What if, in spite of all stereotypes, we were to tell you that the so-called epic film was actually born in Turin? It’s such a pity, though, that the silver screen’s association with Turin lasted no longer than the dusting of powder on a lady’s nose. The year was 1914, the film was entitled Cabiria, the production company was called Itala and the director’s name was Giovanni Pastrone – principally remembered (or not) for being Gabriele D’Annunzio’s ghostwriter: there’s no doubt that the resounding name of the Italian celebrity-poet was required to consolidate the “Seventh Art” beyond the national borders.
It was just the ticket, and so Cabiria travelled all over America, was shown on Broadway and even at the White House: all and sundry appreciated the Italian knowhow – craftsmanship, versatility, ability to blend together content, music and animation – that went into the making of this motion picture, the length of which in itself (over 3,000 metres of film, as opposed to the 200 metres that were the world-average in those days) decreed that it would indeed be “epic”.
If the film industry as we know it first saw the light in the shadow of the Mole, Turin’s landmark building, it makes perfect sense that this week an agreement has been signed between the National Museum of Cinema (which is housed inside the Mole) and Hollywood’s Academy Museum. The agreement provides for a restyling of the monumental building and a twinning between the two museums’ exhibitions and respective directors; it constitutes the first partnership in the world between film museums (which also include the Cinémathèque française, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the London Film Museum and the Eye Film Institute of Amsterdam).
A makeover for the Mole, with the rest of the city also preparing to face the cameras this month as host of the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as of the Turin International Book Fair. We have a feeling that the elegant north Italian city won’t have a single moment to spare: not even to powder her nose.