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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Bologna Diary wrap up

Dariush Mehrjui's film was included in the Iranian films of the 60s
Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato has now finished but once again proved it is a combination of the Cannes of Restoration and public discussion and scholarship into it, and the Mecca, the holy place where cinephiles meet and worship. On this blog,there are reports on a lot of the events of the eight days if you start here and then scroll down or click on the stories at the side. There are also links to Neil McGlone’s blog. However, the cream of the crop belongs, as always, to David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson who, like front row forwards in a tight game put in the hard yards where it matters. (Sorry, State of Origin Rugby League was on last night.) The extensive and detailed reporting is a pleasure to read. Just start at the top.   David thinks Bologna has grown too big, too extensive, too wildly fecund. How do you choose between the Iranian new wave of the 60s and unseen Ingrid Bergmans of the 30s. Ehsan Khoshbakhat, the curator of the series, was thrilled to pack out one of the Cineteca's cinemas when the Bergman retro was on just across the foyer. But, should you have to? Can Bologna ever again slow down to a point where you might just see everything you want to see. I think it’s gone past that moment. 

Another screen was added this year and it was in that space, doubling as an auditorium for discussion, that I saw Mizoguchi’s late color epic Shin Heike Monogatari/Thee Taira Clan Saga (Japan, 1955) in a beautiful digital restoration that put to shame much of the rest of the selection of Japanese colour films from the 50s. Those rest were screened in new 35mm prints. Some confused the yellowing copies for nostalgic recreations of the past. Others realised that the decision to make new prints and do no restoration work to produce a digital copy that restores the filmmakers’ visions of the day was a hapless misjudgment.

A Touch of Zen
The one Chinese film on show, the first I’ve seen at Bologna in four years’ attendance, was King Hu’s Xia Nu/A Touch of Zen (Taiwan, 1971) and the comparison with the Japanese films was stark. This was a beautiful job of work, the three hours of balletic mayhem and historical intrigue, restored to its prime and as easy to follow as I’ve always found it!  Actually in three viewings I dont think I’ve ever managed to work out just how it is we get to the final fight scene with the General and the monk, the main characters from most of the rest of the story having been thrust aside, but scene by scene King Hu’s mise-en-scene is superb and it carries most along for its three hours. Most except the steady trickle of walkouts who ignored what was implored of them in the somewhat lengthy intro - "wait for the climax and you will experience a touch of zen!"

So, what else was seen that hasn't been reported - restorations of Charles Vidor's Cover Girl (1944), Julien Duvivier's La Belle Equipe (1936), George Fitzmaurice's The Man and the Moment (1929, restored from the Vitagraph rolls found in the Milan Cineteca). Then there were three films by Renato Castellani, Un Colpo di Pistola (1942, his debut film based on Pushkin), Sotto il sole di Roma (1948, touted as a major neo-realist discovery and a precursor to Pasolini's Accattone  (1961), but sadly neither) and I Sogni di Cassetto (1957, a Jacques Becker type domestic comedy redeemed  and enlivened by the presence of the young and scrumptious Lea Massari). Others saw more of and in Castellani's career than I.


Finally I should just say that once again nothing from Australia was included in the program. Oh well. I do however have one suggestion for Bologna for next year which I shall pass along. It should include in its newish documentary strand Gillian Armstrong’new film about the Oscar-winning designer Orry-Kelly, a flamboyant Aussie who made the big time in Hollywood. For a reminder of how good the film is, please have a read of Barrie Pattison’s very enthusiastic review of one of the Sydney Film Festival screenings. Over to whomever to manage an Italian premiere that would fill the room.

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