Jason Wood Reports Back From Il Cinema Ritrovato – Bologna 2017

bologna

Il Cinema Ritrovato is an annual film festival that takes place in Bologna, Italy. The 31st festival took place June 2017 where audiences got to discover never-before-seen works and rediscover those we’ve loved forever, with the screening of the best copies, newly restored, and with ideal projection conditions.

HOME’s Artistic Director for Film, Jason Wood attend this year’s festival and shares his thoughts below:

 

Il Cinema Ritrovato – Bologna 2017

Il Cinema Ritrovato continues to be one of the rare film festivals that it is a pleasure to attend. It’s a haven for cinefiles. No parties, no industry bulls**t, no badge hierarchy. Just beautiful archive titles presented with love, care and affection. It makes Cannes look like Primark. These are the titles I saw this year:

 

Bildnis Einer Unbekannten (Portrait of an Unknown Woman)

German director Helmut Käutner was one of the festivals major presentations and this, a droll and erotic comedy, was one of the jewels in the crown. A progressive work about social mores, it was cheered to the rafters.

 

Mädchen in Uniform

A cornerstone of lesbian cinema, this erotic masterpiece from 1931 from Léontine Sagan was a joy to revisit some 30 years after I saw it for the first time as a young film student. Set in a military school for the daughters of Prussian officers, it’s a story of love and kindness in which cruelty is sent scurrying to the shadows. The use of expressionistic lighting is wonderful.

 

The Wonderful Country

Robert Mitchum was this year’s poster boy and for me this 1959 Western from director Robert Parrish was a major discovery. Executive produced by Mitchum, it features one of his finest performances as a Mexican outlaw on the wrong side of the Rio Grande.

 

Written On the Wind

Douglas Sirk’s seminal melodrama about love, loss and impotence amongst Texan oil barons was screened from an original 1935 Technicolor print. Understandably, I was like a pig in s**t. Sirk’s use of colour is astonishing and I was reminded that Rock Hudson was a very underrated actor who found his natural collaborator in Sirk.

 

Wise Blood

Alongside Fat City great late period John Huston. An adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s risqué take on religion, it features an incredible performance from Brad Dourif.  Harry Dean Stanton, as a preacher who blinds himself with lime in a publicity stunt matches him. Huston also features as a fire and brimstone pulpit preacher.

 

The Asphalt Jungle

Huston again, this time tackling W.R Burnett’s gripping novel. This is undoubtedly one of the finest U.S heist movies and not a second of its 112 mins are extraneous. Tarantino watch and weep. You mope. Sterling Hayden is great as a cog in the wheel of a daring diamond robbery. A film in which people meet horrible ends, just as in real life.

 

Eraserhead

A new restoration of Lynch’s feature debut. Several years in the making, it’s still an unsettling and singular experience. HOME presents in September as our Scalarama offering. Watching the film felt like a documentary about my marriage.

 

Monterrey Pop

Introduced by a 92-year old D.A Pennebaker and screened in a public square at 10pm with 3000 people cheering it on. Imagine this happening in the U.K, a country obsessed with f***ing Baby Driver. It wouldn’t. A groundbreaking work also featuring input from Richard Leacock and the Maylses’s, it’s a compelling and visceral portrait of a time of innocence in American history. BB King steals the show. I should have watched this with flowers in my hair. But I can’t. I’m bald. The screening was preceded with a number of Lumiere Bros shorts, including the first ever-filmed football match (Woolwich Arsenal)

 

Zero de Conduite + La nation par Jean Taris, Champion de France

Everything great in cinema can be traced back to Jean Vigo.

 

All That Heaven Allows

Another Sirk melodrama and another great Rock Hudson performance, who I now know had a penchant for Redwing boots.  A film beloved of Fassbinder, it’s the tale of amour fou between a wealthy divorcee and her handsome gardener.

 

Belle de Jour

A 4K restoration of Buñuel’s subversive masterpiece. The film retains its power to surprise and its eroticism is undimmed by time. Sadists and masochists will be equally pleasured.

 

Becoming Cary Grant

Mark Kidell’s documentary about Bristol’s Archibald Leach is of note for the light it sheds on his wretched childhood and his experience of taking LSD in his 50s. It has the feel of a T.V doc but is certainly not without interest. The music is by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

 

La Nuit Americaine

My standout treat of the festival, a 35mm screening of Truffaut’s love letter to cinema and cinema making. HOME will be doing a future season of cinema v cinema, in which film and filmmaking is discussed on screen. The Artist will not be in the season.

 

The Yakuza

Late period Mitchum and screened from a Swedish 35mm print. This I mention only because some of the dialogue is in Japanese. I speak neither Japanese nor Swedish. Directed in somewhat sluggish style by Sydney Pollack, the film is a tale of honour set in Japan that manages to avoid some if not all of the tropes of racial stereotyping. The script by Paul and Leonard Schrader is largely to thank for that.

 

Rancho Notorious

Fritz Lang. Marlene Dietrich. Lots of red. Heaven.

 

Ashes and Diamonds

Andrzej Wajda’s celebrated Polish realist drama about a small Polish town in the aftermath of the German signing of the peace treaty and the ambushing of a Communist Commissar still stands out as an astonishing achievement. The film completed Wajda’s war trilogy and made a star of Zbigniew Cybulski who was dubbed the Polish James Dean. He looked far more like Warren Beatty.

 

Steamboat Bill Jr.

Another public screening and reaffirmation of the singular genius of Buster Keaton. A film much admired by Steve McQueen, it features the famous scene in which Keaton emerges from a collapsing house unscathed.