Curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko

The Cento anni fa series started 20 years ago, in 2003, when Tom Gunning presented 55 films from 1903, in a section called The First Great Year of Cinema. Our bland title Century of Cinema: 1903 is no better. Surprise me! or The Big Experiment would be apposite; the claim Best Years of Film History at least correct.
And now we are again there, in 1903, but as Heraclitus might say, you can’t step into the same screening twice. Of the 64 titles in our six programmes, only 12 are repeats from 2003. About the same proportion of people who have not or have attended the 2003 series will probably be present in the 2023 audience. Moreover there is no change in the general situation that cinema from the beginning of the last century remains one of the most underrated and unknown chapters in film history, so Il Cinema Ritrovato continues to offer the opportunity to see films from that period.
Films? Should we not rather talk of “views” or “pictures”, the expressions used in 1903 for a single short item in a combined programme, to emphasise the fundamental difference between these and a later type of cinematographic entertainment?
Our mission is to set the films of 1903 and the audiences of 2023 free from didactical duties and we recommend spectators to willingly suspend the habits of immersive film viewing. Admire the radically different films of 1903, enjoy the respite from psychological and narrative coherence, be happy to be surprised. And look forward to the future years of cinematography coming into its own in an admirable aesthetic identity around 1907 – which subsequently gets lost again.
In tribute to the previous curator of the 1903 series, we conclude with an excerpt from a recent interview with Tom Gunning: “I guess the significance of Brighton [the FIAF conference in 1978] was putting early cinema on the map and correcting the attitude that, basically, before Griffith there was not much of interest and that early cinema was kind of boring. Yet we found that, on the contrary, it was very, very exciting… There was a kind of non-narrative style, which… had a different attitude towards what the relationship to the viewer was, towards what space was; a whole series of things that were radically different and… an alternative approach not focused on telling a story. Christian Metz assumes cinema is a narrative art by its very nature… For Metz, this wasn’t even a theoretical claim. It was an assumption. And it was that type of assumption that was challenged, a challenge that we felt film history gave us the right to make.”

Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko