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Director Mario Monicelli and Japanese film noir will play the lead in two of the Festival retrospectives.
The work of Italian maestro Mario Monicelli and the specific treatment dedicated to film noir by Japanese cinema throughout its history will play the leading part in this year’s edition of San Sebastian Festival, to take place from 18-27 September.
The official 56th edition poster, sections and retrospectives were presented by Oscar Mariné at an event held on 9th May in San Sebastian. This prestigious designer has once again created the Festival graphics along the same lines as last year.

Oscar Mariné defines the image of the 56th Festival poster as “an enormous spotlight, a speaker, a projector. It’s an imposing aerial that broadcasts and receives information and energy. A cinematographic reference and symbol”.

 Mariné explains that the icon “is made from organic wood. A metaphor of the Basque people and culture. It’s pink, a colour referring to the Festival’s vocation of modernity while pointing towards the youngest and most original proposals of today’s cinema. Last year we opted for a symbolic, more classic poster of San Sebastian. This year we take a closer look at the Basque culture, cinema and youth. And all filtered through the visual aspects of pop culture.”

The Zabaltegi poster “similarly exudes graphic elements referring to the Basque culture, although this time the typography, sober, educated, powerful and elegant, predominates”. Horizontes Latinos “is a cut-out reflecting indigenous elements of popular South-American culture”. Mario Monicelli “uses his own image to show the strength of a brilliant director” and, in Japan in Black, “The good, the girl and the bad, a shot from the Japanese film Stray Dog (Akira Kurosawa, 1949), demonstrates that sometimes the classics are far more modern than many of today’s proposals.”

Comedy was one of the most important genres in the Italian cinema of the 1950s and 60s. Outstanding among the directors dedicated to these movies of comical overtones barely concealing a critical view of society, is Mario Monicelli, author of the most representative works delivered by this popular trend responsible for the success of actors like Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Manfredi or Alberto Sordi.
In 1998 and 1999, San Sebastian Festival dedicated two cycles to Italian comedy, hence this year’s retrospective, focussing on Mario Monicelli with a selection of some 40 films, will reconfirm our interest in one of the most glorious periods enjoyed by Italian cinema. Monicelli was responsible for what was perhaps the most coveted piece of that comical effervescence, I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958), featuring an unrepeatable cast: Gassman, Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Memmo Carotenuto, Renato Salvatori and the veteran Totò. A consummate master of comic art and top-notch director of actors, Monicelli had no fear of tackling other, harsher genres, like La grande guerra (The Great War, 1959), a tragicomedy set in WWI starring Gassman and Sordi; I compagni (The Strikers, 1963), about the workers’ movement; or Vogliamo il colonelli (We Want the Colonels, 1973) taking its inspiration from the Greek military dictatorship.
Born in Rome in 1915, Monicelli continues to shoot, and his latest film to date is Le rose del deserto (The Roses of the Desert, 2006). Monicelli has participated four times in the San Sebastian Festival Official Selection: in 1958, I soliti ignoti nabbed the Silver Shell ex aequo with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo; in 1965 Casanova 70 garnered the awards for best director and best actor for Marcello Mastroianni; in 1968 La ragazza con la pistola bagged the best actress award for Monica Vitti; and in 1971 Brancaleone alle crociate earned Vittorio Gassman the best actor award.
The retrospective will comprise 41 feature films and two shorts. The selected titles include:
Totò cerca casa (Totò Looks for an Apartment, 1949)

Vita da cani (A Dog’s Life, 1950)

Guardie e ladri (Cops and Robbers, 1951)

Padri e figli (Fathers and Sons, 1957)

I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958)

La grande guerra (The Great War, 1959)

I compagni (The Strikers, 1963)

L’armata Brancaleone (For Love and Gold, 1965)

La ragazza con la pistola (The Girl with a Pistol, 1968)

Vogliamo i colonnelli (We Want the Colonels, 1973)

Amici miei (My Friends, 1975)

Un borghese piccolo piccolo (An Average Little Man, 1977)

Le due vite di Mattia Pascal (The Two Lives of Mattia Pascal, 1985)

Le rose del deserto (The Roses of the Desert, 2006)

Japan’s prolific detective and criminal movie production remains largely unknown in the West. Product of an obvious process of importing foreign literary and movie genres, principally American, Japanese film noir could seem like something of an anecdote in the history of Nippon movies. But Japan skilfully endowed its detective stories with a “national touch”: the gangster sense of honour, the patient research work carried out by the police, the torment of the outcast criminal or the portrayal of a society badly hit by post-war chaos were all subjects expressing the many concerns and anxieties suffered by Japanese psychology.
The Japan in Black retrospective permits an overview in this parallel history of a Japanese cinema unscreened at Western film festivals and clubs, yet enthusiastically consumed by local audiences. It will include movies about subjects ranging from the itinerant gamblers (batuko) of the silent period to the boom experienced by gangster movies post-WWII, the important contributions made by moviemakers like Akira Kurosawa or Shohei Imamura or the significant incursions of excellent directors from the period of Japanese modernity (Nagisa Oshima, Mashahiro Shinoda, Hiroshi Teshigahara) who used criminal intrigue to make subversive, highly personal films. And we will particularly focus on the moment of splendour enjoyed by yakuza eiga (Japanese gangster movies) in the 60s, with an enormous output of reels about heroic, solitary gangsters; and on the decade of the 70s, when yakuza eiga took on a more realistic aspect.
But Japan in Black will consider other expressions of film noir: criminal melodrama or the adventures of hardboiled detectives in the purest tradition, not forgetting the interesting revival enjoyed by the genre since the 90s thanks to directors like Takeshi Kitano, Takashi Miike, Takashi Ikii or Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
The Japan in Black retrospective will comprise 40 films, including:
Nora Inu (Stray Dog, 1949), by Akira Kurosawa

Hateshinaki yokubo (Endless Desire, 1958), by Shohei Imamura

Karakkaze yaro (Afraid To Die, 1960), by Yasuzo Masumura

Tengoku to jigoku (High and Low, 1962), by Akira Kurosawa

Yaju no seishun (The Brute / Youth of the Beast, 1963), by Seijun Suzuki

Kawaita hana (Pale Flower, 1964), by Masahiro Shinoda

Jingi no hakaba (Graveyard of Honor, 1975), by Kinji Fukasaku

Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki (Violent Cop, 1987), by Takeshi Kitano

Waga jinsei saiaku no toki (The Most Terrible Time in My Life, 1994), by Kaizo Hayashi

Hebi no michi (Serpent’s Path, 1997), by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

The protagonists of the contemporary retrospective and the contents of the Official, Zabaltegi and Horizontes Latinos sections will be revealed in the coming months.

San Sebastian International Film Festival also acknolwedged the work and collaboration of the different companies and institutions that help this important event to improve year after year. TVE and SCHWEPPES-SPIRIT, as its Official Sponsors; KUTXA, for the interest with which it backs the Festival as part of the cultural heritage of the people of San Sebastian and Gipuzkoa; ALTADIS, sponsor of the Altadis-New Directors Award; TCM, sponsor of the Audience Award going to the film earning most votes; EL DIARIO VASCO, KUTXA and the PATRONATO MUNICIPAL DE DEPORTES, which will be present at screenings in the Anoeta Velodrome; THE EU MEDIA PROJECT, ICEX and EGEDA for their backing of the SALES OFFICE; AECI, sponsor of HORIZONTES LATINOS; BRUESA, sponsor of Films in Progress; IBERIA, the official Festival airline; DHL,Official Festival Transport; EUSKALTEL, MUMM, CANON, 5 JOTAS and MASSIMO DUTTI for their backing of the Festival.

Donostia - San Sebastian, 9 May 2008

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