At Il Cinema Ritrovato, the annual film festival in Bologna devoted to restorations and rediscoveries, you can start the day in 1920s Paris, stop off in Mexico before lunch, spend the afternoon hopscotching from India to China to Rome in its mid-fifties glory, and finish the day in old Seville by way of Hollywood, U.S.A. The festival’s programmers explicitly embrace the idea of cinema as both a time machine and a “space machine,” offering such itineraries as a whirlwind tour of world cinema one hundred years ago, in 1918, or a sojourn in the Soviet Union circa 1934. But, as I found when I attended for the first time this past June, the festival’s setting works powerfully against the experience of movies as a disembodied escape into another place and time. Bologna itself is too insistently beguiling, too distinctive in character and rich in sensual pleasures, and—during the festival—too packed with fellow travelers, to fade into the background.
It is a city the color of a ripe peach. The stucco buildings in shades of pink, ochre, and orange are warm and sweet to the eye; everywhere you look are red-tiled roofs, medieval towers, and elegant arcades. In the compact, ancient center, almost every street of any size is lined with arching covered walkways. It is hard to stroll through these colonnades without a sense of gratitude, not only for the deep shade and cool stone that shelter you from the blazing heat, but for the delicately chiseled vaulting and ornamented columns above, and the mosaics of black, cream, and russet marble under your feet, which make a trip to the pharmacy feel like a dignified procession. The torri, glowering proto-skyscrapers of stone pierced with tiny arrow-slits, add a hint of mystery to what otherwise feels like an open and inviting place. There are wide piazzas, pocket-size courtyards, and tiny medieval alleys, some lined with Vespas, others bustling with outdoor trattorias and food shops—cornucopias of giant, mottled hams; huge chunks of cheese; vegetables and fruits so gorgeous they look like they tumbled out of a Caravaggio painting. One of Bologna’s nicknames is “La Grassa” (the Fat), for its devotion to food; it is the birthplace of tortellini, as well as, of course, giving its name to “baloney.” Another nickname is “La Rossa” (the Red), for its history of fiery left-wing politics, still going strong if the Antifa mottoes scrawled on those peach-colored walls are any indication. Finally, Bologna is known as “La Dotta” (the Learned), because it hosts the oldest university in Europe. It is also home to the Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata, one of the world’s foremost film restoration labs, which has hosted the festival for the past thirty-two years. Fat, red, and learned is very likely how a pale-skinned American visitor will feel after ten days of eating, exploring the sun-struck streets, and sampling the mind-boggling array of films being offered.
Now Voyageurs: Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021
In the thirty-fifth edition of the Italian festival dedicated to restored films, an eclectic lineup underscores the transportive physicality of cinema after a long year stuck at home.
On the Novelistic Afterlife of After Life
Translated into English for the first time, this afterword to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s novelization of his film explores the director’s attraction to fiction writing and how the art form differs from narrative cinema.
To the Tune of Mortality: “The Gondola Song” in Ikiru
A ballad from the 1910s becomes a precarious way station between life and death in Akira Kurosawa’s portrait of an ordinary man’s final days.
You have no items in your shopping cart