ROMA and FONO ROMA 2 – early 1950s again

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Milano 2016

The Lollobrigida case, how dubbing in Italy changed forever, and how Alberto reacted to a not very exciting job with inventive resources, becoming an inventor within the film industry.

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Coordinare - Coordinating

Alberto Albertini, COORDINARE – COORDINATING

Dubbing was introduced by the American film industry wanting to sell  movies abroad. The FONO ROMA had a fortuitous birth: an American producer meeting a former singer, I believe Mister Persichetti, to open dubbing studios in Italy.

Dubbing consists of repeating in Italian the foreign actors’ voice and combining the new voice with the other film sounds and music. Italian movies did not need dubbing because actors were recorded live during filming.

But, lack of money after the war and the use of non-professional actors led to the practice of dubbing the Italian movies as well, either because the live recording was expensive or because the actors were not able to speak a correct Italian. Later live recording was imposed by law, in order to protect the workers in the audio department, but the employment of non-professional actors continued. Hence the practice of audio recording to be used only as a guide for the dubbers in the final editing. Sound recording, when it is GOOD, brings additional costs not only for people and tools, but also for control of surrounding conditions such as silence in the room. Also the audio recording had to be good. Now direct recording is easier, having cheaper, and technologically more advanced devices.

O R G A N I Z Z A R E – O R G A N I Z I N G

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What I’m saying is that, before I became a mixer, I happened to record dubbing sessions for both, Italian and foreign movies.

Allora?  Three fundamental episodes came out of all that:

The job was boring. Between the testing of a loop and the recording I often fell asleep, especially during the summer at two in the afternoon. There was a day in which somebody from the recording room (I was in the mixing booth) asked me: is it OK? Yes. OK or not? You don’t sound very convinced. I got it, the answer was important. Since then I always answered Yes!!! an experience that became precious later on.

Some of the actresses refused to be dubbed and required us to let them dub themselves: The Gina Lollobrigida case. Beyond the poor quality of her acting, she had an awful voice ending in a dead sound at the end of each word. I used to raise all the final syllables to make her words comprehensible. The point is that Guglielmo Morandi, the dubbing director, wanted to extract blood from a turnip and she, at a certain moment, wasn’t able to give what the director wanted. We were stuck. From the mixing booth using the intercom I said: let’s stop for a little while, so she can rest and then we restart… Furious, Morandi shouted at me: how did I dare to interfere with the director etcetera, etcetera. The fight was long enough to allow her a rest as I had suggested and the dubbing continued. The poor girl never knew what a favor I did for her!

(She is alive, same age as I. Although I did not appreciate her as an actress, I can say she was very pretty.) Talking of which, director Luigi Zampa, while we were dubbing La Romana, told me that la Lollo was incredibly greedy: she used to remake herself the soles of her shoes to save money! That I could appreciate)

Most dubbing was operated by the CDC movie dubbers cooperative: dubbers of various origins: opera singers, former actors or deceived actors who had not had a big success or simply found this work profitable and safe. The CDC dubbers, differently from other small cooperatives of the time, had a large range of voices. It was easy to distinguish one actor from the other. Their acting though was just standard, and quite often affected by an unbearable birignao (sing song voice). It happened that the producers of of some dubbing companies (Commander De Leonardis,* as many others coming from the Navy) decided to stop the routine and gave precise instructions to the dubbing director (Giulio Panicali, who was also a dubber). Putting on the first reel of “Ne touches pas aux grisby,” Panicali spent a whole hour in the studio explaining the new requirements, and asking them to rehearse the roles, bringing the acting back to the essence of what the context implied. It means that actors did speak as if the scene were humanly true. Dubbing, since then, changed forever.

*The main helper and director of photography of De Leonardis was Mario Bernardo, former chief partisan in Friuli.

 

I N V E N T A R E – I N V E N T I N G

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A dubbing editor had asked me to build it. It allowed him to vary the film speed according to the dialogue translator’s advice. The significant innovation was a solid state amplifier (transistor) in which the cell sensitive to light, able to read the sound track, was a transistor without varnish. That is to say the semiconductors are light sensitive and I had eliminated the varnish to change them into photodiodes. The results was a sound never heard before in the editing tables.

016 – registratore – recorder –

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Prototype to demonstrate a new style of mechanical design. One can see the difference of style in the recorder that follows.

018  018bis – Registrazione copie – reproducing recorder –

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Stereophonic cinemascope did not have an optical sound track that could be printed along with images. It had instead four magnetic sound columns; we had to align the magnetic tracks for each copy and record them. Recording was done at FONO ROMA two copies as a time as one can see in the picture. The small screen was useful to verify the synch between sound and images because sometimes the negative image was cut, but not the magnetic sound master.

019 – Containers

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Containers for cinemascope films.

020 021 022 – Surround Sound Patent –

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Working on the reproducing recorder, the one presented above, gave me the sparkle of an idea. While I was seeing the image on the small screen, I was listening to the sounds from speakers hung on the walls. I thought it could be very exciting if also in a movie theater one could listen to a shot, for instance, coming from off screen. Cinemascope had already made a provision for sounds in the theater, but diffused ambient sounds. I had in mind dialogue, shots, specific noises of events out of the visual field. I thought of utilizing half of the optical sound track (the only space that remained on the film itself) to move an off screen sound to the left or the right, or even to use in parallel all the speakers on the left , separately from those on the right, to obtain a bigger sound intensity.
Image 020 shows a cinemascope film with marks for space for the command track (50% column in the photo); 021 shows the relationships between tracks and speakers behind the screen.

023 – It’s a candy, a fragment of TODD AO film. Which is a scene of Oklahoma on 70 mm. film and six sound tracks. Because Mike Todd, one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, died in an airplane accident, everything died there.

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PER FRANCESCO E DIEGO

Il doppiaggio nacque dall’esigenza dell’industria americana di vendere all’astero la produzione cinematografica diventata sonora. La FONO ROMA nacque fortunosamente dall’incontro della produzione americana con un ex cantante (mi pare) tale Persichetti.La produzione cercava la combinazione per aprire gli studi di doppiaggio in Italia.

Il doppiaggio consiste nel ripetere in italiano la recitazione degli attori stranieri e sovrapporre la nuova recitazione agli altri suoni del film, musica, rumori. Per i film italiani non serviva doppiaggio perché gli attori recitavano in italiano ed erano ripresi audio e video direttamente: in presa diretta.

Le carenze di mezzi a causa della guerra e l’uso di attori non professionisti determinarono la consuetudine di doppiare anche i film italiani, sia perché non c’erano soldi per la presa diretta, sia perché gli attori non sapevano recitare o parlare correttamente. Successivamente la legge impose la presa diretta per tutelare il lavoro del settore audio ma, il procrastinarsi dell’uso di attori non esattamente professionisti suggeri di registrare l’audio da utilizzare semplicemente come guida nella lavorazione di editing finale, cioè come guida per i doppiatori. La presa diretta del suono, BUONA, comporta costi additivi, non solo di persone e mezzi ma anche accorgimenti collaterali, il silenzio in teatro o i disturbi in esterni e una maggiore cura nella ripresa perché essa doveva essere buona anche come audio. Ora siamo tornati alla presa diretta buona anche perché i mezzi di registrazione sono più economici e tecnologicamente avanzati.

Tutto questo per dire che, prima di passare al mixaggio, io mi trovavo a registrare sia i doppiaggi di film stranieri che italiani.
Allora? Allora ne escono tre episodi pilastro:

1       Il lavoro era noioso e tra la prova di un anello e la registrazione spesso dormivo, specialmente d’estate alle 14. Successe che una volta, di là, in sala (ero in regia) mi chiesero: va bene? si. Va bene o no? Mi sembra in si poco convinto! No no, va bene. Capii l’importanza della risposta, Risposi sempre: SI!!! Esperienza di cui feci tesori anche in seguito.
2       Qualche attrice non intendeva essere doppiata e imponeva di doppiarsi da se medesima. Il caso Lollobrigida. Oltre a non saper recitare aveva ( ha ) una pessima voce sfiatata con le finali morte. Io alzavo tutte le finali altrimenti non si sarebbe capito niente. Il punto è che il direttore di doppiaggio, tale Guglielmo Morandi, voleva estrarre il sangue dalla rapa e a un certo punto lei non riusciva a dare quello che il regista voleva e la cosa si stava arenando. Io dalla regia (con l’interfonico) dissi: facciamo una piccola pausa, così si riposa e poi riprendiamo… il Morandi furibondo inveì contro di me: come mi permetto di interferire col direttore ecc, ecc. La lite durò abbastanza per consentire il riposo che avevo suggerito e il doppiaggio proseguì! La tapina non saprà mai il lavoro che le ho fatto! (è viva a ha la mia età e per quanto l’avessi disprezzata come attrice, posso dire che era molto carina). Ah, Luigi Zampa (regista) durante il doppiaggio de “La romana” mi disse che la Lollo era una tirchia terribile: si risuolava le scarpe da sola per risparmiare! (Però, che brava!)

3      La maggior parte del doppiaggio era cosa della CDC cooperativa doppiatori cinematografici, doppiatori di varia origine, cantanti d’opera, ex attori o attori che non avevano sfondato o semplicemente che trovavano questo lavoro redditizio e sicuro. A differenza di altre piccole cooperative di allora, i doppiatori CDC avevano voci assai differenziate che consentivano di identificare gli attori con facilità, per contro avevano una recitazione standard e in diversi casi con insopportabile birignao. Accadde che un gestore della produzione di alcune case ( il comandante De Leonardis,* provenivano tutti dalla marina) decise di dare un taglio alla routine e diede precise istruzione al direttore del doppiaggio (certo Giulio Panicali che era anche doppiatore). Il Panicali, una volta in studio fece girare il primo anello del film “ne touchez pas aux grisby” per un’ora, spiegando e facendo provare le parti in modo da ricondurre la recitazione alla pura essenza del significato necessario al contesto. Cioè gli attori parlavano come se la scena fosse umanamente vera. Da allora il doppiaggio non fu più lo stesso.

*L’aiutante e e direttore della fotografia delle produzioni di De Leonardis era Mario Bernardo, ex capo partigiano in Friuli.

INVENZIONI

015 moviola. La moviola mi era stata commissionata da un editore di doppiaggi e consentiva di variare la velocità di scorrimento del film a giudizio del traduttore dei dialoghi. La grossa innovazione era un amplificatore allo stato solido (transistor) in cui anche la cellula sensibile alla luce per la lettura della colonna sonora era un transistor sverniciato. I semiconduttori sono sensibili alla luce e io avevo tolto la vernice per farlo diventare un fotodiodo, il suono era come mai sentito nelle moviole.

016 registratore. Prototipo per dimostrare nuovo stile nel design meccanico. Se lo confronti con le macchine in 018 ingrandimento, puoi notare la differenza di stile.

018 registrazione copie. Il cinemascope stereofonico non usava la colonna sonora ottica, stampabile insieme all’immagine, ma quattro colonne sonore magnetiche. Quindi su ogni copia bisognava stendere le piste magnetiche e registrarle. La registrazione era fatta in FONO ROMA a due copie per volta come risulta dalla foto. Il piccolo schermo tipo moviola, serviva per verificare che il suono fosse sempre in sincrono con l’immagine perché qualche volta tagliavano il negativo immagine ma non il master magnetico del suono.

019 contenitori pellicole cinemascope.

020 021 022. brevetto surround. Il lavoro che facevo sulle macchine 018 mi fece scattare la scintilla. Io vedevo l’immagine sul piccolo schermo ma udivo il suono su altoparlanti che stavano alle pareti: idea, se anche al cinema si potesse udire, per esempio uno sparo, fuori dallo schermo, sarebbe molto emozionante. Già il cinemascope prevedeva suoni in sala ma suoni di ambiente diffusi, io pensavo a dialoghi, spari, rumori precisi di eventi fuori campo. L’idea era di utilizzare metà della colonna sonora ottica (unico spazio rimasto sulla pellicola) per comandare la commutazione di un suono fuori campo a sinistra o a destra o addirittura mettere in parallelo tutti gli altoparlanti di sinistra e separatamente quelli di destra per ottenere una potenza di suono maggiore. La 020 mostra una pellicola cinemascope con le indicazioni anche dello spazio per la traccia di comando ( 50% colonna fot. ).la 021 relazione tra le piste e gli altoparlanti dietro lo schermo.

023 è una chicca, un pezzo di pellicola TODD AO. Ovvero una scena di Oklahoma su film di 70mm e sei piste sonore. Il Todd, uno dei mariti della Taylor, morì in un incidente aereo e la cosa fini lì.

ROMA and FONO ROMA – Early 1950s

By ALBERTO ALBERTINI – from MILANO (ITALY) 2016

Photographs by Alberto Albertini

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In the Rome of 1952 there was no trace of the recently ended war, as if the war had never existed. Quirky, sly, indolent, chattering, Roma lived her lives. Shopkeepers, small artisans, the caste of public employees and filmmakers often in symbiosis with intellectuals, writers, painters, or simply people meeting in Piazza del Popolo or in Via Veneto to work out projects that sometimes took a real form. A fascist city? Sure, but also a socialist and communist city, especially in show business. And antisemitic. Although the ghetto was part of Rome, Roman people used to mention the “Jews” as foreigners, as a separate, alien group. The Vatican state had been recently separated from Rome. Maybe the Vatican had lost Rome, but won the whole of Italy.

Activities were swarming, each in its own rhythm. Yet they had in common the tendency to deny the watch as the king of time. There was always time to extend a discussion, if possible while eating, sitting at the table. Enjoying modest, daily pleasures, wishing a mediocre and safe position, organizing small trades to add money to the salary, we had (we have?) the impression to survive. Glorious emperors, popes, barbarians had passed, leaving some traces. But the Roman population was still there, indifferent to so much history that hadn’t brought anything better than a plate of sheep cheese and fave beans and a glass of wine from the hills around the city.

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NOW THAT REALLY I AM OLD, TO EVOQUE THE PAST HAS A TASTE OF ‘LAST METRO’

Once the CineServiceFilm experience dropped out of my life, desperate I left Milan for Rome, looking for jobs. Luckily I had a letter introducing me to Fono Roma. The friends I had helped on their way to Switzerland had connections within the Fono Roma, which was the major Italian studio for dubbing films. The company belonged to Salvatore Persichetti, married into the Petacci family. Despite his links to fascism, during the war mister Persichetti had given hospitality to Jewish people with no hesitation. A typically Italian story. There was, in that moment, a vacant job I was accepted to do: to record the dubbing: I became a “recordista.”

The impact was traumatic: although the studios had five rooms, the recording machines were placed in only one room, and the recordings were simultaneously monitored through different speakers, inducing a remarkable stress that I learned to endure over time. We worked 12-16 hours a day, waiting for overtime during the night and on Sunday. Without overtime work we wouldn’t have survived. The environment nevertheless was pleasant. When we finished early we used to meet on a small balcony and chat.

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Maria Pia Dimeo, who became a quite famous dubber on the small balcony

Under the Roman sun life was restrained, somehow soft and slow: destiny looking like what one deserved, pointless to protest. To chat with colleagues and actors on the small balcony at Fono Roma was likely the right reward. And dreams of improbable success looked simply like dreams, smoothed by the sun. Actors, directors, screen writers, editors passed by, emerged, went down, spreading their lives between Fono Roma, Il bolognese (a restaurant in Piazza del Popolo) and De Paolis studios. They were a fauna intruding into the city and the city had become accustomed to them: public employees, artisans, small shops, stalls of cucumbers in the middle of the night at the end of work; empty squares and our tired eyes, derelict, under the Roman nights.

I felt wasted, I could do better! Negligent in my work, I was rude writing my reports to the point that I realized I could be forced to withdraw, and it was a risk I couldn’t afford. During such critical time the smart intuition came to me that I could do what the honest workers were already doing: to work seriously in an accurate way, whatever the job, one must do it well. From there I started to go back up again. From recordista I became sound mixer, the person who is responsible for recording voices, still being, of course, a pain in the neck. In the meantime, I had become the sound mixer of trust for Roberto Rossellini’s editor, Jolanda Benvenuti.

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I had proposed to change the way recorders were used in the studios (Ampex audio-recorders, a new technology at the time) in order to avoid the motors stopping , overheated from being on constantly. The motor could be turned on only at the recording moment. The chief technician refused the idea, but the son of the owner, a freshly graduated engeneer, approved it.
I had also found a solution for creatinge stereophonic effects of the waters falling from one to another level in the Vietnamese paddy fields for Lost Continent, the documentary film by Mario Craveri and Folco Quilici, 1955. It was the very first cinemascope movie in Italy, bringing up many expectations. Some of the scenes showed the Thailand paddy fields, an endless panorama of small terraces, with water flowing down from terrace to terrace, soaking the rice. The purpose was to place the sound of the streams in a movable space. The super technical chief’s solution was to send the same signal to the three speakers behind the screen: the left, the central, the right. The result was deceiving, for the sound seemed to come only from the center. My proposal instead was to read the same sound on three different machines, so that it could arrive at the three speakers at different times. Astonishing result: a sound scene appeared in a space in which one could perceive thousands of gurgling streams, from the left and the right side.
I was clearly a pain in the neck, so they sent me home, which became my good fortune. Back to Milan to direct the new Fono Roma branch.

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PER FRANCESCO E DIEGO

ROMA e FONO ROMA primi anni ’50

Nel 1952 a Roma non c’era traccia della guerra appena finita, anzi non sembrava che ci fosse stata. Bislacca, sorniona, indolente e ciarliera, Roma viveva le sue vite. Bottegai, piccoli artigiani, la casta degli statali e i cinematografari la cui elite viveva in simbiosi con gli intellettuali, scrittori, pittori o comunque gente che si ritrovava in piazza del Popolo o in via Veneto per elaborare i progetti che spesso hanno visto davvero la luce.
Città fascista Roma? Certamente, anche, ma anche socialista e comunista, specie nello spettacolo. Antisemita. A Roma c’era ancora il ghetto ma lo straordinario era che i romani parlavano dei “giudei” come degli estranei, una casta a sé, tollerata si, ma altri. In fondo lo stato pontificio era caduto da poco e a questo riferimento che si poteva attribuire questo atteggiamento, non alle leggi razziali. ( in altra occasione dicevo che il Vaticano aveva perso Roma ma preso l’Italia ).

Brulichio di attività, ciascuna con un ritmo diverso ma tutte inclini a negare che il tempo fosse sotto il controllo dell’orologio e che quindi c’era sempre il tempo per estendere una discussione, possibilmente a tavola. Il godere la vita nei piaceri modesti, quotidiani, l’aspirare ad una posizione mediocre ma sicura, l’instaurare piccoli traffici per arrotondare, davano, (danno?) l’impressione di sopravvivenza: erano passati i gloriosi imperatori, i papi, i barbari, ciascuno aveva lasciato le proprie tracce ma il popolo romano era ancora lì, indifferente a tanta storia che non gli aveva portato niente più di un piatto di fave col pecorino e un bicchiere di vino dei castelli

ORA CHE SONO VERAMENTE IN LA COGLI ANNI, RIEVOCARE HA UN SAPORE DI ULTIMO METRO

Conclusa l’esperienza CineServiceFilm, disperato sono partito per Roma in cerca di lavoro. Fortunatamente avevo una lettera di presentazione alla Fono Roma. Gli amici che avevo guidato in Svizzera avevano amici dentro la Fono Roma. La FonoRoma era di Salvatore Persichetti strettamente imparentato con i Petacci. Nonostante i legami col fascismo,il Persichetti non aveva esitato a ospitare ebrei durante la guerra. Una storia tipicamente italiana. In quel momento c’era un posto vacante che ho potuto ottenere: addetto alle macchine di registrazione dei doppiaggi, ovvero recordista.

Un impatto traumatico, la Fono Roma era il principale studio di doppiaggio italiano con cinque studi. La macchine di registrazione erano però in un unico locale e le registrazioni erano monitorate da altoparlanti diversi contemporaneamente con un notevole stress che poi ho imparato a sopportare. Si lavorava 12-16 ore al giorno e si attendeva il pieno del lavoro per lavorare anche la notte e la domenica, perché tutto era basato sul lavoro straordinario, senza straordinari non si campava! C’era però l’ambiente, quando si finiva in anticipo ci si trovava sul balconcino a chiacchierare.

Sotto il sole di Roma la vita è diversa, temperata, impigrita, così che il destino ti appare quello che ti spettava e non alzi troppe proteste. Chiacchierare con i colleghi, con gli attori sul balconcino della Fono Roma poteva essere il giusto compenso. Sogni di improbabili successi nel lavoro o extra lavoro, soltanto sogni, temperati dal sole. Attori, registi, sceneggiatori, montatori passavano, emergevano, scendevano, vivevano tra la Fono Roma, Il bolognese (ristorante in Piazza del Popolo) cinecittà e gli studi De Paolis. Era una fauna intrusa nella città alla quale la città aveva fatto l’abitudine: statali, artigiani, negozietti, bancarelle di cocomeri in piena notte a fine lavoro, le piazze deserte e noi derelitti con gli occhi stanchi, sotto le notti di Roma.

Mi sentivo sprecato, valevo molto di più! Conducevo il lavoro con negligenza, scrivevo i bollettini in modo scortese finché non mi resi conto che rischiavo di retrocedere, un rischio che non potevo permettermi. In questa crisi ebbi la geniale intuizione di fare quello che già facevano gli onesti lavoratori: lavorare seriamente con scrupolo, ovvero qualsiasi lavoro si faccia, bisogna farlo bene. Così ricominciò la mia risalita. Da recordista divenni fonico, quello che sta in cabina a registrare, responsabile delle voci registrate e rompiscatole. A Roma, per esempio, ero diventato il fonico di fiducia della montatrice di Roberto Rossellini: Jolanda Benvenuti.

Avevo proposto una modifica all’uso dei registratori (audio registratori Ampex, a nastro, all’epoca una nuova tecnologia) per evitare che i motori grippassero essendo accesi tutto il giorno. Proposi di far partire il motore solo all’atto della registrazione. L’idea fu rifiutata dal capotecnico ma approvata dal figlio del padrone che nel frattempo si era laureato.
Avevo anche indicato come ottenere l’effetto stereofonico delle acque degradanti dalle risaie vietnamite in “Continente Perduto” di Craveri e Folco Quilici. Era il primo film in cinemascope italiano e si contava molto sul prestigio che ne avrebbe avuto. Alcune scene ritraevano le risaie tailandesi, un panorama sconfinato di piccole terrazze a degradare in cui l’acqua scendeva di terrazza in terrazza, irrorando il riso. L’intento era di dare una sensazione di spazio al rumore dei ruscelli che riempivano lo schermo e per fare questo il supercapotecnico non trovò di meglio che inviare lo stesso segnale sui tre altoparlanti dietro lo schermo: sinistro, centrale, destro. Risultato deludente, il suono sembrava provenire solo dal centro.
Avanzai la proposta di leggere lo stesso suono su tre macchine diverse in modo che giungesse ai tre altoparlanti in tempi diversi: il risultato fu sbalorditivo: si aprì una scena sonora spaziale in cui si percepivano migliaia di ruscelli gorgheggianti, da sinistra a destra.
Evidentemente ero un rompiballe da rispedire a casa, cosa che fu la mia fortuna.
Fui rispedito a Milano a reggere la nuova filiale della Fono Roma.

THE OLD MAN AND THE PAST

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : the beginning of an adult life

INTRODUCTION
by Rosanna Albertini

Photos and drawing by Alberto Albertini

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Alberto’s stories restart after the end of the war; the treasures of his adolescent ‘expanded life’ put to a very hard test by the frenzy of despair and enthusiasm that was stirring everyone’s life.
     Missing regular school training, and following his father’s path in teaching himself what he needed to learn (Oreste Albertini never went to school – his sisters told me) he built his own way through life and now revisits the past almost curious, rediscovering a figure of himself he had lived in, at times unaware, other times building a brilliant career almost against his wishes.

To recuperate the lost time is a complex desire: it runs after fantasy images hoping that some of them could improve the wish of an expanded existence.” AA

Dreams had cracked up, sinking in the snow. Chance and necessity blowing cold wind on his neck, reluctant and rebel by nature, the only things he never gave up were his family, his passion for photography and his spirit as an inventor, call it smart tinkering if you want, something that, despite himself, always worked.

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School training having been irregular and incomplete, Alberto looked into his level of ‘incompetence’ as realistically as possible, and filled the holes studying by himself everything that was connected to filmmaking: chemistry, photography, radio technique, physics and mechanics, often supported by friends.

1946: an attempt at going to a film school in Milan – a poor school in a basement – did not fulfill his desire of exploring camera work, scenography, costumes making.

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1947-48: Alberto had a job in a company for film development and printing: FILMSERVICE. His naive enthusiasm for free political speech after fascism had just turned around the corner put him in serious trouble. Reported and fired when his very young companion, who will be his wife for seventy years, had symptoms of pregnancy. “The darker time of my life – says Alberto – from which I got out for the simple reason that it was pointless to stay in it.”

Maybe searching for light, he rushed headlong into making his version of fluorescent lamps (a novelty after the war), and patented them, only to discover that commercial development was not in his range. Here’s a drawing:

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History of his adult life is also the history of film sound technologies in Italy after the war. Alberto was also involved in film making as a popular service, in some ways like the agitprop train set up by Dziga Vertov in 1917, when Vertov was twenty two. Equipped for a complete film process, from acting to editing and projecting films, the train had the mission to encourage soldiers and simple people during the Bolshevik Revolution. The Italian experiment instead happened in time of peace. It was called CINESERVICEFILM: a trailer completely equipped for film making and projection was pulled by a Jeep. The little caravan: a trailer, a car and a Lambretta went through the Northern regions of Italy for two years (1949-50) filming peoples’ lives and projecting the film at the end of the day for the ‘actors’ to see. It was a celebration of life and joy after many dark times. Like Dziga, Alberto was in his early twenties. 

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CINESERVICEFILM and the flying song of a nightingale

By ALBERTO ALBERTINI

9 ROSANNA

Between 1949 and 1950 Mr Vallerga, about whom I only knew he had been a fascist, had a pre-realityTV intuition: a vagrant film studio shooting people’s lives and projecting the shots the day after, in the same location. The person supplying me with chemical products pointed out this operation to me, and I introduced myself offering my initial services for free. A good way to take part in the birth of those things. A trailer equipped with tools for developing and printing 16mm films was pulled by a Jeep, one of the war left overs. Operative issues weren’t less interesting than the technological adventure. At the beginning we were three: Mr Vallerga, a driver and myself. Vallerga and myself used to spend the day walking through the village or town where the show was supposed to happen, shooting places and first of all the local humans! I developed the shots during the night and after editing directly the negative, printed and developed the positive. In the meantime Vallerga was placing a 16mm projector in the local movie theater and, using a tape recorder, was adding a musical background. In the small towns the success was remarkable: everybody came to the theater to see themselves or the others. The general mood was joyful.

To make me independent from the trailer and the car used by Vallerga, I was given a Lambretta. Between moving from one place to another, developing and printing, there was no time to sleep. The sheet metal wrapping the lab was an oven fed by the sun, to more or less 40 degrees centigrade. To avoid laziness, I added a photographic service taking pictures of cafes and customers. The pictures, always developed and printed by me, were given away as presents. More workers were added later, and I tried to organize a fair anti-stress division of labor, but costs weren’t catching up with benefits.

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How did it all start? Vallerga was a seller of Fumeo 16mm projectors to the parishes. It was probably in a parish that he met the Luciani family, owners of Dreher and Pedavena beer factories and of Pizzolotto liquor. He had convinced them to finance his project as a brilliant idea to promote their products. The only advertisement, in reality, was the announcement that the show was offered by the Pedavena or Dreher beer, and maybe something was written on the trailer. We had scoured through almost all Northern Italy when the news arrived, near Ravenna, that the party had ended: the Lucianis had stopped investing money in us!
Montebelluna, Treviso, Pedavena, Bassano, Romano Lombardo Trevalcore, Bondeno, Trecate, Borgomanero, Varese Rho, Marostica
and so many other small and bigger urban centers, some provinces. A world on its way to waking up, to restart moving, but still structurally intact, especially in agricultural areas. We had shot a factory for weaving cotton, it was terrible: an enormous shed with weaving looms, an unbearable hubbub… and women at work… We found a spring of mineral water where bottles were filled by a tube, and bubbles were created by gas; the prosecco producers, the carnival in Pedavena sponsored by the beer cellar. Many memories? Not at all, there was not time to breath: in Treviso, a night spent fighting mosquitoes, and in Verona, never seen such a hot weather! At noon in Bondeno one could hear the knife chopping tagliatelle at every, every day.

In Bassano del Grappa, late night, I had finished installing the projector at the movie theater for the following day; it was two, three in the morning? I walked out on the small balcony. Through the deep silence of a space made infinite by darkness, I heard the flying song of a nightingale. It was powerful, solitary, and limpid. Distant reverberations nailed me into my own solitude. Magic moments happen in this way. For him, maybe, it was already wake up time!

And I can only conclude with two images from Wikipedia: the agitprop train for Bolshevik Propaganda in 1917-19, and Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poster WANT IT? JOIN.

Dziga Vertov produced weekly film series and the first newsreel series in Russia for the Moscow Cinema Committee (Kino-Nedelya). He had on the train actors for live performances, and equipment to shoot, develop, edit, and project films.  “The trains went to battlefronts on agitation propaganda missions intended primarily to bolster the morale of the troops.” (Wikipedia)

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BLACK and WHITE


PHOTOGRAPHS OF ORESTE ALBERTINI’S PAINTINGS

by Rosanna Albertini

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I am in this painting, the little girl sitting in the foreground, 1949?

We say BLACK: as if the night was an impenetrable bucket of ink and a pupil was a colorless spot in the middle of the iris instead of a hole, calling for light to come, hello mister brain, would you please activate your colors.

WHITE, instead, is an imaginary brush canceling lines, mess, imperfection, the same as snowflakes in New York sticking on the sidewalk. Piles of garbage bags become hills of the city covered with a white mantle.

I was torn by a dilemma for a few days: some of my grandfather Oreste Albertini’s paintings, reproduced in black & white photos, seemed to me utterly beautiful, not less than his oil landscape paintings that I see every day before my eyes. But these are photos of old paintings that I had never seen. Regression, toward a sentimental confusion? And what about the myth of the original art piece, usually treated as a religious icon? Am I committing an abstract sacrilege? What’s more important: the object or the intangible aura spread by the painted object, in which the art secret is held like a hostage. A high price in tension is required to set it free.

 

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Oreste’s paintings in my house are not decorative complements of my daily life, they are fragments of my own life magically brought together in one canvas or on a small wooden surface. The very moment of my birth is posed on a 15 x 11 inch painted tablet. The painter’s feelings are there, in the silent vibration of light over a day of labor, soaking grass and mountains with faltering strokes.

In the white shelter of our skull, through the gray matter of the brain, an almost unthinkable conversation between light and our neuronal trees unfolds flowers of color, sentiments, sounds.

Colors, sounds, sentiments, are different for each person. They are the body and soul of the arts. That’s why ideas, maybe, are the most conventional and convenient food of our lives, from mouth to mouth, resting on pages, never definitive. They only sound like the daughters of certainty.

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Wanting company, I looked for original, clear minds. I found Giuseppe Panza di Biumo* and his memories as a collector, Mark Rothko,** Fernando Pessoa*** and Alberto Albertini, Oreste’s son.

Fernando Pessoa  “Life for us is what we conceive in it. For the peasant, whose little farm is everything, that empire is a little farm. … In point of fact, we possess nothing more than our own sensations; within them, therefore, and not within what they see, we just find the reality of our lives.”

Mark Rothko  “…making close the remote in order to bring it into the order of my human & intimate understanding. …”
Here, says the painter, is what my world is composed: a quantity of sky, a quantity of earth, and a quantity of animation. And he lays them out on the table for me to observe at the same distance, to hold in the palm of my understanding without editorship – and these are eyes or a head – that are the desires and fears and aspirations of animated spirits.”
I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom or so on – and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions. … The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”

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Giuseppe Panza “The relationship between idea and form, so difficult, almost impossible to define, is the secret and mystery of art, its obscure and powerful core; its force that overcomes the limits of reason and connects to the unknown, to the mystery of life. As if one would touch something impossible to imagine, arising from the springs of life. Not an intellectual operation, rather a phenomenon that precedes and goes beyond us as human beings.”

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Alberto Albertini “My presence next to him as a child, while he painted, fills my vision. I often went out with him and watched him while painting outdoor, and more than anything else I absorbed the charm around him. I used to curl up by a hill’s shoulder to protect myself from the wind. In March the sun is barely warm. I could perceive the same atmosphere he was painting. He was able to transfer his perceptions into the painting; that’s what his paintings give me back, those immersive moments.”     (  https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/the-socialist-painter/ )

My dilemma remains, along with my love for the black & white ghosts.

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Oreste Albertini, Notebook

Alberto Albertini, A Socialist Painter, in this blog

Giuseppe Panza, Ricordi di un collezionista, Milano, Jaca Book Spa, 2006

Mark Rothko, Writings on Art, Yale University, 2006

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Boston, Exact Change, 1998

 

PER FRANCESCO E DIEGO:

IN BIANCO E NERO

PHOTOGRAFIE DEI QUADRI DI ORESTE ALBERTINI

NERO: lo dico ed è come se la notte fosse un secchio di inchiostro impenetrabile e la pupilla una macchia senza colore nel mezzo dell’iride invece che un buco, un buco che chiede alla luce di entrare, signor cervello buondì, mi faccia il piacere di accendere i colori.

BIANCO, invece, è un pennello immaginario che cancella segni, tracce di caos, imperfezioni, come fanno i fiocchi di neve sui marciapiedi di New York. Sacchi della spazzatura ammucchiati diventano colli urbani coperti da una mantello bianco.

Un dilemma mi ha turbato per qualche giorno: alcuni quadri del mio nonno pittore Oreste Albertini mi sono parsi bellissimi nella versione fotografica in bianco e nero, non meno dei quadri a olio che ho sotto gli occhi tutti i giorni. Eppure sono fotografie di vecchi quadri che non ho mai visto. Stavo regredendo verso una confusione sentimentale? Cosa ne faccio dell’opera d’ arte originale come mito, che di solito si tratta come un’icona religiosa? Sto commettendo un sacrilegio astratto? Che cos’è che importa di più: l’oggetto di per sé oppure l’aura che emana dall’oggetto dipinto, che quasi tiene in ostaggio il segreto dell’arte. Per liberarlo, ci vuole una tensione che non ha prezzo.

I quadri di Oreste nella mia casa non accompagnano la mia vita quotidiana come decorazioni. Sono momenti e luoghi della mia vita, dei frammenti che rivivono come per magia su una tela oppure su una tavoletta dipinta. Il momento esatto della mia nascita si è posato su una tavoletta di 38 x 29 centimetri. Sensazioni dell’artista, luce che vibra in silenzio sulle fatiche di un giorno, mentre i campi e le montagne prendono forma impregnate da un pennello esitante.

Nel ricettacolo bianco del cranio, attraverso la materia grigia del cervello, una conversazione inconcepibile fra la luce e gli alberi neurali sviluppa una fioritura di colore, suoni e sentimenti.

Suoni, colori e sentimenti sono diversi persona per persona. Sono corpo e anima delle arti.
Forse per questo le idee sono il cibo più convenzionale e opportuno, di bocca in bocca, qualche sosta sulla carta, niente di definitivo. Figlie della certezza solo in apparenza.

In cerca di compagnia, ho trovato alcune voci oneste e originali: Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, un collezionista con le sue memorie, Mark Rothko, Fernando Pessoa e Alberto Albertini, figlio di Oreste.

Fernando Pessoa “La nostra vita è solo quello che riusciamo a vederci dentro. La fattoria è tutto per il contadino, l’impero è una piccola casa. … E’ un dato di fatto che non possediamo niente più delle sensazioni; è al loro interno, non in quello che vediamo, che siamo in grado di trovare la nostra vita come è in realtà.”

Mark Rothko “… rendendo vicine le cose distanti per portarle nell’ordine della comprensione umana & intima …”
“Ecco, dice il pittore, i mio mondo è composto di: un po’ di cielo, un po’ di terra, e un po’ di animazione. E dispone le dosi sul tavolo per farmele osservare alla stessa distanza, perché le tenga nel palmo della mano senza alterazioni – questi sono occhi o una testa – che sono i desideri, o le paure, e le aspirazioni degli spiriti animati.”
“La sola cosa che mi interessa è esprimere emozioni umane fondamentali – tragedia, estasi, rovina o cosi via – e il fatto che un sacco di gente si emoziona e piange davanti ai miei dipinti mostra che ho trasmesso emozioni fondamentali. … Chi piange davanti ai miei quadri sta vivendo la stessa esperienza religiosa che avevo avuto quando li ho dipinti. E se tu, come dici, sei toccato solo dalle relazioni fra i colori, ti perdi l’essenziale!”

Giuseppe Panza “Un riesame del rapporto tra l’idea e la forma, rapporto difficile da definire, anzi impossibile da definire, è il segreto e il mistero dell’arte, è il suo nucleo oscuro e potente, è la sua grande forza superiore ai limiti della ragione, è il punto di connessione con l’ignoto, con il mistero della vita e di tutte le cose. E’ come toccare qualche cosa che non si può neppure immaginare, e come arrivare alle sorgenti della vita. Non è un’operazione intellettuale, è un fenomeno che precede il nostro essere e lo supera.”

Alberto Albertini “La capacità di dare corpo, consistenza, materalità ai volumi dei paesaggi mi pare straordinaria. Io tutto questo lo vedo in relazione alle mie presenze, da bambino, quando dipingeva. Spesso uscivo con lui e lo vedevo dipingere ma soprattutto assorbivo l’incanto che vi aleggiava. Mi raggomitolavo contro una riva, al riparo del vento, al sole tiepido di marzo. Percepivo l’atmosfera che lui dipingeva. Penso che avesse le stesse percezioni e queste riusciva a trasferire nel dipinto, questo mi rievocano i quadri, l’atmosfera, quei momenti.”

WAR IN THE EYES


Northern Italy 1943-45

Uncle and Niece: ROSANNA and ALBERTO ALBERTINI

HUMAN EYES AND THE EYE OF A CAMERA

A Panzer IV of the Waffen SS "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" division in Milan, Piazza del Duomo, immediately after the German occupation that followed the September 8, 1943 armistice

A Panzer IV of the Waffen SS “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” division in Milan, Piazza del Duomo, immediately after the German occupation that followed the September 8, 1943 armistice. (Wikipedia)

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Rosanna Albertini (niece) – I was born in the new days without war in an Italian village near Milano, and grew up with stories that nobody was able to forget so they were told over and over like an exorcism. For two years, before my living time began, the space between Milano and the Swiss border was a confused arena of bombing and killings. Large numbers of people were filling the streets, especially in Milan, manifesting collective feelings, raising their heads against military occupation and lack of jobs and food shortage.  To see the end of fascism in person was a way to become witnesses, to be sure there was an ending to bring home.

September 8, 1943, after the armistice, Milano was occupied by the German army.
April 25, 1944, under the directions of the partisan command of Northern Italy, Milan was liberated.
April 28,1945, Mussolini was arrested and killed. His collaborators had the same destiny.

I was an outcome of the war. By hope or by accident, I will never know. The doctor taking care of my mother’s pregnancy lived by the lake. Mother was eighteen. In no way our transportation could be safe: they still used horses and carts in December 1945: the horse was old, maybe the driver was drunk and the steep road toward the lake covered with ice. Despite the fact that details about the accident have been steadily hidden from me, I do know that I did do the first somersault of my life. I did not break from her body that day as the terrified members of my family expected. Christmas was approaching, I stayed warm where I was until the 28.

Alberto Albertini (my uncle) – In the early 1944, the dying regime tried to save little pockets of power. Placing blockades near the borders, for instance. Besano, our village, was four miles on a steep road up from Porto Ceresio, where the Swiss border starts, and the blockage was mid-way between the two villages. Because Besano’s city hall was in Porto Ceresio, to go to Porto we had to show a permit with identity photo. As I was the only one in the village doing photographs, I did portraits of everybody. I only saved a few of them. A curious thing: the blockage controllers were a special auxiliary police whose members, on April 25, merged into the partisan forces, as if such a decision were normal.
        The same happened with the customs officers. I was supposed to enlist with them exactly for this reason. I never did, the X hour struck. On the way home from Milan, I had to wait for the night to find a train. But I also wished for a lift from some truck. There was none. Not far from me, a bunch of young black shirts was hanging about. One of them was my age. I basically told him: ‘What a heck are you doing wearing a fascist uniform that is now against the law, when the war is lost and everything is falling apart? And the guy felt smart enough to tell me that his name was Felice Mascetti and he was happy (Felice) by name and by fact… when one has an idea! Comic and tragic facts followed. The guy was from Varese, he had tried to score with my girlfriend (I learned it when the news appeared) and died in a small fight against the partisans. The corps of fascism, already decayed, enlisted young and very young boys who might feel proud of themselves thanks to weapons and uniforms.

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Technological war-craft: making the camera for portraits.

For lack of money and tools Alberto adapted 35mm film to a 6×9 camera, borrowing parts from a cheap Ferrania.

  1. he added a plate adaptor, as if the 6×9 camera were a plate camera.
  2. made a 35mm drive in the Ferrania and a piece of wood pressing on the film to keep it in the right position.
  3. Then he made by hand a small, indented wooden spool connected to a spring, so that at every perforation he could hear a ‘tac’ while rolling the film.

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Post scriptum by RA

It is difficult to read those eyes. They drank the war darkness and maybe kept looking at the bottom of their glass. What do they bring to me, to us, in 2016? Do I see their pain because they are my tribe, from the village where I was born? Is this the same pain of all those who survived years of war? In Palestine, in Africa, in Afghanistan? Is ours a completely different time? There is a layer of photographic or filmic splendor in the war images we share  today. Even a video recently made by a Palestinian girl about life in her refugee camp in Jordan is just beautiful. Images versus reality? The homeless’ eyes around me in Los Angeles are not as desperate as my people’s. I don’t have an answer. A vague sense of real things in my guts tells me that the war eyes are still like the ones in the identity portraits made by Alberto. We don’t see them in the newspapers. Maybe we like better not to see them, to keep them out of our walls. More than ever we need artists, hands showing the real thing, creating a new visual grammar, and new words, tearing off the lies of illusions. 

The greenness of night lies on the page and goes
Down deeply in the empty glass. . .

Look, realist, not knowing what you expect.
The green falls on you as you look,

Falls on and makes and gives, even a speech.
And you think that that is what you expect,

That elemental parent, the green night,
Teaching a husky alphabet.

WALLACE STEVENS, Phosphor Reading by his Own Light – From: Parts of a World, 1942-1951
in Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, New York, Vintage Books, 1990.

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Alberto Albertini using the camera he had built for the identity portraits.

 

COMPANIONS and EXPATRIATES – L’ESPATRIO E LA COMPAGNIA

 September 1943: JEWISH FRIENDS AND COMPANIONS

By ALBERTO ALBERTINI   – Milano, Italy

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ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

On July 25, 1943, I was on the train: groups of people taking shape on the sidewalks and, when the train left the station, swarms of people moving, gathering in different groups. They told me that fascism was down. In August, bombs on Milan. September 8th, the army was headless. My companions and myself were guiding some friends in the mountains to reach the Swiss border, still open for a few days. September was sultry. Growing hot, we took our shirts off. The border wasn’t far; through a clearing we could look at the valley: it was limpid, motionless. A woodland behind us was expanding toward the fences at the border, and it was one of those moments in which a stop becomes a brief awareness of what was happening to us: separation from friends, a future about to grab either them or us, and meanwhile we were surrounded by an enchanting beginning of autumn, a sort of laziness that starts with leaves looking tired, and fading colors. As the group began to walk again, a girl was still leaning on a tree. Skinny, with an exuberant breast, she gave off sweat, heat and pherormones, maybe only tired, maybe available. This is something I will never know.

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

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ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions

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ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Companions (Giancarlo Fumagalli Ciuti)

Soon after I went back to the border as a guide for two Jewish friends. A short time before Switzerland closed the border and a curtain would fall on a brief hope. We received the first news of deportation of those young people who hadn’t found a shelter in time. A family friend was deported for having helped some Jewish people to illegally expatriate. Until 1943 the Jewish situation was somehow Italian style: there were concentration camps, but apparently, in some of them, one’s presence was only for bureaucratic control. A person I knew was obliged to show up in the camp, although he was renting a room in a fascist authority’s house. Not all fascists approved the racial laws, they seemed excessive even to them! I can confirm that an elementary school teacher, a woman perhaps only officially fascist, gave me a hand to organize the clandestine expatriation of my friends’ parents when the risk was already a Nazi risk. With the German occupation after ’43, one could have ended in a German concentration camp.

According to the plan, I was supposed to go to their house at four in the morning and then, taking hopefully empty countryside roads, reach the train station from where, by a small tramway, we had to go up the mountain to find a person waiting for us. That person had access to the border thanks to a stone quarry placed exactly on the line. The major risk was the tramway journey, it was possible to meet people. But that was the way back for workers going to work, therefore nobody was on the tramway but us. Everything worked as foreseen. Although I knew the risk was real, I didn’t feel worried. I remember, though, the infinite sadness of that journey in a dark, winter morning on the frozen ground, and the anxiety of being in a carriage where we could have been arrested, the melancholic goodbye, the uncertainty of the future, a separation with no meaning and no emotions. Overwhelmed by the inevitable necessity of that choice. Only now, bringing back the episode, I realize they had put all their expectations in my hands, I was only sixteen.

ALBERTO ALBERTINI. On the way to Switzerland

ALBERTO ALBERTINI. On the way to Switzerland

The Jews. We realized they existed after the racial laws, when young students were expelled from public schools. They were mostly from wealthy families merged into our bourgeoisie. I became friend with two brothers; with them I had my very first political discussions. It was evident that, for the most, the racial laws were a humiliating dependency on the Nazis, they had no other justification. The Jewish chapter was also part of my expanded life, very important not so much for the quantity of relations, rather for their quality. My friends brought cultural life: political, musical, economical, experiences; to me a new branch to explore. They escaped from Germany and could talk about Prague, Leipzig, German and Yiddish languages. They gave me a deeper knowledge of classical music. The thing that struck me the must, at the time, was the idea I had found somebody I could count on. A new air was blowing, a vitality I did not notice in friends or school mates, an injection of information that opened to me a larger horizon. They were clearly well suited to commercial activities, exchanges and a joyful taste of life. Yet, clouds on the horizon were already very dark!

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, On the way to Switzerland

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, On the way to Switzerland

Post Scriptum by Rosanna Albertini

More than sixty years after. Throughout his long life Alberto maintained a deep friendship with one of those brothers. A friendship that is still going on between the two old men, vivid and joyful, among other things fed by their love for the arts.

(Il testo in italiano è dedicato ai miei nipoti Francesco e Diego)

SETTEMBRE 1943  Gli amici ebrei — L’espatrio

di Alberto Albertini

Il 25 luglio ero in treno: formazione di capannelli sui marciapiedi e, quando il treno uscì di stazione, sciami di persone che si spostavano, si riunivano in altri gruppi. Mi dissero che era caduto il fascismo. Agosto, i bombardamenti di Milano. L’otto settembre, l’esercito abbandonato a se stesso. Noi, la nostra compagnia, accompagnavamo alcuni amici in montagna fino al confine che gli svizzeri avevano tenuto aperto per alcuni giorni. Un settembre afoso. Eravamo accaldati e ci eravamo messi in canottiera. Mancava poco al confine, una radura consentiva la vista della valle, limpida, immobile. Alle nostre spalle ricominciava la boscaglia che si estendeva fino alla rete di confine, uno di quei momenti in cui la sosta diventa una breve presoa di coscienza di quello che ci stava accadendo: la separazione dagli amici, il futuro che avrebbe atteso loro e infine anche noi, mentre eravamo circondati dall’incanto dell’autunno incipiente, quel senso di pigrizia che comincia dalla stanchezza delle foglie e dai colori che si smorzano. Il gruppo si era rimesso in cammino, ma una ragazza della compagnia indugiava appoggiata ad un albero. Era minuta ma con il seno esuberante, emanava sudore, calore e ferormone, un po’ stanca e forse un po’ disponibile. Questo non lo saprò mai.

Non molto dopo tornai al confine per accompagnare due amici ebrei. Di lì a poco gli svizzeri chiusero le barriere e calò il sipario sulla breve speranza. Giunsero le prime notizie di deportazione di quei giovani che non avevano trovato rifugio in tempo. Un amico di famiglia fu deportato per la sua partecipazione all’espatrio clandestino di ebrei. Fino al ’43 la situazione degli ebrei era un po’ all’italiana. C’erano campi di concentramento ma in alcuni pare si potesse fare solo presenza di controllo. Un mio conoscente aveva l’obbligo di presentarsi al campo ma aveva una camera d’affitto presso un gerarca fascista. Le leggi razziali non godevano dell’approvazione della totalità dei fascisti, anche a loro sembravano eccessive! Posso confermare che una maestra, fascista forse d’ufficio, mi aiutò nell’espatrio clandestino dei genitori dei miei amici, quando il rischio era già quello nazista. Con l’occupazione tedesca dopo il ’43, c’era il rischio di finire nei lager tedeschi.

Il piano prevedeva che io mi recassi presso di loro in bicicletta alla quattro del mattino e che poi, attraverso strade di campagna sicuramente deserte, si raggiungesse la stazione ferroviaria e da lì, con un piccolo tram, saremmo risaliti verso la montagna dove ci attendeva la persona che aveva l’accesso alla rete di confine per via di una cava di pietre situata proprio sul limite. La parte piu rischiosa era il percorso in tram, dove era possibile incontrare persone. Però quello era il percorso di ritorno dalla stazione per i pendolari che andavano al lavoro e quindi il tram era deserto. Tutto funzionò come progettato. Per quanto fossi consapevole che il rischio c’era, non mi sentivo preoccupato. Ciò che ricordo è la tristezza infinita di quel viaggio nel buio mattino invernale sul terreno bloccato dal gelo, l’ansia del viaggio in quella vettura dove avrebbero potuto coglierci, l’addio mesto, l’incerto futuro, un distacco senza senso e senza emozioni. Sopraffatti dalla necessità ineludibile di questa scelta. Solo ora, rievocando l’episodio, mi rendo conto che essi avevano puntato tutte le loro speranze su di me che avevo sedici anni.

Gli ebrei. Ci accorgemmo che esistevano dopo le leggi razziali, quando i ragazzi vennero esplusi dalle scuole pubbliche. Per lo più erano di famiglie benestanti confuse con la nostra borghesia. Feci amicizia con due fratelli, con loro erano sorte le prime discussioni politiche. Era evidente ai più che le leggi razziali erano un’umiliante sudditanza ai nazisti e non trovavano altra giustificazione. Anche il capitolo ebrei era una parte della mia vita in espansione, assai importante non tanto per la quantità ma per la qualità. I miei amici portavano cultura: politica, musicale, economica, esperienze, per me un nuovo ramo da esplorare. Erano fuggiti dalla Germania e raccontavano di Praga, di Lipsia, della lingua tedesca e iddish. Approfondivano le mie conoscenze della musica classica. Fu la cosa che allora mi colpì di più. L’idea di trovare qualcuno su cui contare. Una ventata di aria diversa, una vitalità che non riscontravo negli amici o compagni scuola che avevo frequentato, un’iniezione di conoscenze che mi prospettavano un orizzonte piu vasto. Avevano un’attitudine spiccata per il commercio, lo scambio e un gusto della vita gioioso. Eppure le nubi all’orizzonte erano già molto oscure!

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, In the woods

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, In the woods

Post Scriptum di Rosanna Albertini

L’amicizia con uno dei due fratelli è diventata una frequentazione regolare durante tutta la lunga vita di Alberto. E’ ancora vivissima e gioiosa in questi giorni, nutrita fra altre cose dalla passione per le arti.

Passage of Age at the End of World War II

ALBERTO ALBERTINI from MILANO

From childhood to adolescence, the micro-history of a boy (my uncle Alberto) inside the big history of a conflict that changed everyone’s lives. Now in his late eighties, Alberto goes back to his memories hoping to reshape untold stories, feeding the natural desire of expanding our sense of existence. The place is an Italian village — Besano — overlooking lake Lugano. Italian eyes and windows darkened by the conflict gazing across the lake toward neutral Switzerland where lights were not turned off. His family is my family before I came into the world, in 1945. An artist family. Oreste’s paintings (my grandfather) gave to our lives a flavor of turpentine and oil colors, and the odd strength of dreams in the after war fight for survival. Not long ago. (R.A.)

THERE ARE A GREAT MANY PEOPLE ALWAYS LIVING WHO ARE MIXED UP WITH ANYTHING AND THAT IS KNOWN AS EVENTS. (Gertrude Stein)

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May 23, 2008 3:30:30 PM       Can we still call it time? Not the weather, of course. What’s time? Our events go through it; and although accurate instruments measure the bits, it looks or is ungraspable, flexible, slippery to me. Perhaps we introduce events into the memory as we do with data in a computer, but the more they are engraved in us, or sorrowful, the bigger is the space that we make for them, so when we go over our past again, in those places whose events have deeply excavated our interior, our reading extends along with the image of the past time. 1940-1945. My adolescence, from thirteen to eighteen. A whole life in a few years because from childhood one moves to maturity, and becomes an adult. Five endless years, irreplaceable, enchanting and painfully consuming. Desires, hopes, clear sunsets, the sky swept by the wind in March, snow, cold, the partisans on the mountains, frozen soldiers in Russia, deported people. The war seemed never ending. But really, it was only our expanded life! Now that the Iraq war has entered the sixth year [2008], we didn’t even realize it, those six years disappeared for us, but what about people in Iraq? The years must have been endless for them, no hopes either. When older people from my village recalled facts that had happened ten or twenty years before, they seemed an eternity ago to me. And now that I can go back much further with my own memories, such eternity isn’t there anymore!

My generation grew up through fearful stories. Stories of living dead, witches, graveyard’s skeletons. That’s why I was scared of the dark and of the night, out of the house. I was seven-eight years old when “the little grandma” passed away. They showed her to me lying on the bed wearing a black dress, her body covered with a white transparent veil and surrounded by four lit candles at the corners of the bed. I was shocked. For years I was scared walking by that door in the night time. Such a deep interior perturbation — I believe— might have been the origin of a similarly deep religious crisis. I had become absolutely and deeply religious. There was maybe also another reason: I had fall in love with the sister of a school friend. Her blond, long hair were braided. Although she was five years older than I was, I was eight she was thirteen, I was convinced it was not an obstacle. On the pretext I was visiting her brother I glued myself to her so much that, because she was God-fearing, to be able to follow her I went to church morning and afternoon. The consequence was a disquieting fact. Taken by fervor, I started to follow processions, and one time I walked bearing a very heavy crucifix. The wood was heavy on my belly. My long pants, moreover, had become small and tight. At the time there was a cut in the front of the underpants, which was covered by pants! It was my clear sensation, instead, that my weeny was also out of my pants and everyone, since I was at the head of the procession, could see me in such embarrassing situation. I was not able to lower my hands to check it out for they were holding the crucifix, even less to look down. I went through an endless time of panic, until in the end I could reassure myself. That’s the limit that determined, later, a turning point.

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Alberto Kurosawa style

 

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Per Francesco e Diego

Dall’infanzia all’adolescenza, la microstoria di una ragazzo (lo zio Alberto) nella grande storia di un conflitto che ha cambiato la vita di tutti. Avvicinandosi ai novant’anni, Alberto ripercorre le sue memorie sperando di dar forma a storie mai dette,  di colmare il desiderio naturale di espandere il senso dell’esistenza. Il posto è un paesino italiano — Besano — con  vista sul lago di Lugano. Occhi italiani e finestre oscurati dal conflitto contemplano la Svizzera neutrale dall’altra parte del lago, dove le luci sono sempre accese. La sua famiglia è la mia famiglia prima che venissi al mondo, nel 1945. La famiglia di un artista. I quadri di Oreste (il mio nonno, padre di Alberto) hanno imbevuto le nostre vite con gli odori della trementina e dei colori a olio; forse ci hanno dato la strana forza dei sogni nello sforzo per sopravvivere del dopoguerra. Non molto tempo fa. (R.A.)

Si può ancora dire tempo? Non quello atmosferico, s’intende. Che cos’è il tempo, quello che noi attraversiamo con i nostri eventi e mentre lo scadenziamo con degli strumenti di precisione esso ci pare, o è, inafferrabile, elastico, sdrucciolevole. Forse come in una memoria di computer si possono inserire dati, noi nella nostra memoria inseriamo eventi, e quanto più sono incisivi o dolenti, per noi, più gli riserviamo spazio, così che, quando ripercorriamo il passato, là dove gli avvenimenti hanno scavato profondamente nel nostro intimo, la lettura si prolunga e così anche la nostra immagine del tempo passato. Cinque anni durò la nostra guerra, 1940-1945. la mia adolescenza, dai tredici ai diciotto anni, il concentrato della vita perché dall’infanzia passi alla maturità, diventi adulto. Cinque anni interminabili, irripetibili, affascinanti e struggenti. I desideri, le speranze, i tramonti limpidi, il cielo terso dal vento di marzo, la neve, il freddo, i partigiani sulle montagne, i militari congelati in Russia, i deportati. La guerra sembrava non finire mai. In realtà era la vita espansa! Ora che la guerra in Iraq è entrata nel sesto anno, [2008] neppure ce ne siamo accorti, questi sei anni sono volati, per noi, ma per gli iracheni? Per loro devono essere interminabili e non hanno nemmeno le speranze. E quando i nostri vecchi rievocavano fatti risalenti a dieci o venti anni prima, a noi sembravano eternità. Invece ora che io posso andare indietro con le memorie molto di più, questa eternità non c’è più!

La mia generazione è cresciuta a storie di paura. Di morti viventi, di streghe, di scheletri al cimitero. Questo faceva si che avessi paura del buio e della notte, fuori. Avevo setto-otto anni quando morì la “nonna” e me la fecero vedere stesa sul letto vestita di nero coperta da un velo trasparente bianco e quattro candele accese agli angoli del letto. Lo shock fu forte. Per anni ebbi paura a passare davanti a quella porta di notte. Questo profondo sconvolgimento interiore credo sia stato la causa di una altrettanto profonda crisi mistica. Ero diventato assolutamente e profondamente religioso. Però forse c’era anche un altro motivo. Mi ero innamorato della sorella di un mio compagno di scuola. Aveva lunghe trecce bionde e cinque anni più di me, io otto e lei tredici, ma ero convinto che questo non fosse un ostacolo. Con la scusa di andare dal fratello mi incollavo a lei e, siccome era timorata di dio, io, per seguirla andavo in chiesa la mattina e il pomeriggio. Ne seguì un fatto inquietante. Nel mio fervore, seguivo anche le processioni e in un’occasione portai anche un pesante crocifisso. Questo mi pesava sulla pancia e per giunta portavo dei calzoni lunghi che erano diventati stretti. Allora si usavano le mutande con un taglio davanti, però sopra c’erano i calzoni! Invece la mia netta sensazione era che mi fosse uscito il pisellino anche dai calzoni e che tutti, ero intesta alla processione, mi vedessero in questa imbarazzante situazione. Io non potevo allungare la mani per controllare perché tenevo il crocifisso, né tanto meno abbassare lo sguardo per vedere. Ho passato un interminabile tempo di panico, finché poi ho potuto rassicurarmi. Questo è stato il limite che ha poi segnato la svolta.

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