film festival tourism


The Cinema Ritrovato Festival

Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

Why Go: Superb programming of vintage titles in an historic, user-friendly Italian city.

Festival Description

This is hands-down my favorite festival, not just because it offers a unique opportunity to see rare and unusual films under optimal circumstances but because the city of Bologna and its environs are such a pleasure to visit.

Festival Website:

Timing: Eight days at the end of June-beginning of July


The Bologna festival screens newly restored films, themed programs, and other treats and surprises from cinema’s past. The cut-off point on the cinema timeline is about 1975. In 2014 about 360 films were shown complemented by various panels and lectures. An Italian auteur is usually featured, along with a series of curated programs of films made one hundred years earlier. A tribute program honoring an important actor or director from the movies’ earliest days may also be included. Another regular feature is a selection of films from the widescreen era grouped by auteurs, genres, or topics; and a group of films from various periods notable for their use of color. Internationally known movie accompanists play for all silent screenings, and all films are subtitled in both English and Italian. Most films are shown in 35mm. As a whole, the program tends toward the Eurocentric, with few Asian films on offer as well, especially from Japan.

Following the death of Peter Von Bagh in 2015, Bologna Cineteca head Gian-Luca Farinelli works with a group of experts to put together the increasingly vast and wide-ranging programs.

Gian-Luca Farinelli


Film scholars (increasingly from the United States as well as Europe), archivists, movie fans and locals. There were more than 2,300 accredited guests in 2014.. The free late-night outdoor screenings attract crowds of Bolognese numbering in the thousands (an estimated total of over 56,000 in 2010). Because the festival focuses on older films rather than the latest releases, there is virtually no press or industry presence.

Special Guests

The festival offers some on-stage interviews with an intelligently chosen array of film luminaries and knowledgeable relatives of deceased auteurs, along with introductions to many screenings by critics and filmmakers. Presentations and round-table discussions with scholars and archivists that tie into the year’s cinematic offerings are also featured.

Outdoor Screening in the Piazza Maggiore

Outdoor Screening in the Piazza Maggiore

Screening Venues

The festival’s four venues are the Lumière Theater, Bologna’s cinemateque complex, with two screens; the Arlecchino, a theater built for Cinemascope; and the new, comfortable Jolly. The city’s magnificent Piazza Maggiore plays host to free late-night programs. One screen at the Lumière shows mainly silent fare. At the Arlecchino one can see widescreen films from the 1950s and 1960s as they were originally intended to be shown. One is well advised to choose a seat with care in the Arlecchino and especially the Jolly if subtitles are needed as sightlines in these theaters are not always the best. It must also be said that the air conditioning in the theaters, particularly in the Jolly, leaves much to be desired. The free outdoor screenings in the Piazza Maggiore are beautifully executed with good sound and an enormous screen. Silent fare shown in the Piazza is accompanied by an imaginative array of live accompaniments. For these screenings, fest pass holders have access to a special section of reserved seating in the front.

The Lumiere Cinema complex

The Lumiere Cinema complex

Screening Schedule

Screenings begin at 9am and continue through the evening with a break for lunch from 1:00-2:30 and for dinner from 8:00 to 9:30.  Outdoor screenings are held at 10pm every night in the Piazza Maggiori and in the Piazza Pasolini in the Lumiere courtyeard.


One can purchase tickets for individual screenings, but most people buy a pass that will admit them to everything. Passes cost about 80 euros. An additional contribution  makes you a donor and buys you some books and dvds. The festival program is usually assembled late, so it’s hard to find out what’s in store each year before you arrive. Nonetheless, it’s best to e-mail ahead to be put on the fest’s list of accredited guests; this will make the process of getting your pass, etc. much smoother. It will also get you special fest rates at selected hotels.

Program Notes

The festival issues a good-sized program book in both English and Italian with information about all scheduled movies along with introductory material describing each of the year’s program strands. These companion pieces vary widely in quality and usefulness; some are expressly commissioned and authored by noted scholars, others are cribbed from contemporary reviews or from other published material. Nonetheless, whatever its shortcomings, the program book provides an indispensable guide to a staggering array of films, many of which are obscure.


All hotels are located some distance from the festival venues. For many years I favored  the Star Excelsior, an ultra-modern four-star hostelry, quiet and well-run, with a work-out room and good breakfasts. It’s twenty-to-thirty-minute walk from the theaters. The Excelsior is located across the street from the train station for those who want to play hooky for a day in Florence (one hour away) or Ravenna (an hour and twenty minutes). Via Pietramellara 51, Bologna 40121. +39 051 246178

Star Excelsior Lobby

Star Excelsior Lobby

In 2015 I switched to the Hotel Metropolitan, a quiet, newly renovated boutique property closer to the action. I found it much to my liking. Via dell’Orso, 6, 40121 Bologna, Italy. Phone:+39 051 229393

Rooftop terrace at the Hotel Metropolitan


Bologna is a medieval city with little traffic in its historic core, so walking is easy. The central square, the Piazza Maggiore, is a treasure, but the areas around the festival’s other main venues are not the most attractive the town has to offer, so it’s a good idea to take a bus tour or find some other way to explore some of the more scenic parts of the city.

Temperatures are generally in the 90-degree Fahrenheit range during the festival so bring your coolest clothes. Italians don’t like their air conditioning on high, so there’s no need to bother bringing sweaters to wear in the theaters. When outdoors, arcades on most buildings provide some relief from the sun.

A street in Bologna

A street in Bologna

Getting There

There are no non-stop flights into Bologna from the US, so you’ll have to plan on making a connection somewhere in Europe. A shuttle bus goes from the main Bologna airport to the center of the city.  If you have a few extra days to spare, one good plan is to take a flight to Rome (many non-stops from the US), then take the train from the airport into the city. From there, another train takes you to Bologna, and you can stop over anywhere along the way to enjoy the beauty of the Umbria-Tuscany region as you recover from jetlag.

Getting Around

You can easily walk between the festival venues.


As everyone knows, this is a premiere city for foodies. As a bonus, restaurants tend to be relatively inexpensive especially if all you want is pasta and/or salad. Virtually all restaurants are family-run; there are no chains. And you will find very few that serve anything but Italian cuisine. Be forewarned that this is the region that initiated the slow food movement, so you may need to nudge your server if you need to rush to a screening. Each year, the festival puts out a list of restaurants offering special rates for its attendees.

I am especially fond of the following places (all within walking distance of the festival venues):

  • Casa Monica. Nouvelle Bolognese cuisine of a high order. Via S. Rocco, 16 – 40122 Bologna (BO), Italy  Tel +39 051 522522

Casa Monica

  • Michelemma. A cool, comfortable spot specializing in seafood with English-language annotations on the menu. Conveniently located at Riva de Reno 60, just a block south of Riva Delle Lama between the Arlecchino and Jolly. Inexpensive.


  • Enoteca Al Campione. A quiet, elegant place right around the corner from the Lumiere complex to the southwest. Good Italian food, reasonable prices and quick service.  40122 Bologna, Piazza 7 Novembre 1944 2/A
    Tel: 051 554801


  • Ex Forno. Located at  Via Don Giovanni Minzoni 14, this casual offshoot of Bologna’s Modern Art Museum is right around the corner just north of  the festival’s Lumiere complex and is well air-conditioned (no small virtue in this sweltering city). Salads are featured.  tel/fax +39 051 6493896.

Ex Forno

  • Da Bertino. A cozy trattoria a few doors from the Arlecchino theater. Prices are reasonable. Via Lame, 55.

Da Bertino

  • Da Pietro. An intimate family-run place serving simple local dishes, superbly prepared. Service is efficient and gracious, and prices are reasonable. Located just west of Via Independenza a few blocks north of Pizza Maggiore. Via dei Falegnami 18/A, Bologna 40121. .

Trattoria da Pietro

  • Il Caminetto d’Oro. Upscale nouvelle Italian food in a smart, clean setting just west of Via Independenza. Via de’ Falegnami, 440121 Bologna. Phone: 051 263494.

Il Caminetto d’Oro

  • Twinside. The sister of Il Caminetto d’Oro, this neighboring bistro serves more casual fare.


  • La Bella Napoli. Just south and west of the Jolly Cinema, this traditional trattoria serves up excellent local cuisine. Low prices and quick service. Via San Felice 50.

La Bella Napoli

La Bella Napoli

  • Sikelia. Excellent Sicilian seafood, pizza and other Italian fare just around the corner from the Arlecchino. Via Riva de Reno 45/h.


  • Officine Degli Apuli. A popular local spot on a small side street between the Arlecchino and the Jolly. Via San Lorenzo 4.

Officine Degli Apuli

  • I Carracci. Elegant, expensive and memorable. Worth the price just to gaze on the ceiling fresco, but the food is also superlative. Best in town. Via Manzoni, 2, 40121

I Carracci

I Carracci



  • Pizzeria Sorriso. Good, inexpensive  food served on a pleasant, quiet patio around the corner from the Jolly Theater. Vicolo Otto Colonna 8/c. Tel: 051-220988.

Pizzeria Sorriso

  • Fratelli la Bufala. Inexpensive and efficient. Part of a chain.  Via Riva de Reno 78. 051-649-1352.

Fratelli la Bufala

  • Trattoria Oberdan. A simple place with good food.  Via Oberdan 43a. Tel: 051-031-0056.

Trattoria Oberdan

Restaurant Maps

restaurant map 1

restaurant map 2

Best Extra-Curricular Activities

  • The on-off bus tour of Bologna costs only ten euros and provides a fascinating snapshot of the major city sights.
  • MAMBO, Bologna’s new modern art museum, is located a ten-minute walk from the Lumière complex. Exhibits include some excellent video installations and an entire section devoted to the work of composer John Cage.
  • Ravenna. A short, easy train ride away. The city boasts spectacular Byzantine mosaics, the best preserved in Italy. We had a terrific guide to the sights in Manuela, an art history instructor at the local university (328-825-8887)

The Festival Year by Year


2006 Festival Poster

Best Films:

  • Lady Windermere’s Fan. Ernst Lubitsch, in 1925 still new to Hollywood, created what is perhaps a perfect film from Oscar Wilde’s subtle stage comedy.

Lady Windermere’s Fan

  • Il Cappotto. The oeuvre of Italian auteur Alberto Lattuada, who was honored with a retrospective, showed up as uneven overall. However, this adaptation of a story by Gogol (“The Overcoat”) set a high standard, with a dark, brooding mise-en-scène and a virtuoso, Chaplinesque performance by Italian comic Renato Rascel.

Il Cappotto

Best Live Interview or on-Stage Discussion:

Panel on women in silent film with Jane Gaines, Monica Dall’Asta, Massimo Piovesana, Karola Gramann, Heidi Schüpmann, Ester de Miro, Tami Williams, and Victoria Duckett. Moderated by Marianne Lewinsky.

Best Retrospective: Germaine Dulac

Germain Dulac

Best Live Musical Accompaniment

A Swedish ensemble performing Matti Bye’s new score for Victor Sjostrom’s 1917 film Terje Vigen, in the Piazza Maggiore.

Terje Vigen

Unexpected Pleasures
  • Carmen Miranda’s knowing wisecracks in The Gang’s All Here.

  • Jon Gartenberg’s program of a group of 1906 Vitagraph films that began shaping a model for what was to become the Classical Hollywood Style.

Review of the 2006 Festival:


2007 Program Book

2007 Program Book

Best Films I Saw

  • Army of Shadows. This 1969 Jean-Pierre Melville political thriller makes an ideal vehicle for his existential sensibility.
Army of Shadows

Army of Shadows

  • L’Étrange Madame X. A delicately drawn portrait of passion and imagination from the unjustly neglected French filmmaker Jean Grémillon. Originally released in 1951.

L’Etrange Madame X

Best Retrospective: Asta Nielsen

Asta Nielsen

Best Live Interview or on-Stage Discussion

Ben Gazzara, who spoke to the audience in fluent Italian (rendered in English by a translator).

Unexpected Pleasure:

Edward G. Robinson hamming it up in the 1930 comedy A Lady to Love, directed by Victor Sjostrom.

Best Live Musical Accompaniment

Timothy Brock leading the Orchestra del Teatro Communale di Bologna in a score adapted from Chaplin material for the opening night screening of The Idle Class and The Kid ((both 1921)

The Kid


2008 Program Book

2008 Program Book

Best Film

The Great Consoler. Lev Kuleshov’s rarely seen 1933 masterpiece features striking visuals, a wrenching story, and a bravura use of sound.

The Great Consoler

Best Retrospective: Josef Von Sternberg

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Fernandel as a feisty anti-Communist priest in The Little World of Don Camillo, a 1952 French/Italian comedy directed by Julien Duvivier.

Fernandel in “The Little World of Don Camillo”

  • James Cagney and Joan Blondell in Blonde Crazy (1931).

Blonde Crazy

Best Live Musical Accompaniments

  • Neil Brand’s thrilling, witty score for the silent version of Hitchcock’s Blackmail, played by the Orchestra del Teatro Communale under the direction of Timothy Brock in the Piazza Maggiore.
Timothy Brock and Neil Brand taking a bow

Timothy Brock and Neil Brand taking a bow

  • A program of early European avant-garde films accompanied by their original scores as composed by Camille Saint-Saëns (The Assassination of the Duc de Guise) , Max Butting (Walther Ruttmann’s Opus 1), George Antheil (Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique), and Eric Sati (Rene Clair’s Entr’Acte). Another early avant-garde treasure, Otto Fischinger’s Motion Painting N.1, was paired with music by J. S. Bach. Again played by the the Orchestra del Teatro Communale under the direction of Timothy Brock in the Piazza Maggiore.



2009 Program Book


Best Films I Saw

  • Al Momia. This stately, elegant tale, first released in 1969, is based on a true story about the plunder of Egypt’s cultural treasures in the 19th Century. Al Momia was the only film directed by Sahdi Abdul Salam, who worked as an art director for most of his career. A spectacular backdrop of ancient temples frames the story, the images rendered with pristine crispness in a new restoration sponsored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.
Al Momia

Al Momia

  • Long Pants. The most accomplished and fully realized of the early Capra works we saw, anchored by the virtuoso pantomime of its star Harry Langdon. Originally released in 1927, this is the only Langdon film in which one of  the terrifying amoral women who abound in the star’s oeuvre is securely anchored within a cogent narrative. The movie’s theme of immature male sexuality was later taken up by Jerry Lewis and Seth Rogen, but it has never been so adroitly exploited as here.
Long Pants

Long Pants

Best Retrospective: Early Capra

Unexpected Pleasures: Knockout performances by Rod Steiger (Duck, You Sucker) and Beulah Bondi (Make Way for Tomorrow, Track of the Cat).

Duck, You Sucker

Make Way for Tomorrow




Best Film I Saw: Three Bad Men. Ford’s silent masterpiece was shown in the Piazza Maggiore accompanied by the Orchestra del Teatro Communale di Bologna premiering Timothy Brock’s magnificent new score.

Three Bad Men

Best Retrospective: Early John Ford.

John Ford

Best Live Musical Accomaniments:

  • Brock’s score for Three Bad Men.
  • Donald Sosin’s wistful piano variations on “Santa Lucia,” played during the screening of a poetic documentary of the same title.

Donald Sosin

Unexpected Pleasures

  • John Ford biographer Joseph McBride’s informed introductions to the Ford screenings.

  • The increased visibility of Marianne Lewinsky, who curated numerous provocative programs featuring silent era films.

For next year? Fix the heat in the Lumiere Complex. Something MUST be done about the air conditioning.


This was a banner year for the Ritrovato. To celebrate its 25th anniversary the festival offered an embarrassment of riches. The main problem for attendees: choosing among several intriguing films scheduled opposite one another.

Best Films I Saw

  • Scarface. Part of the festival’s Howard Hawks retrospective, but I was struck on this viewing with how much the film owes to Ben Hecht’s daring, witty script and to standout performances by Paul Muni and character actor Vince Barnett.

Vince Barnett, Paul Muni and Karen Morley  in Scarface

  • Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un ete). I had never before had a chance to view this milestone 1960 production and was prepared for an uncomplicated cinema verite document. But co-directors  Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin add a sophisticated self-reflexive veneer to the proceedings which adds a provocative spin to what could have been a bland, unfocused series of interviews.

Jean Rouch, Marceline Loridan-Ivens and Edgar Morin in Chronicle of a Summer

  • The Girl with the Hatbox (Devuska s korobkoj). My biggest frustration at this year’s festival was that I was unable to take in more of the early films of Soviet auteur Boris Barnet. This engaging romantic comedy, made in 1927, was the best of those I was able to see.

The Girl with the Hatbox

  • French Can-Can. Jean Renoir’s exuberant exploration of the pleasures and pitfalls of life in the theater. Produced in France in 1955, it was screened as part of the series of films featuring innovative uses of color.

French Can-Can

  • The Art of Getting Along (L’Arte di arrangiarsi). This corrosive 1954 political satire from Luigi Lampa features the inimitable comic star Alberto Sordi.

Alberto Sordi in The Art of Getting Along

Best Retrospectives

  • Early Howard Hawks. Though  invariably entertaining and consistently displaying the distinctive  Hawksian themes and stylistic motifs , this group of films varied considerably in terms of quality. The lesson offered is  how much this canonical auteur owed to some of his gifted collaborators, most notably screenwriters and performers.
  • Luigi Zampa. The few films I was able to catch from the  retrospective offered a tantalizing glimpse into the oeuvre of what is obviously a major figure in Italian cinema.
  • Boris Barnet. The small selection of this program I sampled suggested that Barnet’s work fell off considerably after the 1940s, but the early films set a high standard.

Best Live Musical Accompaniment. Gunther Buchwald’s plaintive piano and violin performance during the screening of Lois Weber’s 1916 production Shoes.

Gunther Buchwald

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Edward G. Robinson’s spirited rendition of a Portuguese fisherman in the 1932 Tiger Shark.

Tiger Shark

  • Forty-five-year-old Jo Van Fleet playing an octogenarian in the 1960 production Wild River.

Jo Van Fleet in Wild River

  • Walter Brennan confessing that he feels like a little white kitten in Barbary Coast.

Walter Brennan in Barbary Coast

  • The diverting antics of a clever Jack Russell terrier highlighted by a riff on Rescued by Rover in the 2011 Cannes favorite  The Artist. The film itself is a charming look back on the pleasured of silent cinema.
  • The witty fest promo reel.


2012 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: The Big Trail. Raoul Walsh’s talents are given full play in this sweeping epic about the settling of the West. Walsh’s discovery John Wayne stars.

The Big Trail

Best Retrospectives

  • Raoul Walsh. Walsh’s well-known romantic affinity with nature and bold deep-focus compositions were on display here along with a less-celebrated flair for comedy and sensitivity to actors.

Raoul Walsh

  • Lois Weber. An unjustly forgotten figure, as famous in her time as DeMille and Griffith, Weber was represented in Bologna with a varied selection of titles from large-scale epics (The Dumb Girl of Portici) to intimate portraits (Sunshine Molly).

Lois Weber and Anna Pavlova on the set of The Dumb Girl of Portici

Best Live Musical Accompaniments

  • Timothy Brock’s lyrical symphonic score for Prix de Beaute, the festival’s opening night film screened in the Piazza Maggiore.

Timothy Brock

  • Donald Sosin supplementing his piano accompaniment to The Mystery of the Hindu Image with eerie chanting at climactic moments.
  • Neil Brand’s rousing, expertly modulated score for What Price Glory?

Neil Brand

  • Gabriell Thibaudeau playing his evocative, newly-composed score for The Thief of Bagdad, accompanied by a local violinist.

Gabriel Thibaudeau

Unexpected Pleasures

  • William Cameron Menzies’ spectacular art nouveau sets for The Thief of Bagdad.

The Thief of Bagdad

  • Eugene Pallette’s shtick as a stagecoach driver recounting his own version of a robbery at great length in Wild Girl.

Wild Girl (Eugene Pallette on right)

  • Critic Olaf Muller decrying the absence of women on the many panels dealing with cinephilia during the festival. Thanks to the informed, energetic leadership of Mariann Lewinsky, women have been well represented among the filmmakers honored in Bologna, but the old-boy-ism that haunts much of film festival culture, not to mention the movie reviewing community, was  on full display in this series of discussions.

Shock and Awe: sloppy projection and subtitling at the Arlecchino and Jolly screenings. Never a problem in the past; one must hope it will be corrected next year.


Best Films I Saw

  • Wife, Be Like a Rose (Futarizuma:Tsuma Yo Bara No Yo Ni). Mikio Narusa’s gentle domestic melodrama, first released in 1935, beautifully balances competing interests and visions of family life in a modernizing Japan.


Wife, Be Like a Rose

  • The Great War (La Grande Guerra). A biting satire from Mario Monicelli which ultimately turns to tragedy as war gradually transforms two clownish Italian malingerers into patriots and heroes. The epic scale of the production is matched by masterful performances by Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi, two of Italy’s greatest stars, who capture both the comedy and the pathos of the hapless characters they play.

The Great War

  • La Pointe Courte. Agnes Varda’s intimate, affectionate portrait of life among the impoverished fishermen of a little village in Southern France.

La Pointe Courte

Best Retrospective: Vittorio de Sica

Vittorio de Sica

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Charles Barr’s informative, provocative lecture on Hitchcock, which focused on some of the director’s early influences.

Charles Barr

  • Vittorio de Sica’s virtuoso turn as the rhetorically adept lawyer for a woman accused of killing her mother-in-law in Il Processo di Frine, part of the 1952 compilation film Altri Tempi .

Il Processo di Frine

  • The exquisitely hand-colored print of the 1913 Zaza.
  • Burt Lancaster’s wide grin, both seductive and menacing, in Vera Cruz.

Vera Cruz

  • The opening vignette of Hitchcock’s 1925 The Pleasure Garden, which skewers male voyerism and commodified female exhibitionism in a sequence which bears an uncanny resemblance to Dorothy Arzner’s much-admired scene in Dance, Girl, Dance.

The Pleasure Garden


2014 Program Book

Best Films I Saw:

  • East of Eden. Elia Kazan’s 1955 take on John Steinbeck’s classic tale of family trauma in early 20th century California holds up well. An ideal vehicle for the talents of its star James Dean.

East of Eden

  • Marriage, Italian Style. (Matrimonio all’Italia). One of the all-time great movie comedies, masterfully helmed by Vittorio de Sica and featuring inimitable performances by its stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

Marriage, Italian Style

Best Retrospective: William Wellman. A stalwart of the classical studio era, Wellman proved himself a master of a wide range of genres.

Unexpected Pleasure: Westward, the Women. Developed from a story by Frank Capra (!) and directed by Wellman, this 1951 Western celebrates the strength and endurance of women pioneers.

Westward, the Women


Best Films I Saw:

  • The Brigand (Il Brigante). Renato Castellani’s sweeping, searing epic tale of social injustice and simmering rebellion in southern Italy featured  spectacular location shooting and mostly non-professional actors . Originally released in 1960, we saw an expanded version that ran 170 minutes.


The Brigand

  • La Belle Équipe (They Were Five). A moving portrait of poverty and camaraderie in 1930s France from Julian Divivier, one of the country’s most accomplished auteurs. Jean Gabin anchors a superb ensemble cast.

La Belle EquipeBest Retrospectives

  • Renato Castellani. To belittle  films like The Brigand and Sotto il Sole di Roma by tagging them with the label “pink neo-realism” is to perpetrate a major injustice on a rare talent who deserves to be much better known outside of Italy.

Renato Castellani

Sotto il sole di Roma

  • Leo McCarey. A master of comedy with an unparalleled ability to build gags and invent imaginative witticisms.  Among the many highlights: His Wooden Wedding with Charley Chase, Love Affair with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne.

Leo McCarey

His Wooden Wedding

Love Affair

Shock and Awe. Air conditioning in the theaters. Something must be done!


Best Films I Saw

  • Muriel, or the Time of Return (Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour). Alain Resnais’ 1963 masterpiece  observes the fallout as old lovers reconnect in a coastal French village ravaged by World War II bombing. Jean Cayrol‘s complex, deeply felt scenario weaves together issues of personal and political identity

Muriel, or the Time of Return

Afraid to Talk. A superlative example of classical Hollywood at its best with all hands working in perfect harmony to produce a  fast-moving, quick-witted, deftly plotted,  crisply photographed, and smartly performed political satire. Originally released in 1932, it was part of Bologna’s tribute to the slate of films overseen by Carl Laemmle, Jr. at Universal during the early 1930s.

Afraid to Talk

  • The Crucible (Les sorcières de Salem). Ably directed by Raymond Rouleau from a script by Jean-Paul Sartre which foregrounds the political subtext of Arthur Miller’s play, this scorching tale features full-on performances by all, especially the two stars, Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

The Crucible

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Breathtaking, mood-enhancing photography in Shooting Stars (Anthony Asquith, 1928), Destiny (Der müde Tod, Fritz Lang, 1921), and Gates of the Night (Les portes de la nuit, Marcel Carne, 1946).

Shooting Stars,


Gates of the Night

  • Bertrand Tavernier’s ideosyncratic, affectionate and deeply knowledgable tribute to the film tradition of his native land  in Voyage through French Cinema (Voyage à travers le cinéma français, 2016).

Bertrand Tavernier narrating Voyage through French Cinema

  • Revelatory Portraits of Underdogs and Outcasts

*Casualties of war and colonial expansionism in Westfront 1918 (G. W. Pabst, 1930) and Adieu, Bonaparte (Youssef Chahine, 1985)

Westfront, 1918

Adieu, Bonaparte

*Sympathetic portraits of immigrants and refugees in Belgium  (Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre, Paul Meyer, 1960) and Italy (Die Letze Chance, Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, 1962).

Deja s’envole la fleur maigre

Die Letze chance

*Respectful, no-nonsense portrayals of gay and lesbian characters in Sonar, Sonar (Leonardo Favio, 1976), and The Kiss Before the Mirror (James Whale, 1933)–and especially Marlon Brando’s brave portrait of a tortured closeted gay army officer in Reflections in a Golden Eye (John Huston, 1962).

Sonar, Sonar

Jean Dixon in The Kiss Before the Mirror

Reflections in a Golden Eye

* The respectful and dignified depiction of African-Americans in Laughter in Hell (Universal, 1933).

Laughter in Hell


2017 Festival poster

Best Film I Saw: The Crime of Monsieur Lange (Jean Renoir, 1936). Deeply humanistic and politically complicated, featuring a bravura closing shot.

The Crime of Monsieur Lange

Best Retrospective: Augusto Genina. A political chameleon and a virtuoso stylist whose work was spread over several decades and several countries.

Genina’s Cielo sulla Palude

Best Live Musical Accompaniment: Stephen Horne on piano, flute and accordion at the screening of Genina’s Addio Giovinezza.



2018 Festival Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • Sôshun (Early Spring), Yazijiro Ozu, 1956.  Ozu paints a bleak portrait of the life of an office worker in postwar Japan.

Early Spring


  • Le Silence est d’or (Silence Is Golden), René Clair, 1947. Clair’s effervescent piece of nostalgia about the early days of moviemaking features Maurice Chevalier at his most disarming.

Silence Is Golden


  • Roma citta’ libera (Rome Free City) (a.k.a. La note porta consiglio), Marcello Pagliero, 1946. Though it shares a setting with the more famous Roma, citta aperto, Pagliero’s examines the plight of denizens of the eternal city in the aftermath of World War II in a less despairing mode.

Roma libera


  • Un Homme marche dans la ville (A Man Walks in the City), Marcello Pagliero, 1950. Pagliero paints a grim portrait of the desperate lives of French dockworkers in La Havre, who are weighed down as much by the bombed-out buildings that surround them as by the brutal labor conditions they confront.

un homme marche dans la ville


  • Le Ragazze di piazza di spana (Three Girls from Rome), Luciano Emmer, 1952. This lighthearted frolic in the eternal city invites a reconsideration of the derogatory label “pink neorealism.”

3 Girls from Rome

  • Wanjia Denghuo (Lights of Ten Thousand Homes), Shen Fu, 1948. An unblinking exposé of the devastating effects of rising unemployment and runaway inflation on a bourgeois family in postwar China.

Lights from 10,000 Homes


  • Shoulder Arms, Charlie Chaplin, 1918. Chaplin proves he can mine comic gold from any subject with this wry satire of life in the trenches of World War I.

Shoulder Arms


  • The Navigator, Buster Keaton, Donald Crisp 1924. Keaton is in top form as he battles with a gargantuan freighter and a bulky sea-diving costume.

The Navigator

Unexpected Pleasures:  

  • Barry Conners, Philip Klein, and Leon Gordon’s witty script for Bachelors’ Affairs, part of the Twentieth Century Fox retrospective.

    Bachelors’ Affairs

  • Ann Savage telling Tom Powers to “shuddup” in Detour.

Ann Savage and Tom Powers in Detour

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