Thursday 30 May 2019

Becky Sharp (Rouben Mamoulian, 1935)

Becky Sharp

A restored version of Becky Sharp will be screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2019. For the screening date, check the Cineteca's website mid-June. -- EK

Becky Sharp, the protagonist of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, is a golden-haired gold digger, a flirt and social climber of early 19th-century England. Mamoulian’s portrayal of Becky in this satire of aristocratic life shows her not as an opportunist but a woman mischievously reversing gender power relations, a bon vivant – with three-strip Technicolor advocating her excessive world. This colour process, previously used only in shorts or for certain sequences in black and white features, was used here for a feature film for the first time. Shooting began with actor and (rather dull) part-time director Lowell Sherman handling the project. When Sherman died during the production Mamoulian was brought on board, starting from scratch. Having made a succession of great films since 1931, the Tbilisi-born Armenian had one of the most consistent bodies of work in post-sound American cinema, known for his ability to encode his vision in light, movement, and now colour. Technicolor wished to seduce the viewer; Mamoulian wanted to tell the story via the colour. The continuity of colour temperature was of no concern. In the ball sequence, a sudden shot from above also marks a shift like that from an oil painting to a watercolour, with colours leaking from the edges of the figures. The palette is dominated by pale blues, tawdry yellows, royal reds and light greys mostly for backgrounds. Critic Tom Milne notes how the colours define Becky's moods with “soft blues for melting ingenuousness, bright yellow for moments of triumph,” or more generally, when in the ball sequence “the blues, greens and yellows are gradually drained away to leave the screen suffused by a crescendo of red.” The initial box office failure and later availability of poor prints only (using the inferior two-colour Cinecolor process) created the impression that Becky Sharp wasn’t worthy of its director’s name. This definitive restoration finally reveals it as one of Mamoulian’s finest works of the ’30s.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Monday 27 May 2019

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019

Cinema, which never fully leaves Bologna throughout the year, is about to reclaim the streets of the city as it plays host to one of the greatest motion picture parties in the world, offering some 500 films (no typo, the figure is correct!), talks, presentations and countless other events celebrating cinema in all forms, shapes and sizes. With a brilliant array of great films, masterpieces and rarities lined up, the past has never been so close to us and the projections so entwined with our daily life. In our uncompromisingly internationalist approach to film history, you’ll see films from five continents including works from Mali, Morocco and Mexico.

This year, we have two rich programmes focusing on mega-stars Musidora and Jean Gabin, two striking examples of the ways in which actors can shape national or international culture. Get ready also to discover the genius of Eduardo De Filippo, a towering, multifaceted figure of Italian culture. Two further programmes will look at the cinematic output of two countries recovering from the effects of war and geopolitical division: Germany and South Korea. Themes of national identity and political consciousness are faced head-on in the films of Arab cinema’s greatest director, Youssef Chahine, the subject of another retrospective. Other
directors in the spotlight include Henry King (an overview retrospective), Felix E. Feist (celebrating his film noir output) and Georges Franju (his documentaries).

Also, we recently added an extra day to the festival – the final day – during which only one cinema operates, showing a festival ‘best of’. This offers the perfect way to come back down to earth after eight days of celluloid, espresso, delicious cuisine and conversation into the wee hours of the morning.

Thursday 23 May 2019

50 Essential Iranian Films

Kako (Shapur Gharib, 1971)

Few years back, I asked Houshang Golmakani, the editor-in-chief of the Iranian Film Monthly, to produce a list of his 50 favourite Iranian films to be published on Keyframe. It was published around 2014 but later Keyframe went through some design and organisational changes, and the original posting, as well as some of my other contributions, vanished without any explanation. So I decided to re-post here with some minor alterations and more stills.

As I said, Golmakani edit the Film Monthly, the longest-running film magazine in Iran and one of the first to be established after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Aside from his full-time presence in the office of Film Monthly in downtown Tehran, he has written books on Iranian cinema and directed Stardust Stricken (1996), on Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

This is not a standard listing of Iranian arthouse classics but more of a personal map of Iranian cinema -- both commercial and arthouse -- sketched for those curious people who want to explore beyond what the English film literature on Iranian cinema manages to offer, reminding the reader that Iranian cinema is not limited to names like Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf or Panahi. Aside from the work of great filmmakers with artistic ambitions since 1960s -- often dubbed as Iranian New Wave -- there are certain kinds of commercial films that deserve attention, especially those working within the confines of “national genres". This list is rather good at that. Nearly 5 years have passed since this was first compiled by Golmakani and I'm sure now his take on the subject, especially concerning recent years, would be something very different.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Fifty films essential to understanding Iranian cinema

By Houshang Golmakani
(Additional notes by Ehsan Khoshbakht)

Wednesday 22 May 2019

100 Must-See Films at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019 - Part II (1-50)

Fellow cinephiles,

This is an illustrated list (mostly with posters, when available) of the 100 films you must watch in Bologna during Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXIII. That is, of course, only if a day had 48 hours and a week, 10 days. Plus, if we were running this show for a full month instead of the usual 8 days. Needless to say, any number of these that you watch, you'll have some essential images to live with for the rest of the year.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

100 Must-See Films at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019 - Part I (51-100)

Fellow cinephiles,

This is an illustrated list (mostly with posters, when available) of the 100 films you must watch in Bologna during Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXIII. That would be possible, of course, if a day had 48 hours and a week, 10 days. Plus, if we were running this show for a full month instead of the usual 8 days. Needless to say, any number of these seen, you'll have some essential images to live with for the rest of the year.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Monday 13 May 2019

Henry King: A Retrospective in Bologna

Henry King, 1930

Il Cinema Ritrovato has a soft spot for those American masters whose careers encompassed all of the major technical developments from the silent era to Cinemascope. Henry King, the subject of this year's retrospective in Bologna, is a prime example. One of Hollywood's most enduring filmmakers, he made 116 films across all genres between 1915 and 1962. King's style was invisible and economical, whether realising a work of Americana, or a lavish historical drama. Nostalgic and religious, his films are blessed with vitality in each and every shot. They feature some of cinema's greatest stars, often in their best performances. And the films in this programme offer the chance to celebrate some of the best cameramen in the history of Hollywood – especially those associated with Fox Studios, where King spent 32 years of his career. This retrospective focuses on King’s sound period, but the programme also includes one classic and one rarity from his silent years. Curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Thursday 9 May 2019

Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939)

Destry Rides Again will be screened from a new restoration at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019. Date to be announced.

Long before the hippy slogan “Make Love, Not War”, this wildly funny western carried a pacifist message as German troops entered Poland. But you don’t need a message to fall for the story of Frenchy, a hardboiled dancehall girl in the funky and gun-crazy town of Bottleneck who falls for mild-mannered deputy sheriff Tom Destry, who never wears a gun.

When a film is so satisfyingly entertaining, one often forgets the artistry with which it was crafted. George Marshall blended what he had learned from directing Laurel & Hardy with his experience of directing Tom Mix – the latter’s first talkie from 1932 being the film upon which Destry was based, even if in the process everything was drastically altered except for the title.

Saturday 4 May 2019

Sepid o Siah

منبع الهام مجلۀ سپید و سیاه یا لااقل منبع الهام (یا تقلید) طرح نشان آن؟