Here we are. The most beautiful period to be in Bologna has begun. And actually you don’t need to be a cinephile to enjoy a historical piazza turned into a massive open air theatre screening masterpieces. But if you are, well, it’s the time to be happy.
Il Cinema Ritrovato begins today, Saturday June 23rd, but it’s been already introduced by Mr Martin Scorsese himself presenting his 1980 masterpiece Raging Bull two evenings ago. Not only one of the most famous and passionate filmmakers of all times, Scorsese is also a strong supporter of cinema restoration, which also happens to be the kink of the local Cinematheque. So he joined forces with la Cineteca di Bologna‘s restoration office quite some time ago and the week long festival that is going on until July 2nd is the result of restless months of work from cinephiles, film restorers, cinema scholars, film critics, film historians from all around the world, but especially from here, and with the blessing of dear Martin.
So what will be the juiciest treats of this year’s edition? To begin with, a whole section of the festival is dedicated to the unforgettable Marcello Mastronianni with some of his lesser known works such as Giorni d’amore and Leo the last and classics like Il bell’Antonio, only to be closed with the screening in Piazza Maggiore of the hyper iconic Divorzio all’Italiana. Little nerd note: did you know that this Pietro Germi‘s grotesque comedy had the same cinematographer as Antonioni’s Blow up and Woody Allen’s Radio days? Now you do. The luminous beauty of 1960s Sicily was perfectly captured in an unforgettable black and white by a master cinematographer, the late Carlo di Palma.
If after a bouquet of Marcello movies you’re still up for some Italian vintage, you can go straight to the little section devoted to Luciano Emmer, author lighthearted, crowd-pleasing comedies back in the fifties and sixties, when Italy was beginning to see and than ti embrace its “boom”, movies forgot what existentialism was and could focus on pop subjects such as Ferie d’agosto (“August holidays”), Terza Liceo (“Eleventh Grade”) or Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna (“The girls from Piazza di Spagna”).
Want yet another point of view on Italian popular culture? Don’t miss “Songs of Naples”, the section dedicated to Elvira Notari, an icon of Neapolitan films of the 1910s and ’20s, and film historian Vittorio Martinelli, who studied this genre thoroughly. And if silent movies with live music wasn’t enough, just know that some three of them will be screened en plein air at Piazzetta Pasolini (the small courtyard of the cinematheque where Mercato Ritrovato usually takes place), with a carbon projector.
More serious and earnest cinephiles will indulge in the collection of documentaries by Ella Bergmann-Michel, working in the early thirties of the last century and providing an amazing view of what the climate was in Frankfurt in the latter years of the Weimar Republic. At about the same time, Soviet cinema was living a golden age, that is accounted for in another dedicated section while yet another gives the curious cinephile a glimpse of Chinese cinema along the Forties.
But I prefer to stick to the Thirties and late Twenties and to follow my personal tradition: my mornings and early afternoons are all for pre-code and society comedies of the golden era Hollywood, and this year the most sparkling section of Cinema Ritrovato is dedicated to rediscoveries from Fox Film Corporation. I can’t wait to watch John Ford’s The Brat and, in general, to soak into that totally unrealistic and glossy portrait of society life.
The program is just huge (more than 500 hundred titles) making it impossible to see it all. But I strongly wish I’ll be able to find some time to watch some of the back-then-censored movies of the “Censored, Recovered, Restored” section, especially Jean Grémillon’s Daïnah la métisse and Yuliy Fayt’s Mal’chik i Devochka (Boy and girl). and some from “master of melodrama” John M. Stahl. If I had to pick one, I’d probably go with Imitation of life, just to do a little compared study with its later, colour-saturated remake by Douglas Sirk.
Or perhaps I should focus on the Keaton Project? On “The Italian of Saint Gemain” Marcello Pagliero? On Brazilian and Mexican cinema? On the few, appealing titles from African filmmakers? I certainly want to see Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s Waqai sanawat al-djamr, Safi Faye’s Fad’jal and Ola Balogun’s A deusa negra. I’m getting ahed of myself.
This week-long, intoxicating feast of sublime titles is just the beginning of a long, love-filled summer of Cinema in Bologna. As soon as Il Cinema Ritrovato finishes Cinema sotto le Stelle will take its place, which means that even though critics from around the world and cinematheque directors that for 8 days lived and breathed between Piazza Maggiore and Piazzetta Pasolini will fly back to their respective countries and the Lumière Cinema will soon close for the summer holiday, Piazza Maggiore will continue to screen a movie per night up until Ferragosto, August 15th, for this big, fat, happy and free cinema celebration that is summer in Bologna.