Friday, February 14, 2020

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXIV

Bologna calling!

All the elements of an internationally curated programme for Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020 are coming together fast and we thought we should update you on some of the wonderful strands and wide-ranging films that we will be presenting this year.

The festival takes place from 20 to 28 June, the final day being a 'bonus' day, showing our curators’ favourite films from each section.

We also tried an experiment last year which we would like to repeat: we started a couple of days earlier as a warm-up, screening only documentaries on the subjects of the main strands. This means that if you decide to get to Bologna sooner and overcome your jetlag before the main festival begins, there will be films for you!

And of course, there’s Piazza Maggiore and its evening screenings which was described by one critic as the “Glastonbury of cinema… without the mud!”

This year, as in every year, in addition to the most recent restorations – a list of which we will reveal in the near future – we will be bringing you treasures from archives from around the world, including an extensive focus on the Komiya Collection, the centrepiece of this year’s silent screenings.

Our Asian adventures continue with works from Japan and India, two of the richest national cinemas. From Japan, the artistry of cult director Yuzo Kawashima will be the subject of an overview retrospective, while India’s Parallel Cinema, perhaps the most unexplored chapter in the sub-continent’s cinematic history, will be presented screening the best available archival prints and one brand new restoration.

During a particularly turbulent time in the world – and only months to go before the US presidential election – Henry Fonda for President is a section which not only features the star of this edition but also provides an opportunity to catch some absolute classics of the canon.
Thrilling discoveries await you in programmes dedicated to Soviet women directors, Frank Tuttle and Stuart Heisler.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Henry King Ranked

Henry King on the set of Jesse James with Nancy Kelly and Tyrone Power
In 2019, I put together a tribute to Henry King in Bologna where Il Cinema Ritrovato featured 12 films by this gentle giant of American cinema. The reception was overwhelming and the enthusiasm contagious. Rounding up that year with King, I'm posting the programme notes written for that retrospective here on this blog along with this ranking of the King's filmography. Feel free to add yours in the Comments section below.

Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King

Henry King on the set of The Gunfighter (1950). (C) 20th Century Fox

Henry King’s world can be likened to the basement of Paradise, if ever there was one. His films are often idyllic, yet they are set in a less comfortable corner of Paradise, one which falls short of perfection, and even accommodates darkness. The lower aspects of a higher plain fascinated King, and that’s where the real stories unfolds. Telling graceful tales of Americana in an almost Chekhovian style became King’s signature. If small town USA was taken for Paradise, King’s gaze was directed at the fall of this idealised world, at what happens when a dream ends. The dreamers become drifters and King remained faithful to the actors who portrayed them. Tyrone Power, King’s own discovery, appeared in eleven films directed by his mentor; Gregory Peck in six.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Century of Korean Cinema, from Bologna to London

A slightly longer version of a note written for the catalogue of London Korean Film Festival 2019.

"There is a grave and learned air about the city, and a pleasant gloom upon it," wrote Charles Dickens of the city of Bologna, "that would leave [a] distinct and separate impression in the mind, among a crowd of cities." Grave and learned? Maybe. Gloom? Never, or shall we say Mr Dickens didn't get there in time for Il Cinema Ritrovato's evening screening in Piazza Maggiore? He would have loved Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados which was seen this year by some 4,000 viewers.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Filmfarsi Chat with Toby Miller

Toby Miller interviews me for his Cambridge radio show on the movies. The occasion is the screening of Filmfarsi at Cambridge Film Festival on October 22 and 23. He has posted a transcription of the interview on TAKE ONE website:

Toby Miller: How did you decide to shine a light on the movies of Filmfarsi?

Ehsan Khoshbakht: Before I began my career in writing and working on film, my background was in architecture and urban design, and it was this background that actually initiated the Filmfarsi project. I decided to look at the use of modern architecture in Iranian popular films from before the Revolution. As I began to watch this period of Iranian cinema I realised that people outside Iran really didn’t know much about them.

Toby: And where does the term Filmfarsi originate from?

Ehsan: Filmfarsi was coined by one man in 1953 – the same the year as the coup. Amir Houshang Kavousi – educated in France and very interested in Art-house cinema – came up with term knowing that in Persian if you merge two words the result, as with Filmfarsi, is something that means neither Film nor Farsi (Persian). So it was a derogatory description by somebody who saw themselves as an enemy of Iranian popular cinema. But what I try to do in my documentary is show that the word today couldn’t be something entirely negative. What began as a way to make fun of Iranian commercial filmmakers is now rather something which describes a cinema which ran parallel to the Iranian art-house cinema we know as the New Wave.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Hills of Marlik (Ebrahim Golestan, 1963)

The Hills of Marlik 
The restored version of The Hills of Marlik plays at Venice Classics 2019.

TAPPEHA-YE MARLIK [The Hills of Marlik]
Iran, 1963/1964, Director: Ebrahim Golestan

Alternative title: The Elements. Script.: Ebrahim Golestan. Director of photography: Soleiman Minassian. Editing: Ebrahim Golestan. Composer: Morteza Hannaneh. Voice-over.: Brian Spooner (English voice-over), Ebrahim Golestan (Farsi voice-over). Prod.: Golestan Film Studio [aka Golestan Film Unit]

A 3,000-year-old site in the north of Iran is simultaneously excavated by archaeologists and fertilized by farmers. Another example of Golestan’s documentary work about classical elements, in which the past touches the present, and there is a clear continuity among the forms of human life detected by the camera, as it breathes life into dead objects.

Filmfarsi is My One-Dollar Movie [An Unpublished Interview]

Marjan (left) and Nasser Malek Motie

Upon Filmfarsi's world premiere in Bristol, July 2019, an online journal interviewed me about my film. They never ran it so I decided it to publish it here. — EK

How does it feel to be having your World Premiere at Watershed?

I like that place and the people who run it. Been there almost every year for the past 3 years especially when they started Cinema Rediscovered (which is inspired after Il Cinema Ritrovato) so it's kind of an ideal place to open the film in the UK. Many Ritrovato comrades will be there which makes me feel pretty much at home again.

This has been a four-year journey for you, what does it mean for you to be sharing this film, and your journey, with a festival audience?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Gozaresh [The Report] (Abbas Kiarostami, 1977)

Kuosh Afsharpanah and Shohre Aghdashloo in The Report

Playing this weekend at ICF Center in New York.

The Report [original title: Gozaresh]

Abbas Kiarostami • Iran 1977 • 1h49m • Persian with English subtitles • Cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kurosh Afsharpanah, Mehdi Montazar, Mostafa Tari, Hashem Arkan.

Arguably Kiarostami's least-known great film, part of the difficultly in accessing this compelling marriage drama lies in the fact that it was screened in Iran during the last months of the Pahlavi reign, when the country was gripped by strikes, demonstrations and acts of revolutionary violence – hardly the time for cinema, even if the film did relatively well. Shortly afterwards, when the revolution succeeded, the film – like so many other Iranian films showing nudity, sex or even unveiled women – was banned. The original elements of the film believed to be destroyed during the revolution and the copies in circulation have an unexpected cut in the middle of a scene of intimacy between the two leading characters, suggesting that it has been cut out after the revolution.

According to Iranian film critic Nima Hassani-Nasab, the film was totally conscious of the chaos which lay ahead: "The characters of the film are torn between a desire to revolt on one hand and cowardice and social inaction on the other. This conflict plunges them into dissatisfaction and fills them with hatred for both themselves and the repetitious cycle of life they live."