I recently came back from Venice Film Festival after 9 days there as part of an arthouse cinema managing training course which I wrote about here and I returned to London even more of an Italophile than I left, also with a renewed enthusiasm for Italian cinema. It seems that Italian cinema is definitely having some time in the limelight at the moment which is great. Here’s a look at what’s coming up that there is to look forward to:
At the Venice Film Festival I saw A Bigger Splash directed by Luca Guadagnino – a funny, strange and visually stunning film centred around 4 characters, starring Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson.
Rock legend Marianne Lane is recuperating on the volcanic island of Pantelleria with her partner Paul when iconoclast record producer and old flame Harry unexpectedly arrives with his daughter Penelope and interrupts their holiday, bringing with him an A-bomb blast of delirious nostalgia from which there can be no rescue. A Bigger Splash is a sensuous portrait of laughter, desire, and rock and roll detonating into violence under the Mediterranean sun.
I really enjoyed this film, it looks incredible – as its based on a beautiful Italian island and for me Tilda Swinton steals the show being the goddess that she always is! However, it didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of Guadagnino’s previous film for me, I Am Love … even the poster artwork for that film is brilliant!
Paolo Sorrentino who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2013 for The Great Beauty is back with a new film called Youth. Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Mick’s enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again. I haven’t seen this film yet but wait to, it looks like its going to be great – starring Michael Caine and Rachel Weisz so a good start!
Piero Messina was assistant director to Sorrentino on The Great Beauty and Messina’s debut feature film The Wait sees Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laage play women holed up in a Sicilian villa as they wait for, respectively, their son and boyfriend to return. I’m intrigued to see this film as I really loved Binoche in her latest big film Clouds Of Sils Maria.
A recent film from a this time female Italian director (Alice Rohrwacher) is The Wonders (Le Meraviglie). The film is about an unconventional family including four daughters who live in the remote Italian countryside, making their living through bee-keeping and the production of honey. The father of German origin constantly tries to re enforce that he’s the one in charge, although Gelsomina, the eldest daughter played by a first time actor is growing up fast and perhaps is the one who gets what’s going on better than the others. A main theme of the film is the idea of how ancient traditions and methods will have to give way to modernisation and the plot of the film follows a TV countryside competition that comes to the Etruscan area where the family is based. The performance of Alexandra Lungu who plays Gelsomina is really captivating in this film – dare you to look away as she does a trick with bees on her face… its all pretty weird but wonderful in this film. Monica Bellucci plays the hostess of the Countryside Wonders TV programme, as seen below. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and has recently come out on view on demand.
Director Abel Ferrara has made a film about Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the real greats of Italian cinema and more specifically, about his death with occured under suspicious circumstances. I studied Pasolini’s films during my undergraduate degree in Art History & Italian and really enjoyed getting into them. The films and man made an impression on me and I wrote my final year dissertation (in Italian) comparing the sacred and the profane in Pasolini and Michelangelo’s work. It’ll be interesting to see this film and I’ve read that Willem Dafoe plays the part of Pasolini extremely well. The film is distributed by BFI and is being screened currently, listed here
To almost finish, here’s a look at the result of the 9 day course that I did in Venice …
and while on that course, I met a talented Italian filmmaker with a wonderful documentary film that follows the process of creating one of Velasco Vitali’s famous dog sculptures, from wax to glazed bronze, at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia (Battaglia Artistic Foundry), in Milan. The film observes the work of a group of skilled artisans in this 100-year old foundry and reveals the ancient traditions of bronze sculpture making, unchanged since the Sixth century B.C. This film will be screened at the London Film Festival, as will a number of other Italian films, listed here.
Lastly, I’m excited to be collaborating with Cinema Italia UK at JW3 Cinema where I work, who I met when I put on a screening of the brilliant film Queen Of Hearts thanks to London’s Little Italy On Film, with screenwriter Tony Grisoni. Cinema Italia screen Italian films that would otherwise not be shown in the UK. I’ll leave you with the trailer for Queen Of Hearts, enjoy!
I’m very pleased to tell you about some news – that I applied for and was successful in getting a (fully funded!) place on a unique training course called Art Cinema = Action + Management which is run by CICAE, the International Confederation of Art Cinemas. This will take place soon, from 31st August to 8th September. The course is the only international training programme for professionals working in the art house exhibition industry. The seminar is organised with the support of the Creative Europe’s MEDIA Programme and consists of around 20 trainers and 50 participants coming from all over the world, for an 8-day programme of lectures, workshops, case studies and screenings. CICAE is celebrating 60 years this year and you can find out about its interesting history here
The aims of the course are:
- To communicate with the new generation of art house managers the specific knowledge (methods, tools, ideas and contacts) they need for programming, event organisation and management of an art house cinema.
- Offer exhibitors a space where they can reflect on their practices, share their experiences and discover new opportunities in their industry
- Provide insight into the tools of the trade and the challenges faced by the sector
- Benefit from the skills of close to a hundred top-notch cinema professionals and trainers
- Create a network of contacts and exchange experiences with one’s peers
- Develop short and long-term projects
I’m really excited to have this opportunity to take part in 8 days of intense training, surrounded by the atmosphere of so much going on, as the course timing coincides with the 72nd Mostra del Cinema (Venice International Film Festival). So I am very much looking forward to lots of learning and collaboration as well as networking and screenings at the film festival. Its going to be really interesting for me to meet other people from all over the world, running arthouse independent cinemas, just like me! It’ll also be a great chance for me to be back in Italy (where I lived for a year) and practice my Italian which I am fluent in but it tends to go a bit rusty when I don’t speak often. The course takes place on the island of San Servolo, close to the Lido in Venice. San Servolo used to be a monastery and now is used for conferences and so on.
The other day I actually held a meeting at work in Italian which was great practice and a boost for my confidence to know that I can still do it! I’m very much looking forward to working with the wonderful Cinema Italia UK as a result of this. Cinema Italia UK screen films in London which would otherwise not have any release in the UK.
Its going to be great to be back in Venice. I was last there for the Venice art Biennale in 2011! Hopefully I’ll write an update on how it all went when I’m back. Ciao for now!
Last month I was lucky enough to be in Verona, Italy for a few days city break. I used to live in Italy and have visited a lot of the county, self-confessed Italophile as I am! However, nothing could have prepared me for the picture postcard perfect beauty of Verona which I had never been to before.
The river runs through the centre of the city, the banks of which are lined with prettily coloured buildings while green trees provide shade to the hilly landscape above which stunning views can be found. Verona is the perfect sized city to explore in a few days on foot, whether you’re walking up its many hills to take in the panoramic vistas or if you’re walking along the river or in and out of cobbled streets and piazzas stopping off at a gelateria for ice cream.
We all know the city as ‘fair Verona’, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where the play’s star-crossed lovers meet. Verona certainly makes the most out of the story and it was fun to be a tourist and visit ‘Juliet’s house’ – the house which belonged to the “Dal Cappello” or “Cappelletti” – Capulet family. The building, dates back to the 13th and was renovated in the last century. Inside the palazzo there are works of art by various Veronese artists and some costumes from the 1936 film of Romeo and Juliet. Italians have a strange modern custom of attaching padlocks often inscribed with couples’ names on them, to various romantic monuments and this has certainly happened in full force by Juliet’s house!
On one of our days exploring the city, we discovered the beautiful Giardino Giusti described by Lonely Planet as follows:
Across the river from the historic centre, these sculpted gardens, considered a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping, are well worth seeking out. Named after the noble family that has tended them since opening them to the public in 1591, they have lost none of their charm. The vegetation is an Italianate mix of the manicured and natural, graced by soaring cypresses, one of which the German poet Goethe immortalised in his travel writings.
Although close to a busy road, once we got into the garden we were in a tranquil and peaceful setting. Happily there weren’t many visitors around and we enjoyed walking up the windy path instead of the main route to reach the top. On the way we found a lovely spot which was a pagoda with a stunning look out view. My boyfriend of 4 years Itay, chose this moment to get down on one knee and propose! Of course I said yes and it made our visit to the garden and our whole trip to Verona even more memorable and special!
Afterwards, in a heads in the clouds daze, walking on air happy feeling we went and had a celebratory lunch in a great traditional restaurant which was full of Italians so we knew it was a good one …
The main reason we had decided to visit Verona in the first place, was to go and see an opera in the open air arena. So as the grand finale to our stay, we had for months had tickets booked to see the opera Aida at the arena. We go to the opera in London quite often but seeing an opera at the arena in Verona is something else! We chose to reserve seats and to be near to the stage for an up close experience with the glitterati rather than queuing to sit in the Gods. The whole experience was so magical, to be watching opera in an ancient site in Italy – I felt that I couldn’t have more of a super Italian experience if I tried! We saw a modern interpretation production of Aida and the use of shadow puppets, fire displays and innovative props made for an amazing spectacle! It was a really fantastic end to a great to the perfect Italian city – Verona – città dell’amore (city of love).
All photographs in this post are by Itay Greenspon.