A guide to Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019


by Cecilia Cenciarelli, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Mariann Lewinsky, Gian Luca Farinelli



Notre-Dame Gabin Chaplin

An unexpected and almost unreal image, but it was not due to special effects. Will we ever be able to forget seeing Notre-Dame in flames? A part of human culture went up in smoke right before our eyes. The eternal, monotonous and malleable present of the selfie era vanished; there was a glimmer of truth in this catastrophe. All of a sudden reality, with its tragic and unforeseen turn of events, reappeared. The past is not polished like the eternal present; instead it is a web of constant changes. It will do us good to see Georges Franju’s Notre-Dame, cathédrale de Paris, which Bernard Eisenschitz opened our eyes to. In 1957, before a number of restoration projects, the great cathedral of Paris looked a lot different from how we have come to know it in recent decades. A fragile, human art that also risks disappearing, cinema from the past shows us that time does not stop and that nothing is forever – not even stones.
Films from the past are always at the ready to surprise us and contradict our convictions. For example, Jean Gabin can aspire to being eternal. The face, body and smile of France’s Popular Front, of a Europe that hoped for a better world but instead was rewarded with bloody wars. Like a handful of other actors, Gabin became part of history at a very young age and reappeared after the war; he was changed, not young any more, with white hair and in love with Marlene Dietrich, who, even if she had run away from Hitler, would always still be German. Gabin’s losses were the foundation of his loner legend, which in the 1950s went obstinately in the opposite direction of his times. He found refuge in the countryside (what star of the postwar era left the city to be a farmer?) and in his acting roles. He became unpopular to those who wanted everything to change at that time and he was adored by anyone who wanted everything to stay the same. Today we can watch his films and be moved by his fragile, unique (and unrepeatable?) art.
As we work on the final touches of Il Cinema Ritrovato we feel akin to Chaplin in the tightrope sequence of The Circus (1928). The Tramp thinks he has a bulletproof act with a clever gimmick, a rope that will stop him from falling and transform him from an incapable newbie into an artist unafraid of danger. All of a sudden, the rope is gone. Great comedians are also great philosophers. Could there be a more brilliant representation of the human condition than that sequence? The words of Ophüls and Maupassant at the end of Le Plaisir (1952) come to mind: “Le bonheur n’est pas gai”. This is the most bittersweet film at the festival this year, a treatise on the levity and drama of life that still resonates with viewers of today. Likewise, we will be amazed by hearing our own laughter in unison with the laughter of thousands of friends and strangers while watching The Cameraman (1929) and The Circus in Piazza Maggiore. Two consummate films, made magnificently without dialogue when sound film had already arrived and was the road to the future. In our high-tech times, when all of us are worried about our destiny, shouldn’t we be filled with joy when we rediscover ourselves as human beings among other human beings, bathed in the brilliance of Keaton and Chaplin? Laughing at gags invented almost a hundred years ago with an art that even at that time was no longer modern? Every year human beings fill up the cinemas, Piazza Maggiore and Piazzetta Pasolini. Doesn’t that seem to say that there is a basic need for being together and leaving behind the isolation of our parallel realities?


Miracles in Bologna

Gabriel García Márquez thought Miracolo a Milano was a one-off film: there were fables with special effects such as Thief of Bagdad or Walt Disney movies and then the complete opposite, neorealist films such as Germany, Year Zero or Bicycle Thieves. Realist fables with special effects had never been seen before (and they would continue to be a rare occurrence). Vittorio De Sica called the greatest special effects expert at that time, Ned Mann. He had worked on the big hits of the 1920s with Douglas Fairbanks and then on Alexander Korda’s productions; at Il Cinema Ritrovato we will see his art at work in the flood sequence of Henry King’s The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926). The cost of the special effects and the time needed to make them discouraged De Sica, who also produced the film. All the more so because the wires of the flying broomsticks were clearly visible in the final scene. Today, with digital technology it would be easy to remove them, but we decided not to do that and to leave the film’s story unchanged. This minor technical mistake illustrates the distance between our time and the Italy of the early 1950s, when not all images could be edited, not even for a miraculous film. It demonstrates the gap between artistic creation then and today.
Film history, however, is full of miracles. How else could we explain the four film noir gems by Felix Feist, discovered by Eddie Muller and superior to the rest of his production. Do not miss the wild and furious The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) with Lawrence Tierney (we all remember him, 40 years later, as mob boss Joe Cabot in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, 1991).
As Dave Kehr tells us, on the evening of July 9th 1937 the DeLuxe lab in Little Ferry, New Jersey, went up in flames: that night the negatives of 1,173 Fox films made between 1915 and 1935 disappeared, apparently for good. Thanks to the efforts of film archives, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation and MoMA’s Film Department, for the second consecutive year we can enjoy seeing dazzling prints of the films produced by William Fox and directed by some of the greatest American filmmakers between the late 1920s and early 1930s. Henry King stands out among them, and our special programme dedicated to him illustrates the high quality of his work, equally as excellent whether from the silent or sound era.
Another miracle: what according to some is the most beautiful colour process in all of film history, Chronochrome Gaumont (1912), would never have been available to use if Léon Gaumont had not sent several examples to George Eastman. All productions were burned in a fire, and only the reels preserved in Rochester by the George Eastman House survived; today they reappear with such unrealistic colour that they seem to breathe the air of the era when they were shot, the last years of the Belle Époque. Huston and Oswald Morris chased after those same colours in Moulin Rouge (1952), pushing the limits of Technicolor as no one had before, transforming the technique into a language and telling the story of Toulouse-Lautrec and his era through colours.


From Musidora to Varda, from Mangini to Stöckl, from Jane Campion to…

For years Il Cinema Ritrovato has sought to rewrite film history from a women’s perspective. Musidora’s work in the archives, especially at Cinémathèque française where Langlois had hired her to interview stars of the silent era, gives us another opportunity to get to know anew this extraordinary artist, icon, muse, actress, director, producer and archivist. Today we can fully appreciate her disruptive power and artistic freedom; these were her guiding force and they bring her closer to us.
We have been lucky to have had Agnès Varda in Bologna with us a number of times. She infected us with her boundless vitality, for which there is no cure. We will present her Varda par Agnès, which provides us with a key to this unique artist’s work so it may have new life. Jane Campion will be our guest this year for the first time, holding a much anticipated Film Lesson.
With Neun Leben hat die Katze (The Cat Has Nine Lives), a colourful gem, we can relive the utopia of ‘68 through Ula Stöckl’s feminist point of view, while Cecilia Mangini will be here in Bologna to present Essere donne, the first investigative report on the everyday life of women in 1965 Italy. Three recent documentaries on Anna Magnani, Claudia Cardinale and Romy Schneider (this last one based on Alice Schwarzer’s interview and work) offer us three authentic and nuanced portraits of the lives and choices, even the painful ones, of three women who were also three extraordinary actresses.


The Art of Performance

When we return from a festival, the actors and characters we liked the most come along with us. No festival has a cast that can compare with Il Cinema Ritrovato. We will name just a few: Connie Veidt, who stars in the first gay film in the history of cinema, seizing upon a brief censorship-free period in Germany (Richard Oswald’s Anders als die Andern, 1919); Fritz Kortner, Louise Brooks’ unforgettable groom in Die Büchse der Pandora, whom we will see in an autobiographical role as a professor who returns to Germany after the war and exile in California but discovers that little has changed (Der Ruf, 1949); Henry Fonda, in the perfect supporting role in Henry King’s Jesse James (1939), and his son Peter, fifty years later, the icon of a new age in Easy Rider (1969). Jack Nicholson makes a sensational appearance in that film, as does Jimmy Stewart in the saloon where Marlene Dietrich works in Destry Rides Again (1939). There’s the trio of giants in Husbands (1970), Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes; the legendary couple Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama invented by Youssef Chahine in Serâa fil al-wadi (Struggle in the Valley, 1954); another unforgettable duo, Bekim Fehmiu and Olivera Vučo, in Aleksandar Petrović’s Skupljači perja (I Even Met Happy Gypsies, 1967). We’ll also see a young Armin Mueller-Stahl very much in love in one of his first roles, Frank Beyer’s East German film Königskinder (1962), and John Cameron Mitchell’s stirring performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998). Ursula Andress emerging from the water (no need to name the film); Marina Vlady as the ineffable queen bee of Ape regina, Marco Ferreri’s first and highly censored Italian film (1963); the roughest Hollywood actor of all time, Sterling Hayden (reinterpreted by Philippe Garnier this year); Eduardo De Filippo, alone and with his siblings Titina and Peppino, an acting giant of Neapolitan theatre but also an excellent film director. And, of course, the faces that cannot be forgotten, the actors without names, the homeless in Miracolo a Milano, the Spanish and, especially, the Italian migrant workers in Toni (Jean Renoir’s 1935 film that sparked Italian neorealism), the kids in Los olvidados, the dancers in Moulin Rouge


Time and Space

When Buster Keaton in The Cameraman receives the much awaited phonecall from his beloved, he leaves the receiver hanging while she is talking to him and runs to her, instantly getting across the city; when he is right behind her, the intertitles says: “I’m sorry if I’m a little late”. At Il Cinema Ritrovato, for eight days we too can have super powers like Buster Keaton, travelling though time (three centuries) and space (dozens of countries) at full speed. Like Keaton, you will have sensational encounters. At no other festival in the world will you be able to meet in the space of a few days the Countess Élisabeth Greffulhe, the woman who inspired Proust and Alfred Dreyfus who, in 1899, entered the court of Rennes for his second trial. Nowhere else could you watch the crowds at Rosa Luxemburg’s funeral 100 years ago in June of 1919, six months after her assassination, or listen to the words of one of the most charismatic figures of the 20th century, the president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, who talks about a Pan African utopia at the Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou. These are figures who stand out in the history of humanity and whom we have read about, but whom we most likely have never seen. Two sections explore time, 1899: Year Four of Cinema, A Hundred Years Ago: 1919, and three time and space “We Are the Natives of Trizonia”: Inventing West German Cinema, 1945-49, Cinemalibero. Fespaco 1969-2019 and Under the Skies of Seoul: The Golden Age of South Korean Cinema (the 1960s). You will hear many different languages spoken on the screen and in the cinemas. Il Cinema Ritrovato weaves together threads of memory that have been broken by time and also brings us closer to ideas and perspectives we have forgotten. Now that some of their films have been restored, the work of masters including Gaston Kaboré, Med Hondo, Souleymane Cissé and Djbril Diop Mambéty must be seen again, perhaps leading us to the discovery that film was born in Africa.


Big and Small

At our festival, different sizes can coexist: from films lasting half a minute (the Lumières, the Mutoscope & Biographs) to those lasting over seven hours – such as Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel, for which the filmmaker, cinephile and champion of Indian cinema history followed one of the most distinguished filmmakers of the Czech Nová vlna, Jiří Menzel for several years. Our documentaries on cinema are ever more numerous and wide-ranging, in terms of both style and duration. Shivendra’s work pursues a different course, however – that of depth. It constitutes an act of love towards the cinema that formed Shivendra and to the genius of Menzel, who lays himself bare, keeping no secrets as with a sense of irony, he recounts both his and his country’s victories, failures and mistakes. Tavernier is no less utopian in his Voyage à travers le cinéma français. The title is fitting because the eight episodes (of which we will screen two this year) constitute a very personal story of a very special traveller, who has been on this voyage his whole life.
Alongside these epics you’ll find the section dedicated to 16mm – Great Small Gauge, in which the format’s reduced dimensions guarantee great freedom of expression to the artists that choose to work with it. You will be surprised by virtually unknown gems by Maria Lassnig, Peter Hutton and Margaret Tait. The range of formats, of film stocks, and of projection systems across the festival is incredibly diverse. Study the programme and you will discover digital projections with laser lamps, 35mm projections with carbon arc lamps, 16mm projections, vintage Technicolor prints…


On the subject of size, Apocalypse Now – Final Cut

It is perhaps the last over-sized film, a step towards a different kind of cinema, the film which invented a new conception of sound, a work so lacking in limits that not even its astonishing numbers can explain the immensity of the challenge Coppola and his collaborators set themselves.
Colonialism and the Vietnam War, drugs and American and French imperialism, a new mode of production, a visionary way of directing and inventing. Will the 270m2 of the Piazza Maggiore screen be sufficient?
We can’t wait to see the film in its third version, the Final Cut (which follows on the heels of the Classic and Redux cuts) introduced and described by Francis Ford Coppola’s own voice.


Federico, the Circus and… Welcome!

It is difficult to imagine two more different conceptions of film sound than those of Fellini and Coppola, even if they both worked with Nino Rota. Fellini didn’t believe in technology and detested direct sound. In his documentary, I clowns, which is an extremely valuable document on the circus, he represents a fake film crew in which the sound man, played by Alvaro Vitali, wanders around the set with a microphone that is never actually used. When he was almost 50, between 1969 and 1970, Fellini shot two documentaries, A Director’s Notebook, which was produced by the American TV network NBC, and I clowns, which was produced by RAI and released on Christmas Eve in black-and-white, both on TV and in the cinema – both with little success. We are now nearing Federico Fellini’s centenary, which will take place on the January 20th 1920. It is nice to think that next year the whole world will celebrate the great man from Rimini and rewatch his films. We pay homage to him, with a restoration of Roma and with various films on his love for the Circus.

Seated on my father’s knee, in the middle of the fiery lights, the cries, the roars and the thunderous applause, I had the sensation that I had discovered something that was always in me, but which also represented my future, my work, my life. It was a prophecy. For is the cinema – that way of living in a community of artists dedicated to the realisation of a film – not the same thing as being part of a circus?

For Fellini, the circus is the cradle of all forms of showbusiness, a metaphor for life, the deep-seated reason behind his love for the early masters, Chaplin and Keaton. Both men are repeatedly referenced in I clowns, which features a splendid, youthful Victoria Chaplin and her husband, Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée, at work on an entirely new idea for a poetic circus.
We will present the book Polidor e Polidor (Edizioni Cineteca di Bologna, out now) in which Marco Giusti recounts the fascinating story of the two Polidor brothers: that is to say Ferdinand and Edouard Guillaume, circus and film pioneers in America and Italy, where the elderly Ferdinand was invited to work for Fellini on four separate occasions (The Nights of Cabiria, La dolce vita,, Spirits of the Dead). Thanks to Pathé, who restored it in record time, was can also screen Carlos Vilardebó’s extremely rare Le Cirque de Calder, 1961. It features the famous Cirque Calder, a miniature circus made out of wood, wire and cloth by Alexander Calder between 1926 and 1931: as it is hand-animated by the artists with the help of mechanical devices, an astonishing spectacle unfolds before our very eyes.
We dedicate our finale to two figures very close two Fellini, two proper anti-stars: Vincenzo Mollica and Gideon Bachmann. Il Cinema Ritrovato does not have red carpets and does not award prizes but, on this occasion, we will betray our own principles and award the Cinema Ritrovato Prize to Vincenzo Mollica. In a country that over the past 40 years has ceased to believe in the cinema, he was the face of cinema in television. More a poet than a journalist, capable of saying very complicated things in the light and ironic way of someone who knows who to communicate, he was one of Federico Fellini’s most faithful friends.
Unfortunately, Gideon Bachmann discovered Il Cinema Ritrovato only in the final years of his life. Immediately after the elections of 1933, his parents took him out of Nazi Germany and he got to know Palestine during the Second World War. Obsessed by memory, throughout his life he captured interviews with filmmakers around the world, recording audio and, occasionally, also images. Thanks to the collaboration of Pordenone’s Cinemazero, which conserves his archive, this year we will begin to present his work, most of which is unknown. We begin by screening his films on Fellini, essential documents for revealing the maestro’s genius.


Welcome to Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019, which, like the circus, is the fruit of the lengthy, collective labours of many enlightened individuals and institutions. Five hundred films, 500 acts of generosity, await you, seeking your gaze to entertain and move you and help you to understand better who we are. It is a collective experience, which takes place over nine days in Bologna, Italy. If you come, you will be surprised by the greatness of the cinema and its (our) history.

Enjoy Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019!