Hibbleton Film Series presents: an Introduction to Italian Cinema

For the month of April, Hibbleton Gallery will be screening films by Italian directors, curated by award-winning filmmaker Steve Elkins. All screenings begin at 8pm and are FREE and open to the public. A discussion will follow each screening. Here’s our lineup for the month:


April 3: ITALIAN FUTURISM (1909), “CABIRIA” (1914), and “THE GREAT BEAUTY” (2013): This night is a special presentation comparing Italian cinema of 100 years ago to today, featuring clips from Giovanni Pastrone’s epic 1914 silent film “Cabiria,” and an introduction to Italian Futurism (arguably the first avant-garde movement in cinema, beginning in 1909), followed by a full screening of Paolo Sorrentino’s contemporary classic “The Great Beauty” (2013). Inspired by Italy’s imperialist victory in the Libyan War (1911-12), the Italian movie industry produced dozens of historical epics in the period just before World War I. The most influential and successful of these was “Cabiria,” which some say invented the epic film, set the standard for big-budget feature-length movies around the world, and developed many of the groundbreaking innovations often attributed to D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. De Mille, and Hollywood cinema. Set during the Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C., the story concerns a girl – Cabiria – in her odyssey through the world of ancient Rome, where she encounters the eruption of Mt. Etna, capture by pirates, the barbaric splendor of Carthage, human sacrifice and Hannibal crossing the Alps. With meticulous care given to costume and set design, Cabiria was shot in North Africa, Sicily and the Italian Alps. For tonight’s presentation, we will compare the Italy represented in this film to the contemporary Italy of Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” in which a man unexpectedly finds himself taking stock of his life on his 65th birthday, looking past the lavish nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome itself, in all its monumental glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.

April 10: “THE LAST EMPEROR” (1987): The great Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci is perhaps best known for his work outside Italy, such as Tangier (“The Sheltering Sky,” 1990), Bhutan (“Little Buddha,” 1993), and France (“The Conformist” (1970) / “Last Tango In Paris,” (1972). His Oscar-sweeping classic “The Last Emperor” (1987) was the first occidental film authorized by the People’s Republic of China to film in Beijing’s Forbidden City. The film recounts the incredible life and metamorphosis of Puyi, who became China’s last emperor at the age of 4, then a mirror image for five decades of tumultuous Chinese history: a political prisoner of the 1911 revolution, emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in the 1930s, prisoner of the Red Army in 1945, “re-educated” by Mao Zedong’s administration, and persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.

April 17: “L’AVVENTURA” (1960): Michelangelo Antonioni changed cinema forever with a tetralogy of films that invented a new cinematic language to express the displacement of human consciousness to modern media, architecture, tourism and fashion, as they began to re-shape the narrative of our lives. From “L’Avventura” (1960) to “Red Desert” (1964), Antonioni captured the seismic shifts in our increasingly mechanized world to the breaking point of ecstatic beauty, most poignantly through its effect on women. “In the realm of emotions,” says Antonioni, “man is nearly always unable to feel reality as it exists. Having a tendency to dominate woman, he is tempted to hide some of her aspects from himself and see her as he wants her to be. There is nothing absolute here…[but] the weight of masculine egotism [can lead to] a total abstraction of his wife’s personality to his own benefit.” We will also give an introduction to the brilliant work of a much lesser known Italian director, Marco Ferreri (“Dillinger Is Dead, 1969), who was likewise developing a new cinematic language for similar themes at the same time as Antonioni.

April 24: “SALò, or The 120 DAYS OF SODOM” (1975): Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film, notorious for being possibly the most disturbing film ever made (it led to his murder), has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic…it’s also a masterpiece. This controversial transposition of Dante’s “Inferno” and the Marquis de Sade’s 18th century opus to 1940s Italy remains one of the most passionately debated and unflinching stares into the unimaginable nature of power structures, and the ways they transform people politically and sexually. Salo reveals what should never be shown. As Catherine Breillat put it: “Salò must exist whether you’re ready to see it or not. It is the prehistory of the world, and like the caves of Lascaux, what is essential is that it exist – though some will always forbid watching it.”