Retrospective: Orizzonti 1961-1978

carmelo bene hermitage

Entitled Orizzonti 1961-1978, the Retrospective at the 68th Venice International Film Festival 2011 will be dedicated to Italian experimental cinema from the Sixties and Seventies, creating an ideal bond this year with one of the strongest signals of change in the recent editions of the Venice Film Festival: the reformulation of the Orizzonti section.

The 68th Venice Film Festival will take place on the Lido from 31 August to 10 September 2011, directed by Marco Mueller and organized by the Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta.

Curated by Enrico Magrelli, Domenico Monetti and Luca Pallanch, the retrospective Orizzonti 1961-1978 has been co-produced by the Biennale with the Centro Sperimentale di CinematografiaCineteca Nazionale, the agency responsible for the promotion and preservation of the Italian film heritage, with the support of the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Activities.

Once again this year, the collaboration with the Cineteca Nazionale is being renewed to discover forgotten Italian cinema, in an ideal link with the retrospectives successfully presented in Venice in recent years, from the Italian Kings of the B’s – The Secret History of Italian Cinema (2004) to Italian Comedy- The State of Things (2010).

“This year’s retrospective,” declared Director Marco Mueller, “anchored in the Orizzonti section and its idea of open, fluid cinema that questions its nature as a linguistic device, as a technique that can fathom and stimulate reality, and as an art form that wishes to engage, with abundant sang-froid, in a dialogue with other art forms, is a contribution to the historic reconstruction of a contemporary outlook.”

New realities are coming into focus on the movie horizon, and they often escape classification: from the (in)finite duration of Die Kinder von Golzow (The Children of Golzow) to the fleeting fragments “stolen” from Youtube or MySpace. In this scenario of increasingly fluid images, thanks to the digital technology now available to everyone, the Orizzonti section (in its latest incarnation) has chosen to bring together a wide diversity of outlooks and styles, in works that innovate on traditional celluloid and electronic-digital experimentations.

Such a rich and seething present needed to build its memory and to virtually suggest a past, as well as create new intersections between the old and the new with a focused program of retrospectives. Yesterday, like today, these are works that refuse to be pigeon-holed within a particular aesthetic field, because they are too transversal or eccentric, thus eschewing any specific labels of origin.

A possible center of gravity for this memory “for Orizzonti” could be the landmark film Anna by Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli, restored for the occasion. One of the first movies to be filmed in video before being processed on a film recorder, and transferred from magnetic tape onto film, Anna, which was presented in Venice in 1975, emblematically ended a season in which politics and aesthetics were inextricably bound together. The film corresponded to existential defeat, to the inability to change the course of events, in this case the life of the pregnant underage girl, Anna.

If Anna was a point of arrival, and simultaneously a pioneering consideration from a technical point of view (because the video made it possible to immediately view all the material that had been filmed), the short films by Romano Scavolini and Mario Schifano were the seminal terrain in which these authors-artists would nurture the techniques and poetics for their future feature-length films. The former, by experimenting with images that he interweaves with photographs, illustrations, animation art, using multiple exposure, or changing from positive to negative, relying on rapid editing with a frequent use of panning to describe themes and obsessions that are important to him: the painful memory of the war, solitude, the relationship between man and woman. The latter, by creating what amount to filmed diaries, with a total freedom of outlook, with the same compulsion that drove him to continuously photograph the people around him, to transform reality into spatial hypotheses that would become “painting”. This is experimental cinema that meets familiar, domestic cinema, that annuls language and this annulment has the same value as the monochrome in Schifano’s paintings, and then captures unexpected gestures and expressions with the camera.

The familiar horizons, where the weight of history and the suggestions of art break through to disrupt the equilibrium, are also explored and redefined by Nato Frascà, a painter (and founder of Gruppo 1 in the early Sixties), production designer, director. More than experimental cinema, his was a cinema of experimentation in which the artist transforms the film into a kind of magma, and the echoes of the Sixties (Kappa) and Seventies (Soglie) bubble up, filtered through an intimate personal interpretation.

The adventures of one of the most innovative art groups formed around 1968, Laboratorio ’70, later known as the Gruppo di via Brunetti, which included Marcello Grottesi, Paolo Matteucci and Gianfranco Notargiacomo and for a short time the brilliant Gino De Dominicis, were immortalized by the photographer and documentary filmmaker Mario Carbone in Zoomm, Track!: the guillotine transported into Piazza del Popolo to the sound of a drum rolls: the revolution has come; with their hair dyed red riding on a tridem (a three-seat tandem bicycle), a feat narrated by Pasquale Squitieri on the pages of “Paese Sera”: “In Tridem a colori”; aniline red poured into the fountain of Piazza del Popolo (a gesture that has recently been imitated).

The documentary has often been an ideal form for breaking free of a functional narrative grid. Il respiro and The City are two excellent examples in which documentary filmmaker Axel Rupp willingly foregoes the voice of a narrator and uses images alone to describe sounds, faces and bodies at the Stazione Termini in Rome or in the City of London, years ahead of the visual suggestions of Godfrey Reggio’s cinema.

Another artist devoid of formats and aesthetics was Paolo Brunatto, who recently passed away and to whom the Biennale pays tribute with his Vieni, dolce morte…, an authentic example of expanded film, a film not just made to be seen, but to be experienced as a mystic collective happening. But eccentricity is transversal and extends beyond the usual “experimental” cinema – which is often courageous in defending an art (and film) history that must be considered intact – to become an authentic free port of underground creativity. Augusto Tretti is certainly one of the most singular filmmakers in the history of Italian cinema (and not only), thanks to two “unclassifiable” feature-length films with a rocky production and distribution history (La legge della tromba and Il potere [Power]). Using Brecht’s method in an original way, Tretti dismantled the rituals and stereotypes of film (the conventional acting and formal structures of mainstream films – the gorgeous photography, luxury and opulence) to achieve the most surprising productions in terms of aesthetics and substance.

Even at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, there were many instances of borderline works, conceived perhaps during the restless years of protest. Such as the interesting essays for the diploma In punto di morte by Mario Garriba and Sul davanti fioriva una magnolia by Paolo Breccia. Filmed in just 15 days, with a budget totaling 7,819,000 lire, In punto di morte is a precursor of Nanni Moretti’s films (Io sono un autarchico, Ecce Bombo…), highlighting the “golden dreams” of a young man from the middle class (starring Fabio Garriba, the director’s twin brother) who refuses to grow up, deriding and criticizing everyone (his mother, his friends, his girlfriend). Beautifully shot by Renato Berta, the film won the Golden Leopard as best debut film at the Festival in Locarno. A twist of fate: director Mario Garriba would participate as an actor in Sogni d’Oro and Bianca, both directed by Nanni Moretti.

Sul davanti fioriva una magnolia, strongly supported by Roberto Rossellini who provided three thousand meters of film for the young director, was presented at the Venice International Film Festival and was universally applauded, especially by Bernardo Bertolucci. But despite the many positive critical reviews (“memorable maudit out-of-season fruit, the most limpid of hermetic films, the most optimistic of apocalyptic films, the most literary of didactic films”), the film was never released in the theatres. This is a shame because not only is it an extraordinary film-essay reminiscent of Godard, Straub and Bertolucci in Prima della Rivoluzione, it also features a very special actor: future director Peter Del Monte.

Three films in this retrospective create a “Carmelo Bene space”: Bis, Il canto d’amore di Alfred Prufrock, Hermitage. Bis by Paolo Brunatto was filmed in Maria Monti’s apartment in Vicolo del Cinque in Trastevere (where the Living Theatre also spent time), Brunatto with Marco Masini filmed Carmelo Bene rehearsing before the first act of the play Il Rosa e il nero, inspired by Lewis, which went on stage shortly thereafter at the Teatro delle Muse. In the film Bussotti, Braibanti, Gelmetti and the singer-songwriter Silvano Spadaccino all make an appearance to analyze Bene’s theatre. This is a perfect example of irregular documentary because, as in the earlier Un’ora prima di Amleto, Bene does not answer Brunatto’s questions. And Brunatto himself can do no more than capture shreds of answers on camera, but out of synch with the images.

Il canto d’amore di Alfred Prufrock is Nico D’Alessandria’s essay for the diploma at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. This extremely ambitious work is sustained by the genius (purely verbal) of Carmelo Bene (voice of the narrator) and Luciano Berio (who wrote the soundtrack). The rest is by Nico D’Alessandria, the loose cannon of Italian cinema, who probably made the most interesting debut film in the Eighties, L’imperatore di Roma, followed by the intense L’amico immaginario and the unsuccessful Regina Coeli, shot many years after the screenplay was written. A rather marginal author, who slipped away from Italian cinema as it turned to other narrative and performing dimensions, who acted for his own film, at the service of a painful text by T.S.Eliot, read, interpreted and manipulated by the voice of Bene, with accents that anticipate those of Volonté in Indagine di un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) and is well matched to the sound distortions produced by Berio.

Hermitage is a short film directed by Carmelo Bene that borrows its title from the hotel in which it was filmed (suite 805 of the Hotel Hermitage). Bene’s talent shines with all its greatness in this unclassifiable object, 24 minutes of cinema/anticinema/metacinema, with constant references to himself, to history, to earlier and later stories, to the disparate conscience of a man/actor who puts his entire destructive culture at stake and gets lost within it. Yesterday like today. Get a ten in history to make his mother happy, or kill his mother to make history happy…

The programme will present

  • ANNA (1972-1975, 225’) by Alberto Grifi
  • IL POTERE (1972, 83’) by Augusto Tretti
  • IN PUNTO DI MORTE (1971, 57’) by Mario Garriba – I PARENTI TUTTI by Fabio Garriba (1967, 19’21’’) – VOCE DEL VERBO MORIRE (1970, 16’37’’) by Mario Garriba
  • SUL DAVANTI FIORIVA UNA MAGNOLIA (1968, 111’) by Paolo Breccia
  • LA QUIETA FEBBRE (1964, 10’10’’) – DIARIO BEAT (1967, 11’) – ATTACCO (Zen-Shin) (1970, 11’) – LSD (1968-1970) by Romano Scavolini
  • REFLEX (1964, 8’) – FERRERI (1966-1969, 12’) – SOUVENIR (1967, 11’) – FILM (1967, 15’) – FOTOGRAFO (1966-1969, 2’32’’) – VIETNAM (1967, 7’) by Mario Schifano
  • VIENI DOLCE MORTE (1967-1968, 50’) – BIS (1966, 20’26’’) by Paolo Brunatto
  • HERMITAGE (1967, 26’) by Carmelo Bene
  • IL CANTO D’AMORE DI ALFRED PRUFROCK by Nico D’Alessandria (1967, 20’)
  • IL RESPIRO (1964, 8’) THE CITY (1961, 8’) di Axel Rupp
  • ZOOMM, TRACK! (1968, 9’50’’) by Mario Carbone
  • KAPPA (1965-1966, 47’) – SOGLIE (1978, 11’) by Nato Frascà

Events in the Retrospective

  • IL VETTURALE DEL SAN GOTTARDO (1942, 83’) by Ivo Illuminati
  • L’ACCADEMIA MUSICALE CHIGIANA (9’20’’) by Vittorio Vassarotti and Franco Mannini (sets and costumes by Franco Zeffirelli)