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"Congratulations to New York!"

The Reeler stopped over near Times Square Thursday for a lunch honoring Marco Tullio Giordana, the Italian director best known for 2003's astonishing six-hour family saga The Best of Youth. Giordana is the subject of a BAM retrospective this week, winding down over the next few days with Saturday's Best of Youth screening (with Giordana introducing) and perhaps his second best-known film (at least in America), The Hundred Steps, closing the series out Sunday night.

Director Marco Tullio Giordana (left) on the set of The Best of Youth with star Luigi Lo Cascio

Giordana told me his current trip to New York is his first in a decade and certainly his first ever to view or discuss his films with a local audience. He admitted that The Best of Youth's stateside success stunned him; Italian films rarely break through the American market, he said, especially 366-minute epics spanning 40 years of Italian culture and politics.

"The film was intended for television -- we never thought it would have a theatrical start," Giordana said through a translator. "After the film was shown in Cannes and won the section where it was shown (Un Certain Regard), they decided to do a theatrical start with one print in Italy. It was really to try just to let the people see the film that everybody was talking about. It was a great success; it made money, then they they decided to do another 30 copies and show it in in the major Italian cities. It stayed in theaters for about six months until it was shown on TV. If audiences decide to see it in the theater it's because they are more or less in the movie: It's kind of like if you read a 18th-century novel and you can stay in the novel. It's the same experience."

Following two brothers (played by Luigi Lo Cascio and Alessio Boni) from their idealist 20s through the tumultuous political and emotional eras in which they age, The Best of Youth first screened in America at the 2003 New York Film Festival. Miramax gave it a tiny release last year, the critical establishment went unconscious with praise and now here we are, with Giordana wavering about viewing the Saturday screening.

"It's really important for a director to see how the audience reacts to the film," he said. "Every time you can discover new aspects of your work. It's so interesting and really a great pleasure for me because it's the first time that all my work together is shown in a retrospective. Also in Italy, it was never done."

Wait. "This is your first retrospective?" I asked the 56-year-old filmmaker.

"I'm so thrilled BAM asked me for the first time," he said without the translator.

Wait, wait, wait -- the first ever?

"In the world!"

Wow. Well. Congratulations.

"Congratulations to New York! To BAMcinematek!"

The translator spoke up. "He said also it's an occasion for him to see some of his work he hasn't seen in years. 'I would like to see them if it's possible; I never see them after they're done because I'm always a little bit shy about the film or I think they're embarrassing to me. Or I just see all the mistakes. There are some things that I haven't seen in 20 years.' "

First retrospective. The guy's a world cinema treasure with a dozen films to his name. Amazing. Anyway, read more here, and if you haven't seen The Best of Youth, sleep over on Lafayette Avenue tonight if you must to get tickets.

Posted at November 10, 2006 12:45 PM

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