In a time span of forty years, from the end of 1970 to the first 2000 a considerable number of things happen. For example, analogue electronic recording formats change and a man can move between countless, even if finite, places and cross thousands of situations, meeting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of faces, conducting the most varied conversations in the most unusual moments of day or night. He can find himself for dinner, lunch, or breakfast along the riverfront of the Gange or in a cold bar of a Berlin buzzing with directors, critics and curious eyes. Children grow up, lovers and governments change, an outrageous number of new films come out that can usually be seen in the same festivals, like Cannes, or Venice, or in cinemas, in the province or in the center. Sometimes friends die, some may be lost, new ones are found.
Life happens, and when narrating it in may almost be everyone’s life.
For the man with the camera, however, it is different. After this incessant coming of time, he has on his side a huge quantity of recordings ready to be rewinded, to tell something that was never seen before. That man in this film is Enrico Ghezzi, the most brilliant and influential author of Italian television, the most painter and lyricist of cinema critics, the man who in an afternoon in a quiet Rome rose up: this film will be called The Last Days of Humanity.
The historian formalizes, puts into place dates and consequences, provides a reading by writing. He produces waste and margin since his frame is often the big one of History.
However, before his intervention human events are nothing but crossovers in space and time of individuals in relationship. Orality, of ancient and silent times, of natural sound, created the first immortal poems. Many years later, after countless, unspeakable, incalculable, other human vicissitudes, the obsessed passion of two brothers, close to dozens of other gear seekers, in a tension that invisibly united the globe, devised an invention that was said, at its birth, to have no future. They were the Lumières moored to the cinematograph. Another leap of the Fantasy giant with wide open legs, over the head of overturns, tears, loves, discoveries, miseries and glories, very slow and constant tectonic movement, and thus the image is made electronic for the first time.
The historian does not know it yet, but the device of his great frame is about to be definitively attacked by free writers of their own life.
Aura is born!
Which will be the first videotape? The most scrawny, one might think. The one that shows, among the many without a label, the most distant date or, perhaps, the one in which elegant ladies with hats carry in their arms little girls for an afternoon walk on the coast of their holiday home. But who are the girls? It’s Martina Ghezzi. Or Aura Ghezzi? Were it the first we would be in 1981, were it Aura that could only be but seven years later, at least. However, we will see them many other times in a period that goes from the babble of the first words through the clamor of high school teenagers and then to the squares of Genoa 2001. It must certainly be 1989 when at the center of the monumental red cardboard parliament thousands of Communist Party delegates listen to the speeches of this and that, while in the press room, among the incisive squeaks of teleprinters, faxes and telephones, Rai executives like Angelo Guglielmi and Sandro Curzi, along with very young Mentanas, comment and smile among televisions that broadcast “Scheggie” on the schedule on the third channel. Without interruption the same tape makes its way in the corridors of Viale Mazzini. A quiet office full of Vhs and Umatic stacks, magazines, masks, catalogs, there is even a hologram christ on the wall, on which the lens lingers and plays, however, the telephone rings, who is filming presses a flashing button on the big company machine and answers: “I’m coming”. Stop. A motorboat moves along the open sea in a direction that goes straight to a small island. It is Lisca Bianca on the Aeolian archipelago in Sicily, or rather, pardon, it is Michelangelo Antonioni, or rather, it is a chase. So that even the apparently most common, almost tourist-like image, the blue of the sea in a paste that is a little more dense than that of the sky, that of tape cassettes, immediately becomes a lattice filled with overlays and cinematographies. Like when a very young Mario Martone showed up with a white rose for little Martina’s birthday at Nennella and Enrico’s house. The same house where a few years later Martina will play the piano in front of an audience of friends. “She touched me” says Enrico, seeing her again. And re-seeing “is the hard core of this thing” we will comment shortly after. Almost a programmatic declaration whose echo spread over thirty years of research, practices and conversations. After all one just needs to make a leap, it is always a jump, a release, epigenesis of a bubble when boiling, the cassette becomes smaller, the heads now record, still on tape, strings of digital algorithms, and on the other side of the lens the philosopher Emanuele Severino, in a dialogue about origin and the end, the arrival of the eternal, spirit of conservation, will of power and After Life, Ghezzi himself listens to the essence of that core: “We do not think adequately about the real rift that brings cinema to history, to what we are used to thinking of as the history of humanity or the world, cinema is the first moment in which the world sees itself again. We know that it is fake, that it is a trick, that they are single frames, but while photography is an frozen instant, with cinema we re-see a horse, the world sees itself again and this is in itself an actualization that is not thought of, but still is a thinking…It is a small system, mechanical, banal, simple, corruptible, but it is sufficient in producing a re-seeing of the world that is in itself immediately Nietzschean, circular.” That everything happens, occurs, emerges, while analyzing hundreds of hours of cassettes whose destiny of necessity now tickles for a form, is not only unique, it is also compelling. Thus a helicopter rises in flight, an aerial reconnaissance returns to the Mediterranean, there is also Ciro Giorgini with a handycam, there is Helene, there is the pilot and reviewing we anxiously wait in front of the monitor for that moment in which the pilot frees the cloche as a joke, the helicopter for a moment becomes a dead body in the void and fear catches those present. But it is a memory of Enrico’s that is present in the archive only with an “ooooohhhhhhhhhh”, the image won’t really fall. I remember a feeling that for a moment seemed the best ending for this film, a fall into the fire. MBut the boundless opportunity of an archive has in itself the movement of the limbs of a bird, a constant definition of openness, so on the monitor next to it, a warm red light, at times sensual, embeds Michael Cimino in an almost feminine form within a composition of fruit and flowers, marked on the edge of the frame by a jug of wine behind which Alberto Barbera hides, advocate of a meeting in a restaurant in Turin, where the stone guest, the video camera on the table, finally becomes the object of animated discussion. Cut. Cut. Cut. Among dozens of speaking self-reflexes, in always renewed hotel rooms, Enrico talks about Amir Naderi’s attitude to cut, even in a conversation, with the cinematographic verse: Cut! Thus, along the flow of a tape, the very rapid appearance of the great smile, just below an enormous forehead, of the Iranian director, seems to precisely hold to the story. We are in Venice, shortly thereafter Marco Melani will start to film in the outdoor tables of the Bendù hotel a long thinking talk between Philippe Garrel and Enrico Ghezzi. Venice is a topical place, almost a constant. Hi Quentin! – one hears shouting as the camera approaches a landing – and Tarantino comes out of the motorized gondola with his thumbs up, the American way, and with cheering hands, returns the greeting. It is evening, the black waters of the lagoon are brightened by one of the full moons filmed during time. The steamboat stops at the entrance of a hotel. “The De Oliveira dinner?” “On the terrace”. To reach it one passes through a long corridor adorned with paintings that portray the Serenissima in a shady way. Suddenly a pigeon invades the scene and the camera begins to follow him between the columns and halls of the Hotel. “It is magnificent” – says Enrico “Will you join us?” – says another voice. It is Paolo Branco who, like a Cicerone with large mustaches and courteous manners, we shall meet again in other elegant dinners at the lido. Like the one in which Catherine Deneuve glares, by trade, with a look, the lens that films her, and then the camera moves, crossing tables, celebrities and monsters to meet John Malkovich with whom a conversation on Tonino De Bernardi is hastily strung together. We have already seen De Bernardi, maneuvering a camera and directing a clarinetist and the Bonaiuto sisters on the set of Piccoli Orrori at Ghezzi’s house, a moment that perhaps gives us the most beautiful frame in hundreds of hours, that of Silvia Bonaiuto, Nennella. Meanwhile, in the Great Hall, the speaker of the 63rd Venice Film Festival announces the latest film by Daniel Huillet and Jean Marie Straube, but they are not there, taking a stance, and the applause goes, in a roaring sequence, to the actors of those meetings of theirs. The scenes, the situations, the characters, the moments, the places pass quickly, with the plastic and strident sound of the fast progression of the tape in slow motion: Tarr Bela, Wenders Wim, Papo Paolo, Trento, Latisana, Berlin, Paris, Bergamo, Olmi Ermanno, Pozzi Moana, Emmer Luciano, Schifano Mario, Sydney, Bangock, Taormina, Cannes.
Newborn Adelchi Ghezzi, in his mother’s arms, in a hissed night, he listens to John Coltrane. Fast forward, again. Bertolucci Bernardo, Tyler Liv, Houellebecq Michel, Milan, Villa Simius, Bellaria, Turin, Derrida Jacques, Žižek Slavoj, Pitt Michael, Green Eva, Garrel Louis, London, Bruxelles, Carpenter John, Argento Dario, Bressane Julio, Rome, Genoa, Naples, Ferrara Abel.
They stop suspended, on a cable car, dangling above the inactive craters of Etna. Yellow sulfur stratified between black lavas is the background of Aura in the middle of the sky that bronzes the cabin: “my father only thinks about his camera” he says. And one starts thinking about what we read in Fear and Desire: “The last time we’ll see Jean Vigo’s Atalante we may realize that it is the last, a moment before we die, but by now we will suspect that life, like a film/tape will rewind and play again. […] If cinema, even in these small “cassettes”, is not already the future/past of man himself and of the world. If the overcoming of the “thing” to be filmed, in the synthetic image, does not synthesize the non-place and the non-time, in which the image lives. If the mutation of it is not exactly that “thing”, even virtual that fascinates us and drives us to look at it, to “feel” while we look at it, and that “remains” from the beginning, and in the end, even in the most invisible, shelled and quartered video copy. Perhaps, faced with this (being able) to ‘already be there’, Lumière was right less than a hundred years ago to define cinema as an invention with no future”.
Franco Battiato, in his Sicilian studio, wearing a purple fez and the enthusiasm of the child grappling with the new toy, tunes, with a leveled electric guitar: “Alone you die, without love. Alone you die, without love.”
Here one can hear The Last Days of Humanity becoming chant.
Roma, 25 marzo 2019
The work is that of the explorer. The rule is to not formalize the curiosity.
It is useful to take into account the double value of the maneuver, which is a constant now. A film is being made, but an archive is being made at the same time. The first is a pretext for the second. Therefore, there is that is nothing more useful than anything else. The gaze, multiple and diversely obsessed or sensitive capture an occurrence and by describing it they add value to it, by doing so they make it emerge, by emerging it lives once again, it has more possibilities than others to re-enter within the circle of others’ gaze through the written word, it has the chance to be told and to tell once again.
Given these points, the approaches, I believe, may be three.
Recognition allows the image to be identified through a description. Be it anecdotal, visual, discursive, suggestive, doubtful (it may ask questions to the file and leave them open), it can be a memory, it doesn’t matter. A file is silent until the “I saw this” sentence intervenes. Its function is more generic and similar to a general description of content in its entirety.
Extraction enters, it adds value to individual parts, takes notice of them because they may have triggered any type of spring. It may be the intensity of a look, the tenderness of a situation, the background music, a name and surname, such a pink pink of a strawberry ice cream on the sidewalk under the sun, a slap to the camera that creates a blur and a sparkle of shapes and colors, a drop, a panoramic shot from the window.
Transcription is a noble gesture. It transforms words into written text. It can be partial or complete. It can translate a conference or a conversation, it can pin down a joke.
These three macro movements activate a meaning machine, always incomplete, destined however to be a fragment running towards disappearance. The only chance that motion gives it is to survive, perhaps, once again.
(his medium is time)
Only suggestion proved by experience: never to postpone the recognition that just occurred. Such occurrence, in the magma, is rare, marking it immediately allows it to become.
Roma, 25 Marzo 2019
Editing is a mechanical operation, and most is given, in my opinion, from taking on this mechanicalnessof editing. “Taking on mechanicalness”, what does it mean? There have been many montage theories in the history of cinema, and especially among the Soviets. First Griffith in America, and then, on the one hand Ėjzenštejn and, above all, on the other, Vertov.
We are vertovians (The man with the movie camera): editing is cutting off, editing is passing from one space section to another, and all the rest is the non-visible of editing; it is as if every alternation of shot, of field, of framing immediately opened up the possibility of millions of others: a cut is enough, and this is quite unsettling. The technical moment, when you are editing, is that of letting go.
“Letting go” what does this mean? It means that you have to let yourself be shaken by the image, also because you have this horrible (laughable) power to interrupt it with electronic techniques, to modify it, to twist it; you can do anything: you can torture the images. You have this power to put them together and dismantle them even in the grain, in the individual information dots. And this is a little game: pretending to be creators.
While you will reach the maximum proximity to a creative instance, to an instance of editing, by shaking yourself, allowing yourself to be shaken within the image. Above all, at that moment, you perceive the fact that the limit of the image is not even the framing, and that not only isn’t there a single sense of the image, but that you can absolutely pass from any point of another, and the thing may still work.
from Enrico Ghezzi, Il mezzo è l’aria, 1997
Riparte Venezia a Napoli, il Cinema esteso, 21 ottobre 2019, Corriere del Mezzogiorno
Cinema: Venezia a Napoli con 30 anteprime dalla Mostra, 15 ottobre 2019, la Repubblica
Ilaria Urbani, Enrico Ghezzi: “Racconto ai napoletani la mia vita titanica”, 10 ottobre 2019, la Repubblica
Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità. Un (non) film dagli archivi di Enrico Ghezzi, 2 ottobre 2019, Napoli Monitor
Gaia Pinotti, “Eccedance”, l’anarchivio di Enrico Ghezzi, 26 settembre 2019, Strabicofilm
Arrivano “Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità”!, 26 settembre 2019, Ondacinema
Redazione eccedance, Il mezzo è l’aria, 24 Settembre 2019, il lavoro culturale
Silvia Bertollini, Lavori in corso. Enrico Ghezzi, Comencini, Shyamalan, Joaquin Phoenix, Ruffalo, 23 Settembre 2019, Sentieri selvaggi
Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità, 15 settembre 2019, l’Asilo
Cristiano Ogrisi, Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità: annunciato il nuovo film di Enrico Ghezzi, 16 settembre 2019, movieplayer
Vincenzo Patane, Gli ultimi giorni della umanità. Iniziata la raccolta fondi per il film di Enrico Ghezzi, 16 settembre 2019, Taxidrivers
Giuliana Muscio, Organizzare gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità, 31 agosto 2019, il manifesto
Kabir Yusuf Abukar, On ne saurait penser à rien: un progetto (im)possibile?, 30 agosto 2019, Giornate degli autori
Alice Catucci, #Venezia76 – Incontro con Enrico Ghezzi, Alessandro Gagliardo e Donatello Fumarola per Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità, 30 Agosto 2019, Sentieri selvaggi
Enrico Ghezzi: «Il presente come remake, questo è l’orizzonte», 30 agosto 2019, Quinlan
In arrivo Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità, 28 agosto 2019, Quinlan
#Venezia76 – On ne saurait penser à rien, una cosa di enrico ghezzi e malastradafilm, 28 agosto 2019, Sentieri selvaggi
Giornate degli Autori XVI – Enrico Ghezzi racconta “Gli ultimi giorni dell’umanità”, 27 agosto 2019, Cinema italiano