Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Neil Sinyard talks about Luchio Visconti (director of The Leopard)

The Leopard plays at the IFI until this Thursday. Catch it before it goes. Watch the trailer or read The Irish Times' 5 star review.

Of the great Italian directors who emerged in the 1940s and early 1950s on the wave of the neo-realist movement (like Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni), the most emotive, extravagant and richly ambiguous was Luchino Visconti. He was a strange mixture of extremes. An aristocrat by birth, he became a Marxist by conviction. He made realist classics such as ‘Ossessione’(‘Obsession’, 1942) and ‘La terra trema’(‘The Earth Trembles’, 1948), but then graduated to vast historical frescoes like ‘Senso’ (1954) and ‘The Leopard’ (1963) or epics of decadence like ‘The Damned’ (1969). An immensely cultured man, his films were aimed at the connoisseur, yet he loved working with stars, cherishing them, in Parker Tyler’s phrase, “as if they were plants, revitalising their soil, framing them in the environment where they will grow, and show, at their very best.”

As ‘The Leopard’ and ‘Death in Venice’ (1971) demonstrate, nobody recreated the past more sumptuously on screen. Thomas Mann had a phrase for the kind of atmosphere at which Visconti excelled—“the voluptuousness of doom.” Both films luxuriously anatomise cultured societies in their death throes, sinking under the strain of spiritual corruption and historical change.

Visconti died in 1976. Dirk Bogarde, who worked with him twice, called him “the Emperor of my profession.” Think of the best work of, say, Francis Ford Coppola, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone and Martin Scorsese and you will grasp the extraordinary legacy this maestro bequeathed to modern cinema: grandeur of conception, Italianate generosity of feeling, and an interaction of music and drama, history and politics, character and society as intellectually provocative as it is visually breathtaking.

Neil Sinyard
© Neil Sinyard and the Irish Film Institute

Monday, August 30, 2010

September at the IFI: The month of Metropolis...

Welcome to the IFI's blog! And what a better way to kick start it than with a run-down of what's happening this September...

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, one of the most celebrated films in cinema history, has not been viewed in its entirety since it opened in Berlin 83 years ago. Following an unsuccessful original release, Paramount Pictures made drastic edits to the film in order to make it more digestible for an American audience. The cut footage was thought to have been lost until 2008, when an original version – brought to Argentina by a film distributor who happened to be visiting Berlin at the time of its premiere – was found in the archives of the Museo del Cine and the film was finally restored to the ‘director’s cut’ with an additional 25 minutes of footage.

The premiere of this new version of Metropolis was the highlight of the Berlin Film Festival in February and we are delighted to be bringing this extraordinary film to Dublin, to both the IFI (from September 10th) and the National Concert Hall for a special gala screening with live orchestral accompaniment on September 4th.

The influence of Metropolis and Fritz Lang’s other films continues to be seen across contemporary culture, and to mark the rediscovery of this seminal work we will be showing a selection of Fritz Lang’s other early films and a special season of science-fiction classics that have all openly declared their debt to Metropolis, a list ranging from 1930s British sci-fi classic Things to Come to Alphaville, Dr. Stangelove and The Matrix.

Later in the month we present Before the Revolution curated by Enrique Juncosa who, as well as being Director of IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), is also a dedicated cineaste and one of our most frequent visitors! As he explains in his introduction, this very personal selection of films recalls the radicalism of the 1960s that culminated in the protests of ‘68 and ‘69, and a series of discussions throughout the weekend will revisit this time in both the Irish and international context, and consider what it means to us now.

As part of IFI National and in an exciting new collaboration with The Model in Sligo, IFI@The Model will bring a year-round programme of a selection of the IFI’s new international releases to audiences in the North West. This is a thrilling development in the IFI’s ongoing commitment to bring access to our programmes to audiences throughout Ireland and we are delighted to be working with The Model, one of Ireland’s most ambitious and innovative arts centres.

We’re also delighted to be participating in Culture Night on September 24th, offering a free screening of Jim Sheridan’s Into the West from the IFI Irish Film Archive at 18.50 that evening. Please call our Box Office to reserve your place.

This month is just the start of what promises to be a busy autumn with Horrorthon, Darklight and the IFI’s French Film Festival all coming soon, so watch this space and we look forward to seeing you here during September.

Sarah Glennie