It’s a well-known fact that about eighty (!) percent of silent films disappeared. What we call “the silent era” is only the tip of the iceberg or — using another metaphor — Atlantis that once sank and will never be found again. Less known and therefore more astonishing is the fact that fifty percent of color movies were also destroyed. We won’t be able to see anymore the yellow smoke or the gray grass of “Deserto rosso”, the sharp psychedelic tones of “Muriel” or the park’s deep green in “Blow up”. Meaning: in their original beauty. But black and white classics also a tremendous loss: the cloudy, light gray shades in the closing scene of “La Notte”, or Claudia Cardinale’s amazing eyes in the blurred whiteness of “Otto e mezzo”. Can we see them again in their original form the way Antinioni and Fellini composed it in close collaboration with the dedicated Italian craftsman of colors and shadows, Vincenzo Verzini?
Verzini was the hero of the short film called “Cinema Forever”, which screened in the program of the EuropaCinema Festival in Viareggio. This eight-minute-long documentary was shown before every screening during the Fellini Retrospective. The film displays the efforts of the Mediaset restoration program, called Cinema Forever that aims to save the copies of several Italian classics like “La dolce vita”, “Otto e mezzo”, “Giulietta degli spiriti” and others. The author of most of the restorations is the long-standing expert, Vincenzo Verzini.
“Cinema Forever” is not only a documentary that may interest all professionals and film fans. This short film speaks about the essence of cinema; about something which André Bazin called the “Ontologie de l’image photographique”. That is, film (and photography) is a print of real life that preserves memories and stops passing time. If it disappears something important will be lost in the common culture of modern times. Does the fact that motion picture is the only art form we saw at its birth mean that we will live to see its death? Was Jean-Luc Godard right to claim (thirty years ago) that the lifetime of film won’t be longer than anybody’s lifespan? Can those old rainy copies be saved in the last moment? Can new digital techniques help? Nobody knows the answer.
Anyway the name of the restoration program reflects optimism: “Cinema Forever”. And the restored copies of some Fellini classics we saw in the old theatres of Viareggio (that reminded us of the cinema seen in “Amarcord” or “Cinema Paradiso”) were beautiful.
© FIPRESCI 2003