Appropriately enough, the program opens with OPEN CITY, Roberto Rossellini's 1945 shocker (in its time) that helped give a name to a style of cinema that has remained in play and vitally important ever since: Neorealism. Open City (a still is shown below) was also one of the first postwar European films to gain a significant audience in the US. In his 1946 review of the movie for The New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther had this to say: “It may seem peculiarly ironic that the first film yet seen hereabouts to dramatize the nature and the spirit of underground resistance in German-held Europe in a superior way—with candid, over-powering realism and with a passionate sense of human fortitude—should be a film made in Italy. Yet such is the extraordinary case. Open City (Citta Aperta), which arrived... last night, is unquestionably one of the strongest dramatic films yet made about the recent war.”
If there are any of these you have not seen, leap. Even if you've viewed the films on tape or DVD in possibly not-so-hot transfers, here's your chance to see them projected in their glory on the big theater screen.
Click here to see the schedule (through June) and book tickets.
TrustMovies asked one of his favorite film gurus a set of questions about the series -- which appear in bold while Pena's answers are in standard type.
How did the idea for this 8 Decades of Italian Cinema originate?
Back in October 2012, Roberto Cicutto, the President of Cinecitta, came to New York and told me that they had received funding to support a number of programs under the rubric "The Year of Italian Cinema in America." We wanted the New York part of the program to be something out of the ordinary--something beyond the programs offered by the Walter Reade, MoMA, etc. To that end, Roberto, Antonio Monda and I came up with the idea of an ongoing series dedicated to eight decades of Italian Cinema, with one or two classics to receive short runs every month. Our dream, of course, was to have this program at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, America's greatest "art house." I met with Dan, proposed the idea, and within minutes we were talking about which films we would show. It did not take a lot of convincing!
Yes, I guess you could say that.
Open Roads series -- but am just wondering.
Again, the opportunity presented itself. Perhaps other national cinemas will now be similarly inspired.
That would be terrific: France, Spain, The Netherlands, Scandinavia -- and beyond!
How in the world did you and Dan narrow things down? This must have been a daunting task that meant leaving out some of your absolute favorites–mostly, I suspect, because of the decade in which they first appeared and which was already “full.”
If the list (shown above) is complete, why do certain decades get two films, while the others get only one (and the 40s actually gets three)?
I notice that Paolo Sorrentino made the cut but Matteo Garrone did not. I love ‘em both but would agree with this choice, due to Sorrentino’s amazing visual style, his use of space, and so forth. So, how long did this winnowing process take?
A few months. I'd say we started in November and had more or less a fixed list in early March.
And finally: Will you be coming back, even briefly, as a guest host for this year’s Open Roads?
No, I've retired from the Film Society, although I just got the announcement for Open Roads and it looks like a great program. You'll see me in the audience quite a bit!
Thanks, Richard. We miss you. But we're so happy you're involved in this latest project.