Notes from Il Cinema Ritrovato
Bologna, 29 June – 6 July 2002
The two best film festivals for film historians both take place in Italy. Le Giornate del Cinema Muto has taken the epic task of systematic revaluation of film history. Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna plays a more cinephilic role, presenting many kinds of “rediscovered film”. It’s a rich showcase of recent preservation.
Il Cinema Ritrovato was arranged for the 16th time by Cineteca del Comune di Bologna and Nederlands Filmmuseum. The Artistic Director was Peter von Bagh.
This year the Cinema Ritrovato programme threefolded. A full screening schedule was offered in three main venues, Cinema Fulgor, Cinema Lumiere (3-D etc.), and Sala Cervi (video projections etc.). It was now possible to see but a third of it all.
(Sala Cervi at the Cineteca Bologna is named after the beloved actor Gino Cervi, internationally best remembered as the Mayor Peppone of the Don Camillo films, but also a Jean Valjean to remember in the Victor Hugo Bicentennial year, and for many Italians the definitive Maigret.)
Special evening events took place at the main square of the Renaissance city, Piazza Maggiore, guarded by Giovanni Bologna’s famous statue of Neptune. Some events took place at the square proper, others at the special court, the Cortile di Palazzo d’Accursio. The Chaplin evening gala with a symphony orchestra was arranged at the city theater, Teatro Comunale.
The silents were accompanied by the expert pianists Alain Baents, Neil Brand, Antonio Coppola, and Donald Sosin.
The Festival was opened by István Szabó.
Gianluigi Toccafondo had designed a new signature logo for la Cineteca di Bologna based on Lyda Borelli’s appearance in Rapsodia Satanica.
From the preservation showcase angle, a common feature linked the Léonce Perret, La Maison du mystère, and the Film d’Art Italiana retrospectives: what wonderful results can be achieved when there is access to the original negatives, and when the preservation project is followed through to the end, that is, reassembling films, reconstructing intertitles and adding colours.
LEONCE PERRET AND THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD
Léonce Perret (1880-1935) was a distinguished and prolific director of 388 films in France and the USA. 350 of them he directed for Gaumont 1909-1917. He started as an actor and continued to act in his own films, as well. In her introduction to the retrospective, Claudine Kauffmann of la Cinémathèque française remarked on the physical resemblance of Perret and Henri Langlois, a big Perret champion.
Bologna’s Perret retrospective, realized in collaboration with Cinémathèque Gaumont and Cinémathèque française, helped by Netherlands Filmmuseum (NFM), focused on the director’s Gaumont films of 1911-1913. Nine of them were screened in new restorations, and many prints were struck from original negatives, that is, from black and white sources without intertitles; colours and intertitles having been reconstructed. Mariann Lewinsky writes in her introductory notes about the “warm and affectionate gaze” with which Perret´s films reflect the visible world of the Belle Epoque. The beautiful prints did justice to this vision of the “beautiful world” on the eve of the Great War.
For Gaumont, Perret directed films of all genres: comedy, drama, historical, adventure, crime, patriotical. Perret paid much attention to the direction of actors, and he worked with top performers of the day, including the strong-willed Valentine Petit, his wife. Perret’s talents of persuasion were needed to calm down Valentine’s attempts to interfere with his film-making. Perret often worked with the cameraman Georges Specht and the set designer Robert-Jules Garnier. Perret was the first Gaumont director to make feature films (L’Enfant de Paris, 1912, and Le Roman d’un mousse, 1913). Georges Sadoul praised the first of them: “(…) Perret a su conduire un récit souple et vif, en employant un vocabulaire cinématographique extrêmement raffiné: contre jours, gros plans, contre plongées, mouvements d’appareil et mille autre innovations sont utilisées par lui avec un brio (…)” His colleagues acknowledged his great care for plastic composition and sense of depth in his blocking of actors and production design. He was called “un bel imagier”, and also “l’Electricien du cinéma”. Langlois: “Dès 1909, film après film, Perret cherche à plonger l’être humain dans l’ambiance sensorielle de la vie, à capter le paysage, moins dans sa forme que dans sa lumière, et ses rapports avec l’atmosphère ambiante”.
The declaration of war in August 1914 put a stop to the most creative period of Perret’s career.
The Bologna retrospective showed Perret’s dramas and comedies from three of his Gaumont years. Perret starred himself in his Léonce series of comedies (38 films in 1913-1915) , and Valentine Petit was one of their most popular leading ladies.
The programmes were introduced by Claudine Kauffmann (Cinémathèque française), Martine Offroy (Gaumont), and Mariann Lewinsky. – I saw but a third of the films screened.
Programme 29 June 2002 at Bologna, Cinema Fulgor
Les Béquilles (“The Crutches”, FR 1911), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, restored in 2002, 13’ – A romantic comedy of two temporarily crippled.
Maternité (FR 1911), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, fragment restored by Gaumont. 6’
Le Homard (“The Lobster”, FR 1913), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, starring Perret, Valentine Petit, stencil coloured print by NFM, 11’
Programme 30 June 2002 at Bologna, Cortile di Palazzo d’Accursio
Les Halles (FR 19--), 7’ – non-Perret – beautiful documentary
L’Express Matrimonial (FR 1912), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, 11’, restored in 1980 from original negative – a romantic comedy of mistaken identities
Les Bretelles (“The Suspenders”, FR 1913), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, restored in 2002, 15’ – A metafilmic marital comedy of misunderstanding.
Programme 5 July 2002 at Bologna, Cinema Fulgor
Comment on les garde (FR 1911), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, restored in 2002 from original negative, 12’. – Comedy of seduction: disguised lady lets herself be seduced by fickle boyfriend and brings him home his eyes tied.
Le Chysanthème rouge (FR 1911), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, restored in 1994, 15’. – Double épreuve: Suzanne Grandais tests her two rival admirers with a task: he who brings me my favorite flowers wins my love. Léonce brings several bouquets, all wrong. The rival brings only one bouquet, but the choice is right. “Je n’aime que les chrysanthèmes”. But the colour is wrong: “Ce sont les rouges que je préfére”. The admirer colours the flowers with his own blood.
Bloemenweelde (FR 1914) 2’ – non-Perret – restored in 1994 by NFM. – Sensuous, stencil-coloured views of opening, blossoming flowers accomplished with the time-lapse effect.
La Lumière et l’amour (FR 1912), PC: Gaumont, D: Léonce Perret, 49’ – restored from original negative in 1999, reconstructed intertitles. – Beautiful love story set in the Riviera. An artist expresses his love to a woman via flower messages in a special tree. The woman is blinded in an accident, and the artist goes away, but the wise grandmother keeps the messages coming. Elegant use of the sea, the wind, the flowers – and the light.
Mary Pickford (1892-1979) is one of the most undervalued giants of film history. For decades her films were difficult to access, and responsible for this state of affairs was Pickford herself. She did not want her films to be seen, and even wanted to destroy them. Personally, before seeing the films, I had felt estranged by Mary’s image as seen in stills (I still do), and the titles of the books on which some of her most famous films were based (Pollyanna, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) have since decades had a parodic ring; though unearnedly so. The vision of the world in Mary Pickford’s films is not saccharine; on the contrary, they share a profound sense of tragedy and violence. They have more substance and toughness than the 1930s remakes (usually in name only) with Shirley Temple. Beyond prejudiced notions, a great artist is to be re-discovered.
Pickford acted in some 250 films in 1908-1933, and later continued as a producer. At least since The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), the great turning point of her career, she was definitely the author of her most important films, usually produced by her own company. The versatile Pickford had by then already mastered many kinds of roles, from comedy to tragedy, and she worked with top directors, including Griffith, DeMille, Tourneur, and Lubitsch. Specially devoted to her were Marshall Neilan, and later, Sam Taylor, who did some of their best work with her.
During the years 1917-1920 Pickford achieved international celebrity appearing in screen adaptations of classic children’s novels and stories, which John C. Tibbets calls “growing girl” films. The “Little Mary”, “America’s Sweetheart”, “the Sweetheart of the World”, became the highest paid, most idolized and most powerful female in the entertainment business. The eleven-year protagonist of The Poor Little Rich Girl was Mary’s first attempt on screen to portray a girl so young; by then she had already made some 200 films. This new kind of heroine was “practical, high-spirited, independent, and, above all, an imaginative creature determined to confront and cope with the adult world’s miseries and inequities” (Tibbets).
After the release of The Poor Little Rich Girl, to Pickford’s growing dismay, viewers began to confuse her with the little-girl roles: “(…) as the years went by and I continued to play children’s roles, it would worry me that I was becoming a personality instead of an actress. I would suddenly resent the fact that I had allowed myself to be hypnotized by the public into remaining a little girl” (Pickford). But Pickford was a practical businesswoman – Adolph Zukor referred to her as “The Bank of America’s Sweetheart” – and she continued to play little-girl roles well into her maturity. It became fashionable among critics and scholars to dismiss Pickford’s films, and since her retirement from the screen in 1934, even Pickford herself regarded her films as hopelessly old-fashioned.
Pickford (born Gladys Louise Smith) was only eight when her father died, leaving her, her mother, and two siblings penniless. Pickford then started her career on the stage where she quickly found herself the family’s breadwinner: “A determination was born in me (…) that nothing could crush (…) I must try to take my father’s place in some mysterious way and prevent anything from breaking up my family” (Pickford). She was to be guided by great producers and directors like Belasco and Griffith before hitting world stardom. “I’d never really known what it meant to be a child. I sometimes feel that my only real childhood was lived through the many children’s roles I played, even into adulthood” (Pickford).
Seeing Bologna’s five Pickford films was a big thrill with the exception of Rosita. Except that one, they share a vision of a crippled childhood, they portray a world of injustice and violence, and they promote a fighting spirit, an inner force of love and dignity. Mary Pickford does not idealize childhood, neither does she hesitate to make a fool of herself. She often plays the clown; she may be plain, crippled, and ugly; she is usually inarticulate and clumsy; but behind the mask of the clown we sense the inner dignity. In common to her best films is a deep emotional force, a voice very personal, indeed.
On the surface, the Pickford character is comical, happy and smiling, but beneath, one feels a sense of loss.
Old-fashioned? Unfortunately, the world of today (the Finnish viewer cannot help thinking about tragedies in Russia and the Baltic; but there are neglected children in our own country, too, including “poor little rich girls” and boys) is not better than the one Pickford portrayed almost a hundred years ago. Neither has the passion and the spiritual force of her films lost its validity.
Daddy-Long-Legs (Setä Pitkäsääri) © US 1919 Mary Pickford Corp., D: Marshall Neilan, based on the novel by Jean Webster, DP: Charles Rosher, starring Mary Pickford, 85’. Bologna, Sala Cervi, 29 June 2002. – I only saw the first half, as the screening overlapped with Seven Men from Now. I enjoy the CinemaScope remake with Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire, but this first screen adaptation is in a totally different league altogether. Its cry of social conscience sounds loud and clear, and its imagery of “babies as flowers” is simple and moving. The human condition at the orphanage is grippingly portrayed, and Mary, the lifeforce among the children, is grimly punished for her high spirits (her fingers are burned at the oven as a warning for the others). Judging by the first half, probably ****
Stella Maris (Stella Maris) © US 1918 Mary Pickford Corp., D: Marshall Neilan, SC: Frances Marion, based on the novel by William J. Locke, starring Mary Pickford in a double role, and Conway Tearle, 68’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June 2002. Stella Maris is the paralyzed daughter of a rich family. Protected from reality, she leads a fairytale life “in the court of Stella Maris”. Unity Blake, a crippled Cockney girl, is “rescued” from a sordid orphanage to the home of an alcoholic woman, who beats her almost to death. The two girls’ path cross through the kind John Risca, husband of the alcoholic, and friend of Stella. Stella is healed, only to confront reality: she realizes that her whole life has been a lie. Unity, to help the adored John, murders Mrs. Risca and commits suicide. The start of the Great War is an epic background to Stella’s disillusionment. This masterpiece on the themes of growing up, Weltschmerz, and illusion and reality bears comparison to some of the greatest films of all times, like Rossellini’s Europa 51. The big themes are handled with sincerity. ****
Heart O’ the Hills (Kentuckyläistyttö) © US 1919 Mary Pickford Corp., D: Sidney Franklin, DP: Charles Rosher, AD: Max Parker, starring Mary Pickford (Mavis Haven), John Gilbert, a toned print from the original negative from Photoplay , 84’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 1 July 2002. Accompanied by Donald Sosin. Introduced by Kevin Brownlow. Faces, milieux, interiors, all feel authentic in this drama about the Kentucky mountain people. It’s a violent story, where mother beats Mavis until she finally stands up and breaks her stick, and where the drunkard stepfather beats mother until both are shot dead. “To shoot straight is the main aim of Mavin Haven” ever since she saw her father shot dead, but “what you need, Mavis, is books, not bullets”. Highlights: the shin-dig dance of the mountain people; the nightly ride of the mountaineers in white sheets (a vision bringing to mind The Mormon Maid and The Birth of the Nation); Mavis’s refuge on the mountain-top; the court-room sequence where most villagers confess to be the killer to save Mavis; Mavis’s first visit to the land of the blue-grass and her first sight of the railway; Mavis the mountain girl beats the boys at the schoolyard. ****
Rosita (Rosita) © US 1923 The Pickford Corp., D: Ernst Lubitsch, starring Mary Pickford. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 2 July 2002. – Print check: horrible duped 16mm from the Russian source, with 1997 English intertitles courtesy Larcas Productions. There are no good prints of this film.
Sparrows (Turvattomat) © US 1926 The Pickford Corp., D: William Beaudine, 84’. Bologna, Sala Cervi, 6 July 2002. – Mary Pickford visits the horror genre in this masterpiece deservedly included by William Everson in his Classics of the Horror Film. A point of comparison is Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter. The enchantment of a Grimms Märchen, but full of realistic detail. Grimes (Gustav von Seyffertitz) is an unforgettable genius of evil, Spec O’Donnell memorable as his son.They run a child farm in the bayou country where unwanted children are hidden for various reasons. If a child becomes a nuisance, s/he is unceremoniously drowned. Molly (MP) is a protector among the children. To remember: Grimes is introduced as he squashes a doll in the swamp; the children’s alarm attempt by kite; the children’s capacity to viciousness and violence; a stranger buys a stuttering boy at half the price of a pig; Molly’s self-taught Biblical wisdom (the Lord: “He’s pretty busy watching every sparrow that falls”); as she sleeps, Jesus comes to fetch a sick baby (realized in a brilliant superimposition without cutting); the nightmare escape through the alligator-infested bayou; “Out of the swamps into the morass of the law”; “Them sparrows ain’t got nothing on us now”. The gators aren’t as real as Mary remembered; the strings are visible, but not embarrassingly so. ****
Three of the westerns by the Boetticher / Kennedy / Scott triumvirate for Columbia were screened in newly restored prints from Sony Columbia / Grover Crisp. Also shown was the first of the series, Seven Men from Now, produced not by Columbia but by John Wayne, and originally written for him. Its resurrection has been one of the biggest restoration thrills of recent years.
Seven Men from Now (Seitsemän miestä jäljellä, US 1956), PC: Batjac, D: Budd Boetticher, SC: Burt Kennedy, starring Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, 78’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 29 June 2002. UCLA restoration 2000. Introduced by David Meeker. – For decades, impossible to see, and worth waiting for: already a perfect Boetticher / Kennedy / Scott production, a classic Western, lapidary and surprising. Lee Marvin at his best as the shady character between the sheriff and the seven killers. ****
REDISCOVERED AND RESTORED
Das Panzergewölbe (The Armored Vault, never released in Finland, DE 1926), D: Lupu Pick, starring Ernst Reicher (Stuart Webbs), Heinrich George, Aud Egede Nissen. English version. 85’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 29 June 2002. – Elegant, stylish Stuart Webbs thriller with visual wit and flourish, its vision clearly influenced by Fritz Lang: the super-villain portrayed by Heinrich George, the secret factory of the counterfeiters inside the armored vault, the giant clockface that spells doom, the sense of the absurd in the striking visual composition. ***
Gamba di legno (IT 1952), D: Guido Guerrasio, 10’. Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, 1 July 2002. Prolific Milanese documentary film-maker witnesses the last ride of Milan’s old “Peg Leg” train. ***
Il posto (Paikka nuorelle miehelle, IT 1961), D: Ermanno Olmi, 95’, Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, 1 July 2002, restored in 2002 by L’Immagine Ritrovata, alla presenza di Ermanno Olmi. – Affected by the vinegar syndrome, Il posto has been preserved and restored, complete with a scene deleted from the original release. The delicate portrait of the young country boy entering the big city of Milan and finding a job in an office avoids drama and narrative. I had difficulty concentrating in the town square screening.
The Blue Angel (US version of Der Blaue Engel / Sininen enkeli, DE 1930), PC: Ufa, P: Erich Pommer, D: Josef von Sternberg, starring Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich, 110’. Restored in 2001 by FWMS / Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv / L’Immagine Ritrovata. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 2 July 2002. Introduced by Friedemann Beyer (FWMS). – Of the German version of Der Blaue Engel no good prints exist, and the negative has been destroyed. Thus, it is a privilege to see the American version printed from the American negative, in which many scenes have fine photographic quality, though others are duped from the German version. The soundtrack, too, is interesting and surprising: it, too, is based on the German version, and only essential parts are in English. Lola’s songs are in English in this version, but not Rosa Valetti’s (“Deutsches Volk / schlafe nicht… “). Lola-Lola in the American version is presented as a native English speaker, and extra humour is introduced by the broken English of Prof. Rath, the English teacher. The soundtrack is digitally remastered in this print, and even German dialogue in the ambient background is more clearly audible. Lola speaks faultless English. The songs and laughter are Marlene’s, but is it her voice speaking the dialogue? In English, her dialogue sounds flat, lacking the sense of humour and the mother / predator ambiguity of Marlene’s mythic German-language Lola. – All scenes of the American version are also in the German one, but many bits of the German version are missing from the American one. The missing bits enrich humour, imagery and complexity of character and are sometimes hard to translate. Prof. Rath’s hilariously dreadful task to the class: “Was wäre geschehen wenn Marc Anton seine Grabrede nicht gehalten hätte?” has been replaced by a dull “Write the word ‘The’ 200 times“. – To sum up: the American version is more straightforward and tragic; the German one richer and more nuanced. ****
The Saga of Anatahan (Fièvre sur Anatahan, never released in Finland, JP 1953), D: Josef von Sternberg, Japanese version, with Sternberg’s commentary in English, French subtitles, 94’. Cinémathèque française 2001 preservation from the nitrate print released in France in 1956. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 3 July 2002. Introduced by Bernard Eisenschitz: There are several versions of Anatahan, as Sternberg kept revising it in the hope of making it more accessible to a bigger audience, and he even let shoot nude scenes to be added. But Sternberg’s re-edited versions have a crude, rough technical quality. It's this first version that matters. ****
The Last Laugh (US version of Der letzte Mann / Viimeinen mies, DE 1924), PC: Ufa, P: Erich Pommer, D+ED: F.W. Murnau, SC: Carl Mayer, PH: Karl Freund, starring Emil Jannings. 1890 m /20 fps/ 80’. Restored in 2002 by L’Immagine Ritrovata. Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, 3 July 2002. – The original US score by Hugo Riesenfeld arranged and directed by Javier Pérez de Azpeitia, and performed by Cristina Bertoli (flute), Ugo Mantiglia (violin), Enrico Guerzoni (cello), Mario Gigliotti (trombone), and Marco Verza (clarinet). – The best screening I’ve experienced of this film. Murnau himself directed and edited this US version, which has long been lost. It differs from the German one in many details. The total impact of the pictorial quality, the editing and the music made the best sense ever for me of the film, though there are details in the German version to be missed. – The Riesenfeld score is in the same style as his scores for Sunrise and Tabu. Those who like them will like this, as well. Mostly, it’s a compilation score from beloved café-concert themes. The Finnish viewer notices the extended use of Armas Järnefelt’s “Berceuse” in the scenes where the doorman is demoted. – The films that work best at the town square are those that are drawn with broad strokes. The Last Laugh works well on the square, as it is not a subtle film. ****
Racing Luck (Erään siirtolaisen seikkailut, US 1924), starring Monty Banks (Mario Bianchi), D: Herman C. Raymaker. Reconstructed in 2002 by Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique based on prints from Gosfilmofond and la Cinémathèque française, reconstructed French / Dutch intertitles, 52’, introduced by Jean-Marie Buchet. Bologna, 5 July 2002. – The Italian-born Monty Banks of Comedy’s Golden Era turned from shorts to features in 1924. Racing Luck, now available almost complete having existed for decades in fragments, has a solid storyline, perhaps a phantom autobiography: the boy’s rustic origins in an Italian village, arriving in America via Ellis Island, facing gangsters and corrupt policemen “protecting” the restaurant business, earning money in dancing shows with sweetheart, preparing everything for opening night of own restaurant, losing all money to gangsters. As a last minute solution, Monty decides to participate in a car race although he cannot drive. He starts to take driving lessons… ***
LA MAISON DU MYSTERE (Kauhujen talo) ***½
Serial in ten episodes, FR 1923, PC: Albatros, D: Alexandre Volkoff, DP: Joseph-Louis Mundviller, Fédote Bourgassoff, Nicolas Toporkoff, AD: Ivan Lochakoff, Edouard Gosch, starring Ivan Mosjoukine (Julien Villandrit), Charles Vanel (Henri Corradin), Hélène Darly (Régine Villandrit [de Bettigny]), Simone Genevois (Christiane as a child), Nicolas Koline (Rudeberg). Beautifully restored in 1990 by Cinémathèque française / Renée Lichtig from the original negative, partly toned (episode III-), total 476’ = 7 hours 56 min. (In Finland the film was released in 1923 condensed in two parts, total 3200 m /16 fps/ 174 min.) Introduced by Casper Tybjerg, who suggested this selection for the Festival. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June – 6 July, 2002. – The discovery of the Festival, the morning screenings of this serial caused a stir at the start of each day. Full of visual splendour and excitement, nuanced acting, and witty editing. A tour de force of the magnificent Albatros team, one of the all-time best serials.
The visual inventiveness parallels Abel Gance’s Napoleon, in which the Albatros team collaborated. The wedding sequence shown as a silhouette in Episode I. The climactic fight reflected in the objective of Rudeberg’s camera in Episode II. Rudeberg’s hands clutched on the chair after the arson and murder attempt in Episode III. The long shot of policemen emerging from the meadow to arrest Julien; the subtle gestures of longing between Mosjoukine and Darly during the trial in Episode IV (the best one). The prisoners’ escape via train and along “the living bridge” in Episode V. The little daughter (Genevois) recognizes her long-lost father; the Great War montage 1914-1919 in Episode VI. Julien’s return disguised as a clown in Episode VII. The Julien-Corradin fight on the cliffs of the Riviera in Episode VIII. Corradin stalks Rudeberg in the ruins at night in Episode IX. Rudeberg’s suicide, Corradin’s lynch mob, and Julien’s empty paper trick in Episode X.
Volkoff made on the one hand films that are grand but empty, and on the other truly fine ones, like the adaptation of Tolstoy’s Chechen tale, Der weisse Teufel, with Mozzhuhin as Hadzhi-Murat. I look forward to a Volkoff retrospective.
La Maison du Mystère I: L’Ami félon (FR 1923) 66’, 30 June 2002
La Maison du Mystère II: Le Secret de l’étang (FR 1923) 37’, 1 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère III: L’Ambition au service de la haine (FR 1923) 43’, 1 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère IV: L’implacable verdict (FR 1923) 52’, 2 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère V: Le Pont vivant (FR 1923) 39’, 3 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère VI: La Voix du sang (FR 1923) 30’, 3 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère VII: Les Caprices du destin (FR 1923) 57’, 4 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère VIII: Champ clos (FR 1923) 54’, 5 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère IX: Les Angoisses de Corradin (FR 1923) 45’, 5 July 2002
La Maison du Mystère X: La Triomphe de l’amour (FR 1923) 55’, 6 July 2002
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF EUROPEAN COMEDY theme focused on four artists: the Englishman Richard Massingham, the Bavarian Karl Valentin, and the Czech duo Voskovec and Werich.
RICHARD MASSINGHAM ****
Richard Massingham (1898-1953) is a big name in film history books, but his films have not been often shown in recent decades even in his native England, where in his lifetime he was a familiar face for cinemagoers. For Henri Langlois, “if I were asked who is the greatest English director, I would answer: Massingham, because he is at the same time Méliès and Vigo; and if I were asked who is the king of suspense, I would say without a moment’s hesitation: it’s Massingham. And if I were asked who is both the greatest technician and the greatest poet of British cinema, I would once again answer: it’s Massingham; and if I were asked who is the English director closest to Buñuel and to Mack Sennett, I would again say: it’s Massingham. Clearly, this will surprise anyone who has forgotten that size doesn’t count, and that Vermeer painted small pictures, and that the paintings he left us are no more numerous than Massingham’s films”.
Trained as a doctor, Massingham made (directed, wrote, acted in) a number of short films in 1933-1953: they were government films, commercial films, and instructional films for organizations. Massingham never made a feature film. The Finnish word “tietoisku” (info shot) expresses well the Massingham oeuvre. Of everyday subjects such as traffic enlightenment, dental care, daily hygiene, and water shortage he made films that are witty and cinematic. The approach is not one that tries to desperately to find humour in ordinary subject matter like sending Christmas cards early. Rather, such topics are pretexts for Massingham’s humoristic vision of the world. He often stars himself, his round-faced, jovial, bemused, absent-minded presence a memorable Everyman figure.
The films have not dated, but as society has changed, many of them now have fascinating historical value.
I missed the fourth, reportedly the best, of the programmes (What a Life! and The Cure).
Richard Massingham Programme I. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June 2002. Introduced by Geoffrey Brown.
Pedestrian Crossing (GB 1948) 2’
Coughs and Sneezes (GB 1945) 2’
The Five Inch Bather (GB 1942) 2’
Post Haste (GB 1943) 2’
Who’ll Buy a Warship? (GB 1942) 2’
The Mirror Can Lie (GB 1945) 2’
Tell Me If It Hurts (GB 1933) 20’
Richard Massingham Programme II, Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 1 July 2002
Warning to Travellers (GB 1949)
The Long, Long Trail (GB 1946)
30 Miles an Hour (GB 1948)
Jet Propelled Germs (GB 1948)
An Englishman’s Home (GB 1946)
Handkerchief Drill (GB 1949)
They Travel by Air (GB 1947)
Richard Massingham Programme III, Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 3 July 2002
Influenza (GB 1946)
Burns and Scalds (GB 1947)
Elopement in France (GB 1944)
Watch Your Meters (GB 1947)
Greensleeves (GB 1946)
The Waiting Room (GB 1947)
Pool of Contentment (GB 1946)
The films selected to the tribute to the idiosyncratic Bavarian comedian shared a musical theme. Karl Valentin often co-starred with his wife, Liesl Karlstadt, who usually plays the boss. Also shown in the tribute was the charming Ophuls / Smetana adaptation Die verkaufte Braut / The Bartered Bride.
Strassenmusik (“Street Music”, never released in Finland, DE 1936), D: Hans Deppe, with Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt in prominent supporting roles as the rival team of street musicians. Charming light entertainment. 91’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June 2002. ***
Der Zithervirtuose („The Zither Virtuoso“, DE 1934), D: Franz Seitz, 8’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 3 July 2002. The zither virtuoso’s whole energy goes to getting started. Point of comparison: the Chaplin / Keaton scene in Limelight; here, the notes are extremely crumpled. ***
Orchesterprobe (“Orchestra Rehearsal”, DE 1933), D: Carl Lamac, 22’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 3 July 2002. There is an interesting parallel to Fellini’s homonymous Prova d’orchestra, both about chaos and order. Valentin plays the horn and the violin and challenges the conductor in every possible way. ***
VOSKOVEC AND WERICH
“Voskovec and Werich were the two brightest comedy stars in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s (‘the most revered symbol of a great era’ according to Josef Skvorecky), born out of a wild combination of dadaism, circus, silent comedy, Czech jazz, and anything connected with the arts” (Peter von Bagh). As the duo satirized Hitler at an early date, even before his rise to power, Nazis tried to destroy their films, and what survives is sometimes in battered condition. (I missed the second, reportedly better, entry: Svet patri nam / The World Belongs to Us, 1937, the duo’s final film.)
Hej-rup! (Heave-Ho!, never released in Finland, CZ 1937), D: Martin Frič, starring Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich, ten minutes missing from the surviving print, 106’, Narodni filmovy archiv, sous-titres français. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 2 July 2002. Social satire starts slowly but gains momentum. The have-nots join forces and and establish a dairy and wine enterprise, threatened by sabotage from the villainous boss of a big company. Lots of funny inventions. ***
ORSON WELLES ****
The reconstruction-in-progress of the rich Orson Welles heritage by Münchner Filmmuseum / Stefan Drössler has been tracked by Il Cinema Ritrovato during the last years. Bologna’s Renaissance ambience is perfect for celebrating Welles, the great Cervantesian and Shakespearian. This time, we saw some of the very treasures of the posthumous Welles legacy. (I missed the pilot The Orson Welles Show, 1979.)
Orson Welles en el país de Don Quijote (Orson Welles in the Land of Don Quixote, ES 2000), D: Carlos Rodríguez, SC: Esteve Riambau. Beta video projection, Bologna, Sala Cervi, 30 June 2002. Excellent documentary on OW’s “secret love affair” with Spain – secret because of Franco, whom he hated. Welles was passionate about Spain already before the Civil War. The Don Quixote film was a work-in-progress for him, one that he did not necessarily want to finish: his planned title was “When Are You Going to Finish Don Quixote?”. The documentary covers many aspects of OW’s Spanish affairs: his passion for Cervantes, his reservations about Hemingway, bullfighting, his contribution to the Civil War, The Lady from Shanghai reference, Goya, Mr. Arkadin, My friend Bonito transferred to Mexico, Spanish cuisine, The Basque documentary, Falstaff, Histoire immortelle and F for Fake shot in Spain, The Other Side of the Wind references. Discussing OW’s friendships with bullfighters, a rare reference to his “feminine side” is uttered by Jesús Franco. In the end OW states that he can only finish his Cervantes project by joining him in the beyond. “I’m going to be with him.”
Portrait of Gina (GB 1958), D: Orson Welles, starring Gina Lollobrigida, Paola Mori, Vittorio De Sica, Rossano Brazzi, Beta SP (from 35mm), 27’. Video projection, Bologna, Sala Cervi, 2 July 2002. As Stefan Drössler states, one of Welles’s best TV movies. The essay style of the late Welles already in bloom.
Filming The Trial by Orson Welles, DE © 2001 Oja Kodar / Filmmuseum München, edited from posthumous Orson Welles material, Beta SP from 16mm reversal, 82’. Video projection, Bologna, Sala Cervi, 3 July 2002. Introduced by Stefan Drössler. – The trailer of The Trial + OW discussing the film at the University of Southern California on 14 November 1981, shot by Gary Graver with one 16mm camera. – A compelling film, an excellent introduction to Welles, facing issues seriously, yet with a great sense of humour. – The producers, the Salkinds: “Never paid a bill in 35 years”. Filming in Yugoslavia: “Their attitude towards strangers: steal if you can”. The character of K. as portrayed by Anthony Perkins: “Perkins got bad press, but he played it my way. I made K. a pusher on the way up. I did Tony a great disservice.” Evil: “I do believe in the existence of evil. It’s a power so great it humbles me.” Why did you change the end: “Because the book was written before the Holocaust. We’re all Jewish since the Holocaust.” The final explosion: “Any big explosion ends up like a mushroom. I tried hard to avoid the symbol.” The adding machine: “It was a scene cut out two hours before the opening. As for the computer, my attitude has changed. But I wanted to show man’s slavish relationship to what is only his tool”. Casting: “After the war, actors learned English. Not anymore. It was easier 20 years ago to cast.” Money; did poverty help creativity? “No.” “But it’s possible to spoil a young director with money.” “No great painting shows every leaf. Any great painting makes you see the tree.” Pessimism: “I am a profound pessimist.” “I believe in bravery, worship it”. Cinematography: “I light the set first. When the set looks right I put the actors”. Financing: “It cost me a lot to be a film-maker”. Casting The Trial today? “Pacino. Perkins would be too old today. I’d cast Pacino for everything.” The present trend of escapism in Hollywood: “I love escapist movies. It’s nice to make movies for children, for the child in us. I was a pulp-writer of books like Lobster-Men from Mars. But I don’t believe in the future, only in the present and the past. I didn’t like Westerns until I was 50; now I adore them. Nobody is completely grown-up. No movie is made by a complete adult. There are no complete adults.” The long take: “Taught by John Ford. ‘Give them nothing to go to’. Reel-length takes are an enormous help to the cast, to control the rhythm of the scene. In film studies the actor is underrated. Any good director is constantly astonished by the cast.” Unfinished projects: “I have only two. The Other Side of the Wind, because of the financing from Iran. Don Quixote, not because of the money.” Depth of field: “It was faked in Kane, ‘the new lens’ just publicity; in fact, we used split screen. Depth of field is an enemy of romance. In my next film, The Dreamers, there will be no depth of focus. As for the one after that, The Big Brass Ring, about a political candidate: as much depth of field as we can get.” – “Anyone who goes to films is a bit crazy. It’s an impossible medium to succeed in any important way.” Politics: “Any work of art is a political statement. Some works of art have changed the face of the world. God deliver us from people who tell us what is right or wrong, but an artist cannot help making a political statement.” Abel Gance died yesterday: “I’m much more interested in movies about people. I don’t think he made one”. Acting: “It’s like sculpting: what you take away to reveal the truth. Look for faces.” Writing: “Everybody says writing is the hardest thing. Hemingway had an intense dislike for the ballet. Then he saw a ballet performance: ‘Christ, I’d rather be writing’.”
In 1949-1950 there flourished in Italy a cycle of films about the variety and the revue shows (il varietà, la rivista). The now best known, Alberto Lattuada and Federico Fellini’s Luci del varietà, Fellini’s directorial debut, was at the time the least successful. I pompieri di Viggiù (1949) gave Dino De Laurentiis an early hit, although it was just a revue film, a string of production numbers, as was another hit, Botta e risposta (1950), but the production numbers are reportedly fascinating. All those three were shown at the Festival.
The Festival was also bookended by special events relevant to the theme, He Who Gets Slapped (US 1924, D: Victor Sjöström, starring Lon Chaney) and Limelight. Sjöström may have influenced Chaplin (The Circus) and Murnau (The Four Devils, one of the lost ones). A further festival entry relevant to the theme, The Blue Angel, was also possibly influenced by Sjöström. Then again, probably not, since variety show and circus themes were popular during the silent era, including the very theme of the passionate lover and the pillar of society having to return to his home town as a clown. A brilliant example of this is Ivan Mosjoukine’s return home disguised as an Auguste in La Maison du mystère Episode VII: Les Caprices du destin.
Vita da cani (”A Dog’s Life”, never released in Finland, IT 1950), D: Steno and Mario Monicelli, DP: Mario Bava, M: Nino Rota, starring Aldo Fabrizi, Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni, Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June 2002, in the presence of Monicelli. Simultaneous translation into English via earphones.
Monicelli told in his introduction that this film grew during the filming of Guardie e ladri from the reminiscences of Totò and Steno about the world of the variety shows. Fabrizi was essential to the esprit de corps. He even oversaw the catering, being a master chef. Lollobrigida was still unexperienced, and had to be taught how to move, how to play. On Fabrizi, Monicelli reminded us of Rossellini’s dictum that a great comedian is also always a great dramatic actor.
Fabrizi is the center of gravity in this partly-autobiographical story of a group of travelling variety show artists, full of dramatic and comic episodes and anecdotes about evading hotel and train bills. It’s fascinating to witness an almost unrecognizable Gina Lollobrigida being groomed into stardom in a comical “A Star is Born” storyline. A young Marcello Mastroianni is the leading man in the tragic storyline. The music by Nino Rota is stirring. ***
PARS PRO TOTO
“The percentage of lost films from the beginnings of cinema is overwhelming” (Peter von Bagh). Il Cinema Ritrovato launched a project to screen remnants of some of the most fascinating lost ones.
The Divine Woman (Jumalainen nainen, US 1928), D: Victor Sjöström, starring Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson, fragment 10’ from Russian-titled material, Bologna, Cortile di Palazzo d’Accursio, 30 June 2002. – The only missing Garbo film may have been one of her best. Based on the life of Sarah Bernhardt, she is seen here in a love scene with a soldier (Hanson) about to leave Paris.
The Patriot (Isänmaan ystävä, US 1928), D: Ernst Lubitsch, starring Emil Jannings, 6’ fragment preserved in 2002 by Cinemateca Portuguesa, Bologna, Cortile di Palazzo d’Accursio, 30 June 2002. – This fragment is from the final parts of the story, as the mad Czar Paul (Jannings) gets wind of conspiracy and considers the role played by Pahlen (Lewis Stone).
I Claudius (GB 1937), P: Alexander Korda, D: Josef von Sternberg, based on the novels by Robert Graves, starring Charles Laughton (Claudius), fragments of the unfinished film, 13’. Cinémathèque française. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 3 July 2002. – Claudius the swineherd; Claudius meets Caligula; Claudius rises to power. Laughton is at his best in these fragments. I seem to remember there was more in the documentary The Epic That Never Was.
Satanas (Saatana, DE 1919), D: F.W. Murnau, 2’ fragment. Preserved by Filmoteca de Zaragoza. Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, 3 July 2002. A seduction scene from the first episode (Der Tyrann) set in ancient Egypt and starring Fritz Kortner (Amenhotep) and Margit Barnay (Phahi).
Tokyo koshinkyoku (Tokyo March, never released in Finland, JP 1928), D: Kenji Mizoguchi, 25’. Matsuda Film Productions. 16mm of poor visual quality; poor simultaneous interpretation in English. Introduced by Hiroshi Komatsu. Bologna, Cinema Lumiere, 6 July 2002. – “A mixture of Ruttmann’s Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Grossstadt, apparent left-wing ideology and traditional melodrama can be clearly seen even in this abridged version of the film, which is the only surviving print today” (Komatsu). – Interesting montages and a wildly tragic love story of boy and geisha who turns out to be the illegitimate daughter of the boy’s father.
A Salute to France (US 1944), PC: Office of War Information, [D: Jean Renoir, Garson Kanin (n.c.)], starring Claude Dauphin, Garson Kanin, Burgess Meredith, 37’, 16mm print from MoMA. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 2 July 2002. – The original eight reel film by Renoir and Kanin was reduced to five reels and almost completely changed. It turned into a mostly impersonal exercise. The cinematically most interesting sequence is about paratroopers rescued by a French village priest.
Aienkyo (The Straits of Love and Hate, never released in Finland, JP 1937), D: Kenji Mizoguchi, SC: Yoshikata Yoda, DP: Minoru Miki. 90’. 16mm from a private collector. Earphone commentary in English, but large chunks, including the last 15 minutes, not translated. Introduced by Hiroshi Komatsu. Bologna, Cinema Lumiere, 6 July 2002. – Probably the European premiere of an important film from Mizoguchi’s first great period. After the turning-point of Naniwa ereji (The Osaka Elegy) and Gion no kyodai (The Sisters of Gion), both from 1936, KM made three reportedly strong films for Shinko Kinema, all lost except the extremely rare Aienkyo, the first of them. Written by Yoda, who started with KM the year before, and shot by Miki, the cameraman of all his best 1930s films since Taki no shiraito. – There are three 16mm prints of it, of which this is reportedly the best. This one is complete, but the visual quality borders on the unwatchable, and in the screening the sound was almost inaudible, making even translation impossible for a long while in the middle of the screening. One of the prints is in the possession of the leading lady, Fumiko Yamaji, still alive, but she does not let access it. – Anyway, it was possible to witness something of the characteristic visual style of KM of the period: the outlines of the composition, the camera movement, and the long takes, to compare with the famous two from the previous year and his next surviving film Zangiku monogatari (The Tale of the Last Chrysanthemum, 1939). The miserable visual quality of the print made it impossible to appreciate the characteristic long shots (avoiding close-ups) and the depth of field. – The land of snow is juxtaposed with the bright lights of the big city. Reportedly belonging to the “Katjusha genre” based on Tolstoy’s Resurrection, there really is only a general resemblance: the seducer later confronts the woman he’s seduced. Now she’s an actress and a mother. He wants to take responsibility, but the woman rejects him: “You are not worthy to be a father”. – In this screening we witnessed a ghost of Aienkyo. Frustrated, I caught a nap. Let’s hope the material of Fumiko Yamaji is better.
THE MIRACLE OF THE 3-D
The 3-D programme put together by Philippe-Alain Michaud was quite representative, with Guazzoni’s stereoscopic plates (IT 1910-1918), Lumière’s 3-D films (FR 1932-1937), House of Wax (US 1953), Kiss Me, Kate! (US 1953), Miss Sadie Thompson (US 1953), It Came from Outer Space (US 1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (US 1954), Dial M for Murder (US 1954), Flesh for Frankenstein (IT/FR/DE/US 1974), Dynasty (HK/TW 1977), and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (CO/US 1985).
Miss Sadie Thompson (Sade, US © 1952 Columbia), D: Curtis Bernhardt, based on the short story and the play by W. Somerset Maugham, starring Rita Hayworth (Sadie), Jose Ferrer (preacher), Aldo Ray (sergeant), 91’, European premiere of the 3-D version, new excellent restoration by Sony Columbia. Double projection on silver screen. Bologna, Cinema Lumiere, 1 July 2002 – No match to the Gloria Swanson / Raoul Walsh / Lionel Barrymore version, but a good Rita Hayworth vehicle, as good as it got under the Production Code Administration of the time. Preacher Davidson might be read as a symbol for the PCA; Sadie, for Hollywood! ***
LUMIERE: ESSAIS DE CINEMATOGRAPHIE EN RELIEF (FR 1932-1937). Restored in 1997 by CNC (Bois d’Arcy). B&w, 3-D, widescreen. Total duration ca 65’. Bologna, 4 July 2002. Introduced by Philippe-Alain Michaud. – “40 years after” Louis Lumière again films the train coming to the station of La Ciotat and the gardener being showered, now in 3-D. He refined “an extremely efficient polarization system in which two vertical images are overlapped on 35mm film, requiring the use of a modified projector” (Michaud).
Essais relief Lumière: Bandol (FR 1932) 9’
Essais relief Lumière: Personnages vues (FR 1934) 11’
Essais relief Lumière: Danse (FR 1934) 2’
Essais relief Lumière 1935 (FR 1935) 3’
Essais relief Lumière 1937 (FR 1937) 5’. Experiments with miniatures, movement in depth. A man approaches the camera. – Man coming to extreme close-up, boasting his giant nose, passing us by. – A string is stretched in the same room, towards the camera. Camera angles change. Man pokes stick toward the camera. Man throws a paper ball toward the camera. – Beach, elephants, the Riviera, view from a ship. The train arrives at the station of La Ciotat. Mother fondles baby.
L’Ami de Monsieur (FR 1935), PC: Lumière, D: Pierre de Cuvier. 32’. Location: Nizza. – A narrative film about marital quarrel in the middle of which a vagabond appears. Moving camera produces effects of depth. Dancing, gambling, dangerous driving on the Riviera mountains. Even the gardener is played a trick on the water-hose in 3-D.
Bologna’s tribute to cinephilia was dedicated this year to the Paris theatre on Avenue MacMahon, near the Etoile, whose regulars in the 1950s and the 1960s admired Lang, Walsh, Losey, and Preminger, but also Lupino, Ludwig, and Cottafavi. The selection included Il cavaliere misterioso (IT 1948, D: Riccardo Freda), The Adventures of Hajji Baba (US 1954, D: Don Weis), The Bigamist (US 1953, D: Ida Lupino), Adventure in Manhattan (US 1936, D: Edward Ludwig), and I cento cavalieri (IT/DE/ES 1964, D: Vittorio Cottafavi),
The Adventures of Hajji Baba (Hajji Baban seikkailut, US 1954), P: Walter Wanger, for 20th Century-Fox, D: Don Weis, based on the novel by James Justinian Morier (1823), M: Dimitri Tiomkin, theme song sung by Nat King Cole, starring John Derek, Elaine Stewart, CinemaScope, 88’. 20th Century-Fox studio print (1996) from the original negative. Oriental fantasy in the The Thief of Bagdad tradition. The approach is original and surprising; the fantasy touch sure and delicate; the Amazon women and the torture inventions are off the beaten tracks. Mastery of mise-en-scène detected by the MacMahonians from a director who then turned to TV. ***
FRENCH FILM NOIR: CARTE BLANCHE A BERTRAND TAVERNIER
Bertrand Tavernier’s introductions had passion and insight. The selection: L’Assassin habite… au 21 (FR 1942, D: Henri-Georges Clouzot), Quai des Orfèvres (FR 1947, D: Henri-Georges Clouzot), La Ferme des sept péchés (FR 1949, D: Jean Devaivre), La Vérité sur Bébé Donge (FR 1952, D: Henri Decoin), Voici le temps des assassins (FR 1956, D: Julien Duvivier).
La Vérité sur Bébé Donge (never released in Finland, FR 1952), D: Henri Decoin, SC: Maurice Aubergé based on the novel by Georges Simenon (1942), DP: Léonce-Henry Burel, M: Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, starring Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 1 July 2002, introduced by Bertrand Tavernier. – In his introduction, Tavernier praised Decoin, a director to be rediscovered; Aubergé, Becker’s screenwriter who enhanced the original source by Simenon immeasurably; Darrieux whom Decoin still loved though they were divorced; Gabin in an unusual unsympathetic role; and Grunenwald’s interesting score. – During the screening it was impossible to follow the not-quite-simultaneous relay translation from the French into the Italian into the English; friends well versed in French said the dialogue was difficult even for them. I’m looking forward to seeing this obviously distinguished film with subtitles.
Quai des Orfèvres (FR 1947). Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 2 July 2002. – Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first film after the Liberation and his two-year sentence for collaboration. Bertrand Tavernier’s introduction was a passionate rehabilitation of Clouzot and his role during the Occupation and in the Germany-controlled Continental Films, the subject of Tavernier’s recent Laissez-passer. During the Occupation, Clouzot was a head of the script department at Continental, but he used his position to help Jews and leftists and behaved extremely well. After the war, he was attacked viciously for collaboration, and Le Corbeau was unjustly defamed (contrary to some reports, it was never released in Germany). Anyway, Quai des Orfèvres was Clouzot’s “first free film”. Based on the novel by Steeman, it was “50 times better than the original”. “It would be interesting to compare films noirs in different European countries, the feeling of disillusion in films like Cavalcanti’s They Made Me a Criminal, or De Santis’s Caccia tragica. They captured the essence of what was happening.”
FILM D’ARTE ITALIANA
A subsidiary of Pathé, la Film d’Arte Italiana (FAI) produced 165 films in 1909-1924. At first they were adaptations from famous novels, plays and historical subjects. Later, original screenplays were accepted for “cine-drammi”, comedies, and patriotic films. Many artists got a start to their film career at the FAI: Francesca Bertini, Guido Brignone, Augosto Genina, etc. Ugo Falena and Gerolamo Lo Savio were house directors, and Lucio d’Ambra a major screenwriter. The films enjoyed a wide international success. A third of the material survives at la Cinémathèque française, most of it as unassembled nitrate negatives. L’Immagine Ritrovata has a work-in-progress to preserve, restore and re-assemble the films, complete with intertitles (re-translated from the French scripts) and colour. The selection screened this year included Re Lear (IT 1910, from Shakespeare, Francesca Bertini as Cordelia), Salomé (IT 1910, from Wilde), Luisa Miller (IT 1911, from Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe), Norma (IT 1911, from the Bellini opera), I carbonari (IT 1912, Risorgimento drama starring Francesca Bertini), Una congiura contro Murat (IT 1912, Risorgimento drama), Dall’amore al disonore (IT 1912, modern drama of honor), La giustizia dell’abisso (IT 1912, modern social drama), Lucrezia Borgia (IT 1912), Il ritratto dell’amata (IT 1912, modern drama about art), Romeo e Giulietta (IT 1912, from Shakespeare, Francesca Bertini as Juliet), La sedia del diavolo (IT 1912, historical “drama of brigands”), Stellina, la pescatrice di Venezia (IT 1912, romantic drama), L’assalto fatale (IT 1913, swashbuckler?), Il bacio della gloria (IT 1913, patriotic film from the war in Libya), Resto umano (IT 1913, modern drama of passion), Splendore e decadenza (IT 1914, modern drama of passion, metafilm), Usuraio e padre (IT 1914, modern drama about a loan shark), La modella (IT 1916, drama about an artist’s nude model starring Stacia Napierkowska). – I missed this whole section, only catching the end of the beautifully preserved Il bacio della gloria.
TRIBUTE TO AFGHANISTAN ****
Presented by Siddiq-ullah Barmak (Cinematheque of Kabul) and Peter Scarlet (his final mission at la Cinémathèque française). Taking the prohibition of the image in the first commandment too literally, the Taleban wanted to destroy all images, including the whole moving image heritage of Afghanistan. “It would have been a tragedy on the level of destroying the Buddha statues” (Barmak). Nine heroic Afghan film-lovers built false walls and saved the nation’s films in hidden vaults at the danger of their own lives. But 2800 film prints (none apparently unique) were destroyed by the Taleban.
Cinéma (FR 1972), D: Sebastian Schroder. c.m. Touring projectionist shows films without electricity in Afghanistan using mirror light and a peepshow approach.
Sai’ee / The Shadow / L’Ombre (AF 1990). c.m. A tragedy of contemporary life: mother is forced to abandon little son on the street by new husband.
Hadda (AF ) c.m. A reportage on the excavation of Buddha temples near Jalalabad. Only this filmed record survives.
VICTOR HUGO BICENTENNIAL
Introduced by Francis Lacassin. Victor Hugo’s influence in French crime fiction: the hero is the wrongdoer, Jean Valjean became a template.
Les Misérables / Victor Hugo et les principaux personnages des Misérables / Transformations de têtes: 4e tableau (FR 1897), P: Lumière, 1’. Association Lumière. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 4 July 2002. – An actor called Gavroche impersonates Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean, Javert, abbé Myriel, and Marius in one minute.
Sur la barricade (FR 1907), [D: Alice Guy ?], 4’. Gaumont. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 4 July 2002. – The mother defends her son who had promised to return to the barricade to be executed having brought milk to mother.
Les Misérables I: Jean Valjean (FR 1912), D: Albert Capellani, starring Henry Krauss, 44’. Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 4 July 2002. – A sober, dynamic interpretation in tableaux charts Valjean’s theft, prison sentence, escape, and confrontation with abbé Myriel.
THE CHAPLIN PROJECT
Charles Chaplin’s films are being restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata in the final forms in which Chaplin, himself, re-edited them. – The Chaplin Project series of books was launched with a prominent volume on Limelight, a cura di Anna Fiaccarini, Peter von Bagh, and Cecilia Cenciarelli. – There was also a beautiful exhibition of French Chaplin posters from 1910-1950, courtesy Cinémathèque Suisse / André Chevailler.
Shoulder Arms (Kivääri olalle vie!, US 1918) 46’. ****
The Pilgrim (Pyhiinvaeltaja, US 1923) 53’. ****
Two films from The Chaplin Revue (1959, originally including also A Dog’s Life) restored from the original negatives by L’Immagine Ritrovata in 2002 according to the director’s final cut, now with natural speed and without stretch-printing. Chaplin’s music directed by Timothy Brock and performed by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale. – Gala event in Bologna, Teatro Comunale, 5 July 2002.
Limelight (Parrasvalot, US 1952) 137’ Closing event in Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, 6 July 2002. In the presence of Claire Bloom, Josephine Chaplin, and Sydney Chaplin. – This chamber piece does not work in the best possible way in the town square atmosphere. ****
– The retrospective of Roland West (1887-1952) included Nobody (1921), The Monster (1925), The Bat (1926), and The Bat Whispers (1930). Alibi (1929) was not screened due to print mix-up.
– cinema² – ReAction! was a retrospective of 30 metacinematic films, mostly experimental ones. I only caught a part of Gustav Deutsch’s exciting “found-footage-kolossal” Film ist. 7-12 (AT 2002), based on archival discoveries of silent film.
– Derek Jarman: Super 8mm (1970-1985). Jarman’s 60 Super 8mm films have all been collected in a special archive. A selection of 20 films was shown in 16mm or 35mm blowups or transferred to video.
ARCHIMEDIA: THE CINEMA IS ALSO SOUND
Advanced Course 2002, Bologna 4-5 July 2002
“The Cinema Is Also Sound!” Sound in the world of the film archives. Sound recording and reproduction: the (in)compatibility of old technologies and the digital performances”
The Archimedia seminars in Bologna on the vinegar syndrome (2000) and the digital challenge (2002) were excellent, summing up vital topics in a compact fashion. This year’s seminar, while more tentative, had some very good contributions, as well, notably, the presentations of Torkell Saetervadet on “The FIAF Advanced Projection Manual Project”, of Andrew Wedman on “Audio Remastering and Restoration: How Far Can We Go”, and of Alfonso del Amo on “How to Identify Sound Systems”. Those presentations would deserve to be made more widely accessible.
Film archives have to cope with many different kinds of soundtracks, which need to be dealt with special equipment. “Don’t throw anything away”.
The big current issue is the problem about white light and red light. Some ten years ago, superior red led sound readers were introduced, but they are not automatically fully compatible with soundtracks designed to be read with white light. It's an issue to be dealt with both in restoration and projection. Among recent developments, hi-magenta (deep red) and cyan (blue) soundtracks have to be coped with. “Keep your installation as flexible as possible”.
Andrew Wedman (Deutsche Grammophon) presented how technical defects and problems in shellac matrixes can be processed digitally and what kinds of ethical implications are involved.
Joao Socrates de Oliveira demonstrated “a test film to check quality loss when printing or re-recording archival sound material”. Nicola Mazzanti demonstrated two restorations screened in Il Cinema Ritrovato: the very difficult The Blue Angel (the US version), and Limelight. Dominique Païni demonstrated Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma where sound montage is extremely important. Torkell Saetervadet presented the FIAF Advanced Projection Manual, which looks promising, indeed.
In the discussion, I brought up an issue we’ve faced in our screenings: digital soundtracks in release prints are not usually very good and often so unstable, they cannot be played back at all. Torkell Saetervadet replied that digital sound should be stable, but release prints are manufactured in such a cost-cutting way that problems are common. – Thus, paradoxically, often in screening quite recent films the analogue soundtrack must be used, although it is only meant as a back-up and does not perhaps reflect the final mix. – Torkell recommended to use digital sound on disc. To my comment that the discs tend to vanish before prints get screened or deposited at archives, Torkell recommended to order discs from the manufacturer.
A COMMENT ON TRANSLATION
The translators of Bologna are excellent. At best the translations are seen via electronic subtitling on the Piazza Maggiore and the Teatro Comunale – in Italian and in English. Otherwise, they are as a rule simultaneous interpretation transmitted via earphones, the interpreter often never having seen the film before. If the interpretation is both into Italian and English, a relay system is used: first an Italian translation is made, and based on that, the English one.
Even for the best translator it is impossible to succeed in a situation like this, except if it is a silent film with few intertitles. The translator necessarily misunderstands contexts, misses jokes, neglects crucial information, yet talks too much, because it is impossible to know in advance which lines are important. If there is a lot of dialogue or if the dialogue is very subtle but not in the translator's mother tongue, the result will be unsatisfactory and at worst destructive for the one listening to the second language interpretation in the relay system: the translation is too much delayed.
Each archive should make textlists and translations available to be shipped together with prints, and electronic subtitling as seen at the Piazza Maggiore and the Teatro Comunale should be used in the other venues, too. It is possible to fit both the Italian and the English subtitles. It's a waste of energy to prepare hastily improvized translations every time, because even they require hard work. It would not be that much more work to do the full preparation for permanent use.
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