News from the Locarno Festival

Old Movies, anyone?

Old Movies, anyone?



Titanus is a film company founded by law-school dropout Gustavo Lombardo in Naples, in 1904 (the name "Titanus", however, was to be adopted only on June 12th 1928). Gustavo Lombardo (1885-1951) started his career as a film distributor for various Italian and French production companies, but quickly decided to expand his business both vertically (by buying film studios and film theaters, and by producing films) and horizontally (by publishing a monthly film magazine called "Lux").
Living through two world wars, major political earthquakes, economic recessions and technological shifts in the film industry, Titanus managed to remain in the business to this very day, under the direction of Gustavo Lombardo's son Goffredo (1920-2005) first and grandson Guido later.

Faced with the problem of organizing a retrospective consecrated to a one-hundred-and-ten year old film company, curators Roberto Turigliatto, Sergio M. Germani and Emiliano Morreale chose a simple chronological criterion for selection: the main focus of the retrospective would be on "the films produced by Titanus between 1945 and 1965, especially those that were made under Goffredo Lombardo's supervision".

In spite of being based on thorough historical research, both the retrospective and the book Titanus. Family Diary of Italian Cinema are not meant to provide a definitive, exhaustive resume of the state of the art. On the very contrary, the curators want the screenings and debates taking place in Locarno to be "an occasion for film critics, scholars and cinephiles to acquaint themselves with some of Italian cinema's lesser-known works, in order to stimulate new studies in the field, because there are still so many issues to investigate".

According to the curators and guest speakers Bernard Eisenschitz, Miguel Marías, Chris Fujiwara and Simone Starace, some of the most interesting topics that could be studied in the next few years include theorizing the "auteur" as a film studio rather than as a single, physical person, while at the same time considering the directors working in genre cinema as "artists" and not just as "professionals for hire", with directors such as Raffaello Matarazzo, Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, Camillo Mastrocinque and Guido Brignone who have been neglected so far by film critics and scholars alike, studying Titanus' activities other than film production, especially its print publications and the rental of its facilities to other film studios, and Titanus' negotiation of Italian identity as a sort of "Neapolitan-ness" or "Southern-ness" through the creation of an imaginary Mediterranean Arcadia.

In conclusion, as a proof that this year's retrospective in Locarno is not at all an exhibition of "relics from the past", Emiliano Morreale remarks that Titanus' melodramas and musicarelli from the Fifties and Sixties have been having a huge success on Italian private and public television channels, keeping hundreds of thousand of men and women "glued to the screen" every afternoon since the Eighties: how is it possible that these "old movies" never actually get old?

Michael Guarneri

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