Celebrating its 27th edition, Il Cinema Ritrovato (literally “Cinema Rediscovered”) takes place annually at the end of June in the sweltering heat of Bologna for eight days. The festival attracts cinephiles, archivists, academics, film programmers and day-to-day filmgoers from all corners of the globe who descend upon the city each year and, save for walking between the four main screening venues, spend from 9am to 9pm in the darkness watching movies, then emerge for the packed free open air screenings in the Piazza Maggiore each evening.
The festival is unlike no other; this year saw a programme of over 300 features, shorts and documentaries from early silent shorts of 1903 to a new restoration financed by the DVD label Criterion of Malick’s “Badlands”. As well as a wide eclectic mix of films on show there are also numerous exhibitions, symposiums and courses on cinema to tempt any film obsessive.
It’s not just restorations at the festival, but films long since forgotten and awaiting to be rediscovered are screened as part of mini-retrospectives or themed programmes. This year saw the following special events; Allan Dwan retrospective, the Hitchcock 9 (the silents restored by the BFI screened here in new 35mm prints), a season of films directed by and starring Vittorio de Sica, the Chaplin Mutual short films, a collection of films from 1913, Olga Preobrazenskaja and Ivan Pravov retrospective, Czech films from the 1960s shot on Orwo film, a selection of Chris Marker film essays, War is Near (war films covering 1938-1939), European Cinemascope films, Japanese films from the 30s from the PCL Studio – as well as many other sidebar events.
Here’s a breakdown, with some comments, of my film diary from Il Cinema Ritrovato 2013:
Peter von Bagh (the artistic director of Il Cinema Ritrovato) interviews US film director, Alexander Payne – the festival generally kicks off each year with one of the visitors to the festival being interviewed about their love of cinema. I had invited Alexander to the festival this year by way of a ‘thank you’ for his inviting me to the Telluride Film Festival last year. I knew of his great passion for cinema, particularly Italian and Japanese, so I knew that he’d be in his element once he arrived. I was not wrong; on the last day he said he’d never miss another year!
Glückskinder (1936 d. Paul Martin) – screwball comedy starring Lilian Harvey and Willy Fritsch in a story inspired by Capra’s It Happened One Night. The film was screened in a new restored print by Murnau Stiftung.
Lucky Luciano (1973 d. Francesco Rosi) – Gian Maria Volonte and Rod Steiger star in this crime thriller that looks at the years preceding the Italian-American Mafioso’s death.
Interestingly this new restoration funded by Scorsese’s Film Foundation and carried out by the Cineteca di Bologna, has tackled the ‘Italian problem’ of multilingual dialogue dubbing by opting to restore the original language for each respective cast member, so they each speak in their native tongue. I’ve seen very few films that have been restored in this way, and always thought it was considered an unsatisfactory approach to the issue (not least for its effect on suspension of disbelief), but perhaps the recent restoration of Terence Stamp’s English dialogue to Toby Dammit was the film that marked a sea change in thinking.
Dial M for Murder in 3D (1954 d. Alfred Hitchcock) – a bit of fun to round the day off and a new restored print to boot! While maybe not one of Hitch’s best, it does star the beautiful Grace Kelly and I confess that I had never seen it before in 3D. There were some serious technical problems with the screening, apparently due to the fact that the laser-projected Italian subtitles interfered with the 3D projection system! You’d think this issue must have reared its head before, but in any case any exhibitors should note this one for future reference! After 40 minutes the film eventually got underway and was well worth the wait.
Sans Lendemain (1939 d. Max Ophüls) – This film would appear in my Top Five any day of the week, and this was the first time I’d seen it projected. A beautiful new restored print from Gaumont. Edwige Feuillère sizzles on the screen.
Wife, be like a rose (1935 d. Mikio Naruse) – screened here as part of the Japanese films of the 30s from the PCL Studio and introduced by curators Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström. The films in this series were shown on the whole in decent prints considering their age and rarity.
Až přijde kocour AKA Cassandra Cat (1963 d. Vojtěch Jasný) – Screened as part of the “L’emulsione conta: Orwo e Nová vlna (1963-1968)” strand, again in reasonable condition prints. This film was a bit of a curiosity and clearly held strong political overtones. A travelling circus comes to town accompanied by a sunglasses-wearing cat. When the cat’s glasses are removed the people in the village change colour to reflect their true feelings.
The Invisible Man (1933 d. James Whale) – shiny new restoration from Universal, which to my eyes looked too clean and ‘over-restored’.
Three Comrades (1938 d. Frank Borzage) – Shown in the “War is Near (1938-1939)” strand, with a screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Three German soldiers fall for the same woman.
Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961 d. Allan Dwan) – made at the end of Dwan’s career and this really was pitiful to see what he had become reduced to making. If you’ve seen Mant as part of Joe Dante’s Matinee, then this comes close!
Sammy Going South (1963 d. Alexander Mackendrick) – another favourite film of mine which I’d never seen projected and sadly this print was so bad, I wished I’d waited and seen it elsewhere. With its beautiful landscape photography indeterminable amid the print’s reddish pink hue, it felt a crime to watch it in this form.
Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera AKA Lemonade Joe (1964 d. Oldřich Lipský) – a musical-western parody which has gathered a bit of a cult following over the years. The print was in pretty good shape and it was a bit of a hoot.
Un si joli petit plage AKA Riptide (1949 d. Yves Allégret) – classic noirish tale from Allégret shown here in a glistening new restoration that only goes to enhance the great Henri Alekan’s cinematography.
Enoken seishun suikoden (1934 d. Kajiro Yamamoto) – Early Japanese musical, filmed very much in the style of an American musical film of the time, particularly influenced by Busby Berkeley.
La Grande Guerra (1959 d. Mario Monicelli) – epic war film with elements of humour filmed by a director who clearly knows how to fill the wide cinemascope frame. Very good print.
The Story of the Criterion Collection – a talk by co-founders Peter Becker and Jonathan Turrell about the history of the Criterion DVD label, an overview of the company and its vision for the future.
Borom Sarret (1963 d. Ousmane Sembene) – short film restored by Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation
Ni Liv (1957 d. Arne Skouen) – new restored print, Norwegian film about a resistance fighter who survives an attack on a German vessel and manages to escape alone enduring some extremely harsh conditions.
Model Shop (1969 d. Jacques Demy) – Demy’s first English language film, presented here in a new restoration and starring the stunning Anouk Aimée. Harrison Ford auditioned for the male lead, which went to Gary Lockwood.
A Selection of Shorts from 1913 – each year the festival screens short films that are made 100 years ago. This little collection was a treat; it featured a couple of newsreels, a very funny scene with elephants bathing at a zoo and a rather distasteful effort consisting of a hunter shooting hundreds of birds out of the sky!
Dáma na kolejích AKA Lady on the Tracks (1968 d. Ladislav Rychman) – for me one of the best of the Czech films that I saw. A female tram driver is determined to save her marriage after seeing her husband kiss another woman.
L’amore (1948 d. Roberto Rossellini) – part of the Cineteca’s ongoing restoration project of Rossellini features. This anthology film features two stellar performances from Anna Magnani.
Kochiyama Soshun (1936 d. Sadao Yamanaka) – rather ashamed to admit I fell asleep during this one. (The previous night’s excesses taking their toll and not because the film was sub-standard.)
Il Cinema Ritrovato 2013 DVD Awards – the annual ceremony highlighting the releases of the year – full awards listed here: http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=33954
Closely Watched Trains (1966 d. Jiří Menzel) – arguably the most well known film screened in this strand. A delight as always.
The Iron Mask (1929 d. Allan Dwan) – Dwan’s lavish silent film of Dumas Musketeers story starring Douglas Fairbanks. Complete here with Carl Davis score.
L’aîné des Ferchaux AKA Magnet of Doom (1963 d. Jean-Pierre Melville) – Dodgy banker (Charles Vanel) flees France to America with Belmondo as his personal secretary/bodyguard. Little known Melville feature, glorious cinemascope but feels very dated indeed. Considering more than half the film takes place in the States, it’s all Second Unit work and the cast remained in France!
Ikarie XB 1 (1963 d. Jindrich Polák) – interesting Czech sci-fi shot in scope and based on a Stanislaw Lem (Solaris) novel.
A New Cinephilia – Jonathan Rosenbaum discusses his life and career as a film critic/writer
Sudden Fear (1952 d. David Miller) – the Cohen Media Group were responsible for the new print for this screening and will be releasing a DVD/Blu Ray of the feature some time in the future. This is a lot of fun if you don’t take it too seriously and Crawford gives good value, even if she does chew up most of the scenery!
Experiment in Terror (1962 d. Blake Edwards) – new restoration of Edwards crime thriller with Glenn Ford as the cop trying to track down a killer after Lee Remick.
Pechki-lavochki (1972 d. Vasiliy Shukshin – in the Cinemascope strand, this Russian movie tells the humorous story of a Siberian tractor driver travelling with his wife to a Black Sea resort and their first trip to Moscow.
Údolí vcel AKA Valley of the Bees (1968 d. Frantisek Vlácil) – a film that may be familiar to UK readers from its acclaimed DVD release by Second Run, on the big screen this is a haunting film with some simply breathtaking cinematography. Filled with religious metaphors, this was a film filled with beautiful imagery and it’s often hard not to think of Bergman.
So, all in all I’m fairly pleased with my film-watching haul. I managed to catch a diverse range of titles, but of course it’s only a drop in the ocean of the huge number of programmed films in the festival. Until next year, then, when we’ll see if Mr Payne makes good on his promise to initiate an annual pilgrimage!
- Il Cinema Ritrovato XVII edizione 2013 (itpworld.wordpress.com)