Saturday 24 June 2023

A Diary (3) - The Road to Bologna and IL CINEMA RITROVATO - Bologna at last

Arriving back in Bologna for the first time since 2019 and things click into gear. You can walk from the station to the Tre Vecchi Hotel and get  sense of delight when your advance request for a room overlooking the Garibaldi statue out front is taken so literally that you get the room closest to the man and his steed (above).

So a pass acquired and a first tour of the book and DVD fair in the library produces a minor discovery, Marcel L'Herbier's L'Aventurier from 1934 in a Blu-ray 4K restoration issued by Pathe paid for by the Centre Nationale Cinematographique.

Then the movies start and its somewhat varied. First up is one of the Cineteca's own restorations done in conjunction with Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project and paid for by George Lucas and the Hobson Lucas Foundation. Yam Daabo  directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso, 1986) a story of post-colonial independence  when a family walk away from the American aid being dumped on them in the bush and create their own small piece of paradise under their own control. Things aren't always simple though and complications like teenage pregnancy test the unit's resolve and harmony. A superb copy made from the original 16mm negative.

The copy of Rouben Mamoulian's Applause (USA 1929) was we were told a pristine 35mm copy taken from the original negative but seems like someone forget to tell the copier that aspect ratios were slightly different back then and the image often had a line of sprocket holes running down the right hand side. I know people long for the days of 35mm (the Randwick Ritz still seems to pack out 35mm screenings each week) but when the image is distorted I'm not so sure. Perhaps one might say its ripe for restoration. Mamoulian's mise-en-scene is full of angles, tricks and tropes of lighting, and some very hammy performances but the dialogue had a lot of punch about it when the villain of the piece, Hitch (played by Fuller Mellish Jr, whatever happened to him?) the master manipulator of women, effortlessly had them eating out of his hand.

Finally the Michael Powell before Pressburger kicked off with Hotel Splendide (UK, 1932) a brisk 57 minute quota quickie written by Philip MacDonald and Ralph Smart in which a bunch of people descend on a small hotel in Speymouth, on being the new owner the rest a bunch of crooks and police in disguise. The object is to recover a stolen necklace and the complications whiz by. Beautiful restoration by the BFI Archive which we promised is part of a massive restoration project they have devoted to Powell's careeer. We are promised new versions of his masterpieces soon. The  screening was introduced by a panel of four who kept their comments succinct. James Bell, Bryony Dixon (who intro-ed two shorts starring Powell from a series called Riviera Revels which was intended to play weekly with the same bunch of comics getting into trouble in the south of France. Powell played Cicero Simp complete with toupee hat and a butterfly net and seems to have had the main part. His scene where he accidentally falls inside the wheel of a water mill is truly remarkable and he probably defied death in doing it. His widow Thelma Schoonmaker was also on had to talk about his contributions. A model of its kind.

That was enough but for a dinner at my old favourite Da Lucia with old friend Neil McGlone, also returning to Bologna for the first time in four years.

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