|Toni D'Angelo in the center with members of his cast and crew of "Filmstudio, mon Amour"|
|Armando Leone and Carlo Verdone|
"In that period, culture was behind the scenes. Small groups of kids got together and played music. While you walked around Rome, you heard it. That's how you knew there was a club with music. So you went down into it. Prati (the neighborhood) was full." -Carlo Verdone
On October 2, 1967, Filmstudio opened its doors and Rome's bustling quarter of Trastevere was transformed from a working class neighborhood into a boundless stage. "It was as if an atomic bomb of creativity had fallen on Rome and the Roman culture, which had been almost dormant," recalls composer Alvin Curran. Armando Leone, Filmstudio historian, describes Italy in 1967, explaining how the political unrest in the United States caused "an air of confusion and excitement." That air provided the perfect climate in which information and creativity met in the theater in the form of arts and poetry. It was a brief time in history when artists and filmmakers managed to free themselves from censorship, opening the floodgates to new artistic standards and a wealth of experimentation.
Filmstudio's founders Annabella Miscuglio and Amerigo Sbardella shared a passion for cinema. The inspiration behind Filmstudio came after the two attended the "Exhibit of New Cinema" in Pesaro during the summer of 1967. The exhibit featured a new style of visionary cinema that was being made in America. Miscuglio and Sbardella were profoundly moved by what they saw and left the exhibit with a renewed energy. "The film studio was born as a place to present experimental films and militantly political cinema," explains Sbardella.
Bernardo Bertolucci recalls the diversity of films shown at Filmstudio. "We always walked to Filmstudio. In the beginning, it was known as a place where they showed things that weren't being shown anyplace else in Rome." In an interview shortly after Filmstudio opened, founder Annabella Miscuglio said that most of their films came from abroad. "They are films that are excluded from the commercial circuit in Italy. We also project Italian films that don't get shown in the commercial cinemas." One example shown is "Men Hop" by Norman McLaren, a Scottish-Canadian director and pioneer in animation and filmmaking. He won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1952 for his anti-war film, "Neighbours".
"It was a magical moment. It was the highlight of experimental cinema activity, which was part of the incredible spectacle that was Rome during those years. It was a beautiful space both physically and humanistically with the organizers, with friends of the artists and whoever else was around.. with Jonas Mekas seated in the back row with a suitcase full of films. It was an extraordinary time," recalls director Alfredo Leonardi. Jonas Mekas, a Lithuanian-American filmmaker and critic, frequented Filmstudio in its early days. D'Angelo credits Mekas with initiating the Cooperativa del Cinema Indipendente (CCI), a project of expression, which integrated dance, theater and painting- introducing an independent esthetic relative to the American one. In the film, Mekas simply and beautifully describes his objective as an experimental filmmaker: "to catch the moment of real life as it happens."
D'Angelo also revisits the experimental directors Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli, and their controversial film, "Anna" which documents their relationship with a homeless, pregnant 16-year-old girl they met at Piazza Navona in Rome. Shot in the early 70's, the film is still relevant today. Recently restored by the Cineteca di Bologna, the nearly four-hour documentary was shown last year at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Art of the Reel series. D'Angelo used soundbites from Grifi describing the production and the moment he and Sarchielli realized the seriousness of Anna's situation.
|Toni D'Angelo and Nanni Moretti|
Perhaps my favorite quote from Filmstudio, mon Amour came from director Tonino DeBerardi when he posed a question and offered the answer:
"What is experimental film?
All of life is experimental. If you don't live in an experimental way, you're screwed. Who gives a damn about you? I'm not interested in you. I'm not even interested in me if I'm not an experimental creature."
|With my friend of more than a decade at his premiere|
In the meantime, if you have the opportunity to see Filmstudio mon Amour, I highly recommend it. It is a fascinating and creative portrait of Rome's contemporary history and the evolution of this iconic theater and cinema as a whole.