After two days in nearby Arezzo with some of my wife’s family, we arrived by train in Bologna early Saturday morning.
We checked into the hotel then made a beeline for the Cineteca di Bologna to collect our passes. Whilst sitting at the adjacent outside cafe we saw our first two smiling familiar faces of the festival, Milja Mikkola from Midnight Sun then Liz Helfgott from Criterion. As well as the incredibly diverse array of movies screening at the festival each year, the other wonderful thing about the festival is meeting up with friends from around the world who return each year. Oh, and the food here in Bologna ain’t too shabby either!
And so, to the movies!
The main director being honoured at this year’s festival is Leo McCarey, with the program being curated by MOMA’s Dave Kehr and film historian, Steve Massa. Our first film was McCarey’s 1930 comedy, PART TIME WIFE. A film that signifies McCarey’s leap from silent to sound utilising many of the same simple but effective comedy skits. In fact McCarey even reworked some of the scenes from PART TIME WIFE in his later film, THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), and according to him, he felt they were better executed in the later film. Whilst some of the acting felt a little clumpy, it was a very enjoyable comedy with some great “laugh out loud” comedy moments.
Directly following this film, we attended THE 1000 EYES OF DR VON BAGH, a forum paying homage to the late festival director, Peter von Bagh, who tragically passed away last September. The forum was chaired by director of the Cineteca di Bologna, Gian Luca Farinelli, and gave the opportunity for many of Peter’s friends to share a memory of him. Some of those contributing included Cecilia Ceniciarelli, Mariann Lewinsky, Anna von Bagh, Antti Alanen and Dave Kehr. Sadly time ran out as both myself and Jonathan Rosenbaum. I shall send my own “memory” to the Il Cinema Ritrovato website for inclusion.
That was to be it for the first day which ended with dinner with Aussie film writer and former director of the Melbourne Film Festival, Geoff Gardner, and Asian film expert/writer, Tony Rayns.
Sunday was to prove to be a packed day, kicking off with Lino Brocka’s 1976 film, INSIANG. The film was recently restored by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation World Cinema Project and received it’s world premiere at May’s Cannes Film Festival. The film was brutal at times as it told the heart-rending story of a young Manila girl (INSIANG) growing up in virtual poverty with an over-domineering mother who’s boyfriend was only using her to get to INSIANG. Personally I was not a great admirer of the film, but the restored was beautifully vibrant.
Up next was one of Ingrid Bergman’s early Swedish films, MUNKBROGREVEN (1935). This film was a real highlight for me and could in turn prove to end up being one of the best of the festival for me. It is also Bergman’s first proper screen performance and it’s hilarious from beginning to end. Beautiful print from the Swedish Film Institute too.
Then to lunch and a few chats with the likes of Dave Kehr, Neil Brand, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Liz Helfgott, it was off to the afternoon screenings!
The afternoon started with McCarey’s 1936 comedy THE MILKY WAY, starring Harold Lloyd. Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd introduced the screening. Variety’s Scott Foundas joined us for the screening and it was nice to catch up with him. The movie was a “hoot” and I have to confess to this being the first “sound” film of Lloyd’s that I’d seen.
Following the screening we headed back to the Cineteca’s Auditorium for a talk on Leo McCarey, chaired by Dave Kehr with panellists Steve Massa, Serge Bromberg and Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Final film for the day was Chuck Workman’s 2014 documentary MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES. the documentary is chronologically chaptered to cover various time periods in Welles life. It uses interview footage of Welles to tell the story of his life as well as featuring sound bites from various Welles scholars and those that both knew and worked with him. I felt that it was ok but didn’t really add to anything that had not been said already.
And so that was the end of the films for the day, dinner was with Geoff Gardner, Tony Rayns and Aussie film writer/broadcaster, David Stratton.