Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Florida Film Festival

I went to Italian cinema night at the Enzian. First I did a quick sketch at the bar. After picking up a free Peroni beer, I went in to see La Pivellina (The Little One). This was an Italian film with subtitles. The film opened with a stout middle aged woman with fire engine red hair searching for Hercules. She shouted the name again and again. What she found instead was a two year old girl sitting in a swing. No one else was around so she pushed the swing. Then together they looked for the little girl's mother. A note in the girl's pocket indicated that the mother had to abandon the child and she would come back for her. Not knowing what to do the redhead took the little one back to her trailer.

The willful little girl is the true star of this film. She is adorable in every scene, from imitating a babysitter's expressions to the pure delight of walking through a puddle in big rubber boots. Because she is so natural the hand held footage began to feel like a documentary. All the heartwarming drama of the scenes must have been built around letting the little one just be herself. She didn't like the redheaded woman at first and she would willfully shout, "No!" I got the feeling the older woman had never had children.

She and her husband were part of a small traveling circus. They aren't perfect characters. When Hercules, their dog finally returns he is slapped. A goat wandered into the bathroom. They break down the small circus stage, when they realize that no one had stopped to see the act all day. The little one helped by carrying a chair. She slowly and surely became part of the family. What is precious about this film is that the director let the camera linger when needed. There is one scene where the little one is falling asleep while the couple discuss what they should do with her. The camera lingered a solid minute or two as the girl's heavy eyelids flickered shut with her finger pressed to her cheek as if she wanted to keep that one eye open. Later a second note is found and they realize they will have to give up the girl up, which is heartbreaking since she had brought out the best in the both of them. If you ever get a chance to see this film, I highly recommend it.

Outside the theater, Olive Garden put out a spread of free Italian food samples. I bumped into Mary Ann deStefano, who had already seen eight films focusing mostly on the shorts. Pete Dipietro the Enzian's technical manager, invited me to sketch in the projection booth. There I met Tom Procyk who was getting ready to show Fredrico Fellini's Armacord. Tom let me know he would be splicing together the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" while Fellini's film was being projected. The film was shipped to the Enzian divided up into a number of small reels. Tom had to splice together all the small reels making one large master reel. The whole time he cleaned the film checking for imperfections. He handled the film like a precious thread. The projector made a clattering noise. Turning he said, "That doesn't sound right." He opened a panel on the side of the projector and made adjustments. At times he has had to get creative like using a rubber band to keep the machine running until a new part was ordered. Tom started this job when he was in high school and he has been a projectionist for 13 years. It is an art form, a craft, that is quickly being lost as the film industry turns digital. Before I left he gave me a souvenir, a reference frame from "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I tucked it into a sleeve in the back of my sketchbook.

"In every art form it is the emotional content that makes the difference between mere technical skill and true art."
-Frank Thompson

2 comments:

Mary Ann de Stefano said...

Your wonderful sketch & comments as well as Tom's history as a projectionist and his gift to you reminded me of another great Italian movie -- Cinema Paradiso. (A movie about love and movies which has one of the greatest endings ever.)

Thor said...

I had to include a link to that scene after your comment. Crazy that the boy had to cut out any scene with a kiss. True emotion should never be censored.