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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Opening in New York City: "8 Decades of Italian Cinema"

In recognition of the Year of Italian Culture, a 7-month film series is set to launch in New York City. “8 Decades of Italian Cinema,”  will feature a collection of films giving testimony to the diverse generations of filmmaking in Italy. The film series is presented by the Istituto Luce Cinecittå along with several of the same organizers of the annual film festival, "Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. 

What sets this selection apart from other series and film festivals is the span of films that will be screened. Antonio Monda, a crusader in promoting Italian cinema beyond its borders, describes the series as "a homage to the greatness of Italian cinema, from Neorealism to contemporary filmmakers such as Paolo Sorrentino. A journey into the soul of a nation."  The series will feature a wide variety of Italy's most beloved films of all-time including, Luchino Visconti's 1948, "Terra Trema", Giuseppe De Santis' 1949, "Riso Amaro" (Bitter Rice), Vittorio De Sica's 1952 "Umberto D", Bernardo Bertolucci's 1964 "Prima della rivoluzione" (Before the Revolution), Ermanno Olmi's 1978, "L'Albero degli zoccoli" (Tree of Wooden Clogs), The Taviani Brother's 1982, "La Notte di San Lorenzo" (Night of the Shooting Stars), Federico Fellini's 1983, "E la nave va" (And the Ship Sails On), Gianni Amelio's 1994, "L'america", Paolo Sorrentino's 2004, "Le conseguenze dell'amore" (The Consequences of Love) and Marco Bellocchio's 2012, "Bella addormentata" (Dormant Beauty).

Roberto Rossellini's neorealism epic, "Roma città aperta" (Rome Open City) will kick off Opening Night on Friday. Credited with starting the neorealism film movement, "Roma città aperta" was released in 1945 after Rossellini took his cameras to the street when war ravaged Cinecittà was out of commission. Staring Italian cinema icons, Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi, the film is set in Nazi occupied Italy and tells the story of people dealing with the tragedy of war. It is a character driven film that shows how people of all walks of life come together to find hope in the darkest of days when there really seems to be no hope at all. 

“8 Decades of Italian Cinema,” will run from April to November at Dan Talbot's  Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in Manhattan. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren is one of the most (if not the most) glamorous star on the planet but her beginnings were humble and perhaps that is why  she is still going strong today. 

Born Sofia Villani Scicolone on September 20, 1934 in Rome, Sophia Loren endured much hardship during the first decade of her life.  She was brought up in the poverty stricken Neapolitan suburb of Pozzuoli during World War II. She was raised by a single mother who got nearly no support from her father. The odds were stacked against her until one beauty contest changed everything. Loren was just 14 years old when she placed as a finalist in the contest. She was spotted by film director Carlo Ponti and her life changed forever. He became her mentor and under his supervision, Sophia enrolled in acting classes and shortly thereafter was taking small parts in films. She was originally credited in those films as "Sofia Lazzaro" because people joked her beauty could raise Lazzarus from the dead.

It was clear just from those bit parts that Sophia Loren was a leading lady, and it wasn't long until she was indeed a star carrying a movie on her own. Her first starring role came in 1953 in the Italian film version of, Aida. Loren played the title role, a performance that was met with much critical acclaim. She also earned accolades in Vittorio De Sica's 1954 comedy and tribute to Naples, L'oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples). Loren quickly became a superstar in her country and crossed the border with her first international hit that same year, La Donna del Fiume (The River Girl). Her first English-language film came three years later in 1957 with Boy on a Dolphin co-starring Alan Ladd. Loren's most memorable scene was emerging from the water in a wet, transparent dress. She went on to appear in many more American films, although they weren't all received with rave reviews. In 1960 she returned to work in Italy and starred in the violent wartime film, La Ciociara (Two Women). The role earned her an Oscar for Best Actress and was the first Academy Award ever given for a role in a foreign language.
Through the '60s, '70s and '80s, Loren worked on both sides of the Atlantic and it was during those years that she made her blockbuster hits with the beloved Italian maestro, Marcello Mastroianni. Among their most revered films are Ettore Scola's Una Giornata Particolare (One Particular Day) in which Loren played the role of a bored housewife with Marcello Mastroianni as her gay acquaintance and Vittorio De Sica's 1963 comedy anthology, Ieri, oggi, domani (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow); Of course that film's famous scene is when Loren does her special striptease for Mastroianni.
Then there is Matrimonio all'Italiana (Marriage Italian Style) with Loren as a prostitute who tricks Mastroianni into marriage. The two had so much chemistry, their scenes together just seem effortless. She didn't act very much in the 80's but made a bit of a comeback in the 90's with roles in Robert Altman's, Ready to Wear and the comedy Grumpier Old Men. During the last 20 years, she's done a number of things outside acting including authoring cook books and designing eye wear, jewelry and perfume. In 2001, Loren received a Special Grand Prix of the Americas Award at the Montreal World Film Festival for her performance in her son, Edoardo Ponti's independent film, Between Strangers.  Her most recent film was her 2009 role in Rob Marshall's film version of Nine.
Through the years, Loren stayed close to her husband's side. Ponti was 22 years her senior. He played an enormous role in her life. Some say that he was the only father figure she ever had, but he was also her mentor and acting coach and ultimately was responsible for making her the star that she is today. The couple have two sons, Carlo Ponti, Jr. who is a renowned orchestral conductor and Edoardo Ponti, who followed in his parents' footsteps and became a filmmaker. Carlo Ponti passed away in 2007, and Loren said that she would never marry again because "it would be impossible to love anyone else." 

Sophia Loren is indeed a living legend and with all the stars that come and go today, it is so nice to look back on Loren's work through the years and enjoy the passion, dignity and respect that she has brought to each and every role. She is 'class' in every sense of the word.

Many of Loren's works are available in book stores and the internet, so she is just as popular today as she was when she started out all those years ago.

Elio Luxardo's Portraits on Display at Rome's Casa del Cinema

Curated for the Rome Film Festival, the photo exhibit, Luxardo e il cinema , consists of images of iconic protagonists during the infamous...