Friday, June 19, 2009

Opera, Film, and Beyond: BMFI Travels to Lucca, Tuscany

BMFI just completed its first-ever group trip. Under the able leadership of Kit Burns (President of Doorways, Ltd.) and Prof. Maurizio Giammarco, our group of a dozen cineasti touristi spent seven days exploring and tasting the best that Tuscany has to offer, and seven nights analyzing and discussing the life of Italy through its films.

We started with a focus on Puccini--after all we were in a villa in his home town, Lucca--and, following a morning trip to another magnificent villa where Portrait of a Lady (d: Jane Campion, 1996) had been filmed, we had the treat of seeing the not-yet-released film Puccini and the Girl with the co-directors Paolo Benvenuti and Paola Baroni introducing and discussing it. We also travelled to the lakeside home where most of the film takes place and where, no surprise, there was a marvelous restaurant (also in the film) which Kit got to open for us for a typical 2-1/2 hour lunch!

After that immersion, we started off each day to a new and wonderful location, such as the Cinqueterre (by a private yacht), the vineyard Vignamaggio, where Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993) was filmed, Florence, and the walled town of Lucca. The day trips were followed by a screening (accompanied by commentary from Maurizio, Prosecco and antipasto) of a portion of Marco Tullio Giordana's 2003 film The Best Of Youth in our villa’s third-floor screening room, and then more discussion over a superb dinner in the grand dining room.

We chose to use The Best Of Youth as the major film vehicle for this trip, since it provides rich insights into the recent history of Italy and is worthy of much formal film analysis as well. The reading material Maurizio gave us on the first day was a welcome introduction to Italian film-making and helped inform our nightly discussions.

Each of us brought something unique to the trip and took home something different. (Well, we all probably took home some extra pounds!) Even those new to film studies had fun. Indeed, the words of Ron Naples as we gathered for dinner the last night were point-on: “I’ve made a personal journey on this trip: from ‘movies’ to ‘film’!”

This trip underscored for many of us one of BMFI’s platform beliefs, that films grow in value and enjoyment when seen in a setting that encourages group discussion and when viewed with the help of a well-educated eye or guide.

So where should we plan to go in the future? Let us know!

~ Juliet Goodfriend, President

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