I wasn’t disappointed a bit on this one. Quite the opposite. The sanctity of the cinema and the reverence of the Italian audience is a “must experience.”
So after I waited in line for nearly two hours (in position number one), I found an aisle seat with an abundance of leg room. I settled in to hear Festival Director Alberto Barbera and Biennale President Paolo Baratta address the near-capacity audience at the Sala Dardene in Italian. As I am not fluent in Italian, I watched intently for cues in tone and body language. Both men seem to have had something important to say and the manner in which they delivered it made me sense there was a bit of philosophy floating through the sound waves.
Homage was paid to Luigi Comenechi by a few of his relatives, including his beautiful daughter Francesca, in a highly eloquent manner.
The final guest speaker, Thierry Fremaux, gave the audience a quick barrage of words in French on the importance of the Lumiere Brothers work and the nedd for it to be preserved. Mr. Barbera translatedMr. Fremeaux’s French into Italian then followed the French gentleman to his front row seat microphone in hand. With adept timing as Barbera took his seat next to the French gentlemen, the lights dimmed and the screen was illuminated with “Lumiere!”
To celebrate this important anniversary, on the Pre-opening night of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival (Tuesday August 30th, at 8:30 pm) in the Sala Darsena on the Lido, the public gathered to celebrate Comencini’s one-hundredth birthday. Prior to the screening of the previously announced restored version of Luigi Comencini’s Tutti a casa, the audience was invited to enjoy the program of nine “views” made in Venice by the operators of the Cinématographe Lumière said the Director Fremaux of the Institut Lumière of Lyon.
The films, which were made over three consecutive years (1896-98), were:
Arrivée en gondole, 1896, N°291
Pigeons sur la place Saint-Marc, N°292
Tramway sur le Grand Canal, 1896, N°293
Grand Canal avec barques, 1896, N°294
Panorama du Grand Canal pris d’un bateau, 1896, N°295
Panorama de la place Saint-Marc pris d’un bateau, N°296
Venise, place Saint-Marc, 1897, N°430
Arrivée en gondole des souveraines d’Allemagne et d’Italie au palais royal de Venise, 1898, N°1058
Départ en gondole, 1898, N°1059
The Biennale di Venezia thanked Thierry Fremaux and the Institut Lumière for their valuable collaboration, as well as the Alliance française and Carlo Montanaro of La Fabbrica del Vedere in Venice.
The screening of the “views” will be followed, for the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the great director Luigi Comencini (1916 – 2007), by the previously announced screening of Comencini‘s masterpiece Tutti a casa (Everybody Go Home, Italy/France, 1960) starring Alberto Sordi, Serge Reggiani, Carla Gravina and Eduardo De Filippo, produced by Dino De Laurentiis, for the world premiere of the digitallyrestored copy by Filmauro and CSC – Cineteca Nazionale di Roma.
Venetian audiences were invited to the special Pre-opening tribute-night at the Sala Darsena on the Lido, beginning at 8:30 pm, thanks to the collaboration with the daily newspapers “Il Gazzettino”, “La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre” and “Il Corriere del Veneto”.
Tutti a casa by Luigi Comencini is one of the most famous and successful examples of what made the “commedia all’italiana” immortal: the blend of comedy and drama, of real and grotesque, of courage and determination to survive. Comencini, with the autobiographical complicity of the two great screenwriters Age and Scarpelli and the bitter laughs provoked by the remarkable performance of Alberto Sordi, tells the story of the chaos that ensued on September 8th 1943, when Badoglio signed the armistice and the soldiers loyal to the King and Mussolini were abandoned to their own destinies, to face many dangers alone. In the film, Alberto Sordi, on the phone under German gunfire, asks his superiors: “Colonel, Sir, this is Lieutenant Innocenzi, something amazing just happened, the Germans have become allies of the Americans. What are we supposed to do?”
Tutti a casa is a “road movie” across the ruins and confusion reigning in Italy at that time, when the soldiers had no one to give them orders and one after another they decided to head back home: tutti a casa, everybody go home. In the story, Second Lieutenant Alberto Innocenzi (Sordi), who is used to obeying and not answering back, is abandoned by his soldiers and flees from north to south with his sick friend, the Neapolitan military engineer Ceccarelli (Serge Reggiani). He runs into German soldiers eager for retaliation who shoot at them, witnesses the odyssey of a Jewish girl attempting to escape (for whom a young Venetian soldier gives his life), meets an American prisoner hiding in an attic, is united with his father (Eduardo De Filippo) who wants to send him back to the Fascist army, until the final redemption during the 4 days of Naples. At the time Comencini stated: “On the 8th of September, people were abandoned to themselves, and that is what I wanted to describe”. The film was a box office hit, bringing in over a billion lire in ticket sales.
Luigi Comencini (1916-2007) who was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 1987 by the Biennale di Venezia, is considered one of the greatest masters of Italian-style comedy, as well as “the children’s director“. Among his comedies, his first masterpiece was Pane, amore e fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams, 1953), with Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio De Sica, winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin, the prototype for what is known as “neorealismo rosa” and one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Italian cinema, followed over the years by other hit comedies such as Pane, amore e gelosia (Bread, Love and Jealousy, 1954), Mariti in città (Husbands in the City, 1957), Lo scopone scientifico (The Scientific Cardplayer, 1957) and Mio Dio, come sono caduta in basso! (Till Marriage Do Us Part, 1974).
Comencini addressed the theme of childhood early on in 1946 with Bambini in città, his first short documentary (which won an award in Venice and a Nastro d’argento), while Proibito rubare (Hey Boy, 1948), set among the street children in Naples, was his first feature-length film. His significant production of films on the theme of “childhood” continued with La finestra sul Luna Park (The Window to Luna Park, 1956), Incompreso (Misunderstood, 1966, in competition at Cannes and winner of a David di Donatello), Voltati Eugenio (1980, presented at the Venice Film Festival), Un ragazzo di Calabria (A Boy from Calabria, 1987, in competition in Venice) and Marcellino pane e vino (1991) his last film directed with his daughter Francesca. Also worthy of note are his versions of two classics of children’s literature, such as Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1972) and Cuore (1984).
A co-founder in 1935 with Alberto Lattuada and Mario Ferrari of the Cineteca italiana in Milan, Comencini directed a total of forty feature-length films, excluding his documentaries, screenplays, and investigative reports for Rai television. He experimented with many genres other than comedy, such as murder mysteries (La donna della domenica, The Sunday Woman, 1975), melodrama (Incompreso, 1966), literary films (La ragazza di Bube, 1963), period films (Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova veneziano, 1974), film-operas (La Bohème, 1987), but also experimented with more particular films (Cercasi Gesù, 1982, winner of a Nastro d’argento). In an interview he granted in the early 1980s, Comencini declared that he was willing to defend ten of his films, that “would never have seen the light of day if I had not made other flawed films, wholly or in part. But I have never made a film in bad faith”.