'The Grande Illusion' 1937
'The Grande Illusion' 1937

At 4:45, I see most of Andy Warhol’s “Face” (1965), starring Edie Sedgwick, brushing her hair, applying makeup, and chatting with pal Chuck Wein for 66 minutes.  It’s the first film in an Avant-Garde Masters program, playing to an SRO house. We leave before “The Velvet Underground in Boston” (1967), Samuel Beckett’s “Film” (1965) starring Buster Keaton, and “Norman Mailer’s Untitled” (1947), an experimental 8-minute work, Mailer’s first movie, about a woman considering having an abortion. The catalogue describes “a battery of cinematic techniques: black & white and colour juxtaposition, animation, time-lapse photography, and microscopic close-ups.”  

I’d love to see it, but we’ve been long ensconced across the hall, entranced by Ritwik Ghatak’s “Meghe Dhaka Tara” (“The Cloud-Capped Star,” 1960), perhaps oversold by introducer Shivendra Singh Dungarpur as “India’s greatest movie,” but indisputedly a masterpiece. Poetic, musical, haunting, this story of an unhappy family worthy of Eugene O’Neill breaks my heart – even more so because I know nothing of Ghatak.  Where has he been all my life?  My friend Jackie Mancuso enters late and is immediately gripped by the story, the cinematography, the acting.  We protest, weakly, when we’re torn away, perhaps 20 minutes before the end, for a long-planned dinner in a restaurant in its own park-like setting on the outskirts of Bologna, where Jackie and Steve dined last year during the festival.

Steve has a fantasy of returning in time to catch some of the World Cup game between Spain and Portugal, but as we linger over five courses (antipasti della casa featuring an unusual mortadella/ricotta spread, ethereal frittata, warm panzanella; seafood risotto and tagliatelle with ragu; an amazing five-item mixed grill, a dish of huge shrimp, and another of simple grilled steak; six different cheeses served with thin honey and house-made orange marmalade; an assortment of desserts including pistachio/chocolate mousse, crema catalana, and an airy coconut confection; macerated strawberries, sliced watermelon, and big fat cherries, all washed down with Verdicchio and a big Bolognese red), the game is forgotten. As for the name of this impossibly charming restaurant, I promise I will include in my next dispatch. I will remember this meal in the same breath with the best movies I’ve seen in Bologna.

A cab ride back to central Bologna lets me out in time to catch a good chunk of “The Grand Illusion” in the big square, impeccably restored by Studio Canal and the Cinémathèque de Toulouse. In the lobby of my hotel, I run into the Cinémathèque’s Natacha Laurent, and am able to compliment her on the work.  It’s a movie I thought I knew by heart, but I see things in it (both literally and figuratively) that I’ve never seen before.

Spain won.  Whatever that means.  During tomorrow’s semi-finals (Italy vs. I-don’t-know-who), I’ll be safely tucked away in the cinema.