|Bologna is located in north central Italy about 60 miles west of the seaport Ravenna and the Adriatic Sea. The city lies on the western slope of the Apennine mountain range, which runs the full length of Italy
We had never been to Italy before, but with a little Italian studied and phrasebooks in hand, we were ready for our adventure.
The flight over went smoothly. Over France, peeking through the few holes in the clouds below made it difficult to get our bearings. But over Italy, the clouds parted to enjoyable views of the sea and Apennines.
Near Aeroporto G. Marconi di Bologna, the landscape flattened and countless farms could be seen below. In some ways, the land was similar to the northwestern U.S. or northern California's central valley, dotted with a patchwork of farms. On the local roads, cars were traveling the same direction as in the States.
We got our first good look at Bologna, as light orange tinted buildings filled the vista. The older central city radiated out in a circle with a tower commanding the center. Flat farmland stretches to the east of Bologna with mountains sweeping up to southwest flank of the city.
Once on the ground, the shuttle took us to the terminal and it was easy to navigate toward buses and taxis waiting to take passengers to the city. Mike took the lead in securing the taxi, giving his Italian language skills a test, and we were soon on our way.
A first-time visitor from the US would notice the small petrol-sipping cars and trucks on the road. The abundance of mopeds and bicycles were striking. Mopeds could easily be the most popular vehicles in Bologna, and several were always darting around and speeding away.
Our hotel was located near the center of the city, a quiet pedestrian-friendly area where vehicles are required to have a permit to travel. Our taxi had the paperwork and took us right to the back door of our hotel.
The nicely appointed room made it easy to refresh after hours of airline travel. While Lita and Mike settled in, I set out on a solo exploration of the neighborhood.
Walking about was like being in an Italian movie without the subtitles. As I know little Italian, facial expressions and tone of voices were the only clues to the content of conversations.
After a short walk, the street opened into the main city square Piazza Maggiore overlooked by a tall clock tower.
After spending time in the Piazza, I decided to check out the basic necessities such as the nearest grocer, post office, pharmacy and stores. The hotel was in the midst of some high-end shops for clothes, handbags and shoes. If you were into Italian shoes and handbags, there were endless places to shop! Unfortunately, no used bookstores could be seen in that shopping area, which I hoped to find.
Bars and restaurants were abundant around the hotel, and newsstands were perched on many corners. The shops for more basic needs were Tabacchi shops. Each one was different. Some had bars, other eateries. Others just offered the basics like postcards, envelopes and scotch tape! And so course, they all sold cigarettes. These are also the best shops to get postal stamps for different countries. Just get your stamps there and leave your card at your hotel desk or nearest mailbox.
Dinnertime was approaching, so I headed back to the hotel only to find the restaurant we had chosen was closed for the evening.
Many Italian businesses do not post hours, and some open and close when they feel like it. So, if you see an interesting shop, just step inside. It may be closed if you leave to come back later.
With the restaurant closed, Lita and Mike decided to call it an evening. I headed out again to view the first film screening at the Piazzia, but by 9 p.m. I was ready for sleep. The cause wasnt jet lag, for I spent a full month previous changing my sleep schedule to match European time. Rather, my schedule had been turned on its head in Chicago.
Due to 12-hours of delay and cancellations at Chicagos OHare airport, I had slept only eight hours between Sunday night and Wednesday evening. Wanting to be fresh for the rest of the trip, I decided to skip the film showing in the Piazza. (Paths of Glory' by Stanley Kubrick)
|I finally saw some people with festival passes around their necks walking toward a back street, and that was the clue I needed. At the entrance, festival organizers had provided internet access for visitors. I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to email my husband and Litas family back in the States.
Next, I met Lucia Principe, who earlier helped us with our accommodations in Bologna. She was busy providing guests with information for the festival. After a short chat, she helped me get our tickets for the A Woman of Paris film event.
While I was waiting, I noticed the new book by Kevin Brownlow The Search for Charlie Chaplin. Upon opening it, I realized it also contained a DVD of the Unknown Chaplin series. For years the documentary had only been on VHS. I was informed Brownlow wrote this book over 20 years ago, and Cineteca di Bologna decided to publish. For a Chaplin fan, this was exciting to see!
The Unknown Chaplin is my favorite Chaplin documentary. A must for any Chaplin collection, the series has scenes not available anywhere else. The idea was spun out of the Hollywood Series: A Celebration of American Silent Film, a 13-part series about the silent era created by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. The duo created other documentaries including Buster KeatonsA Hard Act to Follow and Harold Lloyds The Third Genius.
I learned on this trip, that complex copyright issues have delayed the DVD release of the 'Hollywood Series'. Fans have been waiting years for this series to arrive on DVD, but will have to wait for legal matters to be settled before seeing this most valuable collection of silent film history on DVD. (UPDATE OCTOBER 2006 - This series is planned for DVD in the UK, but currently held up with copyright issues.)
With book and tickets in hand, it was time to head back to the hotel.
Cineteca, home of The Chaplin Archive. One of four venues for Festival Il Cinema Ritrovato.
While I was at the Cineteca, Mike and Lita enjoyed the morning exploring central Bolognas museums, food markets and sites. Over lunch they shared their morning finds, and after lunch we returned to their favorites, snapping photos like typical tourists on holiday. Picture possibilities presented themselves with every turn of the head.
In the warmth of the day, we stopped for some gelato (Italian ice cream). It was heavenly of course, and we enjoyed every bite. The shop owner was joyfully friendly! He took pictures of us sinfully enjoying his gelato creations
Fast food has invaded Bologna with a McDonalds just off the Piazza Maggiore. Think Italian pizzas are like American ones? Forget it! VERY crisp crust and minus the heavy sauces. Topped with wonderfully fresh veggies and ingredients.
The cafés and restaurants still offer slower home-style prepared food made with fresh local produce. We had some memorable meals.
It was getting late in the day, and Lita and Mike wanted to relax prior to the screening of the restored Broken Blossoms that evening in the Piazza.
The festival schedule of films was not fully available to us before leaving the states, so it did not work out for us to view some of the restored Chaplin Keystone films.(see ABC Nightline Report)
I learned the restored films are looking exceptional and will be a major addition to the Chaplin collection. Fans have been waiting years for this to happen and will be eager to buy on DVD once the films are all finished.
Along with the restored Keystones, Tillies Punctured Romance with piano by Neil Brand was also shown during the week.
At sunset, the Piazza started to fill with people. The orchestra finished its sound check, and the film began! Our first viewing of Broken Blossoms on the big screen was especially nice under the evening sky. The crowd was quiet and respectful, and only distant thunder and clock tower chimes competed with the orchestra.
The last film for the evening was a short called Rain. A thunderstorm passed in the distance, but no rain fell as we ended a perfect summer evening in Italy.
Friday, July 7, 2005
Friday morning arrived early as the phone rang just after midnight. I had just gone to bed after watching some Italian news and a circus show. The call was from Lita with news about London.
Terrorists had set off four bomb blasts Thursday morning in London.
We did not learn of the bombings from Italian news reports, but from Litas brother-in-law in the States. Continuous reports were running on US satellite television news. No news stories or photos were apparent to us on the street. If people were talking about the London happenings, the conversations were all in Italian and people didn't seem excited.
I have very dear friends in England and some live close to London. And we were due to be in the British capital in five days...
At 6:30 a.m., I awoke and turned on the TV to learn the latest developments. The exact locations of the Underground bombings were being reported. The bombed double-decker bus was the number 30, a route I had ridden many times in London.
I have taken photos from the upper deck of that bus route while traveling through London. And I used the affected Russell Station and Kings Cross Stations often in the past. Our London hotel was to be near the Holborn Station, very close to the bombed areas.
At 8 a.m. the television was clicked off as we started our Friday in Bologna.
I phoned Cecilia Ceniarelli, head of The Chaplin Project in Italy, and was able to arrange to see her and Kate Guyonvarch (Association Chaplin) at the library.
|Some background: A Woman of Paris was Edna Purviances first starring role, and the film was a major departure (and risk) for Chaplin. Paris was a drama, not a comedy. The film did not have the Tramp character, and Chaplin appeared incognito only in a brief bit part. Chaplin hoped to establish Edna as a major film star with the picture. But Chaplin was uneasy about the publics response, and a fateful and complex series of events caused Chaplin to pull the film from the theaters.
Edna filmed two more movies after Paris. Ednas next starring role was in the The Sea Gull,' which was also known as 'A Woman of the Sea'. The film was funded by the Chaplin Studio, and directed by Josef von Sternberg. (Sternberg first met Chaplin after directing a film with Georgia Hale. Chaplin later signed Hale as his new leading lady for 'The Gold Rush'.) Incredibly 'The Sea Gull' was never released, and the print of the film was deliberately destroyed by fire to settle Chaplins taxes on June 21, 1933.
Education de Prince was Edna's last film. It was made in France during Ednas second European stay. She lived there for nearly a year filming and traveling. There are some clues Edna could have been working on a second film in France, which might explain her particularly long stay.
Prints of the Education de Prince still exist, but are very rare. A VHS tape version was created about 1991 and the film was once shown at a French film festival. Today, I am actively trying to find the VHS of this film. Please contact me if you know of a source.
After lunch, we waited in the hotel lobby for the visit from Kate and Cecilia. But instead, Kate Guyonvarch arrived with David Robinson.
David Robinson, as Chaplin fans know, is the major authority on Chaplin and has written many books including his best known Chaplin: His Art and Life. It was a delightful surprise to see him walking through the front entrance of the hotel to be a part of our get together.
We chatted about many topics over a half hour. As we ended, Robinson gave us a tip about a special performance to be shown close to the hotel.
Titled La Veillée des Abysses, the circus show was created by and starred Charlie Chaplins grandson James Thiérrée. Victoria Chaplin Thiérrée is his mother.
After thanking Kate and David for their time and company, we set out to find tickets to Thiérrées show.
Tickets were available at one of the public information centers at the Piazza Maggiore. One offered free Internet service, helpful if you only need the Internet for a short period of time.
That evening, we arrived at the circus site tucked down a narrow street beside the Baslica Di S. Stefano. We arrived 15 minutes before the show started, and the crowds were already standing as there were few seats left.
Describing the show is difficult, since there wasn't a storyline. Also, to say it is a circus could be misleading. Poetic movement, eclectic props and sheer imagination placed the show into a realm beyond what people would think of as a circus.
Titled La Veillée des Abysses, this was a unique circus show created by and starring Charlie Chaplins grandson James Thiérrée.
Described as a poetic fantasy adventure, the show combined acrobatics, acting and dance. Seeing people 'eaten' by sofas, performers' heads hovering atop chair backs, and newspapers attacking readers were some of the theatrical marvels we saw.
Victoria Chaplin must have been fascinated by the circus her father Charlie took the family to each year in Switzerland. She would marry a circus performer. The couple created their own unique circus, and during those years their son James caught the circus bug as well.
In the show, certain moments in James Thiérrées performance echoed his grandfather Charlie Chaplin. One scene was straight from The Gold Rush. It was the scene where a hungry Charlie spies Henry eating inside a cabin. In a ploy to get Henry's sympathy, Charlie lies stiff as a board on the snow. Henry picks him up and carries the frozen figure into the cabin. James performed the move to a T! The crowd cheered an inspiring and inventive show.
Dawn of July 9th arrived
the day we had been anticipating. On a full plate for the day were speaking presentations, and a return to 'A Woman of Paris' photo exhibit with Lita and Mike. The evening's finale and highlight was the premiere of the restored 'A Woman of Paris' film with full orchestra at the opera house.
|Early afternoon the three of us ventured to the A Woman of Paris exhibit. Lita, who actually knew Edna, was seeing many of these photographs for the first time, and it was a treat standing beside her and listening to her comments.
The exhibit was up for the full week of the festival and made for a pleasant break between the many talks and films shown during the week.
|We didnt have a clue where our seats were in the opera house, as everything was written in Italian. We were led up and up flights of stairs, until we were shown a corner box seat on the second floor. As we looked out at the stunning scene, we were greatly impressed by the beauty of the opera house.
But we also noticed we didnt have a clear view of the screen where the film was being shown. Three more people were soon standing behind us, but they could not see the screen at all. They departed for a better view.
After they left, we sorted out positions, and settled in to view the stunning circa 1763 architecture. One could easily imagine ladies in gowns and gentlemen dressed in formal evening wear entering the opera house in anticipation of the evenings performance. We had an overview of the seats on the main floor and could see heads peeking out from the many box seats circling the house.
The music for this showing was new for this film and new to the public. The original score for A Woman of Paris was never felt to be Chaplins best work, since he had fallen quite ill during the time the music was created in 1976. Over the years, some exhibitors were reluctant to show the film, mainly due to Chaplin's 1976 score.
In 2003, Association of Chaplin in Paris was able to recover 20 hours of music from recordings Chaplin did in 1951 for his film Limelight. Other pieces were also restored, from unused music created for The Kid and The Circus. None of this recorded material was on paper, so all had to be transcribed to musical notation.
This evening the audience heard the first new score created from Chaplin's music since the last time A Woman of Paris was released in 1976. The project to restore the score was overseen by Timothy Brock, who also conducted on this evening. At the end, the audience responded to the musical performance warmly with four standing ovations.
And the film, of course, was stunning to see on the big screen.
As unapologetically rabid Edna fans, we were delighted seeing Edna shine in one of her best roles. The film fulfilled a dream of Ednas to do a dramatic role. The film is also impressive as the result of Chaplins desire to direct a serious film without the presence of his Little Tramp character.
As the applause ended, the event that had been the source of months of anticipation for us had become a memory. There was only time left to pick up a program and exit outside with the crowd. We took a cab back to the hotel and reception closing the festival.
But our story does not end in Italy. Next: LONDON tour and BFI: The Edna Purviance Collection revisited.
The Il Cinema Ritrovato is held each July in Bologna, Italy. The eight-day event features many classic films viewed at four locations in Bologna, with screen showings at Piazza Maggiore free to the public.
The 2005 event was the 19th year of the festival. Our main interest was the film 'A Woman of Paris', planned by The Chaplin Archive headed by Cecilia Cenciarelli. Here is the link to information on the 2008 festival, which will feature the work of Josef von Sternberg.
UPDATE: January 13th, 2008 our first book to feature Edna Purviance, The Sea Gull "A Woman of the Sea", was released. Published by Leading Ladies, this book is about Charlie Chaplin's lost 1926 film production, with film story and direction by Josef von Sternberg. This full color printed book includes over 50 never seen photos from the Sea Gull productions and many never before seen photos of Edna Purviance. All images from Lita and Ellie Hill's collection. Comments from readers about the book. Link to video introduction to book>
Special Note: Lita passed away on January 21, 2008, about one week, after The Sea Gull was released.
Update - June 12, 2008: Il Cinema Ritrovato 2008 (June 28-July 5) had a major presentation on Josef von Sternberg, with a series of his film works. Leading Ladies shipped some Sea Gull books to this event. more>
We like to thank our host, Cecilia Cenciarelli (The Chaplin Archive, Cineteca di Bologna, Italy), Lucia Principe for booking and everyone else who helped made the trip possible. And a special thanks to: Kate Guyonvarch (Association Chaplin, Paris, France), David Robinson (author and Chaplin authority), and Frank Scheide (co-author of ‘Chaplin: The Dictator and the Tramp). We like to thank them all! Except where noted, all photographs by Linda Wada Copyright 2010 © . Article by Linda Wada with text editing by Wesley Wada. All images should not be used without prior permission. This page was updated December 28, 2009.
Page created by ednapurviance.org for the 'A Woman of Paris' restored film première and Italy Tour.
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