Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 09:00

Arrigo Frusta: New restoration

Introduced by

Andrea Meneghelli (Cineteca di Bologna), Claudia Gianetto (Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino), Daniela Currò (Conservatore Cineteca Nazionale) and Elif RongenKaynakçi (EYE Filmmuseum)

Piano accompaniment by

Stephen Horne

Working on the Arrigo Frusta retrospective gave us the chance to take stock of the existing copies of his films and select some titles we felt deserved new restoration. We organized them in this section (although there is one defector, La regina di Ninive, that we have placed elsewhere). Nerone was a decidedly complex restoration, based on a comparison of three incomplete prints with different kinds of deterioration from Cineteca di Bologna, the EYE Filmmuseum and CSC – Cineteca Nazionale. Reconstructing the colours was especially fascinating; we were confronted with a still unsolved mystery, which viewers, however, will not notice in the restored copy. Cineteca di Bologna’s vintage tinted positive print contains a handful of frames coloured (presumably) by hand that are indistinguishable when screened. This seems to us like a very rare case, worthy of further study, and complicated by the rediscovery of a stencil coloured extract conserved by Lobster.
Speaking of colour, curiosity about the tinting of the originals is the reason we chose some nitrate prints from the vast Joye collection, which had been beautifully reprinted by the BFI on black and white 35mm. The bloody reds of the foundry where awful crimes take place, the orange cannon shots that light up the snow of Russian Alps, the blue of night punctuated by a flash of light signifying salvation. In fact, the drama of colour provides us with another way of understanding and enjoying Frusta’s films.

Andrea Meneghelli


Saturday 30/06/2018


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

A major hit distributed around the world with 342 prints (the number given by the boss himself, Arturo Ambrosio). Today it is still an entertaining movie. Working with common knowledge of the cruel emperor, Frusta chose a sentimental side: Nero’s was a story of amour fou. He and Poppea, tragically kindred souls, revel in the depths of their passion. Everything else can go up in flames. Tame Octavia gets a dagger in her back. The scene of Rome on fire strikes us not only for its visual magnificence, but also for the two lovers who take on amorous poses while watching the terrible, sublime blaze. The aftermath is a series of mysteries: what happened to Poppea? Why is Nerone tortured by remorse (not for the fire, not for Octavia, but for having put Christians to death)? Perhaps the two events are closely connected: the disappearance of his beloved opens the door to an invasion of ghosts, transforming him from being mad with love to just plain mad. Death is the only solution, and he dies by his own hand.

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Arrigo Frusta. F.: Giovanni Vitrotti. Scgf.: Decoroso Bonifanti. Int.: Alberto Capozzi (Nerone), Lydia De Roberti (Poppea), Mirra Principi (Ottavia), Luigi Maggi (Epafrodito), Dirce Marella (ancella di Ottavia), Ernesto Vaser (senatore; uomo del popolo), Ercole Vaser (spione), Serafino Vité, Leo Ragusi (uomini del popolo), Paolo Azzurri (senatore). Prod.: S.A. Ambrosio DCP. D.: 15’ Tinted


Film Notes

As an excellent plot creator, Frusta had to have known that even the most meticulously thought out plan can backfire, take a detour and turn against the person who orchestrated it. This story is a shining example. The scheme seems perfect and painstakingly planned, a series of perfectly timed deceits. The goal is diabolical: take revenge on a woman by burning her innocent page in the foundry. Revenge to be served hot in an infernal forge. But fate is playing with loaded dice, and the person who thinks he is deciding the game ends up in ashes. Crooked destiny, cruel film, as is often the case for Frusta. Adapted from Schiller’s ballad to satisfy Ambrosio’s German agents demanding adaptations of fine literature.

Cast and Credits

T. alt.: L’andata alla fucina. Sog.: dalla ballata Der Gang nach dem Eisenhammer di Friedrich Schiller. Scen.: Arrigo Frusta. F.: Giovanni Vitrotti. Int.: Mary Cléo Tarlarini (la moglie del conte), Alberto A. Capozzi (il conte di Saverno), Romilde Nigra (il paggio), Luigi Maggi (il conte Roberto), Serafino Vité, Paolo Azzurri, Leo Ragusi (uomini della fucina). Prod.: S.A. Ambrosio DCP. D.: 12’ Tinted


Film Notes

The press at the time exclaimed: “a formidable work of art”, “a pure gem”, “a masterful example without precedent”. The large display of means, the realism of the sets (plus perfect tricks) and the throngs of extras used astounded audiences. Even Georges Sadoul in his Histoire générale du cinéma recognized its historic value, the grandeur of the en plein air scenes (in Vauda di San Maurizio in the Piedmont plains), the quality of Vitrotti’s cinematography (“he knew how to use snow as a character in the drama”). The plot: the grenadier Roland returns to his village and finds his betrothed Elena married to an officer. He enlists for the Russian Campaign and at the front encounters his beloved following her husband. During the retreat, Roland is willing to sacrify his life to rescue the wounded officer and to save Elena from misfortune. The film is still surprising today for the expert staging in big and small spaces and the use of an epic episode for an intimate drama. And for the snow, as Sadoul significantly noted. Colouring film for a movie about snow seems a paradox. However, the blinding white does not lose its leading role with the palette of this restoration. Frusta played the part of Napoleon, after opposing the choice of Oreste Grandi with his unpresentable imposing nose. As Frusta himself recalls, he had to sacrifice his “enormous, sensational moustache”.

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Arrigo Frusta. F.: Giovanni Vitrotti. Scgf.: Decoroso Bonifanti, Paolo Borgogno. Int.: Alberto A. Capozzi (il granatiere Roland), Mary Cléo Tarlarini (Elena), Giuseppe Gray (il tenente marito di Elena), Mario Voller Buzzi (un ussaro), Ernesto Vaser (l’oste), Gigetta Morano (la vivandiera), Arrigo Frusta (Napoleone), Oreste Grandi, Ercole Vaser, Serafino Vité (soldati). Prod.: S.A. Ambrosio DCP. D.: 20′ Tinted


Film Notes

Two years after Nozze d’oro, the seasoned duo Frusta-Maggi took on a theme dear to Italian film of the time: the heroic events of the Risorgimento, which necessarily entailed reducing the Austrian invaders to victims of patriotic cunning and courage. Audiences went wild, imprecating so vehemently when the enemy appeared on the screen that some police headquarters blocked the film. Like Nozze d’oro, the narrative is told as a memory and gives the main characters a chance to fall in love. The ‘narrating voice’ is a grandmother’s, unwilling to accept a modern electric lamp: in fact, it was her old oil lamp that helped her get rid of the enemy and marry a handsome lieutenant. The film excels at the use of space: the small town under siege is like a warren full of hideouts and leading to a series of tricks revolving around the sacristy and the bell tower. Unable to control the terrain and see beyond appearances, the Austrians surrender. Like in many of Frusta’s stories, the person who uses hidden ravines, disguise and double-dealing wins.

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Arrigo Frusta. F.: Giovanni Vitrotti. Int.: Fernanda Negri-Pouget (la nipote), Umberto Scalpellini (il curato), Luigi Chiesa (il tenente Carlo), Luciano Manara (Zufolo). Prod.: S.A. Ambrosio DCP. D.: 42’. Tinted