Italian Film Festival

Cronofobia

Italy/Switzerland, 2018, 93 mins, DCP

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Ricordi?

Italy, 2018, 106 mins, DCP

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Tommaso

Italy, UK, USA, 2019, 115 mins, DVD

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Farinelli

France, Italy, 1994, 111 mins, DCP

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The Invisible Witness / Il testimone invisibile

Italy, 2018, 102 mins, DCP

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Ludwig

Italy, France, West Germany, 1973, 237 mins, DCP

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La Dolce Vita

Italy, 1960, 174 mins, DCP

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Tenebrae

Italy, 1982, 101 mins, DCP

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Martin Eden

Italy, 2019, 128 mins, DCP

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Parents in Progress / Genitori quasi perfetti

Italy, 2018, 87 mins, DCP

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Legend of the Holy Drinker / La leggenda del santo bevitore

Italy, 1988, 127 mins, DCP

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The Fifth Cord / Giornata nera per l’Ariete

Italy, 1971, 92 mins, DCP

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The Traitor / Il traditore

Italy, 2019, 145 mins, DCP

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Bangla

Italy, 2019, 84 mins, DCP

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Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West

Italy, 1968, 165 mins, DCP

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Blood and Black Lace / 6 donne per l’assassino

Italy, 1964, 88 mins, DCP

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The Champion / Il campione

Italy, 2019, 105 mins, DCP

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Upcoming Films

All films are being screened at the Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2E8, Canada, unless otherwise noted.
Please note that for admission at the Vancity Theatre, you must be age 19 or older.
Click on each film’s title to display additional information and to buy tickets.

Friday 3 January 2020

The Champion / Il campione

Info: Italy, 2019, 105 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Leonardo D'Agostini

Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Andrea Carpenzano, Massimo Popolizio

Showtimes

  • Friday January 3, 2020 - 7:00 pm
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 - 6:00 pm

"Stefano Accorsi will move you with one of his best roles."
FILM.IT

Set in the glossy world of professional, millionaire footballers, The Champion pairs versatile veteran Stefano Accorsi (The Italian Race) with an extraordinary Andrea Carpenzano (Boys Cry) in this odd couple story of a brilliant, pampered and sorely ignorant soccer superstar and the middle-aged teacher hired to get him through his high school diploma.

Carpenzano is Christian Ferro, a young striker for A.S. Roma. Growing up in a rough area is a far cry from the millionaire lifestyle he is now living, which has attracted party-animal friends from home as well as the return of his long-lost father. When Christian’s determination to prove to his friends that he remains rebellious lands him in trouble again, his coach gives him an ultimatum: get back in line and pass the high-school exam, or get out. Enter Valerio Fioretti (Accorsi), who is enlisted to tutor the troubled player. But Christian’s world of fame and Ferraris clashes with Valerio’s humble circumstances.

D’Agostini’s debut mixes fast life decadence, on-field action, and a much more modest, humble tale of two very different men connecting over text books and heart ache. It’s a funny, surprisingly tender movie told with plenty of energy and polish.

Blood and Black Lace / 6 donne per l’assassino

Info: Italy, 1964, 88 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner

Showtimes

  • Friday January 3, 2020 - 9:15 pm
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 4:30 pm

"Few gialli are as visually accomplished as this, which marks a high bar for the genre that wasn’t matched, much less exceeded, until the release of Dario Argento’s Deep Red." Russ Fischer, IndieWire

"Few films are anywhere near as lovely as Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace." Bryant Frazer, Deep Focus

"One of Bava’s most accomplished works, executed with a dazzling, unprecedented use of bright colors and deep shadows." Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

Giallo is Italian for yellow. But it’s also the name of a brand of hyper-saturated sex thrillers – a sleazy, chroma-injected local take on film noir – which thrived in Italian cinema between the mid 1960s and the early 80s. Ironically, if you had to pick a dominant colour for these movies, it would certainly be profondo rosso (deep red) – the giallo name derived from a series of crime paperbacks popular in the 50s – but in the hands of key directors like Mario Bava, who essentially invented the form, and Dario Argento (Tenebrae; Suspiria) a tawdry, twisty whodunnit could be transformed into a symphony of shadows and light, blazing visual and sonic effects, and eye-boggling camera moves.

Blood and Black Lace was the one that started it all, from the first name in Italian horror. Mario Bava’s seminal giallo touchstone, about a murder spree in a high-end fashion house, was profoundly influential on Argento, Craven, Tarantino and Scorsese, not to mention on the recent cult item, In Fabric. Between its excessive use of color, hothouse tone and pioneering proto-slasher setpieces, Blood and Black Lace is an ultimate embodiment of the genre.

Our mini Gialli series also includes The Fifth Cord (Saturday), and Tenebrae (Sunday).

Saturday 4 January 2020

Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West

Info: Italy, 1968, 165 mins, DCP

Language: English

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Gabriele Ferzetti

Showtimes

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 - 1:00 pm
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 - 2:20 pm

"Nobody has made a better Western since. In fact, nobody has made a better Western, period." Kim Newman, Empire

"One of the great films in cinema history." Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle

Nobody could make something out of nothing the way that Sergio Leone could. Just look at the first ten minutes of Once Upon a Time in the West: a fistful of tough hombres in ankle-length dusters are waiting for a train at a railway depot out in the middle of nowhere.

Their faces are familiar yet strange: Woody Strode and Jack Elam are veteran Hollywood cowboys, with dozens of movies under their belts. But they have never been filmed like this before, gazed at so long or so longingly. Leone pores over their grizzled skin, in widescreen, yet in microscopic detail. A windmill on top of a leaky wooden water tower has a rusty squeak. A fly buzzes around Jack Elam’s gun. The train is late, or they are early. They wait, and the movie keeps on rolling along.

This was Leone’s fourth western, and fifth film. Each had marked a significant advance on the one before (in this case, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the culmination of Leone’s wildly successful ‘Dollars Trilogy’). They grew in budget, in scope and scale, in authority, in flamboyance, and in duration.

Once Upon a Time in the West was cut by twenty minutes when it was first released in the US in 1968. In the full version, it clocks in at a hefty 165 minutes – yet the story is relatively simple and the cast of characters is limited to just a handful of speaking parts. The key players are Cheyenne (Jason Robards), an easygoing outlaw who just wants to do his own thing; Harmonica (Charles Bronson), who is on the vengeance trail for the man who killed his brother; Jill McBain (the luscious Claudia Cardinale), a New Orleans whore who has come West to set up a home and arrives to find herself a widow; and Frank (Henry Fonda), a vicious hired gun who works for the railroad barons. These four figures circle each other with a proud but wary distance reminiscent of flamenco dancers, or the bullring… perhaps it’s not coincidental that the so-called ‘spaghetti’ westerns were filmed in Spain.

With story credits for future directors Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, both young turks at the time, this is a movie drawn from the imaginative pull of other, older films – Bertolucci said they watched nothing but westerns for a month as they prepared the script, and you may pick up bits and pieces from the likes of John Ford’s The Iron Horse and My Darling ClementineHigh Noon, Johnny GuitarShane and The Tall T – all the young Italians’ favourites.

On this patchwork fabric, Leone embroiders a quizzical, cynical take on the foundation myth established by Ford and many others. Ford knew that “civilization” came with sacrifice and loss, but he never painted it in such brutal, violent strokes as this. It speaks volumes that Ford’s Wyatt Earp – Henry Fonda – is the callous blue-eyed killer here, a man who will shoot a child without a second thought.

And then there’s the Ennio Morricone music. This is one of the most famous scores in film history – much quoted and parodied – and it’s integral to the film’s impact: soaring, sometimes flip, but with an undertow of nostalgia and regret. The music came first and the shooting was choreographed to the playback.

It is too bad that Variety had already coined the term ‘horse opera’ back in the 1930s, because that’s a more apt description of what Leone was up to than the condescending ‘spaghetti western’. An opera with horses, cowboys, and bullets… By the time the fat lady sings – as Leone cranes back in a truly majesterial last shot – you’ll be crying for an encore.

Bangla

Info: Italy, 2019, 84 mins, DCP

Language: Italian, Bengali with English Subtitles

Director: Phaim Bhuiyan

Cast: Phaim Bhuiyan, Carlotta Antonelli, Simone Liberati

Showtimes

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 - 4:15 pm

"An impressive feature debut that offers a multicultural romance with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. It’s the perfect film for a light, fluffy evening at the cinema with your better half." Charlie David Page, Switch

Phaim Bhuiyan’s debut rom-com has a fresh, left-field energy which is immediately appealing. And while many Italian dramas and documentaries in recent years have tackled the subject of immigration, this is still a relatively rare film from a (second generation) Italian immigrant perspective.

Phaim, who also wrote the screenplay and directs, stars as a twentysomething Bengali Muslim in Rome, an aspiring musician who gets the hots for an Italian girl (Carlotta Antonelli) but isn’t sure how to balance his desires with strict religious orthodoxies around celibacy and abstinence. With its quirky humour, adventurous camerawork and fun music, Bangla was named the Best First Feature at Italy’s Golden Globes Awards earlier this year.

The Traitor / Il traditore

Info: Italy, 2019, 145 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernanda Candido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi, Nicola Calì

Showtimes

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 - 6:10 pm

"Stories based on actual history don’t get much bigger or wilder… Bellocchio has chosen to eschew the dull methods of period drama to shape The Traitor as a big, brash operatic extravaganza. There are eerie macabre dream sequences, flashbacks, and memories, and an ironic use of soundtrack music as outsized punctuation." Barbara Scharres, rogerebert.com

Sicilian mob boss turned informant Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) gets the GoodFellas treatment here courtesy of veteran filmmaker Marco Bellocchio (Fists in the Pocket), though in truth, Bellocchio is by no means as intoxicated by the mafia life as Scorsese sometimes seemed to be.

“Much of the success of The Traitor relies on the central performance of Favino, who pivots from a cliched, narcissistic “soldier” to a fount of grizzled mirthfulness in his castigation of his previous employers.

Where Bellocchio reaches elements of the sublime is during the courtroom reenactments, with a gaggle of fingered mobsters locked in cages behind the court, howling like animals, spitting expletives (“cuckold” and “ball-less” seem to be favored, along with the devil’s horns and plenty of dick grabbing) as Buscetta wryly addresses their counter accusations.

Periodically, a filmmaker manages to breathe new life into the staple of Italian mafioso cinema, forever shrouded by imprints of Coppola, Scorsese and more contemporary auteurs like Garrone. Bellocchio, as with his 2009 portrait of Mussolini in Vincere, creates another late period masterstroke with The Traitor.” Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema

Intro and Q&A by Fabio Messineo, Consul General of Italy

The Fifth Cord / Giornata nera per l’Ariete

Info: Italy, 1971, 92 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Luigi Bazzoni

Cast: Franco Nero

Showtimes

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 - 9:15 pm

The second in our mini series of classic giallo is the most obscure, but also perhaps the revelation of the trio: wtih stunning cinematography by Vittorio Storaro (hot off his work on Bertolucci’s The Conformist), and a typically assertive score by maestro Ennio Morricone, you can be sure that The Fifth Cord competes with Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and Dario Argento’s Tenebrae as a sumptuous aesthetic experience.

When a man barely survives a brutal assault en route home from a New Year’s party, washed-up, whisky-swilling journalist Franco Nero (Django) is assigned to the case. Before long, the maniac strikes again, this time with fatal results. As the body count rises, Nero is under suspicion himself, making it even more imperative that he crack the case. His only clue: black gloves found at the location of every attack, each with a finger cut off…

The success of Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage ushered in a wave of new, modern takes on the giallo thriller. Some rose above the crowd thanks to skillful execution and stylistic experimentation. Case in point: The Fifth Cord, which, in the hands of director Luigi Bazzoni (Le Orme, The Possessed), turns a conventional premise into a visually stunning exploration of alienation and isolation.

Our mini Gialli series also includes Blood and Black Lace (Friday and Wednesday), and Tenebrae (Sunday).

Sunday 5 January 2020

Legend of the Holy Drinker / La leggenda del santo bevitore

Info: Italy, 1988, 127 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Ermanno Olmi

Cast: Rutger Hauer, Anthony Quayle, Sandrine Dumas, Dominique Pinon

Showtimes

  • Sunday January 5, 2020 - 3:00 pm

A distinguished man, dressed in a suit and tophat, wanders down to a seaside walkway where Andreas (Rutger Hauer), homeless and hungover, is awakening with the rising sun. The gentleman offers him a proposition: he will hand him 200 Francs, available for any use Andreas sees fit, on the one condition that he returns the same sum to the Church if or whenever he is able. So begins Ermanno Olmi’s 1988 Golden Lion-winning classic: with a miracle.

Best known for portraits of working class life like Il Posto and The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Olmi here trades in his trademark neo-realist style for a more whimsical one, following Andreas through a Parisian odyssey of ever-more-fantastic events. Recently restored in the wake of Olmi’s death in 2018 (Hauer also passed away this year), The Legend of the Holy Drinker has rightfully gone down as one of the master’s least typical and yet most astonishing films.

Winner of the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival

Parents in Progress / Genitori quasi perfetti

Info: Italy, 2018, 87 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Laura Chiossone

Cast: Anna Foglietta, Nicolò Costa, Paolo Calabresi, Lucia Mascino

Showtimes

  • Sunday January 5, 2020 - 5:30 pm

In this zippy comedy, Simona (Anna Foglietta) is a single mother in her forties, and lives for her son Filippo (Nicolò Costa). She feels terribly inadequate to the role and the organization of the party for his eighth birthday brings to light all her insecurities. Divided between her son’s desires and the will to protect him from the judgment of others, which can be fierce, Simona arrives on the day of the party full of expectations and anxieties. While both parents and children arrive at the party, we start composing a very diverse array of people with very different views, and while the children play in the living room, the adults in the kitchen pleasantly hate each other. Until an unexpected performance by Filippo breaks the mold and triggers a domino effect of actions and reactions that bring the party to derail…

Any parent will surely relate.

Martin Eden

Info: Italy, 2019, 128 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Pietro Marcello

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Jessica Cressy, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi, Denise Sardisco

Showtimes

  • Sunday January 5, 2020 - 7:20 pm

"A spectacular performance… Marinelli is a force of nature in every scene and doesn’t play Eden so much as inhabit him." Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter

"An absolute blast. Includes documentary footage, wealthy decadence, left-wing politics, angry speeches (in Italian!), beautiful women, square-jawed men, quotations from Baudelaire and the heroic deployment of manual typewriters, hand-rolled cigarettes, ascots and Volvo sedans. Everything I love in movies, more or less." AO Scott, New York Times

"One of the most epic-feeling Italian movies in years, a throwback to ’70s-era big-canvas statements. Lead actor Luca Marinelli, rousing in every scene, comes within hailing distance of the young Robert De Niro." Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

Luca Marinelli (also to be seen in Ricordi? this week) stars as the aspiring writer in this audacious transposition of Jack London’s novel to Italy in the first half of the Twentieth Century. A working class auto-didact, Martin falls under the spell of wealthy, beautiful Elena (Jessica Cressy), and strives to prove himself worthy of her love. But as his fortunes shift he’s caught up in the clamour and sway of an intensely political period, with unexpected results.

Probably theboldest Italian film of the year, Martin Eden is in some senses a throwback to an earlier era of grandiose Italian political filmmaking, though it’s bravura switches in style and tone make it impossible to pinpoint a particular forebear.

Winner: Best Actor, Venice Film Festival; Platform Award, Toronto International Film Festival

Tenebrae

Info: Italy, 1982, 101 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner

Showtimes

  • Sunday January 5, 2020 - 9:45 pm

"A masterpiece… Tenebrae is a riveting defense of auteur theory, ripe with self-reflexive discourse and various moral conflicts. It’s both a riveting horror film and an architect’s worst nightmare." Ed Gonzalez, Slant

From the tail-end of the giallo era, Tenebrae is the last word on the form from one of its undisputed masters, Dario Argento. With enough twists to make Gillian Flynn’s head spin off, this is a dazzlingly self-reflexive thriller about an American mystery writer, Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), who comes to Italy to promote his newest novel, Tenebrae. Unfortunately, a razor-wielding serial killer is on the loose, taunting Neal and murdering those around him in gruesome fashion just like the character in his novel. As the mystery surrounding the killings spirals out of control, Neal investigates the crimes on his own, leading to a mind-bending, genre-twisting conclusion that will leave you breathless.

Featuring an amazing synth-music score from Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante (formerly of Italian progressive-rock band, Goblin), Tenebrae is a decadent pleasure, a connoisseur’s kill movie… it is pretty obvious that the folks behind Basic Instinct and Seven must be counted among their number.

Our mini Gialli series also includes Blood and Black Lace (Friday and Wednesday), and The Fifth Cord (Saturday).

Monday 6 January 2020

La Dolce Vita

Info: Italy, 1960, 174 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Federico Fellini

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux, Alain Cuny

Showtimes

  • Monday January 6, 2020 - 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 1:00 pm

"Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. How sour it still is." David Fear, Time Out (2011)

Federico Fellini was born 100 years ago, January 20, 1920. Sixty years ago, he released La Dolce Vita, an epochal movie, a film that that in so many ways defined the freedoms and frustrations of the 1960s, an international sensation that cemented Italian cinema’s reputation as a world-beater, and which would even impact the language: the term “paparazzi” derives from the photo journalist character named Paparazzo, here.

In La Dolce Vita (‘The Sweet Life’) Marcello Mastroianni’s playboy reporter is simultaneously repelled and attracted by the debauchery of Roman high society… an environment in which today’s celebrity super rich would feel right at home. Fellini sets the scale with one of the most audacious opening shots in the history of the movies: a helicopter lifting a statue of Christ up and out of the city of Rome. Later, there’s an even more iconic image, when busty starlet Anita Ekberg cavorts in the Trevi Fountain.

“The film first impinged on the world at large in February 1960 when foreign journalists reported back to their readers, listeners and viewers on the controversial reception in Italy, where it divided audiences, critics and clerics, and led to Fellini being both spat on and cheered at the Milan premiere. A sense of immense excitement was created, and when the movie reached London via Cannes, we went to see it expecting to be shocked. And we were, both by the frank treatment of sexual matters (especially of homosexuality, then illegal in Britain), by the blasphemy (though to fully appreciate this you had to be Catholic), and above all by the scope of its vision.

Fellini had won two Oscars for Best Foreign Language film in the 1950s (for La Strada and Nights of Cabiria) and was to win a further two (for  and Amarcord), but La Dolce Vita introduced him to a popular audience far beyond the art house circuit. It also introduced three terms into the English language. The first is ’Felliniesque’ as an adjective to describe something quirkily outlandish or bizarre in the style of the director. The second is ’paparazzi’, the pejorative term for brazen celebrity-stalking photographers, named after the journalist hero’s camera-toting sidekick Paparazzo, which in turn was borrowed from a hotelier in George Gissing’s 1901 travel book, By the Ionian Sea. The third, of course, is the title, La Dolce Vita, used ironically thereafter to describe a shallow materialistic lifestyle, though Fellini claimed he’d used it without irony to mean ’the sweetness of life’ rather than ’the sweet life’.

The movie centres on Marcello Rubini, a writer from a provincial middle-class family, who has set aside his literary ambitions to become a fashionable gossip columnist and reporter on the sensational activities of the smart sybarites around the Via Veneto. They’re an assortment of international aristocracy, showbiz folk, dubious nouveaux-riches, and their assorted hangers-on. He’s a handsome, ambitious, morally weak character, played by Marcello Mastroianni, an established matinee idol in Italy who was to become an international star through this movie. He was also to be Fellini’s alter ego in three further films, most significantly 8½ as a director reviewing his life while incapable of continuing production of an expensive film at Cinecittà.

Setting aside the small gestures, the delicate observation of daily life and the sympathetic characterisation associated with neo-realism, La Dolce Vita is a large-scale satire with grand set pieces and forceful visual metaphors. Its target is a godless society that has become a kind of hell (there are pointed references to Dante) and it has rightly been compared with TS Eliot’s depiction of a moribund post-First World War Europe in The Waste Land.” Philip French, The Guardian

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Ludwig

Info: Italy, France, West Germany, 1973, 237 mins, DCP

Language: Italian, German, French with English Subtitles

Director: Luchino Visconti

Cast: Helmut Berger, Romy Schneider, Silvana Mangano, Gert Fröbe, Trevor Howard

Showtimes

  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 - 1:00 pm

"Magesterial." Slant magazine

"Grand and melancholy." Richard Brody, New Yorker

Presented here in its full length version, this is – appropriately – the most extravagant costume drama from Luchino Visconti, the Italian count whose sumputuous period pieces include SensoThe Leopard, and Death in Venice.

King Ludwig of Bavaria, whose reign extended from 1864-1886, is remembered for his spectacular and ornate castles, for his patronage of the great composer Richard Wagner, and for going barking mad. Visconti (who also cowrote the screenplay) doesn’t shortchange these elements, but provides a complex and haunting portrait of a doomed Romantic, an anguished sovereign who turns his back on power and politics to immerse himself in a world of art and beauty.

The Invisible Witness / Il testimone invisibile

Info: Italy, 2018, 102 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Stefano Mordini

Cast: Riccardo Scamarcio, Miriam Leone, Maria Paiato

Showtimes

  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 - 6:00 pm

Beginning as a classic “locked room” murder mystery, The Invisible Witness is a thoroughly satsifying whodunit, full of unexpected twists and turns. Adriano (Riccardo Scamarcio) s a rich and successful entrepreneur, now on trial for the murder of his presumed mistress. Although he was discovered alone in the hotel room with the body, he denies the charge. In the run up to trial he undergoes an intensive cross examination by one of his legal team. Virginia (Maria Paiato) tears his story apart, and demands that he come clean with her so that she can prepare a more solid defence…

Farinelli

Info: France, Italy, 1994, 111 mins, DCP

Language: Italian, French with English Subtitles

Director: Gerard Corbiau

Cast: Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Elsa Zylberstein, Caroline Cellier, Jeroen Krabbé

Showtimes

  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 - 8:00 pm

"For all its emotional extravagance and sheer Baroque lushness, Farinelli is actually a triumph of taut control and superb structuring." Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

"Great fun and sufficiently thoughtful and complex to give food for continuing thought." Arthur Lazere, Culture Vulture

In the 18th century during Handel’s time, no man was more famous or more celebrated than the castrato, Farinelli. The incredible, true story of the world famous opera singer – who was castrated during childhood in order to preserve his voice – comes to life in this Oscar-nominated drama of high notes and even higher passions.

The pop sensation of the mid 1700s, Farinelli (Stefano Dionisi) was closely bound to his brother, Riccardo (Enrico Lo Verso), who became in effect his personal composer, manager, and his stand-in for Farinelli’s bedroom trysts. But when the great Handel (Jeroen Krabbe) comes courting, Riccardo is determined to block his path…

Wednesday 8 January 2020

La Dolce Vita

Info: Italy, 1960, 174 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Federico Fellini

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux, Alain Cuny

Showtimes

  • Monday January 6, 2020 - 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 1:00 pm

"Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. How sour it still is." David Fear, Time Out (2011)

Federico Fellini was born 100 years ago, January 20, 1920. Sixty years ago, he released La Dolce Vita, an epochal movie, a film that that in so many ways defined the freedoms and frustrations of the 1960s, an international sensation that cemented Italian cinema’s reputation as a world-beater, and which would even impact the language: the term “paparazzi” derives from the photo journalist character named Paparazzo, here.

In La Dolce Vita (‘The Sweet Life’) Marcello Mastroianni’s playboy reporter is simultaneously repelled and attracted by the debauchery of Roman high society… an environment in which today’s celebrity super rich would feel right at home. Fellini sets the scale with one of the most audacious opening shots in the history of the movies: a helicopter lifting a statue of Christ up and out of the city of Rome. Later, there’s an even more iconic image, when busty starlet Anita Ekberg cavorts in the Trevi Fountain.

“The film first impinged on the world at large in February 1960 when foreign journalists reported back to their readers, listeners and viewers on the controversial reception in Italy, where it divided audiences, critics and clerics, and led to Fellini being both spat on and cheered at the Milan premiere. A sense of immense excitement was created, and when the movie reached London via Cannes, we went to see it expecting to be shocked. And we were, both by the frank treatment of sexual matters (especially of homosexuality, then illegal in Britain), by the blasphemy (though to fully appreciate this you had to be Catholic), and above all by the scope of its vision.

Fellini had won two Oscars for Best Foreign Language film in the 1950s (for La Strada and Nights of Cabiria) and was to win a further two (for  and Amarcord), but La Dolce Vita introduced him to a popular audience far beyond the art house circuit. It also introduced three terms into the English language. The first is ’Felliniesque’ as an adjective to describe something quirkily outlandish or bizarre in the style of the director. The second is ’paparazzi’, the pejorative term for brazen celebrity-stalking photographers, named after the journalist hero’s camera-toting sidekick Paparazzo, which in turn was borrowed from a hotelier in George Gissing’s 1901 travel book, By the Ionian Sea. The third, of course, is the title, La Dolce Vita, used ironically thereafter to describe a shallow materialistic lifestyle, though Fellini claimed he’d used it without irony to mean ’the sweetness of life’ rather than ’the sweet life’.

The movie centres on Marcello Rubini, a writer from a provincial middle-class family, who has set aside his literary ambitions to become a fashionable gossip columnist and reporter on the sensational activities of the smart sybarites around the Via Veneto. They’re an assortment of international aristocracy, showbiz folk, dubious nouveaux-riches, and their assorted hangers-on. He’s a handsome, ambitious, morally weak character, played by Marcello Mastroianni, an established matinee idol in Italy who was to become an international star through this movie. He was also to be Fellini’s alter ego in three further films, most significantly 8½ as a director reviewing his life while incapable of continuing production of an expensive film at Cinecittà.

Setting aside the small gestures, the delicate observation of daily life and the sympathetic characterisation associated with neo-realism, La Dolce Vita is a large-scale satire with grand set pieces and forceful visual metaphors. Its target is a godless society that has become a kind of hell (there are pointed references to Dante) and it has rightly been compared with TS Eliot’s depiction of a moribund post-First World War Europe in The Waste Land.” Philip French, The Guardian

Blood and Black Lace / 6 donne per l’assassino

Info: Italy, 1964, 88 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner

Showtimes

  • Friday January 3, 2020 - 9:15 pm
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 4:30 pm

"Few gialli are as visually accomplished as this, which marks a high bar for the genre that wasn’t matched, much less exceeded, until the release of Dario Argento’s Deep Red." Russ Fischer, IndieWire

"Few films are anywhere near as lovely as Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace." Bryant Frazer, Deep Focus

"One of Bava’s most accomplished works, executed with a dazzling, unprecedented use of bright colors and deep shadows." Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

Giallo is Italian for yellow. But it’s also the name of a brand of hyper-saturated sex thrillers – a sleazy, chroma-injected local take on film noir – which thrived in Italian cinema between the mid 1960s and the early 80s. Ironically, if you had to pick a dominant colour for these movies, it would certainly be profondo rosso (deep red) – the giallo name derived from a series of crime paperbacks popular in the 50s – but in the hands of key directors like Mario Bava, who essentially invented the form, and Dario Argento (Tenebrae; Suspiria) a tawdry, twisty whodunnit could be transformed into a symphony of shadows and light, blazing visual and sonic effects, and eye-boggling camera moves.

Blood and Black Lace was the one that started it all, from the first name in Italian horror. Mario Bava’s seminal giallo touchstone, about a murder spree in a high-end fashion house, was profoundly influential on Argento, Craven, Tarantino and Scorsese, not to mention on the recent cult item, In Fabric. Between its excessive use of color, hothouse tone and pioneering proto-slasher setpieces, Blood and Black Lace is an ultimate embodiment of the genre.

Our mini Gialli series also includes The Fifth Cord (Saturday), and Tenebrae (Sunday).

Cronofobia

Info: Italy/Switzerland, 2018, 93 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Francesco Rizzi

Cast: Vinicio Marchioni, Sabine Timoteo

Showtimes

  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 6:30 pm

"Cooly assured, impressive… the two excellent leads negotiate the script’s more jagged bends with complete conviction, allowing us to believe that even amid pretense — and sometimes maybe because of it — mutual understanding is possible." Jessica Kiang, Variety

"Elegant and sophisticated." Kiko Vega, Espinof

"Teasingly enigmatic." Wendy Ide, Screen

This enigmatic beauty, a quietly audacious directorial debut, marks Francesco Rizzi as a talent to watch. A Swiss-Italian co-production, set, for the most part, in the environs of an anonymous, transient nexus of autostrade, railway tracks and service stations, the movie is part mystery, part love story, with all of the tension and menace emanating from the anguished magnetic attraction between the taciturn Michael (Vinicio Marchioni) and the lonely, unhappy Anna (Sabine Timoteo), whom he can’t stop watching. What binds these two lost souls gradually becomes evident, even as their relationship spirals into murky psycho-sexual role playing. “Cronofobia” means fear of time passing, Against expectations, this sleek, icy two-hander pauses, briefly, to take note of precious moments of insight and connection.

Ricordi?

Info: Italy, 2018, 106 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Valerio Mieli

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Linda Caridi, Giovanni Anzaldo

Showtimes

  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 - 8:20 pm

"An ambitious tour-de-force…. Using camera techniques, slow motion, superimposed images and constant back-and-forth editing (the pic is impressively cut without disorienting the viewer by Desideria Rayner), Mieli conveys a strong sense of the fluidity of time and the impermanence of memory. Almost before the characters’ feelings can be grasped and understood, they impalpably dissolve into something else. As the pair grope their way through the modern conventions of romance and relationships, they test boundaries, change their minds, have flashes of recognition amid a flurry of doubts. Later, as they look back in time, they see things differently." Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter

"An unusual and courageous experiment, especially for Italian cinema… Images, colours, emotions, sounds, smells. It’s all there, at the heart of Ricordi?, a titanic editing job… [This is] a refined film – put together almost frame by frame – which gives life to the mind’s movements and concatenations." Vittoria Scarpa, Cineuropa

Italian Film Festival favourite Luca Marinelli (They Call Me Jeeg; Rainbow; Martin Eden) stars in this ambitious, moving meditation on love and time from filmmaker Valerio Mieli (Ten Winters).

Proving again it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it, film tells a completely banal love story: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. Yet Mieli has revitalized this old story by, in effect, throwing all the pieces in the end and seeing where they come down. That is: every sequence neatly cuts back and forth between different stages of the couple’s relationship, from courtship to breakup, love to hate, and back again, in a manner that is influenced by such masters of montage as Terence Malick and Nic Roeg. What’s more each shot is aligned from the boy’s nostalgic perspective, or filtered through the memory of the girl (Linda Candi). Through this structural device, Mieli has made a film that is about perception, time and memory as much as it is about love.

Thursday 9 January 2020

Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West

Info: Italy, 1968, 165 mins, DCP

Language: English

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Gabriele Ferzetti

Showtimes

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 - 1:00 pm
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 - 2:20 pm

"Nobody has made a better Western since. In fact, nobody has made a better Western, period." Kim Newman, Empire

"One of the great films in cinema history." Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle

Nobody could make something out of nothing the way that Sergio Leone could. Just look at the first ten minutes of Once Upon a Time in the West: a fistful of tough hombres in ankle-length dusters are waiting for a train at a railway depot out in the middle of nowhere.

Their faces are familiar yet strange: Woody Strode and Jack Elam are veteran Hollywood cowboys, with dozens of movies under their belts. But they have never been filmed like this before, gazed at so long or so longingly. Leone pores over their grizzled skin, in widescreen, yet in microscopic detail. A windmill on top of a leaky wooden water tower has a rusty squeak. A fly buzzes around Jack Elam’s gun. The train is late, or they are early. They wait, and the movie keeps on rolling along.

This was Leone’s fourth western, and fifth film. Each had marked a significant advance on the one before (in this case, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the culmination of Leone’s wildly successful ‘Dollars Trilogy’). They grew in budget, in scope and scale, in authority, in flamboyance, and in duration.

Once Upon a Time in the West was cut by twenty minutes when it was first released in the US in 1968. In the full version, it clocks in at a hefty 165 minutes – yet the story is relatively simple and the cast of characters is limited to just a handful of speaking parts. The key players are Cheyenne (Jason Robards), an easygoing outlaw who just wants to do his own thing; Harmonica (Charles Bronson), who is on the vengeance trail for the man who killed his brother; Jill McBain (the luscious Claudia Cardinale), a New Orleans whore who has come West to set up a home and arrives to find herself a widow; and Frank (Henry Fonda), a vicious hired gun who works for the railroad barons. These four figures circle each other with a proud but wary distance reminiscent of flamenco dancers, or the bullring… perhaps it’s not coincidental that the so-called ‘spaghetti’ westerns were filmed in Spain.

With story credits for future directors Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, both young turks at the time, this is a movie drawn from the imaginative pull of other, older films – Bertolucci said they watched nothing but westerns for a month as they prepared the script, and you may pick up bits and pieces from the likes of John Ford’s The Iron Horse and My Darling ClementineHigh Noon, Johnny GuitarShane and The Tall T – all the young Italians’ favourites.

On this patchwork fabric, Leone embroiders a quizzical, cynical take on the foundation myth established by Ford and many others. Ford knew that “civilization” came with sacrifice and loss, but he never painted it in such brutal, violent strokes as this. It speaks volumes that Ford’s Wyatt Earp – Henry Fonda – is the callous blue-eyed killer here, a man who will shoot a child without a second thought.

And then there’s the Ennio Morricone music. This is one of the most famous scores in film history – much quoted and parodied – and it’s integral to the film’s impact: soaring, sometimes flip, but with an undertow of nostalgia and regret. The music came first and the shooting was choreographed to the playback.

It is too bad that Variety had already coined the term ‘horse opera’ back in the 1930s, because that’s a more apt description of what Leone was up to than the condescending ‘spaghetti western’. An opera with horses, cowboys, and bullets… By the time the fat lady sings – as Leone cranes back in a truly majesterial last shot – you’ll be crying for an encore.

The Champion / Il campione

Info: Italy, 2019, 105 mins, DCP

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Leonardo D'Agostini

Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Andrea Carpenzano, Massimo Popolizio

Showtimes

  • Friday January 3, 2020 - 7:00 pm
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 - 6:00 pm

"Stefano Accorsi will move you with one of his best roles."
FILM.IT

Set in the glossy world of professional, millionaire footballers, The Champion pairs versatile veteran Stefano Accorsi (The Italian Race) with an extraordinary Andrea Carpenzano (Boys Cry) in this odd couple story of a brilliant, pampered and sorely ignorant soccer superstar and the middle-aged teacher hired to get him through his high school diploma.

Carpenzano is Christian Ferro, a young striker for A.S. Roma. Growing up in a rough area is a far cry from the millionaire lifestyle he is now living, which has attracted party-animal friends from home as well as the return of his long-lost father. When Christian’s determination to prove to his friends that he remains rebellious lands him in trouble again, his coach gives him an ultimatum: get back in line and pass the high-school exam, or get out. Enter Valerio Fioretti (Accorsi), who is enlisted to tutor the troubled player. But Christian’s world of fame and Ferraris clashes with Valerio’s humble circumstances.

D’Agostini’s debut mixes fast life decadence, on-field action, and a much more modest, humble tale of two very different men connecting over text books and heart ache. It’s a funny, surprisingly tender movie told with plenty of energy and polish.

Tommaso

Info: Italy, UK, USA, 2019, 115 mins, DVD

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Director: Abel Ferrara

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Christina Chiriac

Showtimes

  • Thursday January 9, 2020 - 8:15 pm

"Dafoe brings a pulsing gusto" Hollywood Reporter

"Ferrara is on to something: the chasm that can open up between men and women in an age where the continuity of love has been devalued…. It feels alive as a movie. Dafoe won’t let a scene go by without finding an angle on it; he keeps you watching." Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Willem Dafoe plays filmmaker Abel Ferrara, more or less, in this deeply personal and very moving drama about an aging American artist in Rome, his beautiful but distant, much younger European wife (played by Ferrara’s real-life wife, Christina Chriac), and their infant daughter (played by, you guessed it, Chiriac and Ferrara’s daughter). Even their apartment plays itself.

But don’t assume this is a documentary or even straight autobiography (at least, one hopes not). Tommaso is an ex addict, still in the programme, and now a Buddhist, but finding it harder and harder to stay in touch with his wife, who may or may not be having an affair. As his resentment and anxiety build into anger, it appears something will have to give.

Dafoe, a Ferrara regular who last collaborated with him on Pasolini, captures the filmmaker’s shambling, self-destructive sincerity and passion. But it’s probable that Ferrara also cast him with half an eye on The Last Temptation of Christ. In one (dream) scene, after sitting and talking with a group of African immigrants in the park one night, Tommaso reaches into his chest and proffers them his heart… It’s a gesture of such generosity and hubris, it’s hard to think of another filmmaker who could pull it off.

“Shot by cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger (a longtime collaborator of Werner Herzog) on a few sweltering days in the Italian capital, the aesthetic stays in keeping with the Ferrara brand: coarsely beautiful in a way; lots of Steadicam; a colour palette of blues and burnt gold; and hints of noir in the use of shadow and lattice blinds. The scenes come at us almost as short vignettes: his daily routines; the exceptionally well-acted A.A. meetings; his fighting or intimacy (or both) with Christine. And then there are his dream sequences, of which there are many and during which he touches on his deeper anxieties–namely being with a much younger woman who may have daddy issues, of remaining faithful to her, the effect all this might have on their child, and all the resulting Catholic guilt.” Rory O’Connor, The Film Stage