Friday, October 06, 2017

Antologia filmati neuropatologici realizzati dal prof. Camillo Negro con Roberto Omegna (2011 restoration Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino)

Camillo Negro treating a patient with a prosthetic leg and examining neuropathological reactions in the surviving leg. The finale of the anthology. (Grande guerra 100, 7 Oct 2017). Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino.
Antologia filmati neuropatologici realizzati dal prof. Camillo Negro con Roberto Omegna: the shell-shock victim (Grande guerra 100, 7 Oct 2017: the first image of the shell-shock section of the anthology). Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino.

Camillo Negro (IT 1906-1918), photog: Roberto Omegna, prod: Ambrosio, 35 mm, 987 m, 48 min (18 fps); b&w, tinted; titles: ITA, ENG, source: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino, restored: 2011, Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino, with the collaboration of Dipartimento di Neuroscienze dell’Università di Torino.
    Parts one and two of this compilation film (lasting 32 minutes), will be screened in the section “Rediscoveries and Restorations” (R&R); the third part (16 minutes), of a shell-shock victim, is in “The Effects of War.” 
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Rediscoveries and Restorations.
    Grand piano: Daan van den Hurk (6 Oct 2017), John Sweeney (7 Oct 2017)
    Teatro Verdi, 6 Oct 2017 and 7 Oct 2017.

Claudia Gianetto (GCM 2017): "Between 1906 and 1908 a professor of neurology, Camillo Negro, with his assistant Giuseppe Roasenda and Roberto Omegna, an expert cameraman, filmed some of his patients in the Cottolengo charity hospital and the Policlinico in Turin. During the First World War he continued his scientific cinema project in Turin’s military hospital, documenting the effects of the fighting on shell-shocked troops returning from the front line."

"Inspired by the experience of French surgeon Eugène Doyen and particularly Romanian neurologist Gheorghe Marinesco, Negro was among the first to employ film technology for the purposes of scientific research and dissemination, achieving remarkable results, in aesthetic as well as medical terms. His films are distinguished not only by the quality of their photography, and the sympathetic onscreen presence of Negro, but also the sensitivity with which the patients are shown; powerful in their visual impact, they record the advanced stages of a variety of illnesses."

"In the contemporary press, accounts of the lectures given by Negro indicate that the footage had the structure of an anthology, organized into chapters or episodes, which he modified several times in the 1910s and 20s."

"Presented abroad as well as in Italy, the footage was a great academic success, but was never released commercially. Following Negro’s death in 1927 it languished, invisible, for decades, considered even by the most scrupulous experts to be nothing more than a short documentary of only a few metres. In the early 1980s the noted Italian historian and critic Alberto Farassino described the material he had seen of La neuropatologia: a fragment conserved at the Istituto Luce, which was included by Virgilio Tosi in his documentary on Omegna, dealing with the fits of a blindfolded hysteric, and two unprojectable nitrate reels held by Maria Adriana Prolo at the archive in Turin. Believing these “scraps” to be the film’s only surviving sequences, Farassino wrote: “Even in a fragment of film a few metres long, even in an offcut, there is life that has passed and been recorded forever. And often it takes just a couple of frames to make a story.”"

"An in-depth analysis of the fragments subsequently preserved, and the discovery of new nitrate material held in the Museo del Cinema, made it possible to assemble an anthology (about 1,000 metres, in 35 mm), edited by the Museo in co-operation with the Neuroscience Department of the University of Turin, which was realized at the Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna in 2011. Starting from an analysis of the sources, a new editing sequence was devised, so that all the miscellaneous material could be correctly presented in a coherent order. Of crucial importance for this analysis were the paper documents held in a “private Omegna archive”, information obtained from the historian Bujor T. Rîpeanu, and comparison with films conserved in the Arhiva Nationala de Filme in Bucharest."

"The first part of the anthology (29′, b&w) presents the episodes shot between 1906 and 1908, based on a detailed account dated 12 March 1908 of a screening at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, published in the first issue of Phono-Cinéma-Revue (March 1908). The editing of this sequence corresponds to medical and viewing logic alike, with a progression of “cases” from the  particular to the general. The middle part (3′, b&w) consists of images showing Negro surrounded by a team of doctors and students. The material depicting shell-shock is collected in the third part of the anthology (16′, b&w and colour), with cases documenting the war’s devastating impact in clinical-neurological terms. One of the most significant and distressing sequences among the new additions shows a young man reliving the horror of the trenches in a room in the military hospital.
" Claudia Gianetto

AA: Medical records of neuropathological syndromes filmed by prof. Camillo Negro and Roberto Omegna.

Medical records belong to the most unforgettable documents of early cinema. I will never forget the Edison cycle on epileptic seizures (GCM 1995). Nor Eugène-Louis Doyen's Extirpation des tumeurs encapsulées (FR 1906) and Les Opérations sur la cavité crânienne (FR 1911), restored in 2002 by Cinemateca Portuguesa (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2004). The cure of la grande hystérie was recorded in La neuropatologia (IT 1908) by Camillo Negro and Roberto Omegna in the program Cento anni fà: I film del 1908: 1: Donne del 1908 curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Monica Dall'Asta (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2008). I do not remember if the footage of that eight minute film is identical to some in today's program. Anyway these Camillo Negro films are in the same league.


The anthology starts with an extreme close-up of eyes opening and shutting and close-ups of facial expressions. A girl's knee reflexes are recorded. A man is trembling on a bench. A man stares at us, his mouth shaking, dripping with saliva. Various forms of dyskinesia are documented. A man tries to stand up, helped by four doctors. The leg is trembling while he is trying to walk. A man is walking in a circle. In winter footage a man clad in a winter coat is not able to drink because his hand is shaking so violently. A scene with four mentally retarded grown-ups. A scene with nine patients with dyskinesia. A scene with dozens of patients walking in the yard of a mental hospital. A scene with two doctors and a patient with dyskinesia of the neck. A scene with two doctors and a woman clad in a black mask experiencing syndromes of La Grande hystérie (violent cramps). Two doctors hold the woman on a bed until the fit is over. There is an atmosphere of tender attention. A scene of hysteria without a mask; in the end the woman is smiling. Footage on knee reflexes. Outside in the sunshine patients are trembling.


A shell-shocked man (see the second image above) is experiencing spasms. His suffering is visible. He has dyslexia. In his contorted body movements he is reliving the war, drill exercises, and combat situations: he is raging and fighting with his entire body.

Walking exercises. Arm movement exercises. Three men who seem mentally retarded. A man gets out of bed. A man walks mechanically. Men without normal reactions. An extreme close-up demonstrating nerve pathways in arms. Fronts of the elbows. Biceps. A man reliving killing in the battle. Extreme reactions. Extreme close-up of a foot. Crutches. Prostheses. Cramps in the surviving leg. Camillo Negro treating a patient lying on the bed (see the first image above).

Distinctions of this footage include a sense of tenderness and even a dimension of the sacred. The vulnerability of human existence.

Good visual quality in the anthology.

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