Thursday 22 June 2023

A Diary (1) - The Road to Bologna and IL CINEMA RITROVATO 2023 - Paris and Lyon

Pierfrancesco Favino (The Last Night of Amore,
Mario Martone, Italy, 2023)

Not enough time to explore the continuous film festival that is Paris so one film only, a sure fire likely contender for prime spots whenever the next Italian Film Festival takes up all the screens at Palace Cinemas everywhere. The Last Night of Amore (L'ultima notte di Amore) has a ring to it but you quickly learn that "Amore" is the name of the detective whose last day on the job goes very badly indeed. Pierfrancesco Favino (last seen in Nostalgia (Mario Martone, 2022 and earlier in Bellocchio's The Traitor, 2019) is a cop who, on his last day on the job, is offered some easy money to protect a visiting Chinese drug/crime figure. But it's a set up and goes horribly wrong and his cop buddy, a younger man with a young family, is killed in an ambush. Very fraught story line but Favino stands tall as a ...well..almost  honest man of integrity when all about are on the take...

A week later in Lyon I caught up with just one of a parcel of five restored Mexican films from the 1940s doing the art house circuit around France, inevitably with the tag line of Mexican noir (Leaflet cover above). Which means pot boilers and melodramas. Salon Mexico is directed by the pre-eminent director of his day Emilio Fernandez and photographed by Gabriel Figueroa. The French title "Les Bas-Fonds de Mexique" might be an attempt to give it gravitas which it doesn't warrant. Wikipedia tells me it is cited as a classic example of the Mexican genre of Cabaretera (Dance Hall film) about "a sympathetic character, a good woman forced into a bad life by circumstances beyond her control." 

Mercedes (Marga Lopez) is a dance hall girl, presumably a cover for a prostitute and we first meet her when she and her pimp played by Rodolfo Acosta are in a dance competition and he asks the judges to make sure he wins. They do and he refuses to share the winnings telling her she's looking for a slap. He crosses the street and picks up a prostitute and heads indoors. She later robs him and we learn she badly needs the money to support her sister's education in a refined school for young ladies. Much goes horribly wrong but the young sister finds true love... On the way there are at least six band and dance numbers performed by some very enthusiastic musicians and one especially attractive dancer who gets to do a very sexy solo routine.

Entrance to the Institut Lumiere cinema
with a photo of the late Bertrand Tavernier prominent

Of all the changes in Lyon since I was last there about five years ago the most noticeable is that the activities of the Institut Lumiere, situated on the site of the Lumiere Bros factory and the place in the photo above where the first ever film  was shot and screened, has now spread by establishing a small chain of art house cinemas in the town itself. That's where I, and one other punter, saw Salon Mexico.

Finally Lyon is home to the rather amazing Museum of Cinema and Miniatures (above). It's a five story warren of rooms devoted to miniature sets like that for Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr Fox (below), several rooms of completely recreated sets for Tom Tykwer's Perfume, poster art,  a Batman room and even a room devoted to the special effects involved in creating mutilated bodies where the sign on the door says Children should not Enter. When you enter any number of children are inside taking selfies next to severed arms and exploded heads.


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