Friday, October 08, 2010

[Film medici di Vincenzo Neri]

[The Vincenzo Neri Medical Collection] (IT, 1908-1928) D: Vincenzo Neri; 35 mm (28 fragments), 437 m, 24 min (16 fps); from: Home Movies - Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia, Bologna / Università degli Studi di Udine - La Camera Ottica, Gorizia. Preserved and printed in 2010. No intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM), 8 Oct 2010

SIMONE VENTURINI in the GCM Catalogue: "Vincenzo Neri (1880-1961) was an early 20th century clinician who played a significant role in the history of neurological science. He was a pupil of Giuseppe Dagnini (1866-1928) in Bologna and of Joseph Babinski (1857-1932) in Paris. From his first formative years and later as a clinician (first in Paris, from 1906-07, and then in Bologna as neurological consultant at the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute and as founder of the Villa Baruzziana clinic for nervous diseases) he attached great importance to neurological semiotics, observation and study of the objective manifestations, signs, of disease .
Alongside direct visual observation, Neri experimented with three principal methods of analysis and representation in order to fix, print, capture the “clinical signs” to distinguish maladies of functional and psychiatric origins from the neurological: the graphic method (impressions, drawings, diagrams); the chronophotographic method (cinema) and the photographic method.
Neri has left behind an important collection of these “signs”. The archive rediscovered in Bologna in 2008 in the possession of his heirs contains scientific material (notably photographic reproductions and film photograms), hundreds of negatives, prints and photographic plates, as well as stereograms, reproductions of sketches of the imprint of the patients’ feet to assess problems of walking; paper prints, audio recordings, dozens of shots in 35mm (datable between 1908 and 1928), in16mm (locatable between the immediate postwar and the mid-1950s) and indirect evidence (paper prints) of films in 17.5mm (probably from a Biokam and dating back to 1909-10).
In particular the photographic and chronophotographic method (cinema technique applied to the analysis and not the synthesis of movement) would accompany the whole trajectory of the professional life of Neri, finally constituting a large and complex archive. Neri combined the semiotics of Babinski with the practice of Étienne-Jules Marey, working with rigour, constancy, great intelligence and originality. The film material – apart from two edited elements dating from the end of the 1940s – is made up of unedited, separate units, in the service of analytical record and of the scientific “structure” of the collection.
The collection of film in 35mm (negative and positive, from 1908 to c1928) was originally conserved in fourteen cans and constituted 70 archival units. Corresponding to the span of the period, there are materials in different forms and styles. The material, at least from the earliest period, consists of supports and emulsions produced at the margins of the nascent cinema industry and shot and processed in an amateur fashion. From the beginnings, the elements are from almost unknown origins (like the negative developed by Georges Mendel in Paris or the “Atrax” negative produced by Tensi of Milan); from the twenties they are familiar (Gevart and Kodak for the negative and pre-imbibita or imbibita Ferrania for the positive).
The result is a body of decomposing and fragmentary material, hard to reconstruct from a purely editorial position and recovered in the laboratory. The clinic and the semiotic are to medicine as the archaeological, cultural and integral history of the made object are to the analytical work which is the prelude to restoration tout court. And the consequent therapy of restoration applied to the 35mm Neri collection has been as experimental as rigorous in method and happy in the final results.
The restoration – financed and carried out by the Haghefilm Laboratory of Amsterdam – is part of a training programme sponsored by the Haghefilm Foundation, in the course of which the precarious material condition of a great part of the collection has been taken into account. The solutions evolved to cope with the pronounced shrinkage and advanced state of decomposition of the materials have enabled the recuperation of the collection far beyond our most optimistic expectations, guaranteeing the safeguarding of the complete and most representative sequences, but also of those more fragmented and compromised.
The preservation of the 16mm collection is currently in progress at the Haghefilm Laboratory of Amsterdam, while subsequent digital work on other 35mm sequences will be carried out at the Camera Ottica Laboratory of the University of Udine, Dams Gorizia.
This is the first public screening of the Vincenzo Neri Collection. The material is shown in its presumed chronological order of filming, following critical examination of the material, subject to subsequent research and revisions: 28 sequences in all, numbered and separated by black leader
The research group for the Vincenzo Neri collection is a multi-disciplinary team composed of Lorenzo Lorusso (Department of Neurology, Chiara, Brescia) Karianne Fiorini, Paolo Simoni, Mirco Santi (Home Movies – Archivio Nazionale del Film, Bologna), Chiara Tartarini (Universita degli Studi di Bologna), Simone Venturini, Giulio Bursi, Claudio Domini, Giulia Barini (Università degli Studi di Udine – Laboratories La Camera Ottica e Crea, Udine/Gorizia), Alessandro Porro (Università degli Studi di Brescia), e Virgilio Tosi, Rome. – SIMONE VENTURINI".

The image quality varied: mostly good, but some shots are about to vanish altogether. Some items are tinted. - Against a black background nude patients of the clinic of neurological diseases were photographed. These images belong to the Marey - Muybridge - Edison's Black Maria tradition. - There is a serious ethical question involved, as defenseless patients are totally exposed. The same question is involved in all medical films. They are not meant for us to see. - Yet I confess that some of the most memorable films I have seen are medical films such as the Edison series on epileptic seizures (seen in Pordenone in 1995) and Eugène-Louis Doyen's films on brain surgeries and tumor surgeries (shown in Bologna in 2004).

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