Arts Express: Open Roads – New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center In NYC

Often what goes into making a movie, the art and design that dazzles as visuals beyond the directing, may enchant audiences but rarely gets recognized, even in the closing credits. Now those meticulously dedicated crafts people are finally recognized with a film of their own and lovingly dedicated to their creations, Handmade Cinema.

In no way off-the-rack selections at your local department store and having absolutely nothing to do with special effects or green screens, the work of these designers for films is strictly all about needle and thread by hand, and immensely dedicated love of the craft. An affectionate tribute to the quite invisible and unsung yet deeply essential costume master cutters, makeup artists, tailors, carpenters, painters, sculptors and bricklayers among a multitude of crafts, Handmade Cinema is directed by Italian filmmaker Guido Torlonia.

And though specifically a journey through the behind the scenes creators of Italian films at work – hereditary artistry which has been both literally and figuratively handed down secretly from father to child through the centuries (originally for operas and carnivals) and as far back as the Renaissance – a number of these men and women have been sought to spin their magic for Hollywood movies as well. As an indelible example, The Agony And The Ecstasy in 1965, starring the late Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. And in which the original works by the artist adorning the Sistine Chapel were impressively recreated by a painter brought on board to do so.

Handmade Cinema in this sense is as lovingly crafted as the subjects who are the film’s focus, while ‘breathing life into fabric.’ And laced with a splendid procession of visual and oral histories, along with amusing workplace anecdotes. Including mid-20th century matinee idol Marcello Mastroianni chain-smoking and falling asleep in his makeup chair, and prop masters constructing an authentically 1700s enormous hot air balloon out of duplicated women’s period underwear. Or concocting all manner of magical prop ingredients, from the likes of shells, bamboos, laces and ox horns.

In our conversation with Handmade Cinema director Guido Torlonia, who phoned in to Arts Express, he mulls the question of how these craftspeople may exist somewhere in the enigmatic realm between artisan and artist – or perhaps both. And what all of this may or may not have to do with Fellini, Pasolini, Scorsese, Spike Lee, Sophia Loren’s hair, and Leonardo Da Vinci at the bodega.

More information about Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, including screenings along with filmmaker and actor appearances in person, is online at: http://filmlinc.com/openroads.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.