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”.