and trying to have the good manners not to show it, particularly to someone who’s got power over one’s job. It felt a privilege to have been able to see these films.

José Arroyo

Southpaw (Antoine Fuqua, USA, 2015)

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Southpaw is like a Depression melodrama in which a good man loses, wife, family, home, child –partly through his own shortcomings mostly through events he can’t control — and has to go back to the ring and fight his way back to where he started in order to win back his own life and his daughter’s affections. It reminded me a little of The Champ (King Vidor, USA, 1931) but Southpaw is less tearjerking, the child is a daughter rather than a son, and the boxer survives at the end. Even when he wins, as here, he loses; the win in fact leaves him a few  steps below where he started. He wins fight and daughter but still has no wife, no house, fewer friends, no trust, a more aged and less abled body. Like all boxing films, Southpaw is a parable for capitalism. It reminded me a little bit more of the original version of The Champ rather than the Franco Zefferelli 1979 remake with Jon Voight in the Wallace Beery role and Ricky Schroeder in the Jackie Cooper role because the remake eschewed the social and focused more overtly on the domestic and familial.

The boxing film might be the only genre that puts class, capitalism and masculinity at the forefront. That’s what the genre is about; and historically films like the great Body and Soul (Robert Rosssen, USA, 1947)  have not only been critical on those subjects but have also been poetic in their criticism, with great dialogue one could reel off years after seeing the film (‘Everybody dies!’, ‘You need money to buy a gun’, ‘Life is just addition and substraction – the rest is conversation’…) Southpaw has many of the elements of the genre — a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, a good woman, an ornery old trainer, a dirty promoter, the very body as a site of struggle not only for home and family but for basic justice – but it starts at the point where the hero is already a champ and is about to lose everything.

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The plot is not as coherent as one would like with some characters (Hoppy) just dropping off the radar too abruptly so that, whilst the rationale for their introduction is clear, the payoff their place in the narrative deserves doesn’t quite come off in the end. The relationship with the daughter is to my mind also misconceived; the film would have been better had they been entirely kept apart by the institutions rather than also by the daughter’s choice. I also think the film might have been slightly improved by a redistribution of the film’s set of knowledges so that there were moments where the audience knew more than its characters. It might have made it more moving than it already is; and a good cry at the state of an America pictured like this is really what’s called for but what the film doesn’t quite deliver. It’s also traditionally how the melodramatic genre elicits a kind of suspense and a kind of emotion: we know what’s coming before the protagonist does but can’t guide or act — we can only anguish at what’s coming and suffer along with the characters when it does.

What Southpaw does achieve is a great neon-noir look that evokes the attractions and dangers of poor people moving through cheaply coloured lights in a very dark world. But it stops short of being a stinging attack on the state of things, and to its detriment. 50 Cent is Jordan Mains, the slick promoter skimming his money whilst parroting loyalty and family values when things are going well only to kick him out of his office at the first sign of trouble. The film would have been better and pleased more had he got more of a comeuppance. I wanted him to squirm at the end of the film like the dirty promoter he is (and like every dirty promoter/gangster has squirmed at the end of almost every boxing film since forever). I don’t understand why the film denies us that moment.

But it does offer other, and great, pleasures. Jake Gyllenhall is unrecognisable and gives a complex performance — both brutish and delicate as Billy Hope: he’s really great. He’s got an amazing body in the sense that you could see all the work that went into it, but it’s not a naturally elegant or beautiful body, and it’s constantly on display and very affecting to see; all that work that went into it… and yet the torso is still boxy, the waist jutty; work buys results but it doesn’t buy perfection; and it works for the role because in boxing the body’s a tool and not just something to be looked at, though the film is incredibly expressive, movingly so, in the display of its destruction. Rachel McAdams, is sexy, vibrant, intelligent and loving as Hope’s wife; and her performance is what makes the moment of Billy’s loss so moving.

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It sometimes feels that Antoine Fuqua is the only director currently working in American cinema who’s making serious films about ordinary people in a popular cinematic vernacular, generally the action film: Training Day (2001), Brooklyn’s Finest (2009) are what first come to mind but The Equalizer (2014), The Shooter (2007) and Olympus Has Fallen (2013) also have things to offer to those minded to pay attention. Southpaw is in that vein: a bit patchy, not quite perfect but a serious look at working people on the margins of a multiracial America by someone who knows what it is and knows how to depict it for us. I think critics might have liked it better had the hero been named Billy Nohope. As it is, and with all its imperfections, I very much liked Southpaw.

José Arroyo

Watching La Famille Belier in Geneva

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IMG_6747Watching films is an activity and an experience. Before technology developed to the extent that the general public could go into a shop and come out with some VHS titled say ‘Foul Play’, one would pay money, go into the movie and come out only with a memory of certain aspects of the film tied to the way that one felt. Thus the laughs at the moment the bed keeps going up and down in Dudley Moore’s pornographic flat, or how Goldie Hawn mistakenly harms the wrong dwarf, or the Japanese tourists jumping up and down in a taxi yelling ‘Kojak!’, are still vivid memories with me. Is the film any good? I don’t know; and I’m afraid to watch it again (might the Kojak bit seem racist to me now? Was Chevy Chase really as handsome and charming as I remember him to be? Was the karate fight between Burgess Meredith and Rachel Roberts really that funny? Is the film really as covertly gay as I remember it to be?) – the memories are too good to sacrifice. How and where we watch films play a role in how we appreciate them.

I saw La Famille Belier at the Salt.Cinema in Geneva, right next to the yacht club, in the kind of balmy coolness only the onset of evening in the middle of a heat-wave (a canicule is the lovely name for it there) can produce. The breeze wafting in from the lake, the illuminated boats cruising through the darkness, the sailboats bobbing up and down in the yacht club, a perfectly made mojito in my hand, an old and dear friend sitting next to me, a giant screen in front. It would have taken a truly horrible film to ruin such a moment and La Famille Belier is great fun, touching at moments, with a great performance by Louane Emera, a semi-finalist in France’s version of The Voice, as Paula, the teenage daughter of deaf parents who feel betrayed when she decides to enter a singing competition. It’s very broad, very deftly acted, and at moments, such as when Paula sings Michel Sardou’s ‘Je vole’, very touching indeed. It was lovely to see a teenage musical, particularly a French one, as they don’t come around too often. The film was very enjoyable if not great, but watching it with a good friend in such exquisite surroundings made for a sublime experience.

José Arroyo

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Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs, USA, 2015)

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I found the trailer for Magic Mike XXL so embarrassing, I put off seeing the film until friends convinced me to. I found it much better than expected and really enjoyable. The audience was almost all women and when Channing Tatum first appears after the credits, they all went ‘Phwoar!’. And that set the tone for the film’s reception, at least with the audience I saw it with, which was almost 98% female.

It’s a very interesting film, very inclusive of difference if slightly confused and confusing as to its racial and sexual politics and, unlike the first one, one very much directed at a female gaze, with Matt Bomer thrown in as a bone to the gay audience. The story is a bit of a mess and it ends abruptly. But I didn’t mind that much. I loved the musical numbers and the way it all feels like Mickey and Judy putting on a show but veering off now towards the burlesque end of showbiz. It’s basically a musical with half naked men in which the wall-flowers get to dance with the prom king whilst gay men are invited to cheer on through scenes in gay bars and Channing Tatum’s character admitting a drag name, even if it is something like Clitoris Labia or some such, and the bodies of course. But it’s all sexless, pretend, ironic and knowing, but earnest too; just like the old musicals but without as much dancing, which is a pity, as the only moment the film seems to really take off and fly into a zone approaching greatness is that moment where Channing Tatum gets taken over by the music and dances with his tools in the shed – it’s really thrilling to see.

The film is very knowing and rather sophisticated in its range of references: Carmen Miranda, the boys camping it up in a vogue-ing contest referencing both Madonna AND Paris is Burning, Joe Manganiello commenting on vampires in The Twilight Saga rather than True Blood, etc. It looks as neon bright as the original with striking and original visual imagery (Steven Soderbergh is the cinematographer); The cast are all adequate but it’s only Bomer who gives any sense of a characterisation: a has-been actor with fading looks and with his only claim to fame working at Disneyworld and a few local commercials, now caught up in new-age philosophies (or crackpot theories) as a way of keeping at bay something that’s dying inside. You can imagine him starring in gay porn the year after the film is set. As to the rest…Andie MacDowell’s loosened up a bit as she’s gotten older but she’s still the worst thing in the film though mercifully she’s not on for long. Joe Manganiello finally gets the part he was denied in the first film though doesn’t bring the spark, theatricality, or star quality Matthew McConaughey brought to the original. Channing Tatum always looks like someone’s slapped him hard and he doesn’t know what to say. Only Jada Pinkett-Smith, in today’s equivalent of the old Madam-with-a-heart-of-gold role, stands out. She is dazzling (though even she has been better in Gotham).

I find it difficult to come to a conclusion as to what the film’s about other than ‘you’re ok, I’m ok, we’re all beautiful inside and we all deserve to be treated like queens no matter how we look or what’s happened to us’, all of which is pretty Oprah….but then that Channing Tatum starts to dance to an inventive choice of music (true throughout the film) and the film zooms onto another dimension. I wish it had ventured there more often but it’s a rare film that addresses a female and gay audience in as warm and delightful a manner as this one and I was happy enough to find it as entertaining as I did.

José Arroyo

Nicky Smith and José Arroyo in Bologna

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A crude home movie; made by someone who doesn’t really know how to make them — me; but which nonetheless evokes how wonderful it was to see classic films at the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna during the Giornate del Cinema Ritrovato.

José Arroyo

The Bells of St. Mary’s (Leo McCarey, USA, 1945)

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The Bells of St. Mary’s is the sequel to Going My Way (1944); both by Leo McCarey and both the most successful box-office his of their respective years. It is according to Richard Corliss ‘officially loved’; Pauline Kael thought it a recruiting poster for the Catholic Church matched only by The Exorcist (William Friedkin); writing in 1973, Joseph McBride wrote that ‘If you don’t cry when Bing Crosby tells Ingrid Bergman she has tuberculosis, I never want to meet you and that’s that’. Much as I admire his work, perhaps it’s lucky we’ve never met.

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How is The Bells of St. Mary’s in any way acceptable? It’s false through and through and offensively so: hip priests and cute nuns, pretending to be all self-sacrificing and cheerful, solving all the world’s problems, manipulating everyone with prayer, conning an old man out of his building. There’s a big Leo McCarey retrospective here at the Cinema Ritrovatto. Yes, he is the director of beloved films such as Duck Soup (1933) and The Awful Truth (1937); and, yes, they are greatly to be cherished. But he is also the director of My Son John (1952). Why isn’t the falsity in his work also part of the discussion of McCarey? How can critics let such lies go through? Yes, there’s Ingrid Bergman, gloriously radiant, enraptured in a halo of faith that is beautiful to see; Bing sings skilfully in that marvellous baritone of his; McCarey is great at staging the comedy in a low key, famously improvised manner; the actors are excellent; but excellent in the service of what? It’s an insult to one’s intelligence; a testament to the power of lies, the American equivalent of a Stalinist film about the redeeming values of cement and the glory of sacrificing individual life and happiness to the five year plan. A film that turns from pleasant to hateful as soon as the thought it fights so hard to displace is applied to it. Yet, also one of the most popular films of all time and thus perhaps all the more reason to think about it seriously.

José Arroyo

Form and Medium at the Cinema Ritrovatto

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The Giornatta di Cinema Ritrovatto makes crystal clear the irreducible value of form and medium; that it makes a difference to see something on a large screen or a huge screen or a small screen; that sound, both in terms of the score itself and the way that it is conveyed is crucial; that a nitrate print is something to see; that celluloid projection offers different qualities than digital. To not care about texture, hue, intensity, size – what all of these different forms of display bring to the art of cinema is analogous to the claim that you can recolour Van Gogh, print an altered reproduction and claim that it is no different to the original and can replace it in a museum without prejudice. One can see why studios intent on making profit might make those claims but how can museums? How is it permissible for museums and cinémathèques and teachers of film aesthetics and really anyone interested in film as an art to not care about what type of print is projected, how it is projected and on the size of the screen?

The programming at Il Cinema Ritrovato made the importance of this gloriously clear: So, for example, Cover Girl (Charles Vidor, USA, 1944), according to the catalogue, ‘Three-strip technicolor features 35mm print derived from black and white three strip negatives (all features printed on a nitrate base)’, but digitally projected from a 4k print, looked out of this world, in fact Mark Fuller, a friend who did not like the film, nevertheless admired the gorgeousness of the print, and how because of the print, the colours themselves seemed to sing and dance more vibrantly than anything else in the film (quite something to say when the people in the film look and move as beautifully as Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly do). In a lovely piece on the festival for Photogenie, Tom Paulis writes  of how the print of The Thin Red Line (Terence Malick, USA, 1998)  ‘was as unique as they come, a Technicolor dye-transfer copy made as a gift to the director that only very rarely leaves the vaults. The result was a small miracle. The dye-transfer completely transformed the film, especially in the deep saturation of the blacks, making an already high-contrasty film (that Queensland light!) look like Caravaggio’.

Likewise, in an excellent overview of the festival in The Guardian, Pamela Hutchinson begins her piece as follows:

‘“Technicolor is like God – it cannot be copied!” Nicola Mazzanti of the Royal Belgian Film Archive is introducing a screening of Douglas Sirk’s perfect melodrama All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, USA, 1955) and, in an unexpectedly exuberant speech, he promises the crowd in Bologna’s Cinema Arlecchino “a mystical experience”. This is a screening, not from a digital cinema package (DCP) or a re-release, but an original 35mm distribution print – vintage, authentic Technicolor. Mazzanti assures us that there will be scratches (“God, I love scratches!”) and that “if we are really lucky, the film will break, the house lights will come up, and you will be discovered entwined with your girlfriend, or your boyfriend”.

Now Mazzarati might be over-fetishising the experience but anyone lucky enough to see  a vintage print at the festival will admit that the colours looked and felt different than other restored versions and even other formats. I was lucky enough to see the Spanish Filmoteca’s vintage copy of Fantasia (Walt Disney, USA, 1940), one which we might have been the last people to see, as loss of quality is incurred each time a print is shown; and if colour, hue, luminosity are one of the ways films convey meaning and help evoke particularly experiences, the choice of which version and in which form should be purposeful, and great care should be taken in the projection.

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And it’s not just about image. One of the highlights of the festival was the screening of Rapsodia Satanica (Italy 1914-17) at The Teatro Comunale di Bologna, in its original nitrate print, but with the Pietro Mascagni score beautifully restored so that it was was once more perfectly timed to every gesture, every eye-movement, so that everything the music originally expressed was once more revealed by Timothy Brock conducting a full orchestra at the Teatro Comunale. The beauty of the hand-tinted colours, the visual values revealed by the nitrate print, the drama on-screen once more synchronised to the music, this time conveyed with the fullness only a full orchestra is capable of and in the glorious surroundings of the Teatro Comunale: one can only say, wow! A sublime experience.

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One thinks the battle for film as an art form has been won discursively but one goes to museums and one sees that the repositories of the best of our culture are not practicing what they preach. Films are often shown on a terrible youtube-like loop. Every piddly Warhol piss painting is treated like an elgin marble; every great treasure of cinema treated like used-up can of coke. It’s time museums and indeed every official repository of culture imitate the practices of the Cinema Ritrovatto in relation to film.

José Arroyo

Watching Rocco And His Brothers in the Piazza Maggiore at the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna.

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There were all kinds of magical experiences watching films in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna during the Giornate del Cinema Ritrovato but the one of seeing Rocco e i suoi  fratelli/ Rocco and His Brothers in this particular context – the Piazza Maggiore, with thousands of spectators, a huge screen, a special stand purpose-built for the projector so it can be sufficiently high to have enough ‘throw’ to fill that particularly huge screen – to be able to in this context ‘experience’ this particular story, the story of Italy, the story of leaving home, leaving mi paise, which stands not just for one’s village but for one’s land, one’s country as both an imaginary but also in a phenomenological sense, in which the film itself posited a kind of saudade, that kind of felt love for a people and place one longs for still but which is far away and maybe never was but that is imagined so vividly, and which one’s love for that imaginary is still felt so strongly that it is rendered alive, and the sadness for its loss so vividly juxtaposed with the fullness of the feeling for what once was; a country you feel, experience, touch, sense, and which you carry the memory of like a half-sensed reverie, missing and longing, yearning and loss, all mixed up with a desire for an entwined affect. This story of mid-century Italy is now also the story of so many in a 21st century world; and the problems of the film resonate not only with their specificity but with their universality. It was truly great; and not only the work in itself but also the experience of watching it in this particular context. Doubly great.

José Arroyo