Monday, July 04, 2016

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2016, Day 1

Dora Nelson, Mario Soldati, 1940

A film with a character called “Il falso principe” just has to be a good entry into the festival.

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Dora Nelson is a comedy of mistaken identity which never quite turns into the all out farce the script seems to predetermines. While the film is continually funny, Soldati deliberately and almost artistically avoids the payoffs and pitfalls of his premise. His film is unobtrusively stylized and often shot in rather sophisticated long takes, which allow to observe rather intricate character interactions in real time - Assia Norris’s look of inquiry towards Carlo Ninchi while climbing the stairs; the “falso principe” sitting on the swing while talking to his cronies; the lovelorn neighbor and the taxi driver bonding while boozing (and driving) etc.

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All blond women end up at the movie studios sooner or later, someone says at some point. In order to stay in the limelight, someone else says at another point, American actresses get divorced, while Italian actresses tell everyone they’re princesses. This difference forms the basis for an intricate play of mirrorings, which nevertheless stops short of the free-wheeling comedy of identities american films of the time eyplore. Indeed, the main point about Assia Noris's double role, isn't the (biological) sameness of two women but their (social) dissimilarity. Dora Nelson is a film about / entrechenched in a vertical society. Comedy isn’t used to level the playing field, but to find / construct cliffs and trenches in rather unusual places.

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Pavel Korchagin, Aleksandr Alov & Vladimir Naumov, 1957

A soviet epic of harsh, ecstatic narrative and emotional ruptures. In one shot the hero decides to join the cavallery, in the next he already rides towards the enemy. Some shots stand almost completely on their own: a group of naked men, deliberatly sharing a canvas, like posing for a painter. The mise en scene is extremely agile and almost constantly defined by height difference: looking up (towards a woman’s leg), staring down (from a high rise; then looking up into heaven); crawling around in a moving train, where several bodies are stratified into a parcour that almost resembles an art installation; bumping into each other while carrying a whole closet on the back. The revolution unfolds the earth, actions, social relations - but only as long as itself unfolds. Once victorious, it freezes into calcified structure: the Bolshoi.

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Vasiliy Lanovoy, the main actor, wouldn’t be completely out of place in a stalinist propaganda piece, but at the same time his somewhat haunted posture and his juvenile narcism anticipate european new wave actors like Leaud. My strongest association was Guillaume Depardieu in Pola X, though: ferociously limping on into his own private world, while the world around him moves into a completely different direction.

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