Cineinfinito #94: Massimo Bacigalupo

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Massimo Bacigalupo (Rapallo, Genoa, Italy, 1947). His first works were produced for the local Amateur Film Club. For some years he helped organize the Rapallo International Amateur Film Festival. In 1966 his feature Quasi una tangente was awarded first prize in the Montecatini Film Festival. Bacigalupo, who was nineteen-year-old at the time, remembers that he was sitting in the audience with Lillian Gish and Anita Loos, who happened to be visiting Montecatini (Lillian was a friend of Massimo’s parents). Early on, through his personal acquaintance with poet Ezra Pound, Bacigalupo met film-makers and associates of the New American Cinema, among them Guy Davenport, Stan Brakhage, Gregory Markopoulos, Jonas Mekas, and Abbott Meader. In 1970 he prepared an Italian translation of Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision. He brought to Rapallo in 1964 a selection of American films, among them works by Ron Rice and Maya Deren, which made a lasting impression. In 1966-71 he was a university student in Rome, where he was a founding member of the Italian Film-makers’ Cooperative, and was involved in producing and distributing independent films. In 1968 he shot 200 Feet for March 31, an uncut and silent 8mm film- happening. He went on in 1969-70 to create Eringio, a series of four films running over two hours. The title refers to Dürer’s self-portrait, and this film quartet amounts to a collective self-portrait of the student and art world in Italy at the time. The longest film of the series, Migration, a celebration of the Great Mother and her many incarnations, was premiered at the 1970 London Film Festival. Bacigalupo travelled with a showcase of Italian underground films to Denmark, Sweden, Germany (1970), and later Spain (1974) and England (Tate Gallery, 1983). He enrolled as a graduate student at Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in American literature in 1975. Warming Up, a color film shot in Italy and America, was premiered at the Anthology Film Archives, NYC, on Bacigalupo’s 26TH birthday,April20,1973.In1975heshot Postcards from America, a dream travelogue, and Into the House, an homage to his American mother’s family. Subsequently Bacigalupo has been chiefly active as a scholar, critic and educator. He is Professor of American Literature at the University of Genoa and has received numerous awards for his work as a translator, chiefly of English and American poetry. He lives in Rapallo.

Programme: 

  • 60 metri per il 31 marzo (1968) 8mm, b&w, silent, 15 min.
  • Versus (1968) 16mm, b&w, silent, 14 min.
  • Migrazione (1970) 16mm, b&w, sound, 60 min.
  • Ricercar (1973) 16mm, color, sound, 5 min.

*Screening introduced in person by Massimo Bacigalupo

Screening format: HD (courtesy of CSC Archivio Nazionale Cinema and Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia)

Special thanks to Massimo Bacigalupo Mirco Santi and CSC Archivio Nazionale Cinema


Speaking in 8mm
by Massimo Bacigalupo

1964 – Stan Brakhage begins shooting his Songs. I don’t think that there are any earlier 8mm films of consequence. To the rich and strange visionary material of Brakhage’s work, Songs adds an intimate dimension in which to see, think and “sing”. Let’s look at them again. The liquid azure run of luminous dots in Song 11, pearls of light streaming on the side of the screen towards the end. A portrait of a woman, a person, in Song 1, in a home, whilea luminous door open snow and again from outside, the image flickers, she is intensely there for us. The feeling is bracing, like when we are tired and thirsty after a hike, and we sit down and listen to music. Other Songs compose ideograms. A wedding of silhouettes against the sky and rings exchanged, children’s genitals, a caged rhinoceros: Song 9, I believe. Or in Song 4 three quiet windows opening on a garden, which come alive with action forms drawn on film, and under these graffiti one can make out a city, a church. And again at the end, the window, the camera goes through it and finds a group of children playing with a red ball. This adagio (shot in slow motion), coming after the violent extravagance of the colored spots, produces an enchanting sequence, suggesting the rhythms of nature, of time. Stan never sees the fixed world of fear, but focuses on the body’s essential articulations, according to a formal logic of his which is also very humane. Why did he work in 8mm? I seem to remember that his 16mm camera had been stolen. The result is a music ad personam: having purchased our copies (Brakhage does not rent Songs, he sells them directly for about $20 each), we can watch them in private, among friends and family. So Songs can be considered Everybody’s Home Movies; always concerned with the essential: woman (1), earth (2), sea (3), children (4), grass (5) etc. A primer for a new visual education.

1966 – My Almost a Tangent, like Piero Bargellini’s Masterpiece (1967), is a film about social and historical circumstances. But beneath this surface is the contagious life of the image per se. The film’s taught narrative sustains a formal exercise, which relates to the 8mm medium. I followed this up with Ariel loquitur (1967) where all that remains is the formal exercise, an attempt to create a long silent 8mm film based only on a formal narrative. The double perspective of Tangent turns out to have been more productive. In later work I have sought an image that could speak for itself, establishing open connections, and it is often an image seen from a distance; but it is always tempted by a turmoil of forms.

1967 – Tonino De Bernardi shoots his early 8mm films: The Etruscan Vase, The Bestiary, Costantine’s Vase. Pia Epremian produces Proussade. Two very different styles. De Bernardi is fascinated by the object: body, face, mutant (wo)man. Epremian presents examples of psychological situations. Both are visionary film- makers, the Italian discoverers of 8mm.

1968 – My 200 Feet for March 31ST isahappening, a real 8mm product: a dance, edited in the camera, with homages to Brakhage, Pound, Durrell, Caravaggio – above all to an ancient Upanishad. The enthusiasms of Spring 1968. In the course of the year I turned to 16mm, and shot Versus, a minimalist film that (as suggested by the title) puts paid to the previous enthusiasms, presenting “the desolation of reality”. The two films have also been shown together under the title Diptych, but the contrast has mostly eluded viewers. De Bernardi shoots Gods, his great “love film”(let’s reinvent this genre). Epremian films Medea, more sorrowfully personal than Proussade: a very delicate film on women’s roles: servant, master, free. (In the following year Epremian developed the theme, rather obscurely, in Sufficient Infinites.) Bargellini produces Homage to Van Gogh’s Ear, a boxful of surprises. Adamo Vergine, under a cold lamp bulb, creates Expiation.

1969 – I filmed two brief Letters, which I mailed to the lab with my friends’ address for returning the developed 25-ft 8mm rolls. The first, in color, was about the sea, Sicily, Apollo and friendship; the second, B&W, panned slowly from a dark hillside to a white sky. The Last Summer, filmed in the summer and autumn, begins the long journey of my film-cycle Eryngium (four films of which only the first in 8mm). It is a return and farewell to the past – 8mm, in fact, and childhhod settings. “Home is where one starts from”. Bargellini shoots Eightfilm, a striking soliloquy on eros and substance-dependence. The following year he produced the painful Two Silences and One Harmonica. Here his social approach leads to the poet’s “total leaflessness”. After his love-film (and The Chronicles of Drama and Dream, which is essentially a sequel), De Bernardi begins his film of the world, a single endless work, as yet unfinished, divided in three or four large sections (Days & Works, The Magic Circle, Definition of Space, The Spiral). It’s a new invention of 8mm, and it is still hard to grasp. Most of this material has never been shown. For Patrizia, shot at New Year’s 1969-70, is a brief and intense extract of the mammoth project. As the above suggests, it’s a number of years that this 8mm adventure has been in progress. It’s not much use to speak theoretically of 8mm as a means of communication. What has been done (and will be done in the future) happened when someone woke up with the free inspiration: “I want to make a film”. Something wanted to be said, and seen, and the medium was there to be used. But only the film-maker used it.

from Filmstudio70, Karma Film (edited by), Dimensione Super8, Quaderni del Filmstudio 2, Roma, 1975, pp. 61-63.

Cineinfinito #94: Massimo Bacigalupo

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Saturday, June 29, 2019 - 21:30
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