The Notebook is the North American home for Locarno Film Festival Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian's blog. Chatrian has been writing thoughtful blog entries in Italian on Locarno's website since he took over as Director in late 2012, and now you can find the English translations here on the Notebook as they're published. The Locarno Film Festival will be taking place August 3 - 13.
Last year, as we made our farewells, Michael Cimino said to me: “Carlo, I want to come back, but next time with a film.” I could hardly contain my emotion, knowing how the filmmaker had been ostracized in his own backyard, Hollywood. But, for once, I felt I could make out a glimmer of something behind that imperturbable smile of his. Something like an inner certainty.
Today I'd like to believe that Cimino will indeed return to Locarno with a film. Under another name, another identity, in another garb—these are just so many superficial distracting incidentals to inveigle viewers, testing their ability to see beyond mere appearances.
But the films he conceived did not get made, they will still find a way to make their way, playing, as he always did, with epic and history, lyricism and cruelty, passion and lucidity. They might even assume another nationality… It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that this filmmaker's legacy and spirit is not lost. His classicism, the way he both loves and critiques America, complements that of Eastwood, another of the great elders, who, fortunately, has never stopped making films. While the latter draws on the great literary tradition, Cimino finds sustenance in images, pictures, and then constructs extraordinary edifices on them. In this sense, Cimino's kind of filmmaking is impervious to the digital: I just cannot imagine him using a “green screen”: he needs architectural structures, buildings, a visible scaffolding, landscapes to be made habitable.
Today, I'd like to think that Cimino has simply changed spheres, and that his dream of being that architect of buildings that brave and challenge the chaos of the world is more alive than ever. Filmmaking today is in flux, creating ripples in a pond: springing out of nothing, appearing ever larger, then disappearing in a mere few minutes. Cinema no longer has the ambition to construct something, hence its unmindful nature, doomed to oblivion. Films today are consumed at the speed of fast food and follow the same principle: just filling the belly, perfectly economic and painless.
So for this reason we need the voices of extremist filmmakers, like Cimino, to ring out even more powerfully. Because the “cinema machine” needs people who will resist it, people who offer an opposing vision to the malleability of that instrument that can film anything, any time, from whatever angle. Like all the great directors, Cimino has a way of seeing which never gets lost in reality, but maps it out.
Cimino, both the introvert and the histrionic, the chameleon and the most demanding person in the world, the pain in the neck and the generous heart. Cimino the friend of actors and enemy of the system. The man who, more than any other in the New Hollywood, represented the spirit of Europe, the taste for beauty—to cite an expression from another all time great, Eric Rohmer. The man whose visions were so big that even Hollywood was scared of them. Cimino the director who for two decades was waiting to make a film and in those twenty years left so many traces of himself as to make it seem inconceivable that none of them will bear fruit. To those who have not heard that voice, I would advise taking an afternoon to watch Heaven’s Gate and if there's any time left over, to catch up with the extraordinary masterclass he gave at Locarno last August. To Cimino—who I still recall, watching the final frames of The Deer Hunter on the Piazza Grande at 2 in the morning—I give thanks from the bottom of my heart, not only for having given the festival audience such moments of deep emotion, but also for having reminded us that another kind of filmmaking is still possible.