Just appeared in Acta Sapientiae Universitatis. Film & Media Studies, No. 7 my article ‘Of Artists and Models. Italian Silent Cinema between Narrative Convention and Artistic Practice’. Based on research in the film archives of Turin, Bologna, Rome, Gemona, and Amsterdam. With thanks to Agnes Pethö, Giovanna Ginex, Armando Audoli, and the various film archives.
Visited the Giornate del Cinema Muto and had a lovely time, spoiled by the family with whom I stayed. Co-presented with Giorgio Bertellini, Francesco Pitassio and Luca Giuliani, the wonderful and rich Italian Silent Cinema Reader, edited by Giorgio Bertellini, and with me as author of two articles. Enjoyed Martin Loiperdinger’s birthday and new volume on Asta Nielsen. Was surprised about the smooth Domitor meeting and not surprised by the lengthy AIRSC meeting. Had big fun meeting, dining and wining with all my colleagues and friends. Liked the EFG 1914 presentation. Saw a few good films this year, such as the Swedisch comedy The Smugglers (with Pat & Patachon really funny for a change, under the direction of Gustav Molander), Beggars of Life (Louise Brooks), Gerhard Lamprecht’s tearjerker Children of No Importance/Die Unehelichen, Gennaro Righelli’s Der geheime Kurier with a dashing Iwan Mozzhukhin and remarkable mise-en-scene and photography, Pudovkin’s The Mother/Mat for the …th time, the incredible Kammerspiel thrilller Shattered/Scherben by Lupu Pick, and an early adaptation of I promessi sposi/The Bethrothed, with Gigetta Morano and shots partly on location. The found Welles, Too Much Johnson, was less than expected, but the last night with Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd was a good if not revolutionary closing performance. Some of the sound on film scores were horrible this year, as well as some of the live accompaniments, but Stephen Horne was wonderful. Problems with the many digital projections seemed a sign of the times, now that digital projection dominates, but problems with analogue projection as well confirmed that the world did not really change that much. Finally, relying on DVD in preparation can be risky, as one German film suddenly lacked English subtitles, with the subtitlers backing out and Pordenone regulars in the audience taking over. Yet, it shows that festivals such as these cannot exist without the huge human effort behind it. And neither without funding, as was expressed on various occasions.
Afterwards in Verona I gave a lecture on Romeo e Giulietta (Ugo Falena 1912), with Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena as the Shakespearian couple. Of course everybody knows Verona is the city of Romeo and Juliet, so I was in the “tana del leone”. And this took place at the Lyons Club Verona, at the ballroom of palazzo Castellani, in the heart of Verona. Très chic. Had a little time to stroll around, visit the museum at the Castle as well as the Duomo, and walk along the river Adige. Romeo e Giulietta was a typical Film d’Arte Italiana (FAI) production, stencil coloured, first analog restored by EYE (Netherlands Filmmuseum) in 1997, then digitally by ZZ Productions in 2003 in collaboration with EYE, Gosfilmofond, the Cineteca di Bologna et.al. Various composers were asked by Arte Television to compose new scores, a selection was broadcasted on Arte in 2003.
A challenge was to try and find out if the film was really shot in Verona, as FAI. Right away it was clear that all interiors were shot in the Roman studio of FAI, on which Luigi Pirandello based his novel Si gira!, later published as Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore. Some of the exteriors were also clearly studio work, but some looked like as if they had been shot outdoors in real settings. Before I gave my lecture I was only able to identify one location. When the presumed dead Juliet is brough into the church, and Romeo thinks he is too late, the portal of the church reminded me of a place I had been. After endless surfing on Google Images and going through my own pictures, I found out that the real location was not Verona and neither a church. It was Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia: mark the lions at the foot of the pillars, the winged animals on top and the three bishop-like figures in the hemicircle above the door posts. Of course shooting in Perugia must have been cheaper than Verona. But the facade in the film might well have been an imitation, based on the palazzo in Perugia, reconstructed at the studio premises on the Via Nomentana in Rome.
A second location seemed real and some of the attendants at my Verona lecture thought they recognized something but couldn’t pinpoint it. During my stroll the morning after, I casually walked into the courtyard of the Prefettura, the former Palazzo di Cansignorio, built in the 14th century and restored in the 1880s. And lo and behold, it looked quite a bit like the courtyard of Juliet’s house in the FAI production. Not exactly the same, but the checkered wall and the fat columns are a bit similar. So the Prefettura might have been a model for a studio built set.
Finally, when Romeo and Juliet first meet on the stairs of her house, behind them we notice a kind of medieval or rather late Roman styled equestrian statue, in a rather course style. Moreover he is a knight without an armour. I first thought of the equestrian statues of the Verona mediëval aristocrat Cangrande but he is always presented as a knight in armour, and always as a free standing sculpture, not sculpted into a wall (basso relievo). At the Castelvecchio Museum, however, I saw a basso relievo of St. Mark and the Beggar, by the so-called Tuscan Master of 1436. Mark wears no armour, just a ‘tunica’ like the cavalier behind Romeo and Juliet. The style, though, is much more refined, classicist and Renaissance-styled, reminding of Pisanello. In contrast to the sculpture in the film, St. Mark’s horse does not lift one of his forelegs, which though was a classic element in equestrian statues from Antiquity on (e.g. the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Roman Capitol).
Today we had an excellent symposium on Madness & Media at the Institute of Sound & Vision in Hilversum, organised by Sound & Vision, TMG (journal of media history), and GBG (History, Sound and Vision). Fascinating talks, images and film clips by the presenters Gemma Blok, Bas Agterberg, Patricia Pisters, Jennifer Kanary, and Henk Maurits, and an inspiring discussion with the presenters plus Peter Koehler. Chair was Bregt Lameris, with whom I also launched the new issue of TMG on Madness & Media. It was also my farewell of the magazine’s editorial board, after 10 years of service.
Madness has always been a rewarding subject for stories and movies. In the nineteenth century examples such as the mad inventor or scientist like Dr.Frankenstein, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in our times the neurotic behavior in series like Desperate Housewives. The Association History Sound and Vision (GBG), the editors of the Journal of Media History (TMG online) and the Netherlands Institute Sound and Vision (Beeld & Geluid) will organize on 26 September a symposium on Madness and media, during which a new TMG issue on this theme will be presented, which I co-edited with Bregt Lameris and which will be available online in Open Access. Some articles are in English, others in Dutch. The issue also contains a special section on some collections of neuropathological films in European archives (coll. Rademaker at Sound & Vision in Hilversum, coll. Negro at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin, coll. Van Gehuchten at Cinematek in Brussels etc.). In contrast to the examples mentioned above, the special issue Madness and media of TMG will treat the theme of madness and media in less obvious manifestations, from advertisements and sound and photography to the vibrator and artist’s simulation of psychosis. The symposium Madness and media will explore the theme on the basis of the special issue of TMG and of archival materials. How do media determine the image of mental illness and of science? What do the old images of experiments tell us on the development of science? But also, how do audiovisual media function as sources or tools in the present day? The program includes a number of presentations by Patricia Pisters (UvA), Bas Agterberg (Sound and Vision), Gemma Blok (UvA) and Jennifer Kanary (Roomforthoughts). In a forum discussion collaboration will be the central focus: between heritage institutions such as Sound and Vision and Dolhuys, and the various scientific disciplines such as disability studies, neurology, media history, history of psychiatry, psychology and history of science.
Date: 26 september 2013, 13.00-17.00
Location: Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum
Entrance fee: €15.- (GBG members free of charge)
Language of the day: Dutch
Finally! The posters from the Desmet Collection are now visible online!
On European Film Gateway, EYE Film Institute Netherlands has made an impressive amount of posters from the Desmet Collection available for the first time. 850 beautiful posters from the period between 1907 and 1916 can be viewed and enjoyed. See http://project.efg1914.eu/preview/ or go directly to the pages with the posters.
These posters from the 1910s provide a picture of a lesser known period in film history, and many of them are the only remnants of films that have been lost. From an artistic point of view, they reveal the essence of popular art in the early 20th century, with fairytale scenes with elves (Nan in Fairyland) and gnomes, illustrations of orphans, shipwrecks (Auf einsamer Insel) and terrifying spirits. Other posters show crucial scenes of confrontations between characters in the film. We also witness the beginning of the appearance of stars on posters, such as Francesca Bertini, Harry Piel, Henny Porten, and Vitagraph comedian John Bunny.
The humorous posters of Harry Bedos or Achille Luciano Mauzan and the dramatic designs of Vincent Lorant-Heilbronn (Anna Karenine, La Passion) stand out among the collection. We can also see the first signs of expressionist and constructivist posters (Paul Leni: Auf Abwegen, and the posters from the Werkstätten für Grafische Kunst, like Die Welt ohne Männer). The posters printed by Plakatkunstanstalt Dinse, Eckert & Co. (Der Geheimnisvolle Klub, Die Schwarze Natter) are very subtle and creative. American posters are mostly not credited to a designer and are less elaborate than the European posters, of which style contemporary posters still retain.
The site still needs some small adjustments and additional information. Posters from 1913 are all dated 1.1.1913, which seems hard to believe. Names of designers such as Bedos or Mauzan or printers are not visible in the information blocks yet (only in the search option of related names, so only if you know these names already). Neither visible yet are original film titles and production companies. Keywords are in Dutch, which is odd for an international database. And finally, this is only a selection from the posters in the Desmet Collection. Yet, the 850 images are all now within hand’s reach and have good quality, which is already a major step forward. Now the rest!
On Saturday 29th of June the 27th edition of the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna starts. So buckle up for a vast programme this year, including the the programme on the year 1913, Silent Hitchcock, Allan Dwan, Vittorio De Sica, films from just before the Second World War, Chaplin at Mutual, Soviet filmmakers Olga Preobrazhenskaya and Ivan Pravov, two spectacular recreations of early cinema shows, colour films from the Czech New Wave, a tribute to Chris Marker, the passage from silent to sound in Japan, European Cinemascope, films restored by the World Cinema Foundation, and a Jerry Lewis programme. And that only in 8 days, spread over 4 to 5 venues in town! Two major events are planned to be presented at Bologna’s main square Piazza Maggiore. Firstly, a double bill of DeMille’s Carmen (1915) and Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen (1915), accompanied by the Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra, conducted by Timothy Brock. Secondly, the world premiere of a new score composed by Matti Bye and performed by his ensemble to accompany Victor Sjöström’s classic silent film Berg-ejvind och Hans hustru (The Outlaw and His Wife, 1918). Other films on the square will be restored versions of Roma città aperta (Rome Open City, 1945) by Roberto Rossellini • Hiroshima mon amour (1959) by Alain Resnais • Jour de fête (1949) by Jacques Tati • The Lusty Men (1952) by Nicholas Ray • Falstaff – Campanadas a medianoche (1965) by Orson Welles • Badlands (1973) by Terrence Malick.
Burt Lancaster’s daughter will introduce The Swimmer and Vera Cruz, in honor of Lancaster’s 100th birthday. New digital restorations presented include Études sur Paris (1928) by André Sauvage • The Invisible Man (1933) by James Whale • Glückskinder (1936) by Paul Martin • La Belle et la bête (The Beauty and the Beast, 1946) by Jean Cocteau • Amore (1948) by Roberto Rossellini • Une si jolie petite plage (1949) by Yves Allégret • Stromboli – Terra di Dio (1950) by Roberto Rossellini • Sudden Fear (1952) by David Miller • Dial M for Murder (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock • La Pointe courte (1955) by Agnès Varda • Richard III (1955) by Laurence Olivier • Plein soleil (Blazing Sun, 1960) by René Clément • Experiment in Terror (1962) by Blake Edwards • Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon, 1962) by Yasujiro Ozu • Tell Me Lies (1968) by Peter Brook • Model Shop (1969) by Jacques Demy • Lucky Luciano (1973) by Francesco Rosi • La Reine Margot (Queen Margot, 1994) by Patrice Chereau. The 1913 programme includes not only the classic Quo vadis? by Guazzoni and a Tragico convento, a tragicomedy with Maria Jacobini newly found and restored by the EYE Filmmuseum, but also a new restoration of Love Everlasting – Ma l’amor mio non muore, Lyda Borelli’s first film – which will also be released on DVD – and a restoration of the epic and mythological film Spartacus.
So selection will be the biggest problem this year. What to choose, what to drop? Luckily our B&B is not to far from the Lumiere cinemas and the Arlecchino cinema…
This year’s Master’s course Cinematic City of my master Comparative Arts & Media Studies is again full of innovation and experiment. The course is taught by my colleagues Koos Bosma (Professor in Architecture), Bert Hogenkamp (our Endowed Professor in Commissioned Filming), and myself. Last year we worked with Geoplaza, a log journal on Wikispaces, and archival research collected on presented through Wikispaces as well. The central theme was cinemas in Amsterdam now and and in the past, a second theme was European film museums. The connecting factor was the new EYE Filmmuseum building along the IJ river, just behind Central Station. This year’s course instead is focused on the representation of the cinematic city, so films shot in Amsterdam or films pretending to take place in Amsterdam (but in reality shot elsewhere or simply in a film studio). Repeating an experiment I did last year with my Bachelor course Film in Rome/Rome on Film, in collaboration with the Royal Dutch Institute in Rome, we managed to get hold of a few iPads (thanks to a generous colleague) and transfer clips of films on the iPads (thanks to a helpful collaborator). Doing so, we will be able to compare on location the film clips with the real locations. In addition, we will make photos on location and compare these with the locations within the clips. A new iPhone app, Vistory, has already experimented with this, using non-fiction footage from the site Open Beelden [Open Images] from the Institute for Sound & Vision (Beeld & Geluid), permitting you to take captures and compare these with your own photos. But what if we add fiction film as well? And what if you compare both sources with the static images of the Amsterdam City Archive image bank (Beeldbank) or those of the National Archive? So this year’s course will be a testcase. Moreover, the Geoplaza site of Amsterdam of last year (sorry, limited access), indicating cinemas in Amsterdam during four time layers, has been reused and expanded with four time layers of historical maps from 1904, 1941, 1972 and now (thanks to Maurice de Kleijn and Peter Vos of SPINlab). After the course the results of the course can be implemented in the Geoplaza maps. The field work in May starts after some serious input by the teachers and after thorough literature study (Stieber, Bass, Certeau, Clarke, Penz, Schwarzer, Shiel etc.) in the past three weeks. For the literature discussions we have experimented with Kogeto cameras. These are little cameras you can stick to an iPhone (unfortunately not to other smartphones yet) which record the discussions in small groups, 360 degrees around, as if you are in the midst of a 19th century panorama like the Panorama Mesdag in The Hague. O.k. the image is not perfectly sharp and the time span is very short (8 minutes per take). But afterwards the Kogeto website permits you to see the films either as a panorama you can scroll around in the typical smartphone way, selecting the speaker whom you hear, or you can select to see it in a synthetic way like the small panoramas from the early 19th century, showing you all group members within one frame. The latter is a more relaxing version to watch, I need to say. My colleague Sylvia Moes (Innovation Manager Media at VU University) was most helpful in introducing us to these little panorama cameras and showing the benefits they may have for education. In the end the practical field work needs to be reconnected with the literature, ‘zooming out’ from the ‘cityscapes’, ‘screenscapes’ and ‘zoomscapes’. Anyway, in Rome, the “iPad moments’ became something magical during the course, a revelation to both teachers and students. I am curious to see how this will work out in Amsterdam, and how it will sharpen our eyes, ears, and minds. PS a big hand to Paul Bossenbroek, Sylvia Moes, Jolanda Visser and Miriam van Schie for helping me with this course.