Cinema Paradiso

Cape Town’s oldest art cinema turns 65 this month and celebrates with a two-week feast of Italian films.

Originally an Italian Embassy, The Labia started as a live performance theatre back in 1949 when it was opened by Princess Labia.

Now Capetonians know it as the cinema to go to when you want a dose of arthouse, or maybe just a glass of wine with your movie.

Cinema manager Ludi Krause says he picked Italian films not only because of the connection to the name, but also because the selected movies evoke a particular sense of romance which used to be associated with films.

“These are films which transport you, you watch these films and they’re magical. You’re not bombarded by special effects and noise,” said Krause.

The 12 films, which will screen multiple times over two weeks, were also chosen because of the positive response they received the first time they were screened here.

“It’s a selection based as much on merit as on what was popular. And, ultimately, what was available,” he explained.

The Labia has finally sourced two digital projectors at an affordable price, and these should be installed in the next six months. Krause says this will give the arthouse cinema a new opportunity to draw on the best of contemporary art films.

“Also, to show all sorts of films which aren’t available on print anymore. It opens the world of film to us.

“I think that as more cinemas go the big special effects route, the greater the need for a cinema that shows a different type of movie,” said Krause.

The fortnight of Cinema Italian Style will feature: La Città Delle Donne (City of Women), 1980: Federico Fellini’s exploration of the Latin concept of machismo, feminism and gender politics.

The Dreamers, 2003: Bernardo Bertolucci’s elegant exploration of Paris in 1968, when the younger generation on the big screen had more important battles to fight than computer-generated monsters.

Le Bal, 1983: this Oscar-nominated declaration of love for the cinema is set in the same ballroom over the passage of 50 years.

Cinema Paradiso, 1988: this Oscar winner gives us a film-maker looking back at his childhood and what sparked his love of cinema.

Allegro Non Troppo, 1976: an enthusiastic film-maker who thinks he’s come up with a totally original idea to set animation to classical music, does his own thing – using little old ladies for an orchestra and keeping his animator locked up in a dungeon.

Farinelli, 1994: emotionally intense, this story of the last castrato, features exquisite music.

Pane e Cioccolata (Bread and Chocolate), 1974: a bittersweet comedy which explores the experience of Italian and Spanish immigrant workers in Switzerland in the 1960s.

Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties), 1975: following a non-linear narrative, director Lina Wertmuller was the first woman to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar for this farce, which is as much an anti-war statement as a story of the human condition.

Canon Inverso, 2000: a love story set in pre-Nazi Europe with an elegant score by Ennio Morricone.

Il Giardino dei Finzi Contini (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis), 1970: this languid poem explores the effect of laws implemented against the Jews in Fascist Italy in the late 1930s.

Il Portiere di Notte (The Night Porter), 1974: this study of insanity brings together an ex-SS officer and a concentration camp survivor who resume their sado-masochistic relationship.

Fellini’s Satyricon, 1969: this series of disjointed mythical tales set in first-century Rome remains a difficult film to watch.

• Check www.thelabia. for schedule details.