Titanus Retrospective

in 67th Locarno International Film Festival

by Alberto Castellano

The Locarno International Film Festival traditionally hosts an excellent retrospective, and for the festival’s 67th edition (6 to 16 August 2014), it was devoted to Titanus. This year’s retrospective was notable for its attention to detail, careful historical reconstruction and some courageous choices which revealed the breadth and character of one of the most important Italian film production houses. It also reflected the culture, creative genius and foresight of Goffredo Lombardo, son of the company’s founder Gustavo. From 1951, the year of his father’s death, Goffredo managed the company through the fundamental decades of Italian cinema, even overcoming serious moments of crisis in production.

Titanus spanned the history of Italian cinema, starting from the silent period, but the retrospective, curated by Sergio M. Germani and Roberto Turigliatto, concentrated on a selection of over 50 titles from 1945-1965, a more lively period of production thatwas also the richest and most vital period of Italian cinema. It did also includetwo silent films from 1922 and 1923, before proceeding to the end of the Lombardo Sr. era, where Titanus was connected with Neorealism, to the handover period from father to son, the glorious 50s of Matarazzo’s melodramas and comedies, as well as various genres and “series”. This was the period when such directors as Mastrocinque, Risi, Comencini, De Santis, Pietrangeli, Lattuada, Bragaglia and occasionally Rossellini, Fellini and Antonioni worked with Titanus.

In the 60s, the production house focused on the launch of a new auteur cinema, discovering young directors like Zurlini, Olmi, De Seta and others. And the stroke of genius of Goffredo Lombardo was the creation of The Leopard (Il Gattopardo, 1963) by Luchino Visconti, with Burt Lancaster, which was presented in a restored version at this year’s Locarno Film Festival on the Piazza Grande. This masterpiece, in spite of its complex production problems, was one that was very successful with both audiences and critics. The curators of the retrospective, organized in collaboration with the Film Library of Bologna, the Experimental Centre of Cinematography — National Film Archive, the Institute Cinecittà Luce and the Cinémathèque suisse, wanted to offer rare films as well as more familiar titles, but also to acknowledge and overcome the dichotomy between genre movies and art house films. The retrospective gave audiences the opportunity to revisit Chains (Catene), Tormento, Nobody’s Children (I figli di nessuno), Bread Love and Dreams (Pane amore e fantasia), Frisky (Pane amore e gelosia), Poor But Beautiful (Poveri ma belli), Toto Double or Nothing? (Toto lascia o raddoppia?), and Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo), the film that created the Titanus style. The festival also screened The Last Leopard (L’Ultimo Gattopardo, 2010), Giuseppe Tornatore’s beautiful documentary that tells the story of Titanus through the figure of Goffredo Lombardo, and silent film diva Leda Gys. Lombardo is revealed as an Italian manufacturer of genius who managed to bring together an entrepreneurial spirit to the most refined artistic ambitions.

Edited by Alison Frank