Italy’s Centro Sperimentale Ramping up Film Restorations (EXCLUSIVE)

Italy’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia is ramping up production of restored Italian cinema gems with several high-profile titles set to screen at upcoming festivals including the Taviani Brothers’ “Good Morning Babilonia” which plays Thursday on Locarno’s Piazza Grande, presented by Paolo Taviani. 

The fablelike “Babilonia,” which is about two immigrant stonemasons who work on the sets for D. W. Griffith’s ”Intolerance,” has been praised by Locarno artistic director Carlo Chatrian as “not just a homage to the great Italian tradition of art and craft workshops, but also an insightful interpretation of what cinema is about.”

The film’s restoration was supervised by its original cinematographer Beppe Lanci, as CSC chief Felice Laudadio points out.

Laudadio has been instrumental to the current push for more restorations being done by the CSC’s film archives. “The plan from now up to next May is for 12 films, which has never been done before,” he says, noting that “it used to be two or three a year.” Fresh restorations of two other Taviani pics are in the pipeline — “The Night of the Shooting Stars,” which will bow at Venice, and “San Michele Aveva un Gallo” (“St. Michael had a Rooster”) which will premiere in Rome.

The CSC will also be bowing a freshly restored copy of Liliana Cavani’s classic “The Night Porter” in Venice for which they are restoring the original voice tracks of stars Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling.

These titles have been preceded by a landmark restoration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris,” handled by its ace lenser Vittorio Storaro. “Tango” was released on 158 screens in Italy in late May where it opened at number five and stayed in the top 10 for two weeks. Laudadio calls this “a good result,” for a restored movie despite the fact that box office in Italy during that period was way down.

Other titles such as “Night Porter” will be going out soon in Italian cinemas under the CSC Production/Distribution label.

Other CSC restorations in various stages include Marco Vicario’s 1965 comedy “7 Uomini D’Oro,” which was a huge hit at the Italian box office, Laudadio notes, as well as war movie “Italiani Brava Gente” by Giuseppe De Santis, and Luchino Visconti’s “Conversation Piece.”

He said new Italian tax incentives for the arts have helped him push more restorations forward and revealed that the average cost for them of each one is €100,000 ($116,000).

Laudadio noted that the CSC this year will be attending October’s Lumière Festival in Lyon, headed up by Betrand Tavernier and Thierry Fremaux, which is dedicated to heritage cinema, and presenting their slate at the specialized market for restorations there for the first time.


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