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Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, XXVII Edizione - Day 2: Gary Cooper's 'Distant Drums,' 'Kalpana,' 'Point Blank,' Ruspoli & More

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood June 26, 2012 at 1:17PM

Meredith Brody follows a sleepless night in Bologna with a series of unplanned screenings, delicious sounding food and an accidental nap during a breezy outdoor screening of "Point Blank" at the Piazza Maggiore...
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"Kalpana"
"Kalpana"

We all head towards the 11:30 screening of Kenji Mizoguchi’s first part-talkie, “Fujiwara Yoshie No Furasato” (1930), which also turns into an exercise, for me, anyway, of searching for bits of Mizoguchi’s style shoved up the crevasses. When I find myself closely examining the art deco costumes and jewelry of some of the cast and thinking back to a couple of recent Berkeley Art Museum and Japanese Society exhibits of Japanese art deco, I realize I’m not fully engaged with the story of a popular singer who vacilates between the love of a good (but tedious) woman and the support of a wealthy (but annoying) heiress. It’s the kind of movie I’m happy to have seen, but will never want to see again: an exceedingly minor film by a major director.

Unbelievably, seven of us squeeze in a hurried but delightful meal afterwards, in under an hour, at a local legend, Da Bertino il Re del Tortellino (dal 1957!), an old-fashioned place that only serves lunch, via del Lame 55. It’s conveniently located right next to the theater where most of us are going to see “Wild Girl,” a 1932 film by Walsh, unseen for decades, in a print that the Museum of Modern Art has just struck expressly at the request of Mr. Kehr.  Lasagna Bolognese! Escalope Milanese!  Tortellini en brodo!  Wine for the brave and/or foolhardy (I would be asleep in minutes, so do not take a chance).

Steve and Jackie head off to see Grémillon’s “L’Etrange Mr. Victor,” showing at the same time, where I thought I was going, also, but “You can see it again tomorrow!,” says J. Rosenbaum, and I guess I’m feeling highly suggestible. “Wild Girl,” based on an oft-filmed story and play by Bret Harte, is something of a delight, featuring the delicious young Joan Bennett (still a blonde à la Constance, before she became a brunette à la Hedy Lamarr), sturdy, boyish Charles Farrell, Ralph Bellamy in a slightly-better-than-usual Ralph Bellamy part, and a raft of character actors, including the sturdy Eugene Pallette and the earthy Mina Gombell.  Gorgeously shot on location in California’s Sequoia National Park, Walsh’s deep-focus and the clear light made the film look almost 3-D. Nifty screen wipes that looked like scenes were turning the page elicited moans from at least one cinephile sitting behind me. A good time was had by all.

Afterwards, some headed to Frank Borzage’s “A Man’s Castle,” some to the first part of Raymond Bernard’s “Les Miserables,” some to Agnes Varda’s “Documenteur.” I went to a Scorsese/World Cinema Foundation restoration of a 1948 oddity, “Kalpana,” a 2 hour 35 minute film directed by Uday Shankar, the dancer brother of Ravi Shankar. The movie was brought to Scorsese’s attention during his work on “George Harrison: Living in the Material World.”  I watch about an hour of it, loving the dance numbers, guiltily wishing it was in color (despite its gleaming black-and-white), not quite connecting with the story wrapped around the dance. Since “Kalpana” just premiered at Cannes, I think I may some day have another opportunity to see it.

This article is related to: Guest Blogger, Festivals, Classics, Genres, Foreign


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.