Opening a Box of Hidden Italian Treasures

in 66th Venice International Film Festival

by Alberto Castellano

One of the most interesting sections of the 66th Venice Film Festival was the retrospective Questi fantasmi 2: Cinema italiano ritrovato directed, as last year, by Sergio Toffetti of the Experimental Cinematography Centre. The aim of this section is to bring to light lost films, works that have disappeared from the circuit, ignored by the media of the time and successive histories and sometimes absent from cinematographic repertoires still today.

The second issue of the retrospective based on the collaboration between the Venice Biennale, the Cineteca Nazionale and other Italian archives, offered a rich program with 36 long films and about 30 shorts of a period from the early Thirties to the end of the Seventies, recuperated with a complex work of reprinting and restoration thanks to modern digital technology. The public of Venice had the possibility to find real discoveries in terms both of historical and entertainment importance, works by auteurs and genre products, popular films about the war, the Resistance, or farce or melodrama.

We saw some films for the first time by some of the most important Italian directors: La viaccia by Mauro Bolognini, La grande guerra and Temporale Rosy by Mario Monicelli, La rimpatriata by Damiano Damiani, La fiamma che non si spegne by Vittorio Cottafavi, La ragazza in vetrina by Luciano Emmer, La nave delle donne maledette by the specialist of melodrama Raffaello Matarazzo, Un tranquillo posto di campagna by Elio Petri, Un amore a Roma by Dino Risi, La mano dello straniero by Mario Soldati, Anni facili by Luigi Zampa, Storie sulla sabbia, the only film directed by Riccardo Fellini, Federico’s younger brother, Umano, non umano by underground artist Mario Schifano. And other films, long and short, by Marco Ferreri, Pasquale Squitieri, Tinto Brass and Pietro Germi.

Some of these forgotten films revealed surprising creativity not only in terms of stories but also in visual terms. And they offer also a vision of Italy after World War II, the reconstruction and the boom of the Sixties from many points of view, social, political and economic. Through psychological, moral conflict, difficult relationships, complicated love stories, sexual meetings among peasants, the upper classes, workers, policemen, dropouts, emigrants.

In the Questi fantasmi program there were also two Special Events: two new shorts, one directed by Tinto Brass, the specialist of Italian erotic cinema, and the other by Giulio Questi. The first, Hotel Courbet, is a story of a woman’s solitude and is also a homage to Courbet, Simenon, Shakespeare and Picasso. The second, Lola, which tells the story of a strip-teaser at the Crazy Horse in Paris, is a reflection on the time of love without barriers.

Edited by Steven Yates