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Friday, December 11, 2015

Francesca Bertini's 1915 Masterpiece - "Assunta Spina"

My "Friday Night Find" and absolute must see if you care anything about cinema and the Italian culture in general is "Assunta Spina"- a 1915 silent film with a beautiful, melodic soundtrack and stunning shots of the Bay of Naples. The film is fitted with English subtitles and a soundtrack that -seriously- dreams are made of. Filmmakers Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena created a timeless story of love, passion and envy. They also captured stunning images of Naples that are surprising clear for being shot 100 years ago.

In researching the actress and director Francesca Bertini, I came across a detailed account of her life on the blog- The Nitrate Diva. Creator Nora Fiore wrote a beautiful piece on Bertini, her films and the huge contribution she made to Italian cinema. “It had been my idea to wander around Naples taking ordinary people from the streets. Now everyone’s invented Neorealism! The real Neorealist film is Assunta Spina," recalled 90-year-old Bertini in a 1982 interview.

Fiore wrote about "Assunta Spina" - "I cannot overstate the importance of this film—and of Bertini as its auteur. With some help from her leading man, Gustavo Serena, she directed the film. She collaborated on the screenplay. She corralled ordinary Neapolitans to appear onscreen and infuse the film with an authentic flavor. She insisted on authentic locations wherever possible. To watch Assunta Spina is to witness Neorealism being born—decades before anyone spoke of Neorealism." Read the full article

I also discovered the relevancy of this film today. The Italian Cultural Institute in New York recently hosted an event of live music dedicated to the soundtrack.

A newly restored version of "Assunta Spina" is available for purchase right here by Cineteca di Bologna. If you don't live in Italy and have the required codice fiscal to purchase the film, you can view the restored version on YouTube. Francesca Bertini's "Sangue Blue" is also available for purchase here. All films by Cineteca di Bologna have English subtitles.

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