Saturday 27 June 2015

Blogging from Bologna's Cinema Ritrovato (1)

Things always start slowly here. There have been screenings of a couple of classics in the main piazza and a couple of other little events but it doesn't really get going until Saturday afternoon and roars along then for another week. This year there is another venue so we're up to six including the open ir screenings at night in the piazza. Tonight's was the restored version of Louis Malle's L'Ascenseur a l'Echafaud/Lift to the Scaffold (France, 1958).

Leo McCarey directing Make Way for Tomorrow, 1937
Earlier today, the first of the films by Leo McCarey was screened to a good size house. Co-curators Dave Kehr and Steve Massa explained that the selection was designed to show how early elements of McCarey's career, re-surfaced in mature form later, connecting the dots. The first chosen was Part Time Wife (USA, 1930), a film which presages The Awful Truth. The only known copy in existence is held by the UCLA Film Archiveand it is minus the second relle. We are told that that reel is devoted to the couple's separation before they begin the long process of a somewhat unlikely reconciliation. On the way there are more than a few risque pre-code lines and a performance from star Edmund Lowe which no doubt played  a small part in the actor's gradual disappearance from movies from the sound period.

We were told by Steve Massa that we should look out for the touches of humanity in McCarey's work and in this one, that was most manifest in the scene where a group of dogs is gassed to death. For a long time we think the young tyke juvenile lead's dog has been among them. Nothing yet said about McCarey's politics....

Pierre Fresnay as Marius
Later today a restored print of the Pagnol/Korda movie Marius (1931)...."Did the restoration make the film any better?" I was asked. If you ask the question you already have a cold heart for Pagnol's slow-moving sentimentality. But somehow the story of Marius's dream of a life at sea and Fanny's agony as he leaves always gets me. At least on the two occasions I've seen the movie, including today, so there. The young Pierre Fresnay, well OK he was 34, had not moved along to the cold-hearted roles that made him a legend. I'll probably say this a lot this week but the restoration by the Cinematheque francaise was sensational.

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