When The Lights Dim

For Italian film critic Gianni Canova, if the magic of cinema could be pinpointed in time, it would be the few short moments as the lights dim in the theatre

  • When The Lights Dim
  • When The Lights Dim

Gianni Canova is the Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Public Relations and Advertising at Milan’s IULM University besides being a journalist, novelist, and essayist. Additionally, he is the founder of Duel, the first Italian film magazine to broaden its focus beyond film alone, and delve into the rest of the contemporary media landscape.
But above all, Canova is one of the most eminent Italian film critics – although he doesn’t like to be called that as he thinks of himself rather as someone who tries to “infect” his readers and students with the passion for cinema. 
We chatted with him about essential movies, Italian films, and Netflix. 
Contemporary Italian cinema doesn’t seem to be nearly as highly regarded as it used to be in its golden era. Why is that? 
GC:We have plenty of talented professionals and skilled technicians. We have some extraordinary directors. And yet something is wrong with the industry. The festivals are too conservative and they tend to snobbishly promote films for die-hard cinephiles. The production system has been spoiled by years of excessive public funding. Personally, I wish for a braver entrepreneurial spirit and more innovative promotion and communication strategies. What we need is a cultural revolution that will bring back to our national film industry the dignity it used to have back in the 1960s and that got lost somewhere along the way. For instance,why do the French believe that it’s “cool” to go to the movies, whereas we don’t? I believe that this gives a good idea of where the problem lies.
Which contemporary Italian directors would you recommend to a young, foreign film student?
GC:Paolo Sorrentino is one of the greatest creators of images in the global film industry. There is not a single frame in his films that is obvious, predictable, or trite.All of his works seem to be designed to teach our eyes how to see beauty. When watching The Great Beautyor Youth, the feeling you get is like the one you might experience in front of someone you are attracted to: you do perceive their imperfections, and yet they drive you crazy. Honestly, all his movies deserve to be seen. The same goes for Matteo Garrone, a visionary talent whose imagination goes beyond reality to create worlds and unearth demons and ghosts. 
Now, imagine an alien (or an inexperienced spectator) came up to you and asked what cinema is. Which three fundamental movies in the history of cinema would you show him/her and why? 
GC:Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock because it unveilsonce and for all the voyeurthat hides inside every spectator. 8 e 1/2by Federico Fellini because it is a dancing phantasmagoria on the foolishness of making movies. And 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick because it reminds usthat cinema is the most extraordinary mental exercise that this era has put at our disposal.
What do you think of the growing popularity of film streaming services? 
GC:To me, they are the triumph of films and the death of cinema. People have never been watching so many films, they watch them on their tablets, smartphones, computers and TV screens. Films have become something other than cinema. As Marshall McLuhan wisely and famously stated,“the medium is the message”. TV series are just an outstanding invention designed to transfer investments, capitals and consumption from the cinematic medium to other media. That’s all they really are: a simple positioning strategy in the entertainment market, with all that this entails. Netflix is not a film producer. It is a company that produces films to nurture and self-sustain itself. It’s not like there’s anything bad about it, but how can this recreate the feeling of being by enthralled by something larger than yourselfthat you had in front of the big screen? How can a movie become a myth to us when all we are watching is digital images the size of stamps that we dominate with ease, and that will never, ever be able to give us the overwhelming emotions that real cinema aroused? 
Have you ever felt the urge to direct a movie? 
GC:I am too passionate of a spectator to undertake the pains of directing a film. Being on a movie set is one of the most repetitive and boring experiences ever, whereas watching a movie is always exciting. In spite of all the films I have seen, every time the lights go out in the movie theater I feel the same emotion I experienced the first time I ever watched a movie.

Author : The Slowear Journal


Cinema  | film  | Italian directors  | Gianni Canova  |

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