Wednesday 12 June 2024

Symphonies in Black: Duke Ellington Shorts

Black & Tan

Symphonies in Black: Duke Ellington Shorts

A programme by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, June 2024)

Introductory note by Jonathan Rosenbaum

In 16 shorts made over a stretch of almost a quarter of a century (1929-1953), Duke Ellington and his Orchestra perform in a variety of settings, often with dancers and singers – including Billie Holiday in Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life. The latter cuts freely between Ellington alone in thoughtful composing mode, Ellington in a tux performing the same extended composition with his band at a concert, arty images of men engaged in heavy labour, a wordless church sermon, a nightclub floorshow, and even a short stretch of story showing Holiday being pushed to the ground by an ungrateful lover before singing there about her misery – a near replica of the musical setup accorded to Bessie Smith in her only film appearance six years earlier.

Indeed, although the pleasures to be found here are chiefly musical, the narrative pretexts for these performances offer a fascinating look at how both jazz and Black musicians were perceived and expected to behave during the first three decades of talkies. At least half of the films are Soundies made for sound-and-image jukeboxes in the 40s, but even these often trade on narrative details such as the adoring women digging the solos by Ray Nance, Rex Stewart, Ben Webster, and others at an “eatery” after hours in Jam Session (1942), or the spectacular dancing by athletic jitterbugging couples in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) from the same year.

Friday 7 June 2024

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024 | Almost All the Titles

Jean-Luc Godard at Il Cinema Ritrovato 1998

More or less all the titles to be screened during Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024. There might be some titles listed more than once, as well as potential typos and incorrect attributions, all my mistake. Between features and shorts, we will present close to 500 titles produced in 35 countries and sourced from more than 140 archives. – EK

Sunday 2 June 2024

Guide to Kozaburo Yoshimura at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024

Kozaburo Yoshimura

Guide to Kozaburo Yoshimura at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024

By Alexander Jacoby

Kozaburo Yoshimura (1911-2000) is one of the neglected masters of classical Japanese film. An almost exact contemporary of Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Kinoshita, he was responsible for some of the postwar Japanese cinema’s most compelling films, which bear eloquent witness to social change in a rapidly modernising country. But these are dramas above all, which grip and move audiences; as Tadao Sato wrote, they are “not mere social criticism, but films that flesh out the human element of the story”.

Monday 27 May 2024

Anatole Litvak Retrospective | The Schedule

Anatole Litvak (in the middle) with his buddies Billy Wilder and John Huston


Viaggio nella notte: il mondo di Anatole Litvak

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024

All the screenings at the Jolly cinema

The schedule subject to change until official announcement in early June

A couple more screenings will be added to other venues, including to Modernissimo's schedule

Where to Begin with Gustaf Molander | Jon Wengström​​'s Il Cinema Ritrovato Guide

Gustaf Molander

Jon Wengström​​, the archive Senior Curator of the Swedish Film Institute, has curated a programme dedicated to Swedish master Gustaf Molander. This retrospective will take place at Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato in June 2024. Jon has blogged here, giving you some tips about what to see in that strand, that is if you don't want to see every single Molander which I think you should. – EK

Guide to Gustaf Molander at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024

By Jon Wengström

Gustaf Molander made almost 70 films in a career that lasted more than half a century, and his trajectory as a director is parallel to that of the development of the Swedish film industry. He wrote the script to Terje Vigen (Victor Sjöström, 1917), which was the starting point of the Golden Age of Swedish silent cinema, and he directed the era’s epilogue with the Selma Lagerlöf adaptations Ingmarsarvet (1925) and its sequel Till Österland (1926). He was one of the very few Swedish directors who handled the transition to sound successfully, as proven by En natt (1931). During the 1940s, more than any other Swedish filmmaker, he made films that reflected the war and its aftermath, and after collaborations with a young Ingmar Bergman, including Woman Without a Face (1947), in the 1950s Molander made remakes of classic silent films in colour and Cinemascope, as a response to the advent of television.

Thursday 23 May 2024

The Deep Blue Sea (Anatole Litvak, 1955)

Italian poster for The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea plays as part of the Anatole Litvak retrospective at Il Cinema Ritrovato, on June 28, 2024. The note below from the the festival catalogue. – EK


This rarest of all Anatole Litvak films is about Hester, a middle-aged woman whose suicide attempt at the beginning of the story sparks off two flashbacks, one from the point of view of the upper-class husband she has abandoned and the other from the view of the younger, capricious ex-RAF pilot for whom she has left her husband. Back to the present, the film revolves around her desperate attempt to win back her lover, only to realise she is yearning for something she can’t have.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Entezar (Amir Naderi, 1974)

Entezar [Waiting]

Playing at Il Cinema Ritrovato, June 25, 2024.

Entezar, Amir Naderi’s second film for Kanoon – the Iranian institution in charge of producing cultural goods, including films, for children and young adults – was a deft and calculated move away from the gritty street dramas and crime films of the early 1970s that made Naderi famous but also left him feel artistically unfulfilled.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

The Sealed Soil [Khak-e Sar bé Mohr] (Marva Nabili, 1977)

The Sealed Soil

The digital restoration of The Sealed Soil [Khak-e Sar bé Mohr], directed by Marva Nabili, will be premiered at UCLA Film & Television Archive on June 15 and a week later at Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato.

Khak-e Sar bé Mohr chronicles the repetitive and repressed life of Roo-Bekheir, a young woman in a poor village in southwest Iran, and her resistance to forced marriage. It’s a formally rigorous, if emotionally distanced, critique of patriarchy and the spurious reform of Iranian agricultural life that was a factor in the 1979 revolution.

Sunday 12 May 2024

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune (Jean-Baptiste Péretié, 2022)

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune (2022) 

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Péretié

Jacques Tati needs no introduction but it is exactly the kind of "filmmaker who needs no introduction" that is worth revisiting repeatedly, in viewing, in film literature and now in the increasingly popular format of television documentaries. Jean-Baptiste Péretié, director of other works on Keaton, Al Pacino and John Wayne, has efficiently captured the jazzy architecture of Tati's universe in this fine introduction to a jolly genius.

Monday 8 April 2024

Designed on Celluloid: Architecture in Silent Cinema

High Treason

Samantha Leroy, in charge of "la programmation et d’exploitation" at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris asked me to curate a season on architecture and silent cinema. This short essay was written to accompany my 40-film selection for a retrospective which was held in conjunction with an architecture exhibition, dedicated to Renzo Piano's magical design for the Fondation's building in the south of Paris. – Ehsan Khoshbakht

A love story of sorts, the relation between cinema and architecture. Architecture saw in the cinema what it had dreamed of for centuries: being equipped with eyes more penetrating and observant than those of human beings, a tool that could examine architecture from every possible angle and measure it in time. Cinema, in return, found incredible potential in architecture when architectural monuments and soon studio-built sets added attraction, realism, and drama to the movies.

Thursday 28 March 2024

The Lady with the Torch | The Centenary of Columbia Pictures at Locarno Film Festival 2024

During its golden age, Columbia Pictures produced some of American cinema’s most iconic films across a panoply of varied styles and popular genres. In 1924, the relatively small-scale motion picture company Cohn-Brandt-Cohn rebranded itself as Columbia Pictures. This new studio would eventually feature, as its masthead and in the preamble before each film, the Lady with the Torch, the Statue of Liberty-like female figure who was, at first, draped nobly in the American flag and has become recognizable to film lovers everywhere.

Organized in partnership with the Cinémathèque suisse, The Lady with the Torch will present the studio in all its glory, shining a light on lesser-known genre filmmakers like Max Nosseck or William A. Seiter, as well as celebrating major auteurs like Howard Hawks, Frank Borzage, Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, George Stevens, and John Ford, who made some of their most characteristic as well as most surprising films while passing through the studio. So too did its movies do much to hone and define the screen presences of treasured stars like Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Rosalind Russell, and William Holden, and lay the groundwork for the new era of more intensely psychological acting that would come to dominate in the 1950s, working with a new generation of directors coming from the theater, such as Joshua Logan. Columbia Pictures was the home – intermittent or otherwise – of figures as diverse as Boris Karloff, the Three Stooges and George Cukor, Ben Hecht and William Cameron Menzies. Notably, it is also where Dorothy Arzner, one of only two female filmmakers to work in the classical era of Hollywood, produced some of her most pioneering works. It is to this varied spectrum of artists, performers, and beloved figures of fun that the Festival pays tribute.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

The Runner Still Runs

A dazed boy is standing on the beach, hollering at the ships leaving the Persian Gulf for other worlds. The vessels of escape, carrying oil tanks and dreams, are fading ghosts on a pale horizon. To overcome a world full of hostility and indifference, the boy must learn to run.

Amir Naderi’s autobiographical masterpiece The Runner (1984) was one of the first postrevolutionary Iranian films screened and celebrated internationally. The epic scene of boys racing across the oil field toward a cube of melting ice, their trophy, became the emblem of the new Iranian cinema that emerged in the 1980s.

Amiro is an orphan living in the southern Iranian port city of Abadan, working odd jobs until he realizes that he has to better his life by learning to read and to run—the first in recognition that other worlds exist, and the second in order to reach them. Paradoxically, this film that sizzles with the desire for freedom was made in 1983–84, the darkest years of Iran’s recent history, when the grip of the Islamic regime on every aspect of life, including the newly nationalized Iranian cinema, became total.

Friday 15 March 2024

The Walls Came Tumbling Down (Lothar Mendes, 1946)

The biblical title ("When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a great shout and the wall fell down." Joshua 6:20) has actually very little to do with the story of this drab and cut-rate mystery film, except its ending.

Something to Live For (George Stevens, 1952)

Playing on May 29 at Closeup Cinema in London. EK

This one of the crowning jewels of American cinema, nearly as good as the best of Roberto Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman, is strangely one of the least known masterpieces of the 1950s.

Friday 8 March 2024

Anatole Litvak Retrospective at Il Cinema Ritrovato

Anatole Litvak with Deborah Kerr


An unjustly overlooked master with an international career spanning six decades, Anatole Litvak made some of the most riveting and innovative films in the history of cinema that, save for a few titles, are hardly seen or discussed today. The Kyiv-born director of masterpieces such as L’Équipage and City for Conquest made films in Germany, France, UK and eventually Hollywood. This first-time overview of his dazzling career features films from all these bases of production, works that are ripe for rediscovery with their sweeping camera movements, long takes, ironic cutting, and splendid use of décor. Litvak’s films dive into a nocturnal world of flawed and unstable men and women whose identity crisis for Litvak reflects the crisis of the world between the Russian Revolution and the Second World War – a time of awakening and political turmoil that Litvak experienced first-hand.