Italy’s classic and contemporary cinema is being celebrated at the ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL, but is the nation’s film industry really experiencing ‘the sweet life’? Words: Miles Fielder
am sitting in Rome‘s (‘ampo I)e’ Fiori drinking
cappuccino with a young filmmaker named Vittcen/o
Marra. whose foot is giving him jip. It‘s bandaged. He hobbies to his seat with a cane. It‘s his Achilles' heel. apparently. ()ver by the fountain a busker plays violin. The sun is shining. I‘m on a work jolly to meet Rome‘s filmmakers and write an article for the Italian Film Festival. which is on tour back home. Iiverything‘s line. Iixcept. it‘s not.
I ask Marra about the state of Italian cinema. He‘s not optimistic about its future. I ask if Silvio Berlusconi. the centre~right Italian prime minister and media magnate. is to blame. ‘Everything belongs to him.‘ says Marra. He mutters this under his breath. and he doesn't refer to Berlusconi by name. I glance over my shoulder to see if there‘s a man with mirrored shades and a wire in his ear sitting behind us. This is crazy. it‘s like a scene from a conspiracy theory thriller.
No one‘s going to argue Italian cinema (‘chin-e-ma‘ if you're in Italy) doesn‘t carry great historic weight. A prefix and a word: neo-realism. Six filmmakers: Visconti. Pasolini. Rossellini. Fellini. Antonioni. Rosi. And how about Leone. who gave us the spaghetti western'.’ Nine films: Bicycle Thieves. La Dulce l’itu. 81/2. I.'/lt't'elttlll‘(l. The ('on/onnixt. Death In Veniee. Rome. Open (‘it_\'. .S'u/o. Lu .S'trru/u. And that's only the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
It's harder to argue Italian cinema is as strong now as it was post-war and throughout the 1960s and 70s. Still. over the past two decades ('ineinu l’uruzliso. Hum/nun: The Turkish Bath. 1/ l’ostino. l’urine/li ll ('ustruto and 111 Seortu among other films have found success abroad. And we shouldn‘t forget Italy does horror cinema well. and extreme. Twenty— three years on. I.ucio Fulci‘s Zombie Hes/i [fate/iv remains a notorious genre entry. while Dario Argento (.S'us/n'riu. T/u Bin! With The ('rvstul l’lumuge) is an internationally recognised master of the creepy craft.
There‘s more. Last year in Cannes. Nanni Moretti. Italy‘s
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answer to Woody Allen. turned serious with the bereavement drama The Son's Room and was presented the film festival's highest award. the Palme d‘()r. A couple of years before that. Italy‘s much-loved clown Roberto Benigni won more than one Oscar for his ‘Holocaust comedy" Life Is Beautiful.
And if you regularly attend the Iidinburgh International Film Festival. you’ll have had the opportunity to catch other quality modern Italian cinema titles. some of which have yet to receive UK-wide distribution: in 200i Prineesu and The Trove/ling .S'u/esniun. in 2000 l Prefer The Sound Of The Sea and Bread And 'Iulips.
Furthermore. Edinburgh. Glasgow. Dundee. Aberdeen and London play host to the Italian Film Festival each spring. Now in its ninth year and conceived in Scotland in conjunction with the Istituto Italiano I)i Cultura. the IFF showcases both contemporary and classic Italian cinema over a fortnight period.
The 50-lilm line-tip this year includes Italian box office hits. from Giuseppe I’iccioni‘s linely- observed modern urban romance Light ()fMy lives to I’upi Avati‘s IIon (‘rusade epic Knight (2/ The Quest. There‘s cinema on the cutting edge to be found in the festival‘s new filmmakers strand. Vincen/o Marta. for example. self-funded a low budget documentary about football hooligans. There's also a dedicated documentary section. short lilms and a retrospective looking at the career of diva Anna Magnani. who was favoured by Visconti. Pasolini and Rossellini. Finally. and possibly for British audiences most exciting. the IFF premieres Martin Scorsese‘s exhaustive documentary tribute to Italian cinema. My Journey In Ito/v.
The IFF comprises quality and quantity of Italian films. as diverse as mainstream and arthouse cinema. As festival director Richard Mowe notes it’s ‘the only opportunity for audiences here to sample the changing face of Italian cinema in all its richness and variety". Attending the festival. you‘d be
You’d be forgiven for thinking Italian cinema is in a healthy state - it is, but the industry isn’t