Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021: Favourites & Revelations

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021 ended last week, on an uplifting note. More than 400 films and other projectionable audiovisual curiosities were shown and seen. While still in the post-festival haze, I sought the insight of some of the festival attendees on what they thought to be the essential — what was liked and cherished most, what was discovered and became a revelation.

I posed two questions on colleagues and friends who attended the festival in person: What was your absolute favourite film this year and which film turned out to be a major discovery or rediscovery at the festival. They were gracious enough to send me their picks which you can read here in alphabetical order. (Please feel free to add your favourites in the comment section of this post.) 


Some contributors have sent along some notes which I wanted to share with you. They come at the bottom of the post, marked by * (star)
*  *  *

Antti Alanen (Finland)

Absolute favourite: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)
Major discovery: Lumumba, la mort du prophète (Raoul Peck)

Janet Bergstrom (USA)

Absolute favourite: Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller)
Major discovery: Me and My Brother (Robert Frank)

Guilherme Blanc (Portugal)

Absolute favorite: Araya (Margot Benacerraf)
Major discovery: Kuhle Wampe (Slatan Dudow)

Ivo Blom (Netherlands) *1

Absolute favourite: César et Rosalie (Claude Sautet)
Major discovery: N. 6383 [Ambrosio Film starring Febo Mari and Mary Cléo Tarlarini]

Camille Blot-Wellens (France)

Absolute favourite: Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström)
Major discovery: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)

Serge Bromberg (France)

Absolute favourite: Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer)
Major rediscovery: Two Tars (James Parrott)

Emilie Cauquy (France)

Absolute favourite: Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen)
Major discovery: Araya (Margot Benacerraf)

Thomas Christensen (Denmark)

Absolute favourite: Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer)
Major discovery: Miss Lulu Bett (William C. deMille)

Lorenzo Codelli (Italy)

Absolute favourite: Alias Nick Beal (John Farrow)
Major discovery: Mario Fantin

Paola Cristalli (Italy)

Absolute favourite: Laughter (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast)
Major discovery: Laughter (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast)

Ana David (Portugal) [new] 

Absolute favourite: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)
Major rediscovery: Kuhle Wampe, oder: Wem gehört die Welt? (Slatan Dudow)

Bernard Eisenschitz (France) *5

Absolute favourite: Fascista (Nico Naldini)
Major rediscovery: Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen) 

Philippe Garnier (France/USA)

Absolute favourite: The Swamp (Colin Campbell)
Major discovery: Miss Lulu Bett (William C. deMille)

Peet Gelderblom (Netherlands)

Absolute favourite: Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer)
Major discovery: Le vieux fusil [The Old Gun] (Robert Enrico)

Karola Gramann (Germany)

Absolute favourite: A Place in the Sun (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Watermelon Man (Melvin Van Peebles)

Iga Harasimowicz (Poland)

Absolute favourite: I Remember Mama (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)

Alexander Horwath (Austria)

Absolute favourite: La chute de la maison Usher (Jean Epstein)
Major discovery: Shitoyakana kedamono [Elegant Beast] (Yuzo Kawashima)

Lee Kline (USA)

Absolute favourite: Le vieux fusil [The Old Gun] (Robert Enrico)
Major discovery: Bhumika (Shyam Benegal)

Martin Koerber (Germany)

Absolute favourite: The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler)
Major rediscovery: The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler)

Chiara Marañón (Spain/UK)

Absolute favourite: I Remember Mama (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)

Miguel Marías (Spain) *2

Absolute favourite: Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström)
Major discovery: Die Rebellion (Wolfgang Staudte)

Paolo Mereghetti (Italy)

Absolute favourite: Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström)
Major discovery: Kuhle Wampe, oder: Wem gehört die Welt? (Slatan Dudow)
Major rediscovery: César et Rosalie (Claude Sautet)

Daniela Michel (Mexico)

Absolute favourite: Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller)
Major rediscovery: Alice Adams (George Stevens)

Maral Mohsenin (Iran/Switzerland)

Absolute favourite: Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen)
Major discovery: Ali au pays des merveilles (Djouhra Abouda)

Olaf Möller (Germany/Finland)

Absolute favourite: Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline)
Major discovery: [N. 9535 (Fragments 2. Komiya Tomijirō Collection)]

Dominique Nasta (Belgium/Romania)*6

Absolute favourite: Woman of the Year (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Harlem (Carmine Gallone)

Jeanne Pommeau (Czech Republic/France)

Absolute favourite: Der Mutter Augen (Max Mack)
Major discovery: Vers la mer (Annick Leroy)

Esteve Riambau (Spain)

Absolute favourite: Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline)
Major discovery: Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline)

Jonathan Rosenbaum (USA)

Absolute favourite: Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer)
Major discovery: Vivere in pace (Luigi Zampa)

Céline Ruivo (France)

Absolute favourite: Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller)
Major rediscovery: Hintertreppe (Leopold Jessner, Paul Leni)

Regina Schlagnitweit (Austria)

Absolute favourite: De Cierta Manera (Sara Gómez)
Major rediscovery: A Place in the Sun (George Stevens)

Corinne Siegrist (Switzerland)

Absolute favourite: Cikáni [Gypsies] (Karel Anton)
Major discovery: Ostatni Etap [The Last Stage] (Wanda Jakubowska)

Imogen Sara Smith (USA)

Absolute favourite: Frenchman's Creek (Mitchell Leisen)
Major discovery: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)

Can Sungu (Turkey/Germany)

Absolute favourite: De Cierta Manera (Sara Gómez)
Major rediscovery: Zwischengleis (Wolfgang Staudte)

Edouard Waintrop (France)

Absolute favourite: Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger)
Major discovery: The Talk of the Town (George Stevens)

Jon Wengström (Sweden)

Absolute favourite: Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström)
Major discovery: Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror)

Karl Wratschko (Austria)

Absolute favourite: Reassemblage. From the Firelight to the Screen (Trinh T. Minh Ha)
Major rediscovery: Ride on a Tram Car through Belfast (Mitchell & Kenyon)


Frank Bockius (Germany)

Absolute favourite: Die Bergkatze (Ernst Lubitsch)

Matti Bye (Sweden)

Absolute favourite: I Raggi "Z" (Eleuterio Rodolfi) [+ films seen in Bologna in 1901]
Major rediscovery: Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström)

Antonio Coppola (Italy)

Absolute favourite/Major discovery: The Loves of Carmen (Raoul Walsh)
Absolute favourite/Major discovery: I figli di nessuno (Ubaldo Maria Del Colle)

Stephen Horne (UK)

Absolute favourite: Hintertreppe (Leopold Jessner, Paul Leni)
Major rediscovery: Hintertreppe (Leopold Jessner, Paul Leni)

Donald Sosin (USA) *3

Absolute favourite: Die Bergkatze (Ernst Lubitsch)
Major rediscovery: Les Bas-fonds (Jean Renoir)


António Amaral (Portugal)

Absolute favourite: I Remember Mama (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline)

Didier Bertrand (France) *4

Absolute favourite: L'Arlésienne (André Antoine)
Major discovery: Gendarm Möbius (Stellan Rye)

Vaclav Demling (Germany)

Absolute favourite: Araya (Margot Benacerraf)
Major rediscovery: Cardinal (Otto Preminger)

Lidia Merás (Spain/UK)

Absolute favourite: Eltávozott nap (Márta Mészáros)
Major rediscovery: ‎Una isla para Miguel (Sara Gómez)

Hind Mezaina (UAE)

Absolute favourite: The More the Merrier (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Ali au pays des merveilles (Djouhra Abouda) / Die Bergkatze (Ernst Lubitsch) / Shitoyakana kedamono [Elegant Beast] (Yuzo Kawashima)

Alex Ross (UK/Portugal)*7

Absolute favourite: Something to Live For (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Wolfgang Staudte + The Iwanami documentaries

Peter Christian Rude (Denmark)

Absolute favourite: Fluchtweg nach Marseille (Ingemo Engström & Gerhard Theuring)
Major discovery: Zwischengleis (Wolfgang Staudte)

Jasmine Soliman (UK/UAE)

Absolute favourite: Something to Live For (George Stevens) / Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline) 
Major discovery: Die Rebellion (Wolfgang Staudte) / The Iwanami documentaries

Barbara Sträuli (Switzerland)

Absolute favourite: Omelia Contadina (JR and Alice Rohrwacher) 
Major discovery: Khayal Gata (Kumar Shahani)

Silvia Weimar (Switzerland)

Absolute favourite: L'Odissea (Francesco Bertolini, Giuseppe De Liguoro, Adolfo Padovan, etc.)
Major discovery: Vita da Cani (Mario Monicelli, Steno)

Daniel Wiegand (Switzerland/Germany)

Absolute favourite: Penny Serenade (George Stevens)
Major discovery: Uski Roti (Mani Kaul)


Ivo Blom: Not one clear 'number one' but many: César et Rosalie, Il lavoro (never seen on a big screen), the 1901 Quo vadis? (cannot get enough of it), L'Arlésienne (great outdoor scenes and acting by Lucienne Breval), Figaro (good acting by all), The Swamp (poor plot but Hayakawa and Love were great), Emigrantes with Fabrizi, Esa pareja feliz. All ex aequo for me but if I have to choose, then probably César et Rosalie. [As for major discovery N. 6383 [Ambrosio Film starring Febo Mari and Mary Cléo Tarlarini]] The enigmatic, as yet unidentified Febo Mari and Mary Tarlarini film in the Komiya Collection. So weird it is not stated in the reference books and too bad the ending is missing. I hope we can identify the film eventually.

Miguel Marías: Curiously, the film that this year impressed me most at Bologna and a film older by more than a century, which probably I had already watched some ten or eleven times before, and which to top my own surprise, was not presented in a new restoration, but one dated in 2003; I'm talking of Sjöström's Körkarlen, which this time seemed to me greater than ever. As for major discovery, it would be some of the Wolfgang Staudte films I had not seen before Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021. Both Die Rebellion (and also Kirmes, which I could not catch at Bologna but caught here on the net). I had planned to watch two films which for diverse reasons, as they do sometimes, escaped me twice (both of them): the documentary about John Farrow Hollywood's Man in the Shadows and the very intriguing The Swamp, by Colin Campbell, which is a very interesting and little known filmmaker.

Donald Sosin: My favorite films to accompany were Die Bergkatze and Figli Nessuno, and such a great pleasure to play with my friend Frank Bockius, as always. I watched a lot of Romy Schneider films, I think Le Vieux Fusil was the best of them (she didn’t have much to do in it, unfortunately), and La Piscine was amazing. But also…Talk of the Town, Alice Adams, Le Mort en Direct, Die Geschichte der Kleine Muck, I wish I could have seen everything!

Didier Bertrand: The festival was wonderful; of course the sections on 1901, 1921 and Komiya (some programs due to the nature of the material seeming really "dreams that money can buy" ) were high points for me but I could also enjoy the Iwanami section and various restorations (and happily had seen the rare films of Mank, Stevens, Fabrizi...  which avoided too much dilemmas.)  In fact L'Arlésienne could also compete as major rediscovery as the version presented seemed to me far superior to the one I saw 30 years back and didn't impress me so much. The 12' missing previously (in the second reel) were essential in the setting up of the characters and their conflicts, the photography making use of the natural settings was beautifully rendered and the music recorded from the original arrangement using the Bizet "musique de scène" greatly enhanced the emotions. It's a film that has been maligned at the time because some critics didn't accept the physical presence of the heroine; her absence is a great point of the play and gave birth to a popular expression designating something or someone absent or hidden as an "arlésienne".  
     The film is really a very strong and moving naturalistic story perfectly directed, the unknown actress in the title role being superior in my taste to the professionals in the main parts. A true classic. [Gendarm Möbius] I had never heard of this movie before...missing it in Bologna in 2013. Seeing it meant at the time sacrificing two rare Japanese musicals of the 30s and I skipped it in spite of the good words on behalf of the movie from friend Hiroshi Komatsu. I was very happy to see it at last in the Komiya program as even with a missing beginning, one understands the impact it could have meant in Japan at the time. The stark story, the naturalism and sobriety of the telling, the pictorial portrayal of the weight of madness and duty makes it a potential landmark of pre-1914 cinema (similar to Ingeborg Holm with which it was coupled in the 2013 program). Ramblings: a program full of connexions -- My first and last day of programs was full of coincidences.
     On the first day at the beginning of the festival I saw successively Gendarm Möbius and Die Ratten (1921). In both cases the directors Stellan Rye and Hans Kobe are  known only by one title (Der Student von Prag and Torgus) both seen by me  years ago as they were staples of Henri Langlois programming at Cinematheque française. To see this "second" movies the same day was not enough: in both titles was the actress Lucie Höflich who played in the first one an unwed mother from the country and in the second one a mother from the city who cannot have children and "buys" one to an unwed mother. This last one Die Ratten is a Gerhardt Hauptman adaptation; in the good 50s remake by Robert Siodmak, Maria Schell plays the role of the unwed mother and during the showing of the Kobe version, I had fleeting reminiscences of this actress in the sordid garret where part of the action takes place. On the last day the concluding movie I saw was Rose Bernd (1957) by Staudte: in it Maria Schell was unwed mother in the country and the film was a Gerhardt Hauptamann adaptation.

Bernard Eisenschitz: Nico Naldini's Fascista opens up a new perspective not only on Pasolini (and not only Salo), but on cinema, compilation, non-fiction and Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shome transforms a simple fable by the miracle of mise-en-scène and an actress.

Dominique Nasta: Woman of the Year [was my] preferred film seen at the festival. Incredibly modern screenplay. Perfect acting, outstanding classical Hollywood sophisticated comedy  rhythm, both in terms of acting and mise-en-scène and in terms of editing and framing. Elegant and wonderfully designed with no fausse note and clearly dependent on what I have tried to coin in my 2002 essay "The Tower of Babel Paradigm": in the film’s longest scene, Katherine Hepburn/Tess Harding is organizing an international cocktail party where all guests speak their own language without any translation/subtitling. Humour derives from linguistic double binds such as the scene where Spencer Tracy eventually meets an Indian and is happy as he is the only one who seems to speak English: he finally realizes the guy says "yes" to everything, including when he should answer "no", and both characters and audience ravish at the conclusion.
    The chemistry between KH and ST is so perfect in every scene, she as the empowered thirtysomething who falls for a different kind of man, he as the apparently unwavering middle-aged columnist in love with her to the point of wanting to change her habits, that I thought they had been together for years, while this happens to be their first film together. As in  Stevens’s Alice Adams the best scene is the comedy one, focusing on KH’s inability to handle kitchen accessories. After having accessed  secondary sources, I understood Hepburn had to comply to conventional rules and the ending was imposed by MGM so that a perfect wife though woman of the year should also learn how to cook. Further reading also allowed me to understand  that Hepburn co-wrote the script with Garson Kanin & Ring Landner Jr and suggested Stevens and Tracy to MGM . Kanin was influenced by future wife Ruth Gordon, hence, une affaire de femmes.

Alex Ross: Something to Live For — Despite the pretty heavy subject matter, the film had a kind of marquee-romance-of-the-year feel to it that had me baffled as to why it was so little-known. It rang very true in its treatment of addiction and how people directly afflicted by it cling to, as much as reject, each other. I especially liked the fact that there was no depiction of either of the troubled leads out on a bender, just a couple of scenes book-ending the film with Fontaine worse for wear.  Perhaps it was a little ahead of its time?
    Unsolicited top 5, in no order: Million-Dollar Legs / Something to Live For / Kirmes / Vita da Cani / Children of the Classroom

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