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Pasquale Iannone's Mr Bongo Top 3 Films

We originally posted this when our website relaunched at the end of 2011 but due to some technical issues it was lost.  Thankfully we managed to dig it up again for a re-post.

Our very own film encyclopedia at the time, Arjun Chauhan, managed to peruade Pasquale Iannone to pick his three favourite Mr Bongo titles.  Pasquale is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh, curator, lecturer, writer and BBC broadcaster.  Suffice to say he knows what he is talking about and is probably fairly busy, hence we are very grateful to him for his time in putting this together for us.

Earth (Dovzhenko)

One of the lesser known of the Soviet Montage filmmakers of the 1920s and 1930s, Alexander Dovzhenko was a comparative late starter. He was a teacher, a diplomat, a painter and a cartoonist before trying his hand at filmmaking. His major films, beginning with Zvenigora (1928) combine social commentary with delicate, poetic lyricism and draw heavily from Ukranian folklore. His most famous work, Earth (1930) is a densely poetic (albeit rose-tinted) chronicle of collectivisation whose influence is most clearly felt in the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. 

Il Posto (Olmi)

Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto (The Job) is an intimate, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film about a young man making his way in the world of work. The film charts the confusion and awkwardness of Domenico (non-professional Alessandro Panzeri) as he goes through a range of exams, physical tests and interviews. 

Like many of Italian films of the period, it focuses on the Italy of the ‘economic miracle’ when the country was transformed from a mainly rural nation to a major industrial power. Olmi began his career making documentaries and brought this sensibility into his fiction films. Beautifully observed, Il Posto is one of the underrated masterpieces of 1960s cinema.

The Saragossa Manuscript (Has)

Although he never reached the lofty international standing of Andrzej Wajda, Wojciech Has helped put Polish cinema on the map in the post-Stalinist years. With a background as a documentarian, he made his feature debut in 1958 with The Noose, an extraordinary - for some unrelentingly bleak - film about the last day in the life of an alcoholic. Has confirmed himself to be a master of brooding atmospherics with several more features throughout the 1960s including what for many critics is his masterpiece, 1964’s The Saragossa Manuscript. 

Set during the Peninsular War of the early 19th century, the film is based on a novel by the noted writer, adventurer and political activist Jan Potocki. The film, like the novel, has a sprawling, picaresque quality – a collection of stories-within-stories. It features a stand-out performance from Zbigniew Cybulski as the protagonist Alfonso Van Worden. One of the most striking personalities of the post-war era in Poland, Cybulski was often referred to as ‘the Polish James Dean’. He died tragically, at the age of 39 in 1967.

The Saragossa Manuscript was heavily cut for its original international release but in the 1990s, a group of the film’s celebrity fans (including Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola) financed a new uncut print of the film, giving a new generation of cinephiles the opportunity to fall in love with Has’ extraordinary vision.