Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nicolo Donato in Conversation - Italian Premiere of Brotherhood (Fratellanza)

Whilst the fifth edition of the International Rome Film Festival may still be some four months away, Danish film director Nicolo Donato, who scooped the 2009 festival's Golden Marc'Aurelio Jury Award for Best Film for Brotherskab (Brotherhood) was back in the Eternal City yesterday evening for the premiere of the movie's Italian release  - Fratellanza. At a time when homophobic attacks are rife in Italy and the country lags woefully behind its European neighbours in terms of equal rights and the possibility of civil partnerships for its gay citizens, it was rewarding to see a film which deals so beautifully with the emotionally complex issues of a gay love story between members of a neo-Nazi group playing to a sold-out Sala Petrassi at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, with most of the audience staying behind after the film for the encounter with the director.

This was, of course, something of a hero's return for Donato who won Rome's top prize with his debut full length film, but the director, who was joined on stage by Alessandra De Luca, came across as extremely modest and still genuinely delighted by the positive reception the film has received after the initial difficulties in finding the funds to even make the film in the first place. During the discussion Donato explained how the idea for the film came to him after he had seen a German documentary Men, Heroes and Gay Nazis by Rosa von Praunheim, but was keen to stress that the film was, in essence, a love story. He said he did not believe that people are born evil and instead said that he had wanted to try and seek out the person, the humanity, in the midst of evil. In reply to a question from the audience about the sense of fear many of the characters feel in Brotherhood and whether he was afraid of his next film, he laughed, and said yes, and then revealed that it will be called August, and will explore the themes of depression and loss.

Fratellanza (Brotherhood) opens in Italy on 2 July, 2010 and is distributed by Lucky Red.

A must see – highly recommended!

Watch an original language trailer for Brotherhood with English subtitles below or click here to watch on YouTube

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Caravaggio at the Scuderie del Quirinale – Closing soon with weekend all-night visits!

I live only a short walk from the entrance to the Vatican museums so I am fairly used to seeing an endless queue of tourists snaking its way along the length of the Vatican Walls. I have been genuinely surprised and somewhat daunted, however, by the very similar queues to visit the Scuderie del Quirinale's Caravaggio exhibition over the last few months – so much so that I kept putting off going until the final week, thinking, mistakenly, that there would be some kind of lull! Originally conceived to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the artist's death on 18 July 1610, this exhibition would seem to reconfirm the lasting position of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio as one of art history's true superstars, with nothing short of Caravaggio-mania surrounding this show. Luckily, I have a membership card for the gallery (I would highly recommend getting one) which meant that I could skip the line, but not the crowds of gallery-goers once inside. Situated in the former stables of the Quirinal Palace, this exhibition space usually feels spacious and given its length, visitors are able to admire large works from a great distance – sadly not on this occasion where the rooms were absolutely packed.

Caravaggio actually produced a relatively small number of works in his short life and with the curators' strict criteria of exhibiting only those works which have been historically ascertained to be by his own hand, this is a necessarily small show focusing on 24 masterpieces, starting with the exquisite early Basket of Fruit from the Ambrosian Library in Milan and moving through his career more or less chronologically. The Crowning with Thorns and the Deposition from the Cross actually caused bottleneck traffic jams as visitors stared transfixed; I was particularly mesmerized by The Taking of Christ, albeit momentarily before being jostled along to next room. Unfortunately, not all of the works were scheduled to be at the Scuderie for the entire duration of the exhibition so I was disappointed to have missed the Uffizi Bacchus. The presence of the stunning Flagellation of Christ, a later temporary addition to the show, more than made up for the other missing works, however. Living in Rome I am sometimes guilty of taking for granted the luxury of being able to simply drop by San Luigi dei Francesi and Santa Maria del Popolo and see the extraordinary works that Caravaggio made for those churches – they were not moved for the exhibition with visitors invited instead to go and see them in situ. Similarly, when I lived in London, Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus was a painting I would often visit at the National Gallery and I got a real thrill from seeing that once so familiar painting again in Rome.

Caravaggio at the Scuderie del Quirinale continues until 13 June 2010. The gallery will remain open all night long without a break for the final weekend from 9.00am on Saturday morning through to Sunday evening at 10.00pm.

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