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Talking Location With… Tom Benjamin – BOLOGNA and cinema

16th May 2023

#TalkingLocationWith... Tom Benjamin, author of Italian Rules set in Bologna.

WHERE CINEMA PLAYS A STARRING ROLE

Bologna’s world-leading movie archive is the inspiration for Tom Benjamin’s new novel

My home city has many magical features – its UNESCO World Heritage porticoes, its famous dishes, its iconic towers – but one that especially comes to life over the summer is its open-air cinema screening everything from restored silent classics, sometimes accompanied by a full orchestra, to new movies.

Bologna’s cinema ‘sotto le stelle’ or ‘beneath the stars’ in main square Piazza Maggiore began as the centrepiece of a film festival – ‘Il Cinema Ritrovato’, or Cinema Rediscovered – where the Cineteca di Bologna showed off examples of the movies it had painstakingly restored.

Tom Benjamin

Over eight days and nights in June, cinephiles still descend on Bologna to view the dozens of films staff at Cineteca have been working on throughout the year, along with classics held in its archive of over 80,000 movies.

Cineteca has been at the heart of Bologna for over 50 years. At its headquarters in a former tobacco factory in Via Rive di Reno, it receives films from around the world, while in the grounds of an old slaughterhouse nearby, three of its four cinemas daily screen movies new and old at ‘Cinema Lumiere’. Its library contains over 47,000 books, while its photo library more than three million images. Cineteca is so internationally respected that it was entrusted with the care and restoration of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton’s films and documents.

It was Cineteca’s conspicuous presence in Bologna that inspired me to set the fourth in my Daniel Leicester series around the search for a missing film from an archive loosely based on the institution I have christened ‘CineBo’.

In Italian Rules or, as I subtitle my story, The Three Endings of Toni Fausto, the investigation uncovers not only a plot touching upon the history of one of Bologna’s most enduring, and painful, mysteries, but connects it to the fate of (fictional) filmmaker Toni Fausto.

Tom Benjamin

Whether it be (Bologna born) Pier Paolo Pasolini and the murky theories surrounding his murder, or the activism of the Italian intelligentsia during the Anni di Piombo – Years of Lead – in Italy, borders are always blurred, and as Daniel Leicester discovers, the life of Toni Fausto was no exception.

Italian Rules has been perhaps the most challenging, and artistically satisfying, of my Daniel Leicester mysteries to write so far because it not only explores the world of cinema, which has always fascinated me, but I had to create not only the world of the novel, but the plot and key scenes from Toni Fausto’s movie, Love on a Razorblade, along with its Hollywood remake, Razorblade.

Hence – the three endings of Toni Fausto, and I admit I was chuffed when one reader told me they had googled the film only to discover it didn’t exist, although admittedly that was before I had been advised to change the actors names to fictitious ones (although I think to readers of a certain age they should still be reasonably recognisable)…

Still, I do like to think one could wander into Piazza Maggiore one balmy summer evening and look up to see Love on a Razorblade. Or Razorblade, perhaps? I would prefer the original, Daniel Leicester, probably the remake. If you read Italian Rules, you will understand why.

TOM BENJAMIN

Photo credit: Lorenzo Burlando / Cineteca di Bologna

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