WIN tickets with DENIZEN

WIN tickets with DENIZEN

Three months ago, we voiced our eager anticipation for the fourth iteration of Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival, the film festival that brings an enticing selection of Italian talent to the fore each September. At the time, feeling well overdue some sun and a dose of quality culture, it felt as though we would have to wait indefinitely for the tenth month to roll around — but spring is finally here, and so, too, is Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival — and we’re booking in our tickets quicker than you can say that’s amore.

This year’s festival, with Peroni as the sponsor and Studio Italia holding the naming rights, will commence Tuesday 17th September in Auckland, after already gracing screens around the country (including some newcomers, with Taupo, New Plymouth, Masterton, Cambridge and Martinborough hosting the festival for the very first time.) The line-up is set to be one of the finest Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival has ever put together, a marriage of contemporary Italian cinema — like the gripping thriller The Girl In The Fog — thought-provoking documentaries, like the culinary-focused I Villani, and classic masterpieces taken from Italy’s rich history of cinema. (A rundown of the films we’re eagerly awaiting can be found here.) 

To truly get you geared up for the film extravaganza, Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival will be kicking off the festivities with an Open Night Film on the evening of Tuesday 17th September. For just $30, culture vultures can indulge in a sublime celebration of Italian innovation — think free-flowing Peroni, San Pellegrino upon arrival, stuzzichini from Gusto at the Grand and live music from Napoli Central — before the first film, There’s No Place Like Homeopens the festival. (Tickets to which can be found here.) And if that’s not enough to get you whipped up into a frenzy, we’ve also teamed up with Peroni and Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival to give away a double pass to the festival to one lucky Denizen. For more information and entry, click here

Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival Auckland will take place between 17th September and 30th September at the Bridgeway Cinema. For dates, bookings, tickets and more information, click here. 


What makes Federico Fellini 'the maestro' of Italian Cinema?

By the time of his death in 1993, Federico Fellini had won four best foreign language film Oscars, tying him with his countryman Vittorio De Sica for the most wins by any director. But 25 years after he died, the long shadow of his legacy reaches far beyond awards and accolades. After all, not only was the maestro’s vision so singular and hypnotic that it introduced its own carnival-like adjective into the cinéaste vernacular (‘Felliniesque’), his movies also showed generations of film-makers the way forward – how to experiment and take risks by marrying confessional storytelling with bizarre flights of imagery.

Martin Scorsese, for one, recently admitted that he re-watches Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece 8 1/2 every year. “8 1/2 has always been a touchstone for me, in so many ways,” he said. “The freedom, the sense of innovation, the underlying rigour and the deep core of longing, the bewitching, physical pull of the camera movements and the compositions.” As testimonials go, that’s a hard one to top.

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As for the rest of us, the ones who pay to sit in darkened theatres and gaze up at the screen in the hopes of being enchanted and transported, it’s no exaggeration to say that Fellini turned movie-goers on to an entirely new way of seeing. He took us (and still continues to take us) to destinations beyond the English-speaking world – destinations we’d never imagined in our wildest fantasies. He created a personal style of cinema that mysteriously and miraculously felt universal, making our planet seem somehow smaller and more intimate.

And yet – there’s always an ‘And yet’, isn’t there? – it gives me no joy to say that the critical community has always had a more complicated relationship with Fellini. In her review of 8 1/2, a lyrical and thinly-veiled autobiographical reverie about a director with creative block, Pauline Kael grabbed her sniper’s rifle and put the film in its crosshairs: “Someone’s fantasy life is perfectly good material for a movie if it is imaginative and fascinating in itself, or if it illuminates his non-fantasy life in some interesting way,” she wrote. “But 8 1/2 is neither; it’s surprisingly like the confectionery dreams of Hollywood heroines, transported by a hack’s notions of Freudian anxiety and wish fulfilment.” Ouch.

Fellini has always been Italian cinema’s most introspective, most artful, and, yes, deepest film-maker

Kael was by no means the first heavyweight critic to be put off by Fellini’s films, dismissing them as empty vessels whose arty symbolism and grotesque surrealism hinted at a depth they didn’t warrant. Nor would she be the last. In his 2008 anthology, Have You Seen…?, David Thomson writes, “It’s not that 8 1/2 could or should go on forever, just that it feels as if it does.” He doesn’t quit there. Elsewhere in the book, Thomson says of 1974’s Amarcord, “Fellini can make a scene in his sleep – but does he have to?” About 1960’s La Dolce Vita, he sniffs, “Nothing happens, except for flatulent set pieces, epic reaches of symbolism, and teary-eyed larger metaphors.” And in his entry on 1957’s The Nights of Cabiria, which features Fellini’s wife and muse Giulietta Masina in one of the most gut-wrenching performances I’ve ever seen, he writes, “For my shoddy part, I still find her a cloying actress.” Well, at least he got the “shoddy” part right.

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I’d argue that Kael and Thomson aren’t just wrong, their judgements are nonsense on stilts. With the possible exception of De Sica, whose Umberto D still reduces me to fits of ugly-crying, Fellini has always been Italian cinema’s most introspective, most artful, and yes, deepest film-maker (sorry Antonioni partisans). No one mixes the bitter and the sweet with a lighter touch. And apparently I’m not the only critic who feels this way. In BBC Culture’s poll of the 100 greatest foreign-language films, Fellini wound up tied for second place among directors with the most movies on the list. He had four;only Ingmar Bergman and Luis Bunuel have more, with five each. For those of you keeping score at home, the Fellini films that made the cut are, in descending order: 8 1/2 at number 7; La Dolce Vita at number 10; La Strada at number 83; and The Nights of Cabiria at number 87. The nostalgia-infused Amarcord just missed the cut, coming in at a close-but-no-cigar number 112.

8 1/2 was like a diary entry, left open to be read by his fans

Fellini turned 8 1/2 into his most reflective and one of his funniest films. It was like a black-and-white diary entry, left open to be read by his fans, a stream-of-consciousness exhumation of an artist’s past in the hopes that he may find the key to unlock the future somewhere inside the riddle of it all. It would begin a new chapter in his career where narrative was secondary to spectacle. And what spectacle, it was! I could watch his lysergic pagan magic-carpet ride through Nero’s Rome, 1969’s Satyricon, once a year – and I do.

I don’t want to suggest that all of Fellini’s films from the late 1970s on deserve the same ‘classic’ status. They don’t. But even those lesser later titles offer an embarrassment of celluloid riches if you simply listen out for Nino Rota’s infectiously playful scores and watch out for Danilo Donati’s eye-candy sets. Still, I think the Academy got it absolutely right when, in 1993, it awarded Fellini an honorary Oscar. Walking on stage to receive his statuette, less than a year before his death, the 73-year-old was heartfelt and to the point, saying grazie and telling his wife, Giulietta, to stop crying. And what more really was there to say? His films had already said everything.   



"Euforia" - A Cannes Review

International star and Italian screen fixture Valeria Golino successfully added a directing string to her bow with 2013’s elegant psychological drama Miele (Honey). Her follow-up Euforia shows that she’s certainly gained in confidence and ambition, moving onto a wider spectrum of characters and flexing her stylistic muscles with flamboyant confidence. However, for all its undeniable maestria, the result comes across as a glossily chic melodrama, the filmic equivalent of an upmarket ‘good read’ bestseller.

While terrific performances and unfailing visual polish ensure that it’s never a dull watch, international audiences may find it hard to warm to a film that feels too generically like a chic spectacle of pampered middle-class angst.

The setting is Rome today, and the central figure is Matteo (Riccardo Scamarcio), a seemingly insouciant entrepreneur specialising in snazzy 3D digital installations for museums, businesses and even, as an amusing early sequence shows, the Catholic Church. Gay and extremely wealthy, Matteo has a drop-dead lavish apartment (fabulously designed by Luca Merlini), a designated boyfriend whom he regards more, he says, as a “maid of honour”, and a whole circle of fashionable friends and occasional lovers.

Matteo also has a family who are slightly more grounded, with altogether down-to-earth problems: his brother Ettore (Valerio Mastrandrea) is a teacher in their provincial hometown, whose marriage to Michela (Isabella Ferrari) is coming to an end after he has fallen for a younger colleague (Jasmine Trinca). Ettore is also extremely ill – although he doesn’t himself know how ill. While he moves into Matteo’s apartment to undergo treatment, and to enjoy his brother’s somewhat too ostentatious hospitality, Ettore is being protected from the fact that he has an inoperable brain tumour.

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Much of the drama focuses on the tender but increasingly testy relationship between the brothers, who especially bond during a comic visit to Medjugorje in Bosnia, where the Virgin Mary is said to make regular appearances (not remotely religious, Matteo needs to do some Madonna research for his church project). In a scene that’s as comic as it is shocking, Matteo insists his brother stand shivering on a cold balcony while he enjoys a quickie with the handsome pilgrim in the next room. Matteo perhaps goes too far in making executive decisions about his brother’s life when he summons Elena for a visit – although this provides one of the film’s best sequences, with Trinca, so good in Golina’s Miele, making a radiant late appearance.

What both seduces and ultimately distances the viewer of Euforia is the extreme gloss of the production, which at times makes the film feel like La Dolce Vita (without the expressionism) filtered through the production style of a sort of contemporary Italian Dynasty. Introspective, downbeat Ettore might well feel out of place in Matteo’s world, a glitzy universe of VR spectacle, de luxe spas, coke and cool nightclubs – and the narrative shifts a little predictably into overt ‘what’s-it-all-worth?’ mode when Matteo suffers his own sobering moment of truth in a drug-related meltdown.

Euforia has clearly sincere humanistic respect for and warmth towards its characters, but emotionally it never really cuts too far beneath the surface – and cynics should be warned that the whole thing ends with a hug and cinema’s most over-used of natural effects (at least since 21 Grams), the dazzling swirling pattern, or murmuration, of flocks of starlings. For Italian audiences, though, the charismatic performance style of the popular Sciamarco will be the film’s ace special effect.

Carlo di Palma - Italian Master of Cinematography

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Carlo Di Palma, who has died aged 79, was one of those Italian cinematographers who, like the masters of light of the Renaissance, gained the respectful title of maestro . He first won international recognition in 1964 as director of photography on Michelangelo Antonioni's first colour film, The Red Desert, and worked on the same director's Blow Up (1966), filmed in London. Later, in New York, he was cinematographer for 11 Woody Allen films, from Hannah And Her Sisters (1986) to Deconstructing Harry (1997).

Di Palma was born into a poor Roman family; his mother was a flower seller on the Spanish Steps. After showing an early interest in photography, he was a non-credited assistant on the sets of two pioneering neo-realist films, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1943) and Rossellini's Paisà (1946). 

He worked as an assistant cameraman to one of the first maestri of postwar Italian cinematography, Gianni Di Venanzo, and, in 1956, was his cameraman for the film that Francesco Rosi co-directed with Vittorio Gassman of the actor's stage performance as Edmund Kean. Hearing of his death, Rosi said that, with his use of colour, Di Palma had "opened a new chapter in the history of the cinema". 

His first credit as cameraman had been in 1954, on a routine costume picture. His first critical attention, as director of photography, was for Florestano Vancini's The Long Night Of '43, which won the best directorial debut award at the 1960 Venice Festival. A tormented love story about a married woman (Belinda Lee) and her former boyfriend (Gabriele Ferzetti, the actor from L'avventura) during the first months of Mussolini's puppet fascist republic of Salo, it featured the camera work of Di Palma's nephew Dario, capturing the foggy greys and whites of writer Giorgio Bassani's Ferrara. 

Di Palma undertook the photography for two other directors making significant debuts in the early 1960s, Elio Petri and Giuliano Montaldo. Pier Paolo Pasolini, who had been one of the scriptwriters of Vancini's film, asked Di Palma to be his cameraman for the trial tests for his directing debut, Accattone, though another cinematographer shot the film. 


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Di Palma had met Antonioni when Di Venanzo was shooting Il Grido and Le Amiche, and, in 1963, they got together to study the possibility of making The Red Desert in Technicolor. The film was shot at locations around Ravenna, where, that winter, there was often unwanted sunshine, and Di Palma had to explain to Antonioni that the artificial fog he had chosen played havoc with the colours of the interiors. Visiting the set, I found Di Palma engaged with technicians in painting the grass yellow. "Michelangelo loathes the greens," he explained. 

Less revolutionary, but equally stunning, was the use of colours in Di Palma's next chore for Antonioni. For a segment of The Three Faces (1965), his photography did something to convey the inner qualities behind the inexpressive face of the rather pathetic ex-Empress Soraya of Iran's screen test. 

More important, of course, was Blow Up, where photography was at the centre of the story. After using a deep-focus lens on The Red Desert to obtain two-dimensional effects, in Blow Up Antonioni told Di Palma he wanted "to lengthen the perspective and give the impression of space between people and things". Di Palma loved this kind of challenge, and was able to help the director get the effects he wanted. 

On the set of The Red Desert, a relationship had developed between him and its star, Monica Vitti, who felt the need for a change in her private, as well as public, image. Under his guidance, she moved towards comedy, and it was in The Girl With A Pistol (1968), by the top-notch Italian comedy director Mario Monicelli (for whom Di Palma had already been director of photography on the visually dazzling, medieval comedy L'armata Brancaleone, 1965), that Vitti was turned into a box-office comic star to rival the likes of Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi. 

The relationship with Vitti led to Di Palma's debut as a director, with another comedy for the actor, Teresa La Ladra (1972). He went on to direct her in several other lighthearted films but, though professionally competent, they did not turn him into an auteur. His mastery of visuals - in another film for Vitti's comic talents - was better served in 1970 under the more inspired direction of Ettore Scola, Dramma Della Gelosia. 

In 1981, Di Palma worked on Bernardo Bertolucci's Tragedy Of A Ridiculous Man and, once again, with Antonioni on Identification Of A Woman (1982). Later in the 1980s, he began his 10-year collaboration with Woody Allen, which he described as "the most enjoyable period of my professional life". 


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He was director of photography when Allen was exploring his European-style auteur fetishes, to which Di Palma was able to add some authentic visual thrills, as in such titles as Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and the last one they did together, Deconstructing Harry, in which one suspects that Di Palma might have contributed to the wonderful gag of Robin Williams as the actor "out of focus". 

In the 1980s, Di Palma married Adriana Chiesa, admired in international film industry circles as an exporter of Italian films. As a couple, whether in New York or Rome, they had many friends. She nursed him through his final illness. 

· Carlo Di Palma, cinematographer, born April 17 1925; died July 9 2004

The Colours of Life - Water & Sugar Documentary Film currently taking bookings for:

Event Cinemas, Havelock North Book Tickets

Globe Theatrette, Napier Book Tickets

Opening Night Photos - Nelson

Cinema Italiano is back, bringing masterpieces of Italian film to the fore - DENIZEN

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Fans of world cinema rejoice, for the much applauded Cinema Italiano is coming back to Auckland for its fourth edition, bringing with it a sublime collection of inspiring comedies, documentaries, dramas and time-honoured classics. This year sees renowned beer brand Peroni once again taking the role of sponsor, while Studio Italia will this year have the naming rights — both brands that champion Italian innovation like no other.

Combining traditional masterpieces with modern Italian cinema, this year’s lineup sees some of the best films the festival has ever offered. There’s No Place Like Home, with its esteemed ensemble cast, depicts the breakdown of a raucous 50th wedding anniversary into a tangle of tension, when an unexpected turn of bad weather strands the large extended family on an island. For lovers of old movies, renowned Italian classic 8 ½ will retell the beloved story of fictional director Guido Anselmi, while fans of comedy should carve out time for My Big Gay Italian Wedding, a humorous adaptation of the hit off-Broadway play of the same name. 

This year also sees the festival branching out further to deliver the cinematic offerings to a much wider audience, with a full list of the participating venues found here. Undertaking an extensive tour of the country, stopping at the likes of Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Matakana, and Arrowtown, the festival will finally touch down in Auckland on the 17th September.

This year’s Cinema Italiano Festival opens in Christchurch on the 11th June. It will arrive in Auckland on the 17th September and continue through until the 30th at the Bridgeway Cinema. For dates, bookings, tickets and more information, click here. 

www.cinemaitalianonz.com

Words by Mina Kerr-Lazenby

Vacation like an Italian

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The smartest travellers know the golden rule of travel: Go where the locals go. And in Italy, in the summer, that means the sea. But not just any beach. They’re headed to ones where the Mediterranean is at its best. Where the air smells like lemons. Where the piazzas are blindingly white and the water is cerulean blue. And the spaghetti alle vongole renders you speechless. We spoke to a few Italians, got them to reveal their summer-vacation secrets, and rounded up the three places that have made an art out of dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing. Choose your destination, and learn to vacation like an Italian. There’s a refreshing Peroni & Campari soda waiting for you.

LA MADDALENA

La Maddalena, off of northern Sardinia, is one of the most secluded archipelagos in Italy. It’s not easy to get to, but if you make it, you will be rewarded with clean, sandy beaches; water as warm and blue as a bathtub (some claim it’s the cleanest in the world); and people-watching to rival Milan’s poshest neighborhoods. The main island of La Maddalena is the most developed—not skyscraper-developed, but developed in the sense that you can find excellent pasta. And it could still be Italy’s best-kept secret. There aren’t that many attractions to explore in the town itself; this is the place where Italians truly come to unwind. On the southwest side of the island is Cala Francese, a stunning bay marked by a granite quarry from the nineteenth century. The beach here is small, but there are hidden pockets between rocks where you can find some tranquility. At the end of the day, head near the main piazza for an afternoon of shopping along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, a pretty street lined with restaurants, cafés, and local boutiques.

CEFALÙ

Cefalù doesn’t have the name recognition of Palermo, but its food, history, and beauty are every bit as inspiring as the Sicilian capital’s. There’s a little bit of everything in this ancient fishing town—but the crashing waves and stunning architecture top the list of reasons to come. Start at the Duomo di Cefalù (covered shoulders and no bare legs, per favore). From the stairs of the cathedral, wander down to Corso Ruggero for wandering and shopping and eating panelle (mashed, fried chickpeas). Afterward, head down the narrow side street and spend the afternoon at the Museo Mandralisca, a small and eclectic museum. Below the town is Cefalù’s long, beautiful beach—you’ll see the bright fishing boats coming and going and bringing in dinner. But before the sun sets: Get a table on the terrace of Al Porticciolo and order fried mullets, prawns, bucatini with sardines, and whatever else the fishermen brought in that afternoon.

MONTE ARGENTARIO

Hotel Il Pellicano is arguably one of the most iconic—and certainly one of the most luxurious—hotels in the world, and if you’re staying there, well, lucky you. Now, while everyone dashes off to Porto Ercole, you will want to steer away from the tourists and follow the well-heeled locals to Porto Santo Stefano in Monte Argentario. This is where the wealthy Italian aristocrats come—by yacht, by Maserati—to tuck away in secluded villas. 

(If you do make it to Porto Ercole, head to Gelateria Creola for a few scoops of stracciatella—there’s a reason this place is always crowded.) 

Like so many beaches in this corner of the world, the beaches on Monte Argentario are hard to get to but worth the effort. Cala Piccola is the most family-friendly and can be reached by road, but true Italians would probably hire a boat with a skipper who can help find a more private cove. Just saying.

A Woman's Work: An Italian Film Mogul's New Series on "Nowness"

If you haven’t been following “Nowness” you really should - it is a retreat of beauty in the maelstrom of the Internet. In our era of information overload, or everything overload, Nowness is a video channel renowned worldwide as a benchmark of excellence in video. Today, as we celebrate La Festa della Donne, we invite you to look at a video series by Ginevra Elkann titled ‘A Woman’s Work’. After beginning her career on the movie sets of Bernardo Bertolucci and Anthony Minghella, Italian film distributor and Good Films founder Ginevra Elkann made her name by introducing NymphomaniacStill Alice and Dallas Buyers Club to her native country. 

Known for her cloud of dark curls, understated style, and entrepreneurial acumen (unsurprising given that she is a member of Italy’s storied Agnelli dynasty), Elkann showcases a new, subtler type of modern trailblazer – one that prefers a quieter approach to influencing global culture.

As a co-founder of Asmara Films, Elkann’s support of independent cinema includes Iranian drama Frontier Blues, and White Shadow, a story about witch doctors and Tanzanian albinos. The producer, who is also president of La Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, the Turin-based family art foundation, resides in Rome with her husband, Giovanni Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona, and their three children.


To watch the video click here

Opening Night in Wellington

Opening Night in Arrowtown

Opening Night in Auckland