Tuesday 5 July 2016

Bologna Diary (14) - Highlights reels - Two or three things we enjoyed about her....

Oz cinephiles Ken Wallin  and Simon Taaffe send in their short lists of Bologna highlights

KW 1. The beauty of certain restorations and prints across the festival's different strands such as the restored Seven Chances (Buster Keaton, USA, 1925) with the breathtaking spectacle of Buster's flight from the infuriated brides and a fine print of Stahl's Back Street (USA, 1933) where every nuance of Irene Dunne's wonderful performance can be appreciated.

2. The discoveries that offer further insights into a director, genre or society: Ed Cahn's incredible Laughter in Hell, Gosho's The Yellow Crow, Soldati's La Provinciale  and the films in the alternate history of Argentinian Cinema

3. Early cinema revelations. Seeing Lumiere films in 4K restoration, sampling the 1916 early work of Stiller, Borzage, Dwan, Perret and Norma Talmadge in Emerson's The Social Secretary.
 Buster Keaton in Seven Chances

ST Seven Chances, (Buster Keaton, USA, 1925). Buster’s fifth feature, not his most famous or revered, here restored with a five minute prologue in two strip Technicolour and with long shots of him running that are the most beautiful part of the movie. I wonder if he ever made a movie that didn’t involve him running away from or chasing somebody or something. It’s one of his default settings, like Tom Cruise’s when the Mission Impossible movies need a lift, and I will be happy if the Bologna Keaton Project reveals any better examples. 

Khesht O Ayeneh/Brick and Mirror (Ebrahim Golestan, Iran, 1963-1964). A baby abandoned in a taxi is the catalyst for a long night and day examination of Teheran society, c.1963. Personal and bureaucratic frustrations, male female relations, anxiety, isolation, hopelessness, claustrophobia are all worked through in half a dozen or so despairing sequences.  

Laughter in Hell (Edward L Cahn, USA, 1933). Pat O’Brien’s mother’s death, his marriage, wife’s affair and a double murder rush by quickly to get Pat onto the chain gang. The movie slows down to accumulate some details: a prisoner who reads Schopenhauer, an explanation of the movie’s title, a planned escape, a graphic group hanging of Afro-American prisoners, an epidemic of some sort leading to a mass escape from a graveyard. And a compressed, ambiguous final few minutes. 

It is worth noting, for this and the other good titles in the Universal season, the pleasure and effect of watching them in a packed cinema, albeit a very hot one, with an appreciative, diverse audience. I wonder if this is similar to that which the original audience nos. and make up would have been?

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