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Malatya 2010 Interview with Gary McVey

Travelling round the world you acquired a huge experience about movies and this planet, so what do you know about Italian cinema?

Italian cinema drew hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into a realization of how great the movies can be. It's impossible to overstate how important it has been, obviously in the half-century from 1946—, but also the silent era and today.

Any particular film or Italian directors that you like?

How much room do you have on your computer hard drive? Seriously I know of no other national cinema that has so well combined aspects of beauty, intelligence, and modern politics.

Which Italian movie would you like to have in your foundation?

"Il Conformista" is for me close to an ideal movie. There's a lesser known early Bertolucci called "Partner" in English that's a remarkable political comedy with one actor playing two roles, two aspects of socialism, Theory and Practice. It's not as grand as "1900" (The Twentieth Century) but for me it's more honest about the difficulties of changing human behavior.

How difficult is it nowadays to work in your field?

I'm an internationalist, so it's been a struggle to keep these connections open since September 11. As a practical man and administrator, it's been even tougher since the global recession began in 2007. Somehow we'll muddle through. Your parents and grandparents had it far harder after the war, and look how soon afterwards Italian cinema conquered the world!

What about the future of the global cinema, Iosseliani was very pessimistic regarding it what about you?

Far be it from me to disagree with the Maestro, but although I'm a 35mm Technicolor fan, I've made my peace with digital. Remember that Roberto Rosselini came to America while I was a student to embrace the possibilities of portable videotape. Sergei Eisenstein and Andre Bazin both wrote optimistic essays in the 1940s about the coming worlds of video and 3-D. Whatever the technique there's always a chance for art.

Can you tell me a nice anecdote about people in this business?

The Palais du Cinema at Cannes charges a lot of money for other film organizations to display their "literature" (meaning, publicity, catalogs, press releases, etc.) and like many young groups we used to "bootleg it", this is, find places to leave the material but without paying. The Palais employed really tough guys, bouncers, to clear the area of anything that wasn't making money for them. This is an accepted fact of Cannes life; you pay, and pay well for everything. I watched them toss booklets from Chicago, Karlovy Vary, San Francisco and many others into the trash. But they hesitated when they reached Los Angeles, and passed us by politely. Why? Not because it was Los Angeles, but because it was 1995, the year of the Buster Keaton centennial, and his face was on the cover. This is the point: no Frenchman, even rough, working class guys, was going to throw Buster Keaton in the garbage.

Another odd story: NYU film school had primitive equipment, no direct sound, hand-wound (clockwork) cameras. The winding keys would always break, and they were expensive to replace. Scorsese's class discovered that the shaft of the common American door knob could fit and wind up the spring of the camera, and he would demonstrate this to new students every year. So if you see someone who may be merely be impersonating Martin Scorsese, confront him and ask him how to wind a 16mm Bell and Howell Filmo 70-D camera. The correct answer must be "you use the doorknob".