Saturday, February 04, 2006

An evening with Aldo Lado

A short man with a grey beard smoking a cigarette, out in the cold at the bottom of Frank Gehry's beautiful architecture for the former American Center turned La Cinémathèque Française : that was Aldo Lado last night in Paris, just before the special evening he was the guest of started.

After an introduction which sounded like a warning about what was about to be shown, the evening started with "L'ultimo treno della notte" (Night trains murders - 1975), a film which remains, 30 years after it was shot, still relevant in many aspects and certainly a distressing experience.

The lights came back on a deep silence of the audience, under the disturbing feeling left by this excellent film I'll come back to very soon.
Before the evening closed with the very original giallo "
La corta notte delle bambole di vetro" (Short night of the glass dolls - 1971), a discussion was held with Aldo Lado and a surprise guest : Macha Méril, a French actress who is one of the key characters of "L'ultimo treno" and also played in Argento's "Profondo Rosso".

Aldo Lado talked (in excellent French) about his memories of making popular cinema in the Italian 70s. Back then, Italy was producing nearly three hundred films a year; it was the peak of exploitation cinema, or "cinema B" as it was referred to. Producers were so busy chasing money to pay the crew at the end of the week, they left directors with great freedom.

Undoubedtly, Aldo Lado's talent was to take advantage of genre cinema to make a political point in his films. If "L'ultimo treno della notte" was building on the "violence against violence" filone, it is also a very impactful critic of the European society in the 70s. This is also true for "La corta notte", which original idea was to demonstrate how "Power" crushes contestation. Indeed, both films are very consistent in denonciating the overwhelming power of the establishment.

This freedom of speech was daringly supported by unmatched violence and shocking scenes at the time, and many films had lots of trouble with Censorship, which was very strong in Italy.
"We can't release the film, they said we have to burn it", cried "L'Ultimo treno's" producer to Aldo Lado when the film was brutally rejected by the Italian board of Censorship.
But that wouldn't stop Lado: he went to the board and proposed to cut a few scenes which he had selected himself, and which absence in the final edit would not undermine the film. But they were strong enough to let censors think the worst had been avoided.
And obviously, when asked to cut a scene, Lado was saying yes and then only cut half of it...

Amongst the many obstacles, critics in Italy were also very powerful, if not always very honest: basically, there were the "Maestros" (Bellochio, Fellini, Antonioni...) and the others. When a director had reached this "Maestro" status, critics would never question his films, even if they were bad.
Genre cinema was highly disregarded, even if sometimes foreign critics managed to get their Italian counterparts to change their mind: Lado and Méril were mentioning the amusing example of a film which had been completely despised by critics in Italy, but when reading very positive French and American reviews the next day, the same Italian critics changed their points of view, all of a sudden considering the film a masterpiece...

Snapshots and memories from the weird years of Italian genre cinema, that was a very nice evening with Aldo Lado and his films, and a rare occasion to see them on a big cinema screen - definitely worth the experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The American DVD releases of Lado's films by Anchor Bay have short interviews with Aldo himself, produced by a company called Blue Underground. The interviews are extremely revealing of his professionalism and intellect. Well worth checking out.