Friday 29 June 2018

Bologna Diary (5) - Borzage's 7th HEAVEN triumphs. More Pagliero, More Stahl

Ahhhh. Borzage.

Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, 7th Heaven
The rained-out screening of Frank Borzage’s Seventh Heaven (USA, 1927) went on two days later at Bologna’s opera house, the spectacular Teatro Communale. Cecilia Cenciarelli kept the intro precise and the orchestra lead by Timothy Brock launched into a new score specially commissioned from the Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France. 

It accompanied a new digital restoration supervised by MoMA in New York, funded by 20thCentury Fox and based on (according to Dave Kehr’s program note in the 432 page Cinema Ritrovato catalogue) “the only known original element, a nitrate print from the 1927 negative made in 1930”. 

Remarkable studio construction of 1914 Paris, most notably the creation of a five story set which leads up to Chico’s attic where the lovers (Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell) come together after he rescues her, popping up out of a sewerage drain, from a beating from her clearly crackers sister. Twice the camera takes us from ground floor to the fifth, the first time when he takes her home, the second (spoiler alert) when he returns blinded from the war on Armistice day. 

It was quite a night and I don’t think I’ve experienced such prolonged applause for a movie screening anywhere, ever.

Gabriele Ferzetti, Eleonora
Rossi Drago
Vestire Gli Ignudi
…and a final Marcello Pagliero, Vestire gli ignudi  (Italy, 1954) a modern day melodrama set among the wealthy as another young (Eleonora Rossi Drago) girl is rescued from prostitution by a wealthy writer (Gabriele Ferzetti, instantly reminding us of future Antonioni) and slowly we get the whole back story of class, privilege and abuse of women by richer men. It's a Pagliero trope. A main script credit goes to Ennio Flaiano, but Pagliero himself and Charles Spaak also get a mention. The story is allegedly based on a play by Luigi Pirandello. A pity about the copy which looked closer to VHS than 35mm….

Vincent Price, Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde
Leave Her to Heaven
The 35mm copy of John M Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven had also seen better days and was in a ‘very fragile’ state according to the introducer, Céline Ruivo from the Cinémathèque française. Bill Collins has shown better (digital) copies of this when presenting the film on Fox Classics. The DVD is similarly much truer to the original Technicolor that Leon Shamroy shot. You can obsess about these things though.

It has to be said that the re-presentation of Stahl’s work starting here in Bologna and continuing at Pordenone in a matter of weeks has hit a nerve. The 9.30 am session in the (air-conditioned) Jolly cinema had people standing at the back….

1 comment:

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