Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival Bologna Italy, July 3-10, 2004
Each year in early July, Bologna hosts a film festival devoted to restored, recovered, and rediscovered films. In 2004 the eighteenth such festival, the fourth overseen by the Finnish film critic Peter von Bagh, was held. Peter von Bagh is also a filmmaker, organizer of the legendary Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankyla, Finland (which he founded with the Kaurismaki brothers), and the former director of the Finnish Film Archive. In 2005 the nineteenth annual Cinema Ritrovato festival runs from July 2-9, with von Bagh again as artistic director.
Film critics, journalists, curators, archivists, film scholars, and cinema tourists attend the festival, which falls into three broad sections. One is devoted to early cinema, another to the history of avant-garde and experimental cinema, and another to international feature films. The emphasis is on particular moments in the history of film technology and film formats, to the point that the festival could be said to display the various historical poetics and optiques available to international cinemas over the last hundred years.
Bologna, birthplace of Pasolini, is quite hot at this time of the year but is a very navigable, pedestrianfriendly city, and shade is always to be had in the many colonnaded streets. Ferrara, birthplace of Antonioni, is both beautiful and nearby, and other cultural events are always going on in and around Bologna throughout July. The night before the start of Il Cinema Ritrovato, Peter Weir's Master and Commander (US, 2003) had screened, introduced by Weir (whose name and work were also prominendy displayed in Ferrara the day I wandered around mere), and many other major films were screened through to the end of July (during "Sotto Le Steele del Cinema").
The night after Il Cinema Ritrovato ended, the day before I flew back to Australia, I saw a wonderful dieater-circus performance in the beautiful small Piazza S. Stefano by "Le Cirque Invisible," the husband and wife team of Jean Baptiste Thierre and Victoria Chaplin. Since Bologna is also home to the Bologna Cinematheque's Chaplin Project, which seeks to restore all of Chaplin's works to pristine print condition, the festival can count on having a world premiere of the best quality print of one or more of Chaplin's films each year. In 2004 Pay Day (US, 1922), City Lights (US, 1931), and some of the Keystone series were the Chaplin restorations on display. Other sections of the festival were devoted to Cinemascope and VistaVision films. One-Eyed Jacks (US, 1961) was shown, as much because it was the last film made in VistaVision as because it was the only film directed by Marion Brando. The festival also included a restored print of Kazan's On the Waterfront (US, 1954), and Brando's death a few days before the festival gave great poignancy to these screenings.
If you eavesdrop on conversations at die festival you might hear people saying that better prints were screened at, say, a widescreen conference in England earlier that year, but as a first time attendee of this Bologna film event I was stunned by the range and quality of the festival's offerings. A restoration of Bertolucci's Before the Revolution (IT, 1964) was shown and was preceded by a delightful twentyminute video interview with Bertolucci from the vaults of the Bologna Cinematheque. In it he told amusing anecdotes about receiving assistance in making his film from the power of the mafia. The actor that Bertolucci wanted to use had been called up for military service, and shortly after that had been imprisoned in a military jail. The mafia intervened and the actor became available. Firms are screened in a range of pleasant social spaces. The Lumière cinema has two smallish Cinematheque-style screens that showed the experimental, avantgarde films and most of the early cinema works; the much larger cinema-palace-style Arlecchino is equipped to show Cinemascope and Vista Vision formats; and the massive outdoor screen in Piazza Maggiore functioned as a "walk-in" to show Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (GB/US, 1968), Paul Czinner's Fraulein EUse (DE, 1929), and Anthony Mann's The Man from Laramie (US, 1955), which was introduced by the English film historian and expert on the western Ed Buscombe. …