Summer Strands in Bologna

Marlene Dietrich in a publicity photo for Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932)

Marlene Dietrich “knew everything there is to know about being an object of desire,” wrote Imogen Sara Smith a few years ago. “She knew the enslaving power of remaining unfathomable and unattainable and also the degree of self-command, even self-enslavement, that is required to do so.” In Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus (1932), “Dietrich’s cryptic core makes her believable as a woman who can tuck her little boy into bed with a sweet lullaby, then go sell a nightclub number in which she strips off a gorilla suit and stands brazen in sequins, hands on hips, smiling at the absurdity of the lyrics she’s singing (‘Hot Voodoo’). This woman is many women; all these women are the same woman.”

A selection of films featuring this enigmatic star will make up one of nine strands that the Cineteca di Bologna has announced in a preview of its annual festival of restorations, discoveries, and rediscoveries. This year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato, running from June 22 through 30, will also spotlight Pietro Germi, whose “pessimistic vision of human relations took shape through a highly original reworking of genres,” note the programmers, “from the western (In the Name of the Law, the first film ever made about the mafia), to melodrama (The Railroad Man), noir (Four Ways Out), detective story (The Facts of Murder), and a uniquely personal style of black comedy characterized by explicit and savage social critique (Divorce Italian Style; Seduced and Abandoned; The Birds, the Bees and the Italians).”

Journey into Night: The World of Anatole Litvak will be a rare survey of work by the director, who was born in Kyiv, launched his career as an assistant director in Russia, worked with G. W. Pabst in Germany, with Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux in France, and with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Vivien Leigh, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, and Olivia de Havilland in the States, where he married his first wife, Miriam Hopkins.

Another strand focuses on a particularly fertile period, the 1950s, in the long career of Kozaburo Yoshimura, whose dramas focusing on women have drawn comparisons to the films of Kenji Mizoguchi. Gustaf Molander, too, was known for his work with women, and the selection of his films features early performances from Ingrid Bergman, Harriet Andersson, Eva Dahlbeck, Inga Landgré, and Gunn Wållgren.

The Cineteca will present programs of films from the years 1904 and 1924 as well as “a rough guide through the developments and usages of colors in small-gauge filmmaking.” And Olaf Möller has curated Dark Heimat, a program of German and Austrian films made in the late 1940s and very early 1950s, a period often associated with braided blondes in sunny mountain idylls. Möller will instead offer noirs, horrors, and experiments with expressionism and neorealism.

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