Monday, August 4, 2014

THE FLOODGATES OF NOSTALGIA by Moen Mohamed

IL CINEMA RITROVATO, JUNE 28 – JULY 5, 2014
BOLOGNA, ITALY
Bologna does for nostalgia in a few days more than any other impetus.  This year, the William Wellman retrospective yielded many fresh and vibrant films.  I thoroughly enjoyed Beggars of Life (1928), The Man I Love (1929), Night Nurse (1931), Other Men’s Women (1931) and A Star is Born (1937), all shown in very good 35mm prints.  A major discovery was the German director Werner Hochbaum, whose avant-garde sensibilities inter-woven with narrative story-telling of 1930s Germany, sparked many an interesting conversation and my admiration.  His unique style and expertly edited films were a pleasure to behold.  Immediately following a Hochbaum screening, I heard someone say, “I cannot believe I never even heard of Werner Hochbaum!  I can’t wait to see the other films!”  Then, 10 seconds later, just a few feet away I heard someone else say, “Well, I was told that I should check out the Hochbaum films.  I have seen one and that’s enough!  Hochbaum has all the irritating stylistic touches of contemporary directors - only he was doing it in the 1930s!” 

This year, a new event to their already exciting programme is the transformation of the Cineteca Bologna courtyard, called the Little Piazza Pasolini, into an open-air late-night cinema for a couple of screenings.  The special projection was done via a large projector that uses a carbon lantern.  Watching Germaine Dulac's entertaining 1928 film, La Princesse Mandane, in a gorgeous 35mm print with the strong scent of carbon burning in the air was quite an experience.  The carbon lantern produced a shimmering, velvet cascade of black and white pictures that glowed in the night.

The lustre of the images created by this unique projection brought back memories of my childhood and visits to A. J., our faithful and hard-working projectionist at the Roxy Cinema in Leonora, Guyana.  The old projectors at the Roxy also used carbon.  Even after 23 long years, the familiarity of that scent, the cool late-night breeze and the dance of flickering images, re-opened memories and made that screening an emotional experience.  Amidst all of this, I remembered A.J. himself and how kind he was to me and my endless questions.  I would watch him closely as he wrote the glass plates for the slides of the coming attractions.  I would help him run the films on a spinner post-projection and put them back in their cans.  If I did a good job, he would give me pieces of spliced 35mm film.  A.J. is no longer alive but I will never forget him.  It was only after his death I realized that I had never ever found out what his initials stood for.  Visiting Guyana many years later and seeing all that remained of the abandoned Roxy Cinema was an empty space and dilapidated pieces of an instantly recognizable yellow and black concrete wall with a diamond design... well, there are no words to describe the impact of such a sight.  But thanks to a festival like Il Cinema Ritrovato, memories never die.  And suddenly, without rhyme or reason, during a screening at this very special festival, a sweet, buried memory is rejuvenated and the floodgates of nostalgia are opened.  Of the 44 films I saw, these are my favourites, in order of preference:
****
LIFE BEGINS TOMORROW​
35mm | 19​33 | Germany | 76 min | Werner Hochbaum | ​Programme: The Films of Werner Hochbaum
The obscure German director, Werner Hochbaum, has crafted an artistic tableau suffused in stylistic rigour.  A woman receives a note from her imprisoned husband indicating that he will be released the next day at 9 a.m.  He is expecting her to be there when he is released and they will begin a new life tomorrow.  What transpires in between the time the letter is received and the climax is an event of countless innovations.  Way ahead of its time, the editing technique, the continuous flow of the camera, the stunning dissolves - all brilliantly executed.  I don’t think I have ever seen a room filmed from the point of view of a violin before!  Time plays an integral part of the film’s motif and there are innumerable shots of clocks everywhere, including a most curious shot of a close-up of the back of an alarm clock focusing on the winding keys.  When he is released from prison, the man is recognized by neighbours and suddenly the soundtrack is filled with a cacophonic hiss of whispers coupled with shots of women opening and closing windows, their lips in close-up and tongues that wag.  One of the best sequences in the film is just after he is released, he comes across a merry-go-round.  He sees a young girl standing next to the ride.  He touches her hair.  Her older sister is on the merry-go-round and looks on suspiciously.  The camera is attached to the merry-go-round so it takes us on a 360 degree pan of the area and each time the camera approaches the man and child, we fear for the child’s safety although there is nothing to fear except the anticipation of a rotating camera.  Another special sequence:  A man rings a doorbell.  There is no answer and he rings it again.  A pet bird in a cage inside the house chirps back in response.  The man rings and the bird sings and before you know it, a most unusual musical dialogue is derived from this wordless scene.  Life Begins Tomorrow is a tour-de-force of rhythmic photoplay.  With very few lines of dialogue, it sets the heart soaring when one discovers a director of such talent who is practically unknown.
IT HAPPENED HERE
35mm | 1965 | Britain | 100 min | Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo | Programme: Rediscovered & Restored
Reviled by most and sundry upon its release, this film poses the question, what would have happened had the Nazis invaded England during the war and took control of every establishment?  How this film was made in England just 20 years after the end of WWII, shot in the streets without significant funding is a feat in itself.  Made for just a few thousand pounds with countless volunteers over a period of seven years, It Happened Here is a chilling and frightening account of the what-if scenario.  Accused of both fascism and pacifism, the film is a curious blend of fiction and cinema verité.  A nurse finds herself seeking employment with the Nazis.  She is seen as a traitor to the British, but her intention is to make Britain new and improved.  A non-political person, she focuses only on her work which compels her to nurse the sick, regardless of who is in charge.  She is not ashamed of working alongside the Nazis.  However, when her loyalty to the Nazis is questioned, she is demoted and sent to a hospice for the sick deep in the English countryside.  Her first task is to tend to newly-arrived tubercular Polish migrant workers, all dressed in striped pyjamas, which happens to be what patients wear at this “hospice” run by British doctors and nurses.  After giving them injections the first night of their arrival, she is surprised to find their beds all empty the next morning.  When she questions this further, things get worse.  The juxtaposition of these images to actual events in concentration camps just 20 years earlier is inescapable.   Commanding the screen is Pauline Murray, in one of her two roles ever.  She never acted again after this film.  The directors employed real neo-Nazis to play themselves in key roles as leaders of the invading German army.  Their anti-Semitic diatribe was all theirs and not scripted.  The film was only able to be completed, thanks to the generosity of Stanley Kubrick, who heard of this independent project and wanting to help, offered the filmmakers film stock that was left over from Dr. Strangelove.  Thank you, Mr. Kubrick.

WOODEN CROSSES (LES CROIX DE BOIS)​
DCP | 1932 | France | 115​ min | Raymond Bernard | Programme: Rediscovered & Restored
One of the most underrated French films ever, Wooden Crosses chronicles war as the most desolate and terrifying event man has ever encountered.  With rigorous direction and authentic to a fault, Raymond Bernard captures the disintegration and annihilation of a squadron of French soldiers in WWI with the precision of a surgeon and the soul of a humanist.  Simple in structure, it avoids melodrama and story development to make us sympathize with the soldiers.  In fact, it makes us feel for them just as they are - men going to their doom.  From the opening shot of rows and rows of soldiers that dissolve and morph into rows and rows of white wooden crosses in a cemetery, I felt a tingle up my spine. One of the most famous endings of war films is the butterfly scene in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) which is also about WWI.  But I argue that the final agonizing moments of Wooden Crosses are the most powerful final scenes of any war film.  Never has death been more terrifying in the eyes of a soldier left alone to die.  The utter feeling of abandonment.  The inevitability of death.  The mouth agape.  The eyes bulging.  The cries weakening.  And then, all is silent and a wooden cross stands where you once stood.  I felt I was there, on that field, watching someone dying in real time.  A poetic ​gem​ of a film, urgently in need of being rediscovered.

TWO ACRES OF LAND (DO BIGHA ZAMEEN)​
DCP | 1953 | India | 132 min | Bimal Roy | Programme: 1950s Indian Cinema​
For a long time, I have been waiting patiently for an opportunity to see Bimal Roy’s acclaimed film on the big screen.  After years of anticipation, Bologna has made that wish come true.  Needless to say, my expectations were high, but I had no need to be anxious because from the very first few minutes, I knew I was watching something special.  A destitute farmer stands to forfeit the only thing he possesses – the two acres of land upon which stands his small house and farm land.  If he does not gather 235 rupees within three months, the landlord will auction the land, upon which he plans to build a mill.  Leaving his pregnant wife and elderly father, the farmer sets out to the city to earn some money only to find the harsh realities of trying to find work and earn money in the big city.  He is willing to do anything to make money so that he can ease his burden.  But he ends up physically carrying human burden as he is transformed into a human carriage, a rickshaw puller.  The irony is obvious.  Bimal Roy does not milk the unhappy turn of events for sympathy.  In fact, the script does not allow for scenes of sentimentality.  There are moments of desperation that unfold melodramatically, but they are directed with skill and acted with genuine emotion.  Through a relentless performance by the great character actor, Balraj Sahni, the farmer firmly keeps his mind focused on one thing only – saving his two acres of land.  The songs are kept to a minimum and are featured as background accompaniment to the plot.  I am afraid that the more cynical audiences of today may be tempted to call this film ‘miserable’.  The sad reality is that this 60-year old film is more relevant in India today than ever before.  The en masse suicide of rural farmers in the past few years as India continues its modernization process makes this film more topical than ever.  In Competition at Cannes 1954, where it won a Special Prix International, Do Bigha Zameen is one of the most moving films I have ever experienced.
SAMSON
35mm | 1961 | Poland | 118 min | Andrzej Wajda | Programme: Polish New Wave
A terse and sobering experience of WWII through the eyes of a Polish Jew.  Before you can say, I have seen this many times already and although this is a subject oft-revisited in Polish cinema, Wajda has a different angle - he focuses completely on Polish behaviour and actions.  The Germans are almost never seen.  There are no German characters, except a few soldiers in the streets.  Wajda explores the ugliness, hypocrisy and prejudice that war brings out in people.  Anti-Semitism and its alleged moral justification are at the heart of this complex and intelligent film.  A young Jewish man is set free from prison during riots and chaos when Germany invades Poland.  Later, as all the Jews are put in the ghetto, he becomes a corpse-collector of the ghetto streets.  His escape from the ghetto and attempts at survival among Poles is chronicled and the experience is harrowing.  There are no villains or clichéd characterizations.  These are just people and can only be judged by themselves.  The hate he experiences among the Poles produces a unique twist, for his life outside the ghetto becomes so unbearable that for the rest of the film, all his efforts are not to escape the war or the country, but simply to return to the ghetto, to die with his own people.  One of the key points Wajda makes in the film is that anti-Semitism was not exported to Poland by the Germans.  It was already there, thriving as part of Polish pre-war society.  Hence, the film, dismissed upon release, is Wajda's unknown great film.  Along with The Ashes (1965), Landscape After Battle (1970), Innocent Sorcerers (1960) and Sweet Rush (2009), Samson (1961) is one of Wajda's best films.

A GIRL GOES ASHORE​
35mm | 1938 | ​Germany | 91 min | Werner Hochbaum | Programme: The Films of Werner Hochbaum​
A tough, realistic, no-nonsense woman, Erna Quandt loses her man at sea, where she spent most of her time accompanying him for his work.  After his demise, she goes ashore.  She has learnt one thing being on the seas:  the team must band together for the captain to ensure the voyage is successful.  She soon finds employment as a housekeeper to a wealthy couple under marital strain.  What an absolutely original and memorable character is Miss Quandt!  She takes her courteous but firm attitude to her new job and tells her mistress that it is not proper to entertain other men when her husband is not at home.  She also refuses to lie to callers saying that the mistress is not at home, when she is.  She  declares to her mistress, “A lie is a lie!  You are at home!”  But it is her efficiency and hard work that keep her in their employ.  A strange occurrence makes her question her steadfastness and naturally it concerns the affairs of the heart.  Miss Quandt meets a man of shady character.  We (and she) know that he uses women for money.  She is aware that she will eventually be asked to give him money but she does not repel his sweet-talk.  Her willingness to tolerate him makes him question his actions in the most unexpected of ways.  Once again, as in his earlier films, Werner Hochbaum uses his unique style of continuous flow of scene to great effect.  Beautifully shot and heart-rending, A Girl Goes Ashore is one of Hochbaum’s best from his small but unique filmography.

KAAGAZ KE PHOOL (PAPER FLOWERS)
35mm | 1959 | India | 146 min | Guru Dutt | Programme: 1950s Indian Cinema
A film deemed as an essential in the canon of Indian classics.  I waited patiently for many years to see this film on the big screen and thanks to Bologna, this has come to pass, and in 35mm and all!  A successful film director finds a young woman to play the lead in his next film.  He takes a chance against protests from the studio and the woman herself who has no interest in acting.  It pays off as not only is she a natural, but audiences identify with her simplicity.  As their relationship develops, even though he is married with child, the unspoken love between the two is observed and by all especially the director's pre-teen daughter.  His marriage is already under considerable strain as his in-laws and wife are strongly against the vulgarity of the cinema and its people.  His wife abandons him and takes custody of his daughter and he abandons himself in his work.  His work suffers and his latest film fails and loses millions.  Finished, he falls into despair, depression and alcoholism.  Years later, he revisits the studio as an old man and is mistaken for an extra and cast as a beggar.  Guru Dutt made only a handful of films but they were unlike anything the Indian film industry had ever seen. His early Bollywood commercial films Baazi (1951), Jaal (1952), Baaz (1953) and Aar-Paar (1954) are some of the most memorable and exciting films of that era.  With Pyaasa (1957) he carved a new name and niche for himself and what a legacy he has left!  Kaagaz Ke Phool foretold his downfall as the film was extremely expensive and was a massive failure. The studio and Dutt were in financial ruin.  Disgraced, he never directed another film.  His marriage fell apart.  He was having an affair with Waheeda Rehman, the star of his films Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool.  He started drinking heavily and very soon the affair ended.  In 1964, just 5 years after Kaagaz Ke Phool, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and died at the young age of 39.  It's as if he made a film about his life and how it would end, and then he proceeded to do exactly that.  What other gems may have been in store for us if only this, his most ambitious film, was successful?  Guru Dutt has left us with a brooding gem of loneliness and the fear of being forgotten.  Precisely 50 years after his death, he is acclaimed and remembered more than he or his contemporaries could ever imagine.
PATHETIC FALLACY (AJANTRIK)​
DCP | 1958 | India | 102 min | Ritwik Ghatak​ | Programme: 1950s Indian Cinema​
A surreptitiously sly tale that begins as an apparent comedy, ends up being one of the smartest films of the festival.  We follow two silly characters, an uncle and nephew, as the latter is on his way to his own wedding.  They contort their faces, giggle, and repeat idiotic observations.  They take a dilapidated taxi that looks like it’s about 30 years old.  Once they arrive at their destination, suddenly we continue on in the taxi and the story follows the driver.  We find out that the only important thing in the taxi driver’s life is his broken, asthmatically wheezing, rattling contraption of a car.  Ridiculed and laughed at by all in his village, not to mention the local garage, the man is actually in love with his car, his only means of sustenance.  Deeply humanist, Pathetic Fallacy is reminiscent of Dariush Mehrjui’s classic Iranian masterpiece, The Cow (1969).  This film surprises on every level as it explores the strange bond between man and machine.  The original title means a mechanical man, but the English title works just as well.  It would be remiss of me to credit the greatness of this film only to Ritwik Ghatak and not mention the brilliant lead performance by Kali Bannerjee.  It is through him we relate to his strange kinship with the machine.  It is a staggering performance of pathos and determination.  If we do not believe him, there is no film.  It builds to an unforgettable moment that includes a look of angst, a crying sound, dust in the wind, a little boy playing with a particular object, and then a smile and a teardrop.
 
THE FIELD POPPY​
35mm | 1935 | Japan | 73​ min | Kenji Mizoguchi | ​Programme: 1930s Japanese Cinema​
This 35mm restoration of one of the great Mizoguchi’s rare films will remain with me for a long time.  An understated drama, it is heartbreaking and stifling but always subtle, elegant and sophisticated.  A boy is raised by a kind stranger and develops a bond between the man and his daughter.  Now a young man, he leaves the countryside for Tokyo to study and have a career.  He promises to return to marry the man’s daughter.  Caught up in the new and fast world, he does not return.  The old man and daughter travel to Tokyo to find out about his intentions.  It is in the city the drama unfolds ever so quietly without even a harsh word spoken.  There is no confrontation, only painful realizations and the agony of waiting and waiting and waiting.  The old man and daughter are given hints of the young man’s drastic change of heart via a messenger, but never from his own mouth.  Shame, ingratitude, pride and defeat play out in the confines of their rented room.  This is an elegant and underappreciated film from one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers.

THE GROOM TALKS IN HIS SLEEP​
35mm | 1935 | Japan | 74​ min | Heinosuke Gosho | ​Programme: 1930s Japanese Cinema​
What a wonderful surprise this film is!  It is of sorts, a sister film to The Bride Talks in Her Sleep (1933), both directed by the under-appreciated Japanese master, Heinosuke Gosho.  Very well-written with sharp characterizations, the film opens with a newly-married couple preparing for the day.  I don’t believe I have ever seen such physical display of affection ever in any Japanese film.  Both kiss and cling to each other as if their lives depended on it, but their sincerity cannot be questioned.  As soon as he is off to work, she goes to sleep.  Rumours are started by prying neighbours and the young husband finds out and is outraged.  Sleeping this early in the day signifies a wanton lifestyle and laziness that bring dishonour to him and his family.  He comes home stealthily one day and confronts her.  When she refuses to give him the reason she sleeps, he threatens divorce.  She then confesses that she cannot sleep at night as he talks non-stop in his sleep.  On top of that, seeing that he is so good-looking, she is worried that one day he will mention other women’s names in his sleep, so she stays up all night to make sure that he doesn’t say another woman’s name.  The in-laws arrive as the news of the sleeping bride reached them and they demand the divorce be carried out.  It is now up to the young couple to save their marriage.  Then the doctor of mesmerism arrives on the scene.  Hilarity ensues.

THE BRIDE TALKS IN HER SLEEP​
35mm | 1933 | Japan | 57​ min | Heinosuke Gosho | ​Programme: 1930s Japanese Cinema​
A group of friends show up at their newly-married friend's home one night under the pretence of a cordial visit.  However, they have heard rumours that the new bride talks in her sleep.  They are adamant to stay (even if they are not welcome) until she falls asleep so they can eavesdrop on the contents of her nocturnal monologue.  How times have changed!  Back then, and I am sure not just in Japanese culture, a woman talking in her sleep was considered something sexually scandalous.  What would she say?  Would she reveal anything titillating?  Would she disclose any intimate secrets in her sleep?  The men are so intrigued by the fact that a passive woman mumbling fragmented sentences in her sleep could possibly be an exciting event for them.  Their reasons for the stay-over are not apparent, nor are they mentioned by any of the men.  It is with excellent acting and witty writing we get the gist of their minds.  It is a fascinating comedy of manners and gender politics. Gosho's deft touch and skilful direction make this film an undisputed pleasure of the festival.

THE MAN I KILLED​
35mm | 1932​ | USA | 75​ min | Ernst Lubitsch | Programme: World War I​
It is not the usual case to discover a film by a famous director that no one seems to talk about, but this is precisely what happened during the screening of Lubitsch's remarkable film.  Alone in the trenches during WWI, a young French soldier bayonets an equally young German soldier.  He looks at the dying boy's perplexed face that has a mixture of sadness, surprise, fear and expectancy.  He dies with his hands still on the letter he was writing.  The French soldier finds out from the letter and other letters in his coat that the young German hated war.  He had no quarrel with the French as he lived in Paris for 2 years prior to the war.  Stricken with guilt and grief, the French soldier falls into depression and turns to the church for answers and guidance.  He is told by the priest: "Forget it, you were only doing your duty."  Disillusioned, he goes to Germany to meet the parents of the man he killed.  A technically astute and remarkably authentic film, I could have sworn it was made in Germany with German extras if I didn't know better.  Tender, political, poignant, it is one of the most precious finds of the festival.  One of the most moving scenes features two German mothers at the graves of their sons.  This is their exchange: 
"Your boy loved my cinnamon cakes."
"Did he?  How do you know this?"
"He used to visit me on Saturdays when I did my baking."
"Oh, I see.  How do you make your cinnamon cakes?"
"Well, I use flour, eggs, shortening, two cups of sugar..."
"Two cups of sugar!?!  Oh, I would only use one cup.  Now I know for next time..."
And her voice trails off as they both realise there will never ever be a next time for either of their sons.

LA CHIENNE
DCP | 1931 | France | 96 min | Jean Renoir | Programme: Rediscovered & Restored
Renoir’s unsentimental, harsh yet sensitive examination of human behaviour and class structure is about the downfall of a quiet, soft-spoken middle-aged man and his relationship with his wife and mistress.  It is a relatively unknown film compared to Renoir’s more popular works.  This may be his most brutal film and it passes no judgment in its moralistic ambiguity.  The man has a chance encounter with a younger woman who is under the influence of her pimp.  The girl believes in her heart that the pimp is the love of her life.  Upon the knowledge that the older man has money and is also a part-time painter, her pimp thrusts her into his arms.  Not before long, deceit, abuse and murder ensue and this culminates in the most unpredictable chain of events.  Michel Simon soars as Legrand in perhaps his most complex role.  The use of fade to black is especially effective in the last 20 minutes of the film.  This is a toxic concoction of a film.  An unforgettable scene focuses on a fleeting painting, two pan-handlers and the name Clara Wood.  But my favourite sequence involves a group of musicians, a busy street, a gathered crowd, a room, a woman on a bed, a man in the room and the camera that travels up from the street to the room, then down from the room to the street.

RAID IN ST. PAULI
35mm | 1932 | Germany | 63 min | Werner Hochbaum | Programme: The Films of Werner Hochbaum
Hochbaum's camera slips through the narrow streets of Hamburg to explore its slinky and surreptitious Red Light district.  Once again, the story he weaves is simple but the poetry of his images is inspiring.  A criminal is on the run.  He breaks into a young woman's room.  They look at each other and without uttering a word, much is said.  There is an instant connection.  She hides him.  Thus begins their 24-hour tryst while the police are still on the hunt for him.  From the opening moments, a plethora of activity is captured via stylistic touches:  legs walking, dancing, climbing, fingers at work, waves at the Hamburg port crashing, tired faces, weary eyes, nightlife and frivolity.  A panning shot of flagstones morph into piano keys.  To depict the criminal and woman have had intimate relations, there is a peculiar and rather naughty shot of a teddy bear lying atop a doll.  Hochbaum holds that shot for a good 5 seconds or so and its meaning is conveyed in more ways than one.  In one amazing sequence, women are in a bar, they are talking, smiling and the piano is being played.  Then all of a sudden, the women stop talking, there is absolutely no sound, the music has stopped, everyone is immobile.  The eyes have stopped blinking.  The life has been drained from the party.  Perhaps it is a statement being made by Hochbaum about the monotony of their lives.  But, after a minute or so, a customer enters the bar and then everything bursts into life again.  The inhabitants of the bar resume talking, laughing, dancing.  And the music plays on in this stunning sequence of movement, vitality and life. 

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI​
DCP​ | 1920 | Germany | 75​ min | Robert Wiene | Programme: Rediscovered & Restored​
It is inexplicable how this very famous film eluded me for so many years.  Featuring a pristine restoration, this unforgettably haunting film is the epitome of Expressionism.  A kaleidoscope of contorted streets, crumbling houses, triangular doors, shadows on the walls, fill the screen to the brim and then some.  These eccentric images seem to want to spill over the sides of the frame.  All of this is perfectly designed in the setting of a fair of oddities and sensational exhibitionism.  It is not wonder the zigzag roads eventually lead to an insane asylum.  A strange creature in the form of Dr. Caligari comes to town bringing with him a somnambulist as a sideshow.  Who better than Conrad Veidt to play the weird somnambulist?  Not before long, both Dr. Caligari and his somnambulist are under suspicion of malfeasance.  This film is so brilliantly constructed and directed that I felt hypnotized throughout.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari may be the most exemplary of the films of German Expressionism.

WANDA’s TRICK​
35mm | 1918 | Germany | 45 min | Rosa Porten, Franz Eckstein | ​Programme: The Films of Dr. R. Portegg​
A delightful comedy that highlights the talents of Wanda Treumann and the co-directors, Rosa Porten and Franz Eckstein. Love and money intertwined in a maze of marketing, business, trickery and eventually marriage.  A worker in a cigarette factory falls for the president of the company but he wants to be amused only and has no care for a commitment.  She then wins the grand lottery.  The factory is in financial difficulties and the president rethinks his refusal and asks her to marry him. She wastes no time is showing him the door!  But wanting to prove herself as his equal in business, she comes up with a brilliant marketing strategy to boost cigarette sales.  Since she is now in demand after winning the lottery, they will do a campaign where her photo will be inserted in one packet of cigarette.  Whosoever buys that packet, will be the lucky man.  In exchange for her golden advertising idea, she asks to become an associate.  Of course, nothing turns out as planned.  How fun are these two directors - they used the first syllable of both their last names to come up with their pseudonym, Portegg.

FANTOMAS
DCP | 1913-1914 | France | 352 min | Louis Feuillade | Programme: Rediscovered & Restored​
This 100-year old, 6-hour film is quite excellent in how it entertains, intrigues and excites.  Feuillade is a master controller of the camera and the action that resides within.  A beautiful and extremely clean restoration, with the right amount of grain, this massive episodic film contains many labyrnthian plots of twists and turns at ever corner.  A diabolical, murderous and sociopathic villain, a determined police inspector, his eager assistant, zealous villains disguised as bankers, businessmen, priests, judges and one of the funniest of all – an American detective sent to help with the investigation, his name:  Tom Bob.  Logic should not be applied to the various plots as one could easily find many holes in them.  But the mise-en-scene, structure, flow and design of the film are splendid.  The film bristles with energy and good performances especially René Navarre as the titular Fantômas, and Reneé Carl who plays his mistress.

 LA CIGARETTE​
35mm | 1919 | France | 51​ min | Germaine Dulac | Programme: The Films of Germaine Dulac
A young, bored wife to an archaeologist/museum curator takes to entertaining a younger man, much to her older husband's chagrin.  He tries to be understanding and fights his jealousy, but alas, the monster overpowers him.  What is unusual is that he doesn't vent his anger on his young wife, but decides to play a game of chance on himself.  He poisons one cigarette and places it among many others in his cigarette box.  Eventually, he will smoke that cigarette, but when that will be, he doesn't know.  When it happens, it happens.  His wife is completely oblivious of her husband's emotional distress but senses all may not be well.  This 95-year old film is the earliest surviving film of Germaine Dulac.  It features a young liberated woman, location shooting, realistic performances and an advanced montage style.  

Farewell and see to your journey, but return soon…
To bid me arrivederci from this wonderful festival, I couldn’t ask for a more poignant farewell.  As I was waiting for my train to Roma Termini station, the previous train was departing Bologna for Naples on the same platform.  A few feet from me, a father was saying goodbye to his wife and young children through the soundproof glass window.  As the train started to move, he began to walk alongside the train, waving and blowing kisses to his family.  His wife appeared to be tearful and so were the children.  He then stopped and mouthed the words repeatedly, “Ti amo, ti amo”.  The train disappeared and he stood there for a moment with a sad look on his face.  Then he looked at me, smiled, shrugged in the most recognizable Italian manner and walked away.  And like that, until we meet again, la vita continua…

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