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21 August 2018

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Tribute to Marco Bellocchio at London BFI

Satire and Morality: a month long season

Tribute to Marco Bellocchio at London BFI

The BFI announced full details of SATIRE AND MORALITY: THE CINEMA OF MARCO BELLOCCHIO, a month-long season (1 July – 31 July) celebrating the work of the award-winning Italian director MARCO BELLOCCHIO (Fists in the Pocket, A Leap in The Dark, My Mother’s Smile, Vincere). A regular on the festival circuit including the BFI London Film Festival, and winner of awards at Berlin, Venice and Cannes, Bellocchio is still today one of the most distinguished and original filmmakers to have emerged from Italy in the 1960s. As a taster for the season, which is the first ever comprehensive retrospective of Bellocchio’s films, there will be a rare onstage appearance by the director on Saturday 23 June, when he will be in conversation at BFI Southbank with season curator Adrian Wootton. The season, which is in partnership with Istituto Luce-Cinecittà and the Italian Cultural Institute London, will also be complemented by screenings at the Ciné Lumière, offering audiences an opportunity to discover a rich, distinctive body of ambitious and beautifully realised films.
Bellocchio was keen for this complete retrospective to take place in London, as he studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts in 1963-64. It was during this time that he wrote his first feature film Fists in the Pocket (I Pugni in Tasca), the remarkable debut which which takes a satirically sharp axe to 1960s Italian society, and the manners and behaviour of a wealthy family. Other films screening in the season will include China Is Near (1967) another brilliant satire about an aristocratic brother and sister whose family is infiltrated from within by a social climbing duo; and Slap the Monster on Page One (1972), a story still relevant today of a right-wing newspaper trying to pervert the course of justice by affecting a police investigation into the murder of a young girl. For those wishing to delve deeper into Bellocchio’s work, on Monday 9 July season curator Adrian Wootton will host a richly illustrated talk which discusses highlights of Bellocchio’s filmography, considering major themes in his oeuvre, including Catholicism, politics and morality, as well as key literary influences such as Anton Chekhov and Luigi Pirandello.
After engagement with the communist party during the tumultuous political events of 1968 (which included making documentaries), Bellocchio returned to cinema with In the Name of the Father (1971), a powerful depiction of the rebellion of boys studying at a strict, religious boarding school, which was based on his own adolescence. One of Bellocchio’s most popular films of the 1970s, Victory March (1976) is another caustic look at the Italian establishment, this time focusing on the military, while A Leap in The Dark (1980) features brilliant central performances by Michel Piccoli and Anouk Aimée, and deservedly led to both winning Best Actor awards at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.
A handsomely mounted, beautifully performed and faithfully adapted TV version of Anton Chekhov’s classic play The Seagull (1977) was a departure for Bellocchio, but it was both a labour of love and a demonstration of his versatility. Other adaptions screening in the season are Henry IV (1984), a bravura, cinematic, tragi-comic translation of Luigi Pirandello’s acclaimed play about a Count who may or may not be mad, The Nanny (1999), also adapted from a novella by Pirandello, and The Prince of Homburg (1997) a beautiful, austere and acclaimed period drama film of a 19th century play by Heinrich von Kleist.
In My Mother’s Smile (2002) a notable painter estranged from his upper-class family learns that the Catholic Church is in the process of considering making his deceased mother a saint. A mesmerising, full-blown, late-career masterpiece, My Mother’s Smile drips with irony, insight and savage wit about family and modern religion. Good Morning, Night (2003) is a subtle and gripping depiction of the real-life kidnapping by Red Brigade terrorists of Italian politician Aldo Moro in the 1970s, while Vincere (2009) – also based on real events – is a critically-acclaimed look at the early rise and hidden romantic relationship of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Also screening is The Wedding Director (2006) about a famous director who flees from scandal in Rome to Sicily, and becomes embroiled in filming the wedding of an affluent man’s daughter; this film will be paired with Bellocchio’s new short The Fight (2018), based on a Bulgarian poem which looks back at WWII. A beguiling, two-part movie set in Bellocchio’s home town, Blood of My Blood (2015) is one part historical drama showing the brutality of an unjust witch trial and one part contemporary black comedy. Completing the line-up will be screenings of Bellocchio’s most recent film Sweet Dreams (2016), a stylish, affecting adaptation of the contemporary Italian novel by Massimo Gramellini.
The Ciné Lumière’s Bellocchio season – which includes screenings of Dormant Beauty, followed by a Q&A with Marco Bellocchio on 22 June, The Witches' Sabbath, The Devil's Flesh, The Butterfly's Dream and The Conviction takes place from 22 June – 22 July.
Season in partnership with: Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Institut Français