Monday, 31 March 2014

Once Were Cinemas (...or not?)

This post is an attempt to reply to a request of my friend Jacob.
He works in the cinema field in the USA, so he was curious to see and know something about the cinemas here in Rome.

I must say, my friend, I think that all the cinemas resemble each other in this era of gigantic concrete multiplex!
--But that's just partially true.

I engaged in a nostalgic investigation, and as the internet showed me, there are many cases of "historical" cinemas closing down because of poor business induced by the above mentioned multiplex galore, but it's also interesting to note that the most of them were cinemas rearranged into what were originally theatres.
As obvious as it may sound, it must be noted that some of these buldings were particularly charming in their cinematic attires and their story is also interesting.

One of the most intriguing cases is that of the Teatro Ambra Jovinelli.
It was originally conceived as a theatre dedicated to comedic and parodic pieces, with a soft spot for variety shows, so popular in Italy by default.
It was completed in 1903, and it kept being pretty active in the whole period preceeding the WWI, with its climax being the debut of the popular actor Totò in the 20s.
With the arrival of Fascism and cinematography, the theatre faced its first crisis, forcing it to reinvent itself as a cinema in the 50s.
Here's a picture of the building in this period, taken from the website Roma Sparita:
The introducing of television made the theatre face its second crisis, turning it into a cinema dedicated to porn movies and strip-tease shows in the 70s, before an accident in 1982 that led to its closure.
It looked like the Jovinelli was destined to become another deserted memorabilia in Rome, but starting 1996 the local communities started to fight to give it back its dignity, forcing the owners to restore it and finally put it back in action, in its original role of comedy theatre.
Here's how it looks now:

Another less lucky adventure is that of the Etoile Cine.
It was completed in 1915 as a theatre in super-chic center of Rome, with the name of Teatro Corso.
Just like the Jovinelli, it'll turn into a cinema in the 50s changing its name into Cinema Corso, to become Etoile Cine later on.
Here's one of the most recent pictures of the building, coming from this list of the cinemas of Rome in the 50s:
--In the last years the cinema closed down for lack of activity and the building was bought by Luis Vuitton that restored the facade and turned it into a boutique:

A similar fate was destined to the Cinema Metropolitan, again in the fancy center of Rome.
It was opened in 1911 as Cinema Teatro America and after various adventures, it found its identity as one of the few cinemas dedicated to movies in original language.
Here's a recent picture before its closure in 2010:
And how it looks now:
The fate of the cinema is still lingering, but the hopes are not very high.

It's interesting to note that another cinema dedicated to movies in original language is still resisting, despite its closure was announced over and over-- It's the Cinema Nuovo Olimpia, always in the center of Rome:

--So, are all the historical cinemas destined to close down and see themselves restiled as shops or the like?

A negative answer came from the Cinema Moderno.
Originally called Cinema Esedra because of its location in Piazza Esedra, its name was changed to Moderno later on and by the time it mostly scheduled b-rated movies or reruns.
Here's a pretty old picture of it, probably dating the period when it turned into another x-rated cinema, taken from 06blog:
Fortunately, the whole area was restructured to turn it into a sophisticated touristic zone, and the cinema was part of the renovation too.
It was bought by Warner Village, that kept its original name and restored the original location:

--On a fun note, it's nice to see that the staff entrance located at the back of the building kept its original look too.
This is an example of modern preservation and enhancement of cultural heritage too, in my opinion.

Another good example is Cineland, a multiplex located in Ostia, the "seaside" of Rome.
Originally, the area was occupied by the ginormous ruin of the dismissed Breda factory.
Here's how it looked back in the days, in a picture coming from the photo archive of the L'Unità newspaper:
The immense building restored and turned into a cinema village around 1997, featuring a multiplex, restaurants, fast foods, shops and a gigantic videogame hall.
Here's how the place looks now:

I love this building, and I love how perfectly it fits to its original context and area.

...Of course this is just a tiny part of the cinemas of Rome and their adventures, but I think that their stories were the most interesting-- thus working like a nice specimen.
I hope this post entertained you, dear Jacob, also if probably I didn't really asked your request--!

--Also if quite bitter, the words of Monicelli come to my mind: "Cinema is never going to die. It's born and it can't die anymore: the movie theatres will die, probably, but I couldn't care less about it now."

Friday, 28 March 2014

Your "Doll Fix" in Rome

Do you know that by the super-fashion street of Via Ripetta there's an "hospital" dedicated to dolls? And another one can be found a few meters ahead, in Via Flaminia?
--Your "Rome-nipper" has been there, took pictures and entertained herself with a talk to the owners of the shops!

So, the first workshop that I'll tell you about is Restauri Artistici Squatriti in Via Ripetta 29:
This tiny shop in the middle of fashion shops and restaurants is also nicknamed "the shop of horrors" by the locals because of the kinda disturbing contents of its windows, but it's better known as "the Hospital of Dolls", as it's famous for fixing and repairing damaged dolls.
As soon as I entered I was greeted by the sharp smell of chemicals because what lies behind the pletora of doll parts and assorted memorabilia is an actual restoration laboratory.
At the time the owners of the shop, Federico and his old mother Gelsomina, were working on some ancient vases.
I asked if I could take some picture of the shop, and they kindly let me.

The Squatriti's came from Naples from a family with a tradion in restoration dating 15 generations.
Their job with dolls focuses mostly on reparations of very old pieces, dating from the XIX century to the late 70s... They prefer to work on old dolls, expecially those made of wood or paper-mache, pieces who are difficult to fix once broken or damaged.
It's a place that gives some sense of security, you know? Considering how merchandising and toys evolve is such a pitiful direction that points towards mass production and disposable affection, it's reassuring to know that someone still cares for those who still cover their precious objects with love and care...

After this first short visit, I moved to La Clinica delle Bambole in Via Flaminia 58B:
This shop is different from the previous one.
As the Restauri Artistici is mostly a restoration lab, in the shop of Pierina you can actually buy old, precious ladies besides getting them fixed and repaired.

When I arrived in the shop, Pierina was working on a little dress for one of her ladies as her husband was reading a newspaper.
The shop is definitely different from the lab in Via Ripetta: here the place is quite large and the dolls, plushies and toys are exhibited with care.

After taking these shots of the shop's windows I asked if I could take pictures inside and Pierina told me not to XD
I was a bit shocked about it but she explained that many people profitted of her kindness to gain materials for their "projects" without giving nothing in return-- And I'm talking about self-called "creatives" who taped videos and clips in the shop to use for their "short movies" or photobooks, without crediting Pierina at all, nor rewarding her for the bother.
I was simply disgusted with the whole deal, so I just took a look around without bothering about pictures again (I had the impression that if I asked again she would allow me, but I don't want to make myself similar to those disgusting individuals) --Besides the dolls, the shop contains lots of interesting bits... I was charmed by the lovely sets of doll furnitures, for example, and in a bit I made myself home talking about my need to investigate Rome's curiosities and the like.

Talking about Pierina's job she made sure to let me understand her tastes with dolls, and what she found pretty or ugly in them-- It was really fun to hear this old lady getting all passionate about her work and creatures and I loved how she made a point about her aesthetical beliefs so firmly!

Our long talk was interrupted by a call from a client, and so I decided to leave to let her work in peace.
I received a cute business card and in return I promised to visit again.

"RAI tells Italy" Exhibition

I had the chance to check this exhibition dedicated to RAI, the Italian TV (and radio!) public service, and how it contributed to develop Italians' culture and identity through the years.
I wasn't expecting such a rich and interesting exhibition, I have to be honest! The entrance is free, but since it'd be a bit difficult to go through it without understanding Italian I decided to show it and explain it to you--
The exhibition starts with what is sure to get your attention, the costumes wore by some of the most important TV ladies of the time, I'm talking mostly about Raffaella Carrà and Mina, both of them singers and extraordinary "showgirls" already.

The following picture shows a costume wore by the super-popular Kessler twins, another legend of Italian television.
Those women contributed to a modern image of femininity and their success, still strong even now, is indicative of how important they've been.
It may seem vain to give some kind of "social importance" to who may look like simple "starlets" or "showgirls", but those are strong personalities who inspired a new kind of dignity to women all around the world. The fact that as "old women" they are still influential on modern generation is an interesting clue in this sense.

The exhibition goes on presenting us interesting bits of its foundation as a radio service, developed during the Fasscist period.
Here you could check some interesting documents: one is about the abolition of formal language (it's difficult to explain it in English, but Italian formal language uses the third person when referring to the second person, using feminine pronouns... Fascists thought that it sounded un-manly and pansy-like, so instead of this formal language they introduced the use of the second plural person or the simple second person [very unformal] when referring to someone), and the other about the "immediate termination" of Jewish workers from Statal posts.
I found the studies concerning the audience of the period quite intriguing!

For them you could get an idea of the tastes of the population of the period!
It comes out that adults were those who listened to radio the most, and the favourite shows concerned music and international news.

With the development of radio and TV services the need to "instruct" the population started to gain importance.
This was one of the books developed by the communication services at the time, a manual of orthography and pronunciation:
It may look weird to think that at people can't speak or write their language, but such was the situation of Italy in that period: the most of people talked in their regional dialects and the vast majority of them were analphabets. Radio and TV were sources of communications were Italians could actually face their culture and language.

The exhibition developed into various subjects concerning TV and radio genres: its importance for politics, culture, science and business.
The rooms were staged so to focus on those subjects, and the whole thing was sprinkled with interesting video contributions and clips, that unfortunately came all unsubbed, so inaccessible to a foreign audience.

Here's a still featuring a moving plea of a father during the funeral of a mafia victim (I had to rush out of the room 'cause I was starting to cry >_>; ), but also lovely bits of Italian "variety shows" (on the second picture you can see the glorious Alberto Sordi and the above mentioned Kessler twins) and modern contribution to artistic divulgation (in the picture my most beloved Philippe Daverio talking about Giotto)

I loved the artistic contributions too.
The most of them were works from popular artists of the period, and were realized to illustrate the release of a magazine, book or music disc's covers.

Above you can see an illustration by De Chirico dedicated to the Dolce Stil Novo and a patriotic scene of Garibaldi's life.

A huge section was staged in the middle of the exhibition, focusing on the wonderful radio shows that characterized a whole age.
"Interviste Impossibili" ("The Impossibile Interviews") was one of the most original shows of the time, focusing on imaginary interviews with ghosts of important personalities of past ages, running from Nero to Mozart-- The other picture refers to "serious music", and how radio made it accessible to those who couldn't hear concerts or attend opera shows because of a limited budget.

Making culture accessible and understandable was the main focus of radio and TV back then.

I loved to see the old models of radios!

The first radios were importend from the USA and were extremely expensive. Lately Italian manifacturing will start working on their own models.
I love the style of the "Radio Balilla", the signature model introduced during Fascism, and the creativity behind the "crystal radio"!

A special mention to "The little bird", random sounds resembling the chirping of a bird, aired during the pause between a show and another.
--You can hear it here ^_^

Obviously lots of importance was given to little kids, too.
One of the most popular shows back then was "I Quattro Moschiettieri" ("The Four Musketeers"), a parody of the work by Dumas where the heroes had to face new adventures in a mix of songs and humor.
This show became extremely popular because it was connected with a collection of cards distributed with the products of the sponsors.
Here are some illustrations dedicated to the various magazines dedicated to them:
Another interesting bit concerns a case of "censorship" that happened with these two cards, "The wife of Tarzan" and "The beautiful Shulamite".
In the first case, the girl is showing her garter provocatively, and in the other the huge naked boobs of the Arabian beauty are quite noticeable--
Under you can see the "censored" versions.

Turning back to the TV action, one of the most interesting contributions to the TV for kids, I have to talk about "Giovanna, la nonna del Corsaro Nero" ("Giovanna, the grandmorther of the Black Corsar"), another parody of Salgari's adventures, where the protagonist of the story is this fiery old woman on a mission to avenge the death of her nephews, the Black Corsar and the Green Corsar.

The second picture shows original scripts of the TV episodes, and the others are studies on the costumes, which I really love!

We're back to the educational and divulgative role of TV.

Here's a shot of the glorious "Non è mai troppo tardi" ("It's never too late"), a TV show that taught Italian language to Italians-- The lessons of Alberto Manzi gave a chance to all those adults who couldn't attend school because of war or work to learn how to write, read and talk proper Italian.

This is the videoclip of the live coverage of the landing on the Moon.
It was 1969 and not so many could see it on TV.
The most of Italians heard about it on the radio, the others went to the closer bar to see it on TV (it was difficult for an average Italian family to own a TV, but locals and bars could afford one, turning it into the "TV of the neighbourhood")--

The last part of the exhibition focused on the "tools" of the TV-- The first video cameras importend from the USA, and the glorious Moto Guzzi used during the sport live coverages!

And obviously a very nostalgic part showing the old TV models-- To be honest, I think that I had one similar to those when I was a kid-- It was still working in the 90s but in the end I was presented a colour TV and I had to throw it away-- It was quite sad, to be honest--

The exhibition ended showing the new technologies and developments for TV, like the 3D screen that could be watched without glasses or so-- In the end it was a wonderful exhibition with many interesting and nostalgic bits-- As difficult as it could be to access it for a foreigner, I hope that this report of mine was informative enough for you guys!