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Museum Celebrating 120 Years of Audio & Visual Arts Opens This Week

Italy’s 120 years of cinema has just been made into an interactive museum nestled in Rome’s iconic Cinecittà Studios. It is a spectacular cinema haven that is not to be missed if you plan on visiting the Eternal City.  

MIAC, which stands for Museo Italiano Audiovisivo and Cinema covers the entire history of Italian cinema and television from the silent era to today. In addition to cinema, the museum boasts a collection of archival treasures from television shows and new digital technologies in the form of newsreels, photographs and documents. Inaugurated in December, MIAC is a result of Rome becoming a UNESCO Creative City of Film in 2015.

The museum is divided into 12 unique rooms, each exploring a different theme. At the core of the museum is the “Timeline.” Displayed along a narrow hall in the center of the rooms, the timeline consists of detailed images and interactive technologies that lay out the events and dates of Italy’s audiovisual history. Running along the length of the hall is the original conveyor belt that once shuttled analog films to the Cinecittà laboratory and today carries visitors’ thoughts on paper printouts.

I was treated to a wonderful preview last month, and I’m thrilled to share it with you here.

As you enter the first phase of this full-immersion spectacle, you will see clips from Italy’s first and beloved variety show, Carosello. Then, as you turn left to proceed, you are immediately faced with “The Emotion of Cinema,” an installation that consists of stunning oversized pictures of cinema icons surrounded by a constellation of lights. The striking, larger-than-life image of Sophia Loren provided the warmest of welcomes and set the mood for the movie wonder that we were about to experience.

After passing through the room of "Emotions," which features projections of closeups from famous movie scenes, you cross the corridor to visit the “Actors and Actresses” room, where you’re greeted by another timeline, a hands-on section with touch screens that guide you through the films of specific periods, for example 1946-1967, 1981-1996, 2000-2009 and 2010-2019. There is also a communal block dedicated to costume design, featuring four-time Academy Award winner Milena Canonero.

Stepping into the mesmerizing room dedicated to our revered protagonists of Italian cinema presents a nostalgic montage of memorable scenes and close-ups. Carlo Verdone, Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni are just a few of the familiar faces you will see. Three spectacular frames created with dozens of light bulbs enclose the video sequences giving the sensation of being backstage in a dressing room.

Moving on to the “History” room,the role of television and film in teaching history comes into play. Scenes from epics like Ben Hur and Cleopatra, both shot on the grounds of Cinecittà, transmit from huge screens. The powerful, sentimental images of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Charlton Heston in their prime recall the years known as “Hollywood on the Tiber” and serve as a reminder of the longtime cinematic bridge between Italy and the United States.

The “Language”room is flooded with sounds, words and dialogues superimposed on three large screens. The focus on audio gives testimony to the richness and complexity of the Italian language. Perhaps it’s the fascination of the unknown or just the linguistic beauty of a romance language that makes it more enjoyable to read the subtitles of an Italian film rather than watching a dubbed version. The exhibit also explores the myriad of theatrics and performances inspired by the dialects of Italy’s 20 regions. 

The “Power” room holds a simple yet breathtaking installation that truly lives up to its name.Two concrete walls reaching seven feet high reflecting the protagonists of poignant film scenes represent the power of Italians in cinema. Indelible faces and memorable masterpieces are in the spotlight of this spellbinding space.

“Landscape. Eros. Comedy. Food” is arguably the most fascinating room. A curious interactive exhibit that accords the sensation of walking across a lunar landscape, you sink your heals into the sand and rock under your feet while four screens simultaneously transmit scenes from classic and contemporary films. The installation is meant to give the illusion of watching Italian cinema on the moon, perhaps suggesting that Italy is out of this world. The name of this room is a play on the well-earned pride and self-indulgence of Italians as they acknowledge enjoying the fruits of their ancestors’ labor, referring to the Italian landscape as “inimitable, abused and immortalized.” There is a focus on the genre, commedia all’italiana, implying that Italians during that period deserved the joy brought to them by this genre that was created as a direct result of their hardships. 

MIAC considers the “Music” room “the soundtrack of our life.” With a focus on music for film and the genre of musicals, standing in this room is like traveling through time. The tunes heard in this exhibit will take you all the way back to Italy’s first talkie, the 1930 La canzone dell’amore. The beloved maestros of the Golden Age through the 1970s, Nino Rota and Armando Trovajoli, offer a dose of nostalgia with the modern compositions of Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani bringing you back to reality. Dramatic light bars draw the accompaniment in time and tone as the music plays.

The “Masters” room is dedicated to the most recognizable faces of Italian cinema throughout the world. A large screen is at the center of the exhibit surrounded by mirrors, metal pillars and unique lighting that draws the pillars up giving the sensation of gold-lit skies. This is the second to the last room and it rounds out the magnificent experience created by the curators, which exudes the grandiose of Italy’s cinema.

The last room is appropriately referred to as the “Future.” You will find yourself under bright lights surrounded by mirrors with a video column in the center. The “future’ interpretation is left to the spectator looking up to infinity and down to a bottomless reflection. One can imagine that regarding the future of Italian cinema, there are no boundaries. The sky is the limit. 

Over the course of 2020, the museum will expand with a space for temporary exhibitions, a media library with access to historic footage and photographs from the vast Luce Cinecittà archive. A library dedicated to Tullio Kezich, an Italian writer and film critic best known for his award-winning biography of Federico Fellini, will contain 5,000 of his works. The analog film restoration laboratory, adjacent to the museum, will reopen and become accessible to visitors, offering a rare opportunity to witness the actual restoration process. 

Also on the grounds of Cinecittà studios is a new exhibition dedicated to Federico Fellini. One of the numerous 2020 nationwide events to mark the 100thbirthday of the infamous director, the exhibit is set in the Palazzina Fellini, one of the historic buildings in the Cinecittà compound. Created by Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, the exhibit offers a glimpse into Fellini's imagination seen through a collaboration and friendship with Ferretti that led to the realization of five films.

The Cinecittà studios are located on Via Tuscolana in Rome. If traveling on your own, take the metro, red line, in the direction of Anagnina and exit at Cinecittà. Click here for more information.

- Jeannine Guilyard


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