Cinema Ritrovato 2015

•June 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Sotto il sole di Rome. Left Liliana Mancini (Iris).

Coming up is the 2015 Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna. For years it is no news that the programme gets fuller and fuller, just like the Sala Mastroianni. Also the dilemmas get bigger and bigger: what to drop? is there a second screening? when to sleep or eat? This year several retrospectives in which I am interested. Of Renato Castellani I only saw Due soldi di speranza and Un colpo di pistola, but not a film like Sotto il sole di Roma (1948) with e.g. a young Alberto Sordi and the girl Iris (Liliana Mancini). She would return in a small part in Visconti’s Bellissima, basically playing herself: a pretty face, but no steady career, so ending up in the editing room in Cinecittà. Cinema Ritrovato also contains a retrospective on Ingrid Bergman‘s early Swedish films which I never saw. Her daughter Isabella Rossellini will introduce the films. I met her other daughter Ingrid at a Fellini conference some years ago in Jerusalem. There are the Leo McCarey films of which I also missed many. There is a lot of buzz around the recently found second reel of his film The Battle of the Century (1927), the famous pie fight comedy with Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. Will we see it in Bologna? Special screenings in the night time such as the restored version of Rocco and His Brothers (1960) by Visconti, with some reinserted censored scenes (recently premiered in Cannes).

Sotto il sole di Roma. Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano.

Of course I am looking forward at the 1915 programme, including Assunta Spina (which will also be released on DVD!), Rapsodia satanica (at the Teatro Comunale, with Mascagni’s music played by the orchestra of Timothy Brock) and Il fuoco. So the Italian divas Francesca Bertini, Lyda Borelli and Pina Menichelli all in one festival. EYE will be present with various attractive titbits, including a film with Maria Jacobini, and a fragment of one of the few lost Lyda Borelli films, Dramma di una notte/Una notte a Calcutta (Mario Caserini 1918). I saw the nitrate which even if damaged and short looks very nice. Attached a postcard for the film. The story deals with Guido, a navy officer (Alberto Capozzi), who, returned to Italy to assist to his brother Riccardo’s (Livio Pavanelli) wedding, recognizes Nelly, the future spouse (Borelli), as a former adventuress he has met before in a den of iniquity in Calcutta.  Nelly, though, had worked in the brothel just to gain money for her mother and little sister and had stopped her job after her mother died. Returned to Italy she met and fell in love with Riccardo. Guido feels obliged to warn his brother. Nelly implores him not to do this, even tries to kill him, then surrenders and leaves on condition he won’t tell his brother.  But once alone, she scratches herself with her nails dripped in a deadly Indian poison she always carried around.

Lyda Borelli in Il dramma di una notte. Spanish postcard.

Crossmedial Exhibitions and Cinematic City

•March 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In a little over three weeks we’ll start again with our course The Cinematic City, on the representation of the city of Amsterdam in fiction and non-fiction cinema. Last year we did a fascinating pilot with KPN and Surfnet with use of 4G and IPads, which results where recognized by Surfet as Best Practices. See for this the Dutch spoken film on YouTube. We hope to repeat the experiment this year.

This year we will also work with so-called knowledge clips, in which my colleague prof. Bert Hogenkamp and I explain two basic texts, which students need to read before the course starts. Thus our course starts already on a higher level. For the knowledge clips, made by the Audiovisual Service of VU University, I was filmed before a greenscreen and also had my first experience of autocue.

At this moment we are in the fifth week of our yearly master course Crossmedial Exhibitions, this year dedicated to two exhibitions the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam: Anthony McCall Solid Light Films and Other Works, and Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory.  For the Crossmedial Exhibitions course we had interesting meetings with various collaborators of EYE, involved in the two exhibitions mentioned: Mark-Paul Meyer, Claartje Opdam, Sanne Baar and Marnix van Wijk. We were toured around the two exhibitions in the Fall and last month. We also visited the interior of Desmet’s last cinema Parisien, now at the Filmhallen cinema in Amsterdam-West, and viewed Peter Delpeut’s delightful, operatic compilation film Lyrical Nitrate (1990). I indirectly collaborated to the Desmet exhibition by writing an article on the film posters in the Desmet collection and also gave a lecture on this. Lately, I was interviewed by Dutch television (NPO2) for the popular history program Andere Tijden [Other Times], which organised a special issue on Desmet. In addition to Desmet’s relatives and collaborators of EYE, I was interviewed as the ‘film historian’. Which I am. Apart from other jobs, that is. Such as the coordinator of the MA Comparative Arts and Media Studies. If you understand Dutch, here is a link to the program:

afscheid Wilbert, McCall met studenten CAMS 016EYE en Haghefilm 004 (2)Paul Utrecht en visite EYE bibliotheek 013EYE en Filmhallen CrossEx 001EYE en Filmhallen CrossEx 007EYE en Filmhallen CrossEx 019

Roger Hanin (1925-2015)

•February 11, 2015 • 1 Comment


This morning the man died whose back is visible in the permanent header on top of this blog. French actor and director Roger Hanin passed away. Since 1953, he appeared in more than 100 French and foreign films, often crime films playing tough guys. But he was best loved in France as TV Commissioner Navarro. In 1960 Hanin played in Luchino Visconti’s Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers, 1960) the boxing impresario Morini, who first promotes Simone (Renato Salvatore) and looks at Simone and his brother Rocco (Alain Delon) while they are in the shower. When Simone, the eldest and the strongest but psychologically the most instabile brother,  has become an alcoholic wreck, Morini takes him home, defies him and they start a fight, while a television set shows a caroussel of masterpieces from the Italian Renaisance. Morini switches off the television and the darkness suggests sex, but we don’t see or hear anything. The scene was daring for its time and caused controversy. Soon after, Morini claims to Rocco and his brother Simone stole money. Rocco agrees to release Simone from his contract by paying up, signing a ten year contract for boxing matches. In vain, Ciro tries to hold him back. Looking at the wealthy interior you ask yourself whether Morini needs so much money. Yet, despite all of Simone’s despicable behaviour, Rocco considers family honour above all. He proves to Morini he agrees by ringing the boxing trainer Cerri to tell him of the agreement.

The picture above shows Hanin from left, while Ciro back left tries to withhold Rocco back right. Down, the reverse shot, Morini offering the phone to Rocco, defying him to keep his word.


Francesco Rosi (1922-2015)

•January 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

La terra trema (Luchino Visconti 1948). The grandfather dies.

Yesterday, renowned Italian film director and screenwriter Francesco Rosi (Naples, November 15, 1922 – Rome, January 10, 2015) passed away. Rosi, who started out in Italian neorealism, was one of the most important politicised post-neorealist Italian filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s. For over two decades he was the critical consciousness of Italy.

Francesco Rosi started as assistant-director for e.g. Luchino Visconti (La terra trema, 1948; Bellissima, 1951; Senso, 1954) and as screenwriter. In 1952 he took over direction of the film Camicie Rosse when director Goffredo Allessandri was disabled after a car accident. His breakthrough came in 1958 with La sfida (The Challenge), a film about Camorra boss Pasquale Simonetti (José Suarez) and Pupetta Maresca (Rossana Schiaffino). The film shocked for its allusion to the mafia controlling the government. Also in his later films such as Salvatore Giuliano (1962), Le mani sulla città (Hands Over the City, 1963), Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair, 1972), Tre fratelli (Three Brothers, 1981), and Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979), based on Carlo Levi’s autobiographical novel, Rosi fiercely protested against a number of abuses in Italian society, either in the past or in contemporary times, or among Italian immigrants in Germany (I magliari/The Magliari, 1959). This social criticism was also present in his masterpiece Cadaveri eccellenti (1976), an adaptation of the novel Il contesto by Leonardo Sciascia. All this forced him to depart temporarily to Spain.

In the 1970s, Gian Maria Volonté was his regular actor, from the First World War drama Uomini contro (1970). Although Rosi filmed in unconventional locations and sometimes with unknown actors, he also made more conventional cinema such as the opera film Carmen (1984) with Placido Domingo and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez adaptation Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1987) with, again, Volonté, plus Alain Delon and Ornella Muti. Later followed the thriller Dimenticare Palermo (The Palermo Connection, 1990), starring James Belushi and based on the Prix Goncourt winning novel by Edmonde Charles-Roux. Finally Rosi filmed the historical drama La Tregua (The Truce, 1997, based on the eponymous autobiographical by Primo Levi, told by Holocaust survivors returning from Auschwitz, and with John Turturro as Levi himself.

In 1962 Salvatore Giuliano won a Silver Bear for Best Director. Le mani sulla città won a Golden Lion in 1963. Il caso Mattei received in 1972 a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Tre fratelli was nominated in 1982 for an Oscar. At the 2008 Berlin Film Festival Rosi was honored with a honorary Golden Bear. In 2010 Rosi won a lifetime Golden Leopard at the festival of Locarno and in 2012 a lifetime Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Personally, I had once briefly contact with Francesco Rosi during my research on Luchino Visconti. He told me modestly he had forgotten so much, I’d better ask someone else. Instead, I discovered at the Bibliothèque du Film (BiFi) of the Cinémathèque française four very detailed working registers by Rosi made during the sheer endless production of La terra trema. They were a wealth of details. Rosi kept four working registers for La terra trema. The first contains the entire daily schedule for everyone’s task, including Visconti himself. The second contains the bulletin: the record of all lenses to be used per shot, the focal length(s), the camera movements, the camera heights, the metrage of the used up negative, and the annotations. The third has the shooting script, in which each shot is described and narrated. Finally, the fourth register contains the continuity (the raccordi). Every shot was storyboarded so that each shot could be resumed immediately in case of interruptions (e.g., bad weather). Visconti had apparently learned from the bad weather that plagued the shooting of Une partie de campagne. The continuity described not only scenography and costumes but also gestures and actions. In short, Visconti maintained total control. Lino Miccichè also refers to these sources in his 1993volume in La terra trema. See also Anton Giulio Mancino, Il processo della verità. Le radici del film politico-indiziario italiano (2008) and Letizia Bellocchio, ‘Identificazione e straniamento in Ossessione e La terra trema’, in: Letizia Bellocchio, Mauro Giori, Tomaso Subini eds., Guarda bene, fratello, guarda bene. Kubrick, Pasolini, Visconti (2005), 53-67. Visconti had originally intended La terra trema as a trilogy on fishermen, miners, and farmers, but only the first episode was filmed. When discussing the never-filmed third episode of the massacre of the farmers at Portella della Ginestra by Salvatore Giuliano and his gang (1947) in La terra trema, Gianni Rondolino in his biography of Visconti (2006) refers to the end of Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976), to Russian revolutionary cinema, and to the painting by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo: Quarto stato (1901, Museo del Novecento, Milan), which functioned as opening image for Novecento. Francesco Rosi, assistant-director, reworked the episode in his own film Salvatore Giuliano (1962), and shot it in 1961 on the exact location.


Salvatore Giuliano (1962)

Two older publications now online

•December 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Two of my German publications can be found online now, see Publications. I hope to publish them in English as well, eventually.

‘”Mit nur einem Blick perfide sein”. Carl Koch, Jean Renoir, Luchino Visconti und Tosca, in: Francesco Bono, Johannes Roschlau eds., Tenöre, Touristen, Gastarbeiter. Deutsch-italienische Filmbeziehungen (München: edition text & kritik/Cinegraph, 2011), pp. 80-92. Courtesy edition text & kritik/Cinegraph.

Cinematographer Ubaldo Arata and director Carl Koch during shooting on the Palatine in Rome. Tempo, 5, 16-23 January 1941.

‘Exkurs: Spionage und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Das Beispiel Niederlande.’ in: Uli Jung, Martin Loiperdinger eds., Geschichte des Dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland. 1. Kaiserreich 1895-1918 (Stuttgart: Reclam/Haus des Dokumentarfilms, 2005), pp. 468-479. Courtesy Reclam/Haus des Dokumentarfilms.

Rembrandt Theater, Amsterdam. From 1919 to 1943 the main Amsterdam cinema for German films and property of Ufa.

Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory, exhibition at EYE plus book and screenings

•December 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Poster for Vittoria o morte (Itala 1913) by Pier Luigi Caldanzano

Tomorrow, Friday12 December, the exhibition Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory opens at EYE. Three years after the recognition of EYE’s Desmet Collection by Unesco, accepting it in its Memory of the World Register, EYE organizes a lavish exhibition on the cinema and the film world of film distributor and cinema owner Jean Desmet (1875-1956). The exhibition is a new step in the policy of exhibition making at EYE’s new building in Amsterdam-Noord, and starkly contrasts with the previous exhibition of the light sculptures by Anthony McCall. Curator is Mark Paul Meyer, my former head of department when I worked in the nitrate archive in the early 1990s and when it was still called (Nederlands) Filmmuseum. When I was asked to write an article for the accompanying book, instead of repeating what I had written in my 2000 dissertation and my 2003 commercial edition Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade, I focused on the wonderful poster collection, which more matched my present teaching and research on crossmedial ties between cinema and other arts, in this case graphic design. I also taught a course on film posters for some five years, which triggered me as well. Since I started the research for this article a year ago, I contacted poster curators at various European archives and consulted recent and older publications, in particular those by Roberto Della Torre on early Italian film posters, and Johannes Kamps on early German posters. Research on early film posters has been scarce so far, but thanks these archives and authors I got more grip and was even able to identify various designers of Desmet posters. The result you can read in the book Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory, which appears in an English and a Dutch edition. I will also give a free lecture (in Dutch) on this topic this Sunday at 15.00 at EYE, preceding the projection of the Italian sensational crime film Filibus, live accompanied by the EYE Film Ensemble. The exhibition Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory runs exceptionally long, until 12 April 2015, enabling international scholars visiting the conference The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema at EYE to visit the exhibition.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2014

•October 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment


This year’s Giornate was again a a full plate for foodies – and I am not just talking the exquisite Friulian kitchen, filling our dinner slots. I arrived too late for the opening film When a Man Loves (1927), one of the Barrymore (John, Lionel Ethel) programme – pity you cannot book tickets in advance. I started on time on Sunday morning with Hans Steinhoff’s Das Frauenhaus von Rio (1927), a well made late silent on the white slave trade film with Albert Steinrück as a bourgeois father who leads a double life in the city and together with a luxurious lady (Vivian Gibson) sends girls to Rio, supposedly as dancers but ending up in a bordello. The man’s errand boy (Ernst Deutsch), kept dangling by his boss, avenges himself, by luring the boss’s daughter to sail for Rio. In the afternoon it was time for havoc, with all the car crashes from films in the Desmet Collection, a nice entree to the upcoming exhibition and book at EYE. The main evening film was Fred Niblo’s overwhelming epic Ben Hur (1925), part of the Technicolor programme at the Giornate. Not only the famous chariot chase is stunning and memorable, but also the focus on the male body is quite hilarious, with a naked slave in chains seen on his back in the galley, just like the tilt from legs to face of Ramon Novarro’s Ben-Hur, supposedly a POV by Bebe Daniels’ character Iris. Monday was my start of the Protanazov comedies with The Tailor from Torzhok (1925), about a naive, chubby tailor, whose rotound female boss wants to marry him, while he is in love with a simple, slnder servant girl, whose tutor uses her as a slave. More comedy that day came with Colleen Moore and Antonio Moreno in the really funny Synthetic Sin (1929), in which young Moore, after a failed stage career and wanting to become ‘sinful’, joins New York thugs for fun, not realizing her life is in danger. The rest of the day was soso, with a quite tedious and overrestored Lady Hamilton (1921) by Richard Oswald (with only Werner Krauss giving it some spice as art lover and limping Lord Hamilton), and with a rather disappointing series of badly printed and dull comedies and dramas, celebrating the 50 years of the Italian Association of Film Historians AIRSC. The last film, though, turned the scales: The Power of Love (1911), a touching, tinted melodrama by August Blom starring Clara and Carlo Wieth, reminding of Blom’s Ekspeditricen, also with the same actors.

Toll of the Sea

Tuesday was early colour niceties in hand- and stencil colouring and early colour systems, including fires as mere display or part of a plot, fashion, abstract film and an early sound film. Quite a shocker was the fragment of George Fitzamaurice’s The Eternal City (1923), with Lionel Barrymore defending the fascists and Mussolini, and partly shot on location in Rome, with fascists and communists fighting each other. Luckily the Americans changed their ideas in ’40-’45, but it was clear that the reds were conceived as more dangerous than the blacks. Already half an hour of this weird ideology was much, let alone the full film. After lunch, though, the reds avenged with the delicious comedy The Trail Concerning Three Million/ Three Thieves (1926), about an experienced burglar and a schlemiel in the same branche, meeting in the same villa to rob a crooked banker. When the poor guy is caught, the rich one saves his butt in the courtroom by scattering fake banknotes, which everyone starts grabbing, thus discrediting justice and public opinion. Wednesday morning it was again time for colour, this time the Prizmacolor film The Glorious Adventure (1922), a British period piece about the Great Fire in London, in which the bulging bicepses of Victor MacLaglen and the boiling lead menacing the protagonists were more impressive than the plot. Also memorable was the shot in which the hero just chops off the hands of one of the villains, duelling with him in an inn. In the afternoon it was time for some fine Italian melodrama: La statua di carne (1921), with the not too beautiful but still very expressive Italian Almirante Manzini in a double role as a chaste lower class girl who befitting dies of exhaustion, after which her lover, the rich Paul (Lido Manetti) is definitely through with women …until he meets her lookalike, but now a mundane actress. It is the plot from Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-Morte, but also that of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, as Paul moulds the actress into the simple girl. Unlike Rodenbach and Hictchcock, the second woman survives. While skipping the two-part special night of Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen (we had an important birthday dinner, which still kept us in German moods), I was back in the saddle on Thursday morning for a huge series of Edwardian views from the Mitchell & Kenyon collection (which might have benefiited from some more context), followed by the rather heavy Italian melodrama L’angelo che redime (The Redeeming Angel, 1913) with Pina Fabbri, and a new series of colour niceties, including a sequence from the 1923 Ten Commandments (the Exodus), as antipasti to The Toll of the Sea (1922), which was not only a wonderful film with Anna May Wong, but was also splendidly restored in its early Technicolor system. While too late in the nighttime for John Barrymore’s metamorphoses from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde and viceversa, I did see the endearing Protanazov tragicomedy about burocracy: Don Diego and Pelageya (1928), about two youngsters defending an old woman unjustly imprisoned because of an overzealous and pompous station master. It was the first Protazanov comedy, though, with a very clear communist ideology, I saw this week. The old woman playing the victim, Maria Blumenthal-Tamarina, is outstanding and became a Marie Dressler-like star after this, the Giornate catalogue mentions.

Italia Almirante La statua di carne 4

Friday was my last day. I started with the John Barrymore vehicle The Beloved Rogue (1927), on thief, poet and freefighter François Villon, but Conrad Veidt as the paranoic, cruel and half mad king Louis XI steals the show in the scenes in which he performs. The sets are impressive, as well as the stunts. Because of business talks, the AIRSC meeting and a lovely early dinner I had to skip several films, but I was in time to see some Technicolor antipasti again plus Douglas Fairbanks in the two-colour Technicolor film The Black Pirate (1926). Unfortunately the musical accompaniment was a bit less impressive than the full orchestra lead by Gillian Anderson, playing with it in Utrecht in 2004. Still, the dynamic, almost final shot in which the pirate is pulled up through several floors remains a classic, and in Pordenone the audience appreciated this by applauding the scene, before the final ovation to the full film followed. Looking forward to next year’s Giornate!

The Case of the Three Million_Three Thieves, directed by Yakov Protazanov, 1926


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