The XXXIV edition of The Cinema Ritrovato Festival confirms itself as a cult event for cinephiles and old movies lovers.
If someone asked me "What's your favorite movie?" I would find it difficult to answer with just one option as there is a lot of stuff out there to pick from. And even if I split my choice by genre, there would still be a dozen movies on my list, the majority of them being old and classics films. Honestly, nothing like a good 1940s film can capture me. I can never have enough of them!
To celebrate this devotion for older silver screen products, last year in June I did something I had been promising myself to do for so long … I finally attended the festival of Cinema Ritrovato.
This is a film festival taking place in Bologna every year end of June which explores three centuries of cinema, from the end of the 1800s to the start of the twenty-first century. A 9-days marathon, with more than 500 movies screened outdoors in Piazza Maggiore, it is a true time machine brought to us to rediscover those movies we’ve loved forever as well as never-before-seen works and newly restored flicks.
The Cinema Ritrovato organisers promise to regale audience with «a unique and one-off experience every year: the exciting certainty of finding what you’re looking for, the unexpected surprise of discovering something you weren’t even searching for (or didn’t know to look for…). You’ll discover, or rediscover, a beautiful city, which for an extended week gives itself over to cinema and cinema lovers. You’ll be presented with the work of many outstanding experts; with a selection of four hundred films, each notable for its beauty, significance, and rarity; with prominent guests and representatives; with an amazing team of musicians and composers who’ll accompany the silent film screenings; and with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience that gathers together in Bologna from across the world. Il Cinema Ritrovato is a grand museum of film, open for just nine days a year».
Among the 500 projected movies, organized by the Cineteca di Bologna (Film Library) in collaboration with the Cohen Film Collection, there was the newly restored version of The Cameraman. This 1928 silent movie is the story of a filming operator who only makes a mess of everything. He could shoot important facts if only he did remember to put the film in the camera before and if he did not superimpose two videos. However, just when he is about to give up with his job, a little monkey, who involuntarily filmed two extremely important scenes, gives him the unexpected success in the end.
The accompaniment to the projection of the restored movie was performed by the “Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna”, with a score made up for the occasion by the American composer Timothy Brock.
The festival directors have renamed this marathon Mutiflix, playing with the name "muto” which means silent in Italian and “Netflix”. Because among the many films on display there were several silent movies screened with the accompaniment live music. And I will always remember the magical atmosphere which it immediately created under the light of a summer moon.
The rich programs of the 33rd edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato at Piazza Maggiore included a wide retrospective of those American masters whose careers encompassed all of the major technical developments from the silent era to Cinemascope.
The character of Irma Vep, portrayed by silent movies star Musidora, was an icon of popular culture at the time. In the movie Les Vampires (1915) she is the leader of a criminal gang. With her dark-eyed gaze and seductive silhouette she was adored by the surrealists, who deemed her both an embodiment of cinema itself and the projection of the deepest truth of the time. The elusive and wild character of Irma Vep made the actress Musidora immortal.
This year’s retrospective subject was for an American master for technical development in CinemaScope, that is filmmaker Henry King whose career produced 116 films of all genres between 1915 and 1962. Widely considered as one of the finest and most successful filmmakers of his era, King was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Director, and directed seven films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. This retrospective focused on King’s sound period, celebrating some of the best cameramen in the history of Hollywood, especially those associated with Fox Studios.
And finally, the most awaited moment of this edition of the festival's film review – well, at least for me. As a huge fan of old 1950s noir movie I’ve been thrilled to attend the world premiere projection of Felix E. Feist The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) and The Threat (Hunted by the G-Men, 1949) restored versions curated by The Library of Congress. The two films are an extraordinary and bewildering example of second-class cinematography in their most violent and evil form.
Before the screening, the floor was given to the Head of Restoration of the Library of Congress: “We were honoured to have been a part of this photochemical restoration aimed to keep the original soundtrack of the film… the Library of Congress owns both the original soundtrack and as well as the 35mm negative. We first mastered the negative and then we created another one that you will see today. It was incredible to see how some elements were flawless ”.
The two films which were projected that evening are seasoned with verve and violence. In most of the scenes the characters are portrayed in closed and tight spaces where what matters is the forbidden pleasure of wreaking havoc. The rhythm is well thought-out to create a constant sense of uncertainty which amplifies the tension throughout the movie.