Fahre\’n\’Heit

tv-tv LAP TALK 03: MemeFest

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on agosto 21, 2010

LAP TALK is a series of introduction to various non-mainstream forms of communication through web platforms. It is part of Chamber of Public Secret’s TV program broadcast on the independent television platform tv-tv.

LAP TALK 03: Memefest memefest.org
archive at chamberarchive.org/laptalk.html and alcramer.net
(first broadcast 12.04.2005)

Annunci

Italo Calvino – Six Memos for the [Present] Millennium / 1NYC

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on agosto 21, 2010

Video, sound essay based on the book “American Lectures” by Italo Calvino, 10 min.

In 1984, he was invited to deliver a cycle of lectures at Harvard University in the United States. The writer elected five themes: lightness, rapidity, exactitude, multiplicity and consistency. Calvino has written the first five, but died before the completion of the last. The conferences never took place, but the texts were collected in a book that serves as an important inheritance to the newly born millennium. My thanks to Gian Zelada of mamutemidia.com.br, who has inspired this work.

Elogio della lentezza

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on settembre 8, 2007

Uno

Lentezza, dicevamo. Ho un figlio molto piccolo, e siccome la mamma lavora, e io no, faccio il papà a tempo pieno. Lo vesto, gli faccio le pappe, lo addormento e, la parte migliore di tutto, lo porto a spasso. Ormai abbiamo smesso di contare le vecchiette affascinate dal pargolo seduto, o spesso ormai in piedi, sul passeggino, che le fissa e poi si allarga in un sorriso a nove denti. Con papà a rimorchio che sorride anche lui. Sopra i settant’anni, fin troppo facile.

Ogni giorno, camminando, lentamente, cambiando il giro, andando a far la spesa in qualche mercato rionale un po’ nascosto, o fino al supermercato biologico vicino allo stadio, che tanto ha le stesse cose della farmacia sottocasa e costa uguale, ma tant’è. Ci fermiamo all’edicola, anche se non compriamo nulla, perché ormai fa parte del giro, e loro, quelli dell’edicola, ci aspettano anche, ed escono, spesso, e ci mettiamo a parlare del quartiere, con lui magari che si appisola nel passeggino, ma si sveglia dopo poco. È bello sapere che c’è qualcuno che ti aspetta.

E noi andiamo, piano, mattina e pomeriggio, e ci siamo detti (lui ha degli occhioni molto espressivi) che sì, forse questa è la parte migliore della nostra relazione tra padre e figlio, un momento molto complice, in fin dei conti, e uno dei più belli, dove ognuno scopre delle cose nuove, lui perché non le ha mai viste, io perché non le ho mai notate. Quale dentista c’è nelle vicinanze, quale pasticceria fa le sfogliatelle. Cose così. E giù vecchiette ammaliate. A volte, dopo averne incrociata qualcuna, e averla guardata bene bene, una volta superata, lui si alza e si gira all’indietro, e continua a guardarla sporgendo la testolina di lato. Al che, se la sventurata signorina attempata se ne accorge, resta con la bocca aperta e gli occhi che ridono, e manca poco mi sviene sul marciapiede. Tu, nel passeggino, un po’ di contegno, per favore.

Due

L’andare piano, a bassa velocità, a piedi, come nel mio caso, o comunque con un approccio lento, può aiutare non tanto, o non solo, per riscoprire una realtà, perché anche la velocità è reale, ma per riguadagnare una verità delle cose: proprio perché non sempre la velocità è anche vera, ma quasi sempre la lentezza sì.

È come scoprire, a sorpresa, di avere i piedi sporchi per aver camminato scalzi. È un esempio non mio, ma della mia compagna, la mamma dell’ammaliatore. Anche noi, a volte, ci ritroviamo, in casa e fuori, a non sapere come fare; ci affanniamo tanto, per star dietro un po’ a tutto, pur lavorando un sacco (eccetto te, direte voi, che porti a spasso il pargolo, ma non è proprio così lineare la faccenda), e ci sforziamo di ricavare il tempo per le nostre passioni e interessi, ma a volte proprio non ce la facciamo, e siamo sempre lì a chiederci, come possiamo fare tutto? Forse dovremmo essere più veloci? O fare meno cose? O avere più tempo a disposizione, magari lavorando meno? Ma si può fare? Quasi mai. E allora? A cosa serve la lentezza, quando nemmeno la velocità ci può aiutare?

Ecco, forse serve a cambiare prospettiva. Facendo le cose lentamente, ci predisponiamo a farle in maniera sensata per noi, prima di tutto; e quello che resta fuori resta fuori. Con l’andare del tempo, impariamo a relativizzare l’importanza dei compiti, dei piaceri e delle necessità da svolgere, e diamo delle priorità, proprio in virtù dell’approccio lento. Ossia, discriminiamo, bellamente e apertamente, il da farsi.

Ecco, forse la lentezza serve a essere leggermente cinici. È salutare, in questi casi, non fa male. Si scorgono meglio, dietro le curve della vita, dossi, avvallamenti e panchine per tirare il fiato.

Domani accadde

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on agosto 27, 2007

Ho avuto una collega, Maria, ed è il suo nome vero, non l’ho cambiato, che leggeva tutte le sere i giornali di due anni prima.

E tutti a fare la faccetta buffa, a prenderla un po’ in giro, e ammiccare a vicenda, e dirsi vabbè, che ci vuoi fare, in fondo è anche una brava ragazza, eccetera. Non so se io farei ancora la faccia buffa. Mi sembra, a rivalutarla un poco, la faccenda dei due anni di ritardo nella lettura dei quotidiani, un lusso, una lungimiranza che pochi si sono potuti permettere, e che i più continuano a negarsi. Sfogliare un giornale appena della settimana scorsa, fa sembrare tanto più ridicoli articoli, titoli, personaggi e tagli editoriali, quanto più erano importanti, o presentati tali, al tempo. Credo che Maria fosse, sia, ben più avanti di me nell’averlo capito ormai da un decennio.

Non ho più contatti con lei. Mi piacerebbe sapere se ancora legge i giornali del 2005. Davvero. Ho imparato da te, Maria, in questi anni, che la distanza, quella temporale più di quella spaziale, rende le cose più pulite, e forse oneste, in qualche maniera. Non soltanto più chiare, e questo si sa, ma più umane e alla nostra portata. A giorni mi viene da pensare che non ci sto più dietro, che corro e non so bene per che cosa, ecco, e allora forse la sera dovrei leggere un giornale del 2003, o del 1997, aprirlo, stenderlo ben bene, saltare le previsioni, e forse anche le pagine sportive (ma non si sa mai), e leggermi gli articoli che mi raccontano come cambia la mia vita, a che cosa vado incontro, e come faccio per tirarmi fuori dalle beghe. Salvo poi ricordarmi, mentre lo accartoccio per buttarlo nella carta, che tutte queste cose non me le ricordo mica, di averle fatte, o subite. Forse ci sono ancora dentro, allora, o forse non ci sono mai state. Vediamo domani, cosa dicevano i giornali.

Pensare, di viaggiare

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on agosto 26, 2007

Pensavo, stasera, mentre camminavo e chiacchieravo, di come e’ cambiato il mio approccio al viaggio. Se una volta avrei preso e me ne sarei andato all’istante, senza neanche sapere dove e come, senza meta, ma anche senza un’idea di viaggio che non il viaggiare in se’, ora non e’ piu’ cosi’.

E mentre camminavo, e chiacchieravo, sentivo sempre di piu’ l’esigenza di un approccio diverso, di un’idea del viaggio, di un progetto insomma, che andasse poi sviluppato col viaggio stesso. Ho bisogno di crearmi delle ragioni precise, ora, per viaggiare. Ho bisogno di capire perche’ viaggio. Non importa poi il come, quando o con chi, ma parto con un’idea da sviluppare successivamente, durante, o dopo il viaggio compiuto. E pensavo anche che forse, ecco, e’ questa la ragione che mi ha portato ad allontanarmi un poco dalla letteratura di viaggio. Perche’ molto spesso, i reporter-inviati viaggiano per poi tornare e scrivere, o pubblicare memorie e impressioni, e far sapere come e cosa c’e’, o non c’e’, in questo o quel posto, e a tutto questo io mi irrigidisco, e mi vien da pensare perche’ hanno investito tante risorse, e tempo, ed energia, e voglia di fare, e vita, insomma, per andare in un posto se poi il tutto si traduce nel raccontarcelo secondo loro.

Lo fanno per mestiere, certo. Mi va bene una cosa cosi’? No, e’ stata la risposta, forse insicera, mentre camminavo, e chiacchieravo, e piu’ ci pensavo piu’ mi era chiaro che sono cambiato, che leggo malvolentieri i resoconti di viaggio se non hanno un’idea dietro, se non c’e’ progetto, che poi puo’ anche fallire, anzi, forse e’ meglio se fallisce in fin dei conti, ma almeno si e’ instaurato un meccanismo che non e’ quello della curiosita’ o dell’ospitalita’ o dell’esotismo vicendevole, ma quello di costruzione, o distruzione anche, di una relazione piu’ sfaccettata. Perche’ se io vado in un posto a fare qualcosa, mi rapporto prima di tutto con/per quel qualcosa, e di conseguenza con/per il resto, e quello che assorbo dentro, e mi porto via, e’ un vissuto (quasi) profondo, o semplicemente piu’ sincero, e non un finto vissuto per vedere come vivono (bene o male) gli altri.

Ecco, a questo pensavo, stasera, mentre rientravo a casa. E tutto questo pensato dalla mia testa, e dal mio corpo, sempre pronti a saltare sul primo aereo o treno o autobus che parta, ho pensato, non e’ roba da poco.

Filmtherapy, or the ideal cure for the soul

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on maggio 7, 2007

What is filmtherapy? It’s the idea that some psychological attitudes and mental behaviours can be influenced by a film, addressed and eventually corrected thereafter.

Pre-thouht.
Getting cured of crisis, stress, anxiety, or even an illness such a cancer, simply cinema-going, might provoke an outburst of indignation. But it’s not a new idea: the soul-touching power of representation goes uninterrupted from the cave age, straight to the art show, via Greek theatre. To use your local Blockbuster round the corner as the neighbourhood pharmacy might rise a few eyebrows, and so I wanted to get a slightly deeper opinion. I did my homework, and here are some considerations on regard. It’s not a therapy-description: it’s only what I got out of it, a strictly personal view. Comments welcome.

First.
It’s somehow easier to involve a patient to talk about him/herself in front of a movie, rather than during a psychological session. Provided that is the right movie.
The film on the screen will ignite some parallels with one’s own life experience, and consequently comments, opinions, judgements will become easier if referred to the movie characters than towards the self. The therapist, or the medical staff who has the responsibility to deal with the patient, will draw a range of data from the cinematographic experience. According to Birgit Wolz, counsellor on http://www.cinematherapy.com, an American organization devoted to filmtherapy, there are different approaches to involve a person in a cinematic experience: the let-yourself-go formula (watch the movie and relax, better with some popcorn supplies), the evocative session (to learn more about oneself), the cathartic experience (laugh, or cry, or scream, or fear, being in a state of deep involvement).
It works for the medical staff too: for instance, often doctors and nurses in exchanging opinions about terminal patients, such those suffering from cancer, often recur to a film scene, or dialogue, or story (take “Marvin’s room”, to give you an idea). They do this to better indicate their own, and the patient’s, emotional approach. And some hospitals (the Policlino Gemelli in Rome, among the others) started to include film sessions and screenings in the special training of their staff.

Second.
It sounds more a creative writing course than a therapy, but some counsellor advise their patients to write down their own fears, dreams, and expectation in the shape of a film.
We can easily admit the two areas are not very far from each other. One can be advised, for instance, to imagine her/his life, or to approach her/his worries, according to a film script. Like medicals one self-prescribes for the soul (never tried Prozac?), a film-subject or script can be prescribed to imagine life differently, with more fun, more depth, more success, or less hectic, less responsibility, and so on.
Throughout the process, what is intimately liked, hated, depressing or reinvigorating for the author will become easy to spot. In-between the lines, that is.

Third.
Filmtherpay is not only directly soul-building. It can also be self-indulging and self-commiserating, why not? Yes, exactly: this helps to stop+go. A couple of days of favourite, silly and not-engaging movies, by yourself or in company of friends, spouses, lovers, maybe with the help of unhealthy addictions (sweets, Linus-blanket, ect.) or in the warm and soft of one’s own bed (crispy crumbs around), will do better than a therapist. Bad-hair day, job commitments, identity crisis, broken dreams, all of them evaluated and re-addressed with the support of a good movie. Thelma & Louise, for instance, where characters free themselves from their routine. The ending is not so re-building in a way, but you got the idea.

Fourth.
This is pure Zen. Be your own cure. Just get in touch with someone who can ‘guide’ you through the process (like the pharmacist with medicine for a cold), and develop your own approach to what’s going on in your mind and soul. Through movies. Feeling underestimate? “My big fat Greek wedding”. Feeling trapped by a love story? “fatal attraction”. Etc.
Watch out: there are no films realized on purpose to solve crisis, depression, or illness. There is no such a thing like a film listing, with movies against mobbing, dumping, or to get promoted, or seduce. There is only a personal approach to it, which can be different according to time, situation, age, social status, family, and so on. Cinema can be a therapy, but not a cure (unlike medicine for the cold): it’s more an homeopathic approach, which use a small segment of your state to grasp the bigger picture.

Fifth.
Now the bad news: sorry, you cannot become a better parent simply going and watching “Kramer vs. Kramer”. Filmtherapy has a value only in perspective. Cinema as representation and experience has something to offer for those, who want to become aware about themselves, not those expecting results from seeing a shot about something. It’s a path, and it’s quite long.
A few medical institutions, such as the Neuroscience Institute in Florence, use films to enhance a psychotherapy process of the patient, in respect to one’s own attitudes and internal growth, and never, never substitute a film list with a medical rigor. A movie is a tool, and not an end in itself. Let’s relax, it’s not (yet) the end of the world.

After-thouht.
Cinematherapy is a development of booktherapy. Some doctors and therapists used to recommend a list of books to read, and discuss, in order to realize a path of self-awareness. At some point, someone wondered if there were any movie to implement, or even substitute, books. It make sense, right?
From there, it was a short step to establish cinematherapy as recognized practice. Relationship crisis, teenager problems, family issues, job stress, psychosomatic illnesses, are all but a few situations in which a cinematic experience can be revealing, according to “Filmtherapy”, a book by Vincenzo Matronardi, psychotherapist and director of the behaviours and deviance observatory at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome: 160 pages of psychofilmic compendium where he lists films, according to psychological themes, life phases, emotional contents and problems.
A good source to have an idea of the matter. But, hey! After that, I would follow my instinct…

PERFORMATIVE CINEMA

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on maggio 7, 2007

[Published in Altyazi Film Magazine 60, Istanbul, 2007]

Back home. Thoughts. To go and watch a movie is not exactly horse riding. It’s quite unlikely to perceive the cinematic setting as a performative act. Yet it is. The experience of cinema has been received – throughout its history – as curiosity, entertainment, documentation, and leisure; in short, the representation of a fictional story and/or a given reality. (We can open here a never-ending debate about whether and how it is possible to tell one from the other. We leave the burden to some postmodernist geeks.) What matters to us, is that rarely – if ever – these experiences has been perceived as performance, because of the dual nature of cinema setting. In yesterday and today’s film industry we have two distinct patterns. On one side, the making of a movie, that is, the process that leads to the film-product. Roughly: idea, subject, money (out), script, producers, director, cast, troupe, filming, editing, mastering, marketing, promoting, distribution, release. On the other side, the consuming of a movie: preview, critics, premiere, reviews, public, gadgets, home video, money (in), archive, and cinema dictionary. How does the performative aspect come into the picture? Somewhere in-between the two areas, to break up the dialectical world of the film-product. Precisely, in the location of its screening. Watching a movie in the city centre of Berlin or Edmonton is not quite the same as watching it in the outskirts of Cairo or Mumbai. Granted. I am not arguing different criteria according to wealth distribution, life expectation, or commodity-density. It’s not a matter of West/East, North/South, Bottom/Up contrapositions; it’s simply everyone’s experience that is different. To be in a certain location, daytime, and company. This is the terrain where the performative aspect of the cinema setting has to be sought, and possibly explored and revealed. Over there: Displacement. This article results from a trip to India a few weeks ago. It is the fruit of a disarticulation of my own standards (western, white, male – sorry) for “watching a movie”. Location: Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, an unbelievably hectic, busy, and polluted city that can be a paradigm for today’s India: Fierce capitalism and off-the-wall enthusiasm; Environmental concerns and economical growth; Political mistrust and national pride. After a day in the traffic, I just wanted to jump on the first train leaving the city. But then I stayed. Time: afternoon. I went to a screening of Salaam-e-Ishq, a musical with lots of love, adventure, criss-crossed couples and a drop of eroticism. Marvellous piece of art. I love it. I am not impartial, who cares. That’s why I got to think of the performative aspect of cinema. I never expected to sit in an almost empty huge cinema from 6pm till 9.30pm, not understanding the language (the film was in Hindi with no subtitles), and still wonder at the end how the time went so quickly. I was a bit sorry when the movie ended. I wanted more. Company: the youngsters in the hall, waiting with me the door opening, were sarcastically (I think) chitchatting at the thought of me watching a Hindi movie – a movie in Hindi. I was more doubtful than them. Once inside, I walked to the middle of the huge space and sat on an empty row. There were about 30 people in front of me – in two rows quite close to the screen, and the same number behind me, a couple of rows close to the entrance. The cinema could have contained maybe 1.000 people, maybe more. So I wondered if my ticket was numbered, since I could not understand the position of the other spectators. The movie started. Great soundtrack, it made me feel like to jump up and belly dance. If only I could. A story developed; The characters were introduced in couples, the action set changed from Bombay to Delhi to London to Agra to Rishikesh. Salaam-e-Ishq is the story of six groups of people (a couple, their friends and/or colleagues) from different walks of life and unaware of each other’s existence, which – by unexpected circumstances – were brought together by destiny, fate, love. The common, and bottom line of the movie could be “but things are going to change…” There was only an occasional word or two of English, mostly idioms such as “No way!”, “Then what?” and so on, but instead of feeling out of place, I found myself enjoying the faces and the music. Then something happened. The members of the audience started to respond to the movie at each scene, especially those that were romantic or spicy, with words, comments, laughs, whistles, clapping and dancing in the seats. I found myself in an organic environment were the film was participated in actively. Each movie character had fans and adversaries, in the venue. Men, women, young and old, showing with the full gamut of human expression their approval or disapproval of the characters as they appeared. I ended up joining in, after a while. I let myself go without being aware of it. I enjoyed the lines of my favourite character; disliked some others, and participated in the audience’s bold statement about the story proposed. If I had to define the experience, I would say “being in the here and now”. At some point I noticed two ushers pointing in my direction, and eventually one of them approached me asking for the ticket. I shown him, and got some Hindi words in reply. English, Hindi, English, English. He gave up. The narrative on the screen was at a critical juncture, and we certainly couldn’t ruin it for a little misunderstanding about my position in the theatre. Besides, there was no seat number on my ticket. I gradually slipped form the very conscious state of questioning “is it a good idea to buy the ticket?” when I was standing at the counter, to the totally caught-in-the-flow state of “come on, you fool, it’s right in front of you!” and similar outbursts offered to the screen characters. No kidding. I witnessed the disarticulation of my own behaviour and belief. The performative feature of the cinema setting won over my entire mental structure and physical inhibitions. Being in Lucknow, with a bunch of ‘turned on’ people on a winter afternoon, simply displaced me. Temporality. Think about it. To assess cinema as a performative act we had better take a step back: You may recall Michel Foucault’s concept of “other spaces”; The idea of having heterotopian spaces within a given reality. Put simply, it means that some spaces in our life ‘offer’ us an alternative reality, at certain times, locations, and situations. They are not utopian spaces (which cannot exist by definition), but a dimension available only under specific conditions. Think about fairs, theatres, madhouses, hospitals, graveyards. Or ships. I would add contemporary art spaces. And cinemas, of course. Can we say cinemas offer us a suspension from time and space? Maybe, to take another point if Foucault’s thinking, they offer a compensation for what we don’t have? Well, so does TV, for instance. But… but… there are some differences. Heterotopies imply, to my view, a co-temporality of elements. Space, time, and situation. Theatre is the paradigm of co-temporality: for its existence, it implies a place, a time, and a situation (an audience, an actor, a play) all at once. TV does not require them. TV can exist without co-temporality; rather, it exists thanks to its dis-temporality. And cinema? Cinema provides a co-temporality of place (film set or screen venue), situation (cast or audience) but not of time. Salaam-e-Ishq has been released simultaneously in India, UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Dubai, Africa, South Africa, Mauritius, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka and many other parts of the world. Yet, when they shot the film was a different time from when we watch what they shot and then edited. To me, cinema has another form of temporality. Not the simultaneous dimension, in which things happen at the same time for all the elements involved, but the dimension of performance, in which things happen differently each time in each place for each element. A per-temporality. If you consider cinema in these terms, it is not another space, and not even a simulacrum of reality. Consider: It is a space in which all kind of errors can influence its life, and can influence its performance each time in a different way. Involuntarily effects by the film cast or staff while making it; Unexpected errors by the projectionist or the usher while showing it; Unforeseeable reactions by the viewer or the buyer while consuming it. On top of this precarious cultural architecture, the situational varying of the setting changes on a continuous basis. The showing time. The location. The audio quality. The weather conditions, if outside. The media debate about it. The political climate. The social inhibitions, or transgressions (the audience participation rituals of the Rocky Horror Picture Show). The audience’s age. The personal mood. The crowd mood: think about a projection for a classroom in which you happen to be part of; the authoritarian or opinion-molder, brain-washing screenings of past and present regimes (Nazi Germany and GDR state apparatus made extensively use of this form of cinematic propaganda); the boycott of a movie while it is ‘in theatres’, as the experience of 1970’s anarchy taught us (and conversely, as the Christian movements did with a lot of ‘apocryphal’ films – one for all, the exhilarant ‘Life of Brian’). What a variety of patterns. And I thought cinema was a pre-packaged cultural product. I thought cinema was part of the realm of things to which I can access but cannot change, only subdue. Maybe reflect. What an idiot. Cinema performs me. I perform it.

KINOSMOSIS: The city and its screens

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian] by alcramer on maggio 7, 2007

[Published in Altyazi Film Magazine 58, Istanbul, 2007]

Bologna, Italy
What constitutes a cinematic experience in an urban texture?
The definition of the question above goes through the relation between cultural demand on one side, and its offer on the other. In a time when culture is becoming more and more crucial to understand politics (and not the other way around), a good size of the cultural offer is represented by the cinematic experience. Such an experience is one of the pillars of that ‘experience economy’ declaimed by the creative class. Those theorizing new modes of economy through an investment in creativity and creative modes of production, have a clear vision of what a cinematic experience in an urban setting produces: beyond the opposing terms of work/commitments and family/leisure, the essence of the relationship between a city and its screens (and screening spaces) is the function of osmosis that they constitute. In other words, the core matter at stake here is the constitution of reciprocal spaces. A Kinosmosis.

In my years spent in the Northern part of Europe (London-Berlin-Copenhagen) I became very fond of various cinematic spaces, where films were not only ‘watched’ but somehow ‘lived’, by means of events ranging from talks, Hollywood films, obscure b-movies, publishing initiatives, video days, forgotten masterpieces, biennials partnerships, and retrospectives on authors, actors and screenwriters. I found this very true for the Cinemateket and Vester Vov-Vov in Copenhagen, the NFT and Other Man Cinema in London, the Kino Arsenal and Kino Babylon in Berlin. And it is also true for the Cineteca di Bologna, the city where I live now. These sort of places contribute a lot to the urban environment of which they are part of: on one side, with time, constructing a very successful relationship with citizens (not necessarily cinephiles); on the other side, facilitating a gentrification of those city areas, and in such a way validating the creative-class credo of the political and economical decision-makers. The public sphere and the private interests: the constitution of reciprocal spaces starts here.

GLF / 1
If a cinematheque, say the one of Bologna, is a proactive space for the city, in what terms does it actually (re)act to its hosting body, namely the city? By what means? And to what results? To attempt some reflections I first went and talked to Gian Luca Farinelli, the director of the Cineteca di Bologna. Farinelli is a pleasantly nerdish guy, with the smart-classic look typical of the institutional role. He is truly, and contagiously, engaged in transferring his interest about the cinematic expression onto ‘his’ people, none excluded, from programs’ curators to cleaning staff. I went with some questions in mind, but set myself no particular agenda. I decided to listen and report my impressions, rather than reporting precise Q&A.

Institution-wise, the first aim of such a structure is the conservation and usability of its collections, being they on acetate or paper. The primary task is to show and preserve what they have (the concrete results of cinematic expression). There’s no intended attitude towards social analysis, public entertainment, or rather intellectual speculation: any critical and engaged position comes from where a program takes off, that means it comes always from the singular curator of the screening series. Farinelli, and the Cineteca di Bologna, allows controversial point-of-views in/outside the building but always after securing to the public the availability of the broadest range of material. Somehow, one can speak of the principle of (a certain) quantity over quality. This is quite unusual for such an environment. I think it’s probably a winning card, being able to tie many society’s sectors, and to attract to its theatres, teenagers to elderly, from children (literally: they also have a program of cine-nursery) to specialists.
Take for instance the Festival del Cinema Libero (Festival of free cinema): a yearly series of appointments and screenings focused of the ‘found-again’ cinema, not on new productions. Every summer, in the major square of Bologna, past masterpieces and forgotten productions, restored by the work of the Cineteca technicians (the ‘Cinema Ritrovato’ department) are shown in their full cinematic potential. The Festival of Cinema Libero attracts a surprisingly international participation of authors and audience, and it is funded partly by the Comune di Bologna and partly by private foundations interested in the conservation and restoration of films.

For Bologna, this is definitely a bonus. For Farinelli and the Cineteca, a considerable achievement that they are able to secure funding from both public and private sectors. For urban developers and the political elite, an added value demonstrating the good work done. You can call it a win-win situation, since for the citizens too having such institutions and programs represents a matter of prestige and coolness, despite the rising costs of rental and goods in that neighborhood or location. Culture is definitely an asset whatever perspective you decide to consider it from.

GLF / 2
When I was asked to write this piece, I wondered where my interest in cinema was lying. Everyone has an angle to enter. For my part, rather than being a self-contained interest in film and film theory is more a projection towards a society and its manifestations. I pay attention to what happens in the cinema world only because I consider it a reading of a reality, as long as other activities in which I am involved, namely art and writing. In short, cinema for me is a trans-disciplinary tool to read society’s layers.

In my conversation with GLF I wondered where he was standing in regard of this aspect: does the Cineteca di Bologna differ its programs according to different platforms like in-house screenings, international festivals, and artistic exhibitions? Does the Cineteca have a unique broad attitude in the entire context in which it acts, or does it attempt diverse narrative forms?
The status of cinema, and the mode of making cinema (including its diffusion activities), has been influenced by other disciplines in an on-going modifying process. Among the contexts that have kidnapped the mechanisms of cinema, and applied them to their purpose, one can mention theatre (Robert Lepage among others) and documentar-ism (Michael Moore), not to name advertising and contemporary art, where cinema mechanisms are a feature of those milieus. In short, there has been a rich terrain for inter-work where luckily no area has remained untouched. To respond to this challenge, to face the ever-modifying panorama of cinema, the Cineteca di Bologna set up a series of parallel projects in publishing, education and diffusion. Here comes in the diverse narrative forms mentioned above, that not always privileged (a certain) quantity over quality, rather reciprocity. If you have twenty minutes to spend, I invite you to take a look at http://www.cinetecadibologna.it (in English too). You’ll find the whole description of the various “A scuola col cinema” (At school with the cinema, in-house activities with school); “Ipotesi Cinema” (creative workshops on documentary-making); “Cineteca/Cineteca speciale/Cinegrafie” (respectively monthly, quarterly and annual publications, and the occasional book); “Fronte del Pubblico” (collaboration with other cities and networks).

All the activities above attempt to counter a decline of the cinema status. According to GLF, cinema seems incapable of 1) attracting and forming youth and 2) tell the reality of the present. “Screen” is referred more and more to that of the computer, not the cinema’s one. Film directors concentrate their effort in a timeless and placeless opera, avoiding reality. One for all: have you recently seen a film about/with police characters, which is not a romantic imaginary of the police itself, in either enthusiastically good or overly bad terms? The two axes of decline are intertwined, since youth perceives the dichotomy between the reality and its cinematographic representation. We are not made in black and white; we are shades of grey. In journalism, art, theatre, writing, even in dance you can spot this fact, but not in cinema. The fragmentation of reality characterizes the cinema of our times, and its incapacity of representing and telling a country (and to attract its youth) is its prominent feature. Even TV, within (and without) the trash reality shows and prostitution acts, in some occasions disrupts the oiled system of representation it is supposed to establish. Not cinema: in Italy and elsewhere, films are unable (or made unable) to organize and produce a mise en scène of the contradictions of the society. And if, as J. Rancière put it, the aesthetic is the ability to think contradiction, then obviously cinema lacks aesthetics capable of carrying this term. The pneumatic vacuum that most producers and directors light more and more thanks to the furious economic machine of the cinema industry, leaves very few spaces for a more complex forms of narration. I believe GLF found some ways to act on a different scale, engaging his institution in a broad and public service, but also proposing smaller projects capable to disrupt the all-consuming-experience of the cultural industry.
(Maybe) the constitution of reciprocal spaces develops from here.

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