It took me a little while to enter into the true spirit of Il Cinema Ritrovato. A heath wave stroke again and just like last year the first days were spent cryin’ and tryin’ (to survive). But then I bravely collected myself and stepped into that carousel of cinephiles and nerds that is the Cineteca di Bologna these days.
And of course, femmes fatales and temptresses being on top of my idea of cine-fun, I spent most of my movie time surfing the most promising sections of the festival, such as Colette and cinema, Universal Pictures (Laemmle Junior’s years) and Mexican Cinema in the golden age. This latest section had me filled with joy and a strong desire to dance with pineapples in my head thanks to the amazing “rumbera” Aventurera.
For those who aren’t familiar with what a rumbera is, let’s say it’s entertainment at its best: a hybrid genre mixing drama, crime, coups de theatre, action, a beautiful lady and lots of musical numbers, where the singing and dancing tastes like african-american heritage and, of course, Cuban rumba. Exploded in the ’40s and continuing in the 50’s, rumbera movies have sultry black and white, a penchant for vice and a lovely ingenuity. Aventurera, starring Ninon Sevilla (born in 1921, she’s still with us and look at how cool she still looks!), is no exception.
Flamboyiant and restless in its twists and turns, it’s also graced by the magnificent cinematography of Alex Phillips. A must see and definitely a cult.
Then came the morning when I totally devoted myself to the Hollywood movies of the early thirties. First The power and the glory, with the always impeccably charismatic Spencer Tracy and talking Colleen Moore (former star of the silent movies, whom I met and fell in love with a couple of Cinema Ritrovati ago, in the delightful Why be good?).
But what really made my day was the lovely Ladies must love, a classical comedy on young gold diggers sharing a spacious apartment in Manhattan, sporting amazing fur coats and nightgowns, but apparently unable to pay the rent or even provide for their own meals. They’re all looking for the perfect rich man to merry and settle, but of course love is in the air, no matter how much you try to be cynical.
This kind of movie has on me the effect of whipped cream for my spirits. It elevates them immediately, while also making me want to use fake lashes and have a personal vanity table.
Another great surprise came with the evening screening in Piazza Maggiore, where the rain was kind enough to stop for the whole screening (with live music) of The Patsy. Released in 1928, just the year the introduction of the talkies was marking the change of an era, it still chose to go silent, but with such perfect “dialogues” that you wouldn’t regret the sound of a voice. In turns, it makes fun of the most famous divas of the silent era, from Pola Negri to Louise Brooks, thanks to the impressions of the restlessly performing Marion Davies.
Longtime lover of magnate William Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane anybody?) in real life, she’s a proud anti-diva and sparkling presence in this tale of a goofy girl, mistreated by her grumpy mother and helplessly in love with her frivolous sister’s beau, that is willing to try anything to “develop a personality” and to win his love, including pretending to be a “cuckoo head”. And quite convincing in the role.
A step back in my Festival journey and you have another couple of treats. One is Divine, screened on the first day, a 1935 movie by the wonderful Max Ophuls, a man that knew how to move around his space and his women, so to say. It belongs to the Colette section and the french “scandalous” writer was responsible for the screenplay. Set in the music-halls of Paris, where a country girl suddenly finds fame and a totally new lifestyle, it is filled with decadent exoticism and sensuality, including a brief topless scene with an unexpected motive.
And speaking of Colette, her section opened with a long tv interview where she recalls some of the houses she lived in as a way to trace back her story, from the happy childhood in the countryside to the natural and unstoppable thirst to live that had her becoming a mime and a writer, including the constant need for money, something that made her work and write probably a bit more than she would have preferred.
That same night I had a birthday aperitif I was heading to empty handed, so I rushed to the festival bookshop and got a copy of The pure and the impure, that I recall reading and liking quite some time ago. Colette said in the interview, if I remember correctly (something can slip from your memory when you watch three movies and several short in a day) that that was probably her best book.
And The pure and the impure isn’t only a great title, it is also a rather appropriate summary of most of the movies I’ve seen so far in this always surprising festival. So that’s it for now. Hope you’ll manage to recuperate some of the titles above because I’m sure that most of them will be “whipped cream for your spirits”, too.