Friday 8 July 2016

Bologna Diary (16) - The Postscripts and Highlights Reels continue. Peter Hourigan on the place, the people and the programme.

I’ll tackle this indirectly – or perhaps globally.  What is it that has us heading back to Bologna each year, even when we keep saying this year wasn’t as good as last year? But everyone also agrees that nothing is as good as their first year.  
There seem to be three things to do make it an addictive experience.
THE PROGRAMME   Again, when we comment that there hasn’t been a sublime discovery this year, we’re still aware of how rich it all was.  Not a predictable collection of films we could have seen at a regular Festival, or a specialty DVD shop.  Here were newly restored or discovered films, out-of-the-way strands (like the Argentine film noirs this year), or films collected together in different ways. I didn’t go to any of the Jacques Becker films at Bologna this year – I’m lucky, I know them quite well. But it was exciting to hear around me people being excited at discovering this to them unknown filmmaker. And where else can you see such a collection of silents, or restorations from Singapore or Iran.   At the end of the Festival, you know you’ve really seen things you’d never have a chance to otherwise.
THE PLACE    Bologna itself is a wonderful place to be familiar with.  Of course, we mutter that it’s too hot at this time of the year – and when will the Jolly Cinema get effective air-conditioning. But it’s compact.  You can change cinemas easily – even if scheduling sometimes thwarts you.  The venues mean there’s lots of programming choices at any one time – even if you complain that there are too many and one programming strand rules out another you’d also like to follow.  Then there are all the great places to eat, the atmosphere in the streets, and if you have time other  exhibitions to visit.  This year, I squeezed  in (and it was a squeeze) three very different exhibitions – Edward Hopper,  “Egyptian Splendour “ a rich collection of Ancient Egyptian items from the Leiden Collection, and a Street Art exhibition centred around Banksy.
Peau de Pêche
THE PEOPLE   As you go back, you get to know more of the regulars – and a fascinating lot of people they are. You’re rubbing shoulders with professional critics (or would-be professionals) from around the world, not just America or England.  There are enthusiasts from China, Hong Kong and Japan, and their enthusiasm for what’s on offer is contagious.  Then, there are the people at the book stalls or at Festival reception – or in some of the restaurants and cafes and hotels as well – who really welcome you back, actually remembering you from last year.
And the film from this year I most want to see again?  Peau de Pêche from Marie Epstein and Jean Benoît-Levy.

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