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Naples ‘Images’ unfold in 80-pic retrospective

In one of the most ambitious regional retrospectives ever assembled at the Museum of Modern Art, the city of Naples is brought to life in a cycle of over 80 features. “Napoletana: Images of a City” runs through Jan. 27.

The series was prepared over a five-year period by the museum’s film curator, Adrienne Mancia, and the Italian-based Incontri Intl. d’Arte, in association with Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.

As time went by, organizers saw generous grants from Italian officialdom dwindle as Italy’s economy began to recede.

“When we started the show five years ago,” Mancia said, “Italy was in a different position. Unfortunately, events in Italy limited our funds and … it’s a miracle the show has gone on.”

Program includes early silent films shot to illustrate Neapolitan songs performed by live singers, images of a bombed, wartime city in Roberto Rossellini’s 1946 neo-realist “Paisan,” and 1992’s “Death of a Neopolitan Mathematician” by Mario Martone.

“The concept is more important than the individual films,” Mancia said. “These films are rooted in the environment, culture, language and landscape of Naples. It’s a popular film culture made for the working-class guy in the street.”

Director Francesco Rosi is skedded to present his classics “La Sfida” and “Hands Over the City.” Sofia Loren is expected for the New York premiere of “Saturday, Sunday, Monday.”

Two other Italian film shows are going on in New York — a complete retro of Federico Fellini’s oeuvre at Film Forum and a showcase of seven new directors organized by New Italian Cinema Events at the Thalia Cinema.

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