If you’re familiar with Italian popular cinema, you probably know that, along masterpieces like La dolce vita and Ladri di biciclette, together with contemporary hits such as Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza, Italy also has the infamous tradition od “cinepanettoni”. They come like a curse every year around Christmas (getting their name from traditional season cake Panettone) and take most cinema theaters by storm with their noisy mix of misogyny, vulgarity, euro-dance hits and some exotic location of mass tourism.
Born in the early Eighties (1983’s Vacanze di Natale is traditionally considered the first of the series), cine panettoni regularly appear in mid-late december, fill all cinemas, hit the top of the charts and are the classical post lunch, Christmas day afternoon “treat”. This year has finally seen a decrease in the consumption of such titles, with less money earned so far (but Christmas day isn’t arrived yet) and, apparently, a growing desire from the general public to go and watch something, well, less obnoxious.
Nevertheless, a local cinema Festival Biografilm and its production company I Wonder Pictures decided to play in advance and provide cinema goers of Bologna an anti-cinepanettone refuge in the shape of a little pop-up cinema that will be open until the end of the Christmas season. Located inside the Oratorio San Filippo Neri, a few steps from Piazza Maggiore and usually devoted to theatre and concerts, it will screen for all the holiday season Louise en hiver (or Le stagioni di Louise in the italian version), an animated picture from French director Jean-François Laguionie. The idea behind this temporary cinema, as Biografilm’s creator Andrea Romeo puts it, was to «Save a space for quality cinema even when most theaters are invaded by cinepanettoni».
And this Le stagioni di Louise couldn’t be farther from that kind of Christmas blockbuster: slow and poetic, all pale blue and sand, it tells the story of an elderly woman that, when the last train to town leaves without her, remains stuck in her seaside village all by herself. Once she realizes that no relative seems to notice her absence and no one will come to take her away, she starts organizing her new, isolated life. First she becomes a lady Robinson Crusoue arranging her own cabin, then she meets the only other living creature in the area, an old dog, and becomes best friends with him.
Finally she begins walking between the beach and her memories. Like gentle waves, moments of the past, the innocence of her own youth and the reminders of what she loved all come back to take her company, while she embraces solitude in an endearing way. Despite being animated in 3D, the movie has an almost tactile feel in the use of pastels and in the open homage to the late XIX century French painters. Filled with nostalgia and poetry, Le stagioni di Louise is indeed an antithesis, or antidote, to the plastic package of a cinepanettone.
The movie is also available in VO once a week (should be on tuesday, but better to check on the website), but if you chose to practice some Italian you can enjoy celebrated Italian actress Piera degli Esposti‘s voice as the main character. A super famous theatre actress, Degli Esposti will also receive a lifetime award in the next edition of Biografilm Festival. But that will be in June. As for now, what most intrigues me is finding out how many people will visit this little experiment of “rebel cinema” and how a pop-up space hosting a French animation movie for adults will keep up with the invasion of cinepanettoni.