Friday, October 07, 2011

Una tragedia al cinematografo / [A Tragedy at the Cinema]

(Een treurspel in de bioscoop) (Cines, IT 1913) D+SC: Enrico Guazzoni; cast: Pina Menichelli; 35 mm, 166 m, 8' (18 fps), col. (tinted); from: EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). © 1913 Cines © 2003 RIPLEY’S FILM Srl. Tutti i diritti riservati. Nederlandse tussentitels. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone (Italia 150: Italian Cinema: Pina Menichelli), with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Nicola Thomas Zyczynski, 7 Oct 2011.

Ivo Blom (GCM Catalogue): "A Cines variation of comedies dealing with cinemas and promoting the company and its films is the short Una tragedia al cinematografo, with a then still-unknown Pina Menichelli as leading actress. A jealous man pursues his elegant wife (Menichelli) who chats with a male friend in front of the entrance of a cinema. The cinema is covered outside and inside with posters of the 1913 Cines top hit Quo vadis? by Enrico Guazzoni, a publicity stroke for the Cines company. Merry people in carnival outfits prevent the husband from seeing whether his wife has entered the cinema. Convinced that she is in there, together with her presumed lover, the husband fights his way in and threatens the manager of the cinema that he will shoot his unfaithful wife. The manager stops the projection – a film about an adulterous woman reading a secret letter from her lover, naturally – and warns the audience that a jealous husband awaits his unfaithful spouse at the exit with a gun. The hilarious result is that, when the projection is restarted, all adulterous couples secretly flee from the theatre. When the lights are on again, the room is almost empty. Apart from being a funny film on the cinema as locus for illicit rendez-vous, the idea of spectators watching a film in which they see other spectators watching a film creates a sort of Chinese-box effect, used elsewhere in Italian cinema, as in Al cinematografo, guardate – ma non toccate (Itala, 1912) and Maciste (Itala, 1915) by Giovanni Pastrone, thereby increasing the sensation of cinematographic voyeurism. This is even more emphatic in Una tragedia al cinematografo." – Ivo Blom (“All the Same or Strategies of Difference. Early Italian Comedy in International Perspective”, in Anna Antonini, ed., Il film e i suoi multipli/Film and Its Multiples, Udine: Forum, 2003)

AA: A comedy (despite the title!). Ivo Blom summarizes the plot above. To be added are the clowns cavorting on the streets, the large cinema handbills delivered in front of the movie palace, the coincidental character of Pina Menichelli's meeting with the male friend of the family in front of the cinema, and the fact that it seems to be a trio playing in front of the screen (tbc). Thirty couples escape through the emergency exit after the cinema manager's useful warning. Although the print has been struck from a heavily used and partially battered source, there is a beautiful visual quality in the imagery, toned in sepia.

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